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Do "Violent Names" Prove Animal Death Before the Fall?

Updated: Feb 17


According to the creation account in Genesis 1-2, the world that God created and saw as “very good” featured no death of any sort, which necessarily means that animals did not originally eat other animals; indeed, Genesis 1:29-30 clearly states that both man and animals were to be plant-eaters:

And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so. Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. (Genesis 1:29-31a)

Carnivorous behaviour, the eating of flesh, and predation, the hunting and killing of animals and/or man for food, began only after the Fall, which corrupted the very good world God had created (Genesis 3:17-18; Romans 8:19-21). Man himself was given explicit permission to eat meat after the Flood (Genesis 9:2-3).

Those who try to combine what the Bible says with a belief that the earth is billions of years old must necessarily deny these plain facts, since the fossil record clearly shows that animals ate one and other, and by the reckoning of “old-earth creationists” (OECs) this must have happened prior to the Fall. Since the direct evidence, the plain testimony of Scripture, refutes this belief, OECs must resort to implications based on supposed indirect evidence.

Hebrew Names of Animals

One such attempt is based on the Hebrew names of certain animals. It was Adam who named the animals (Genesis 2:19-20), and, according to Rich Deem, writing on the “Evidence for God” website [1]:

If the young earth creationists are correct, one would expect the names of the carnivores to reflect the non-carnivorous activities of these creatures prior to the Fall. However, Adam gave some very unusual names to some of the carnivores. For example, the Hebrew name for lion is derived from the Hebrew root that means “in the sense of violence.” Was Adam referring to the violence with which the lion ate its vegetables? It doesn’t seem likely! In addition, Adam named some of the predatory birds using a Hebrew word with the meaning “bird of prey.” Were these birds preying on fruits and nuts? In naming the eagle, Adam used the Hebrew word whose root means “to lacerate.”

Deem, however, misses a crucial point. Before the Fall, there was no violence, death, or predation of any sort, so it seems axiomatic that there would have been no words in Hebrew for such things, just as there were no words for “television” or “radioactivity,” which would have been meaningless to people in ancient times [2]. After the Fall, words would have had to be coined for these things, and it may have been that the words were based on the names of the animals that were now seen to be doing such actions. In other words, it may well be that the name for lion did not come “from the Hebrew root that means ‘in the sense of violence’,” but that the Hebrew root for “in the sense of violence” came from the Hebrew name for lion!

Second, Deem’s evidence is certainly inconsistent. For “hawk,” Deem gives the meaning “unclean bird of prey,” yet according to his footnote in which he cites the definitions from the Brown-Driver-Briggs (BDB) Hebrew lexicon, “unclean bird of prey” is the second meaning given; the first is “blossom.” What connection is there between a hawk and a blossom – unless, by Deem’s logic, we should conclude that these birds of prey originally ate blossoms, not flesh?

We conclude that Deem fails to make his case. The indirect implications he proffers do not override the plain testimony of Scripture.


[1] Deem, Richard. “No Death Before the Fall – A Young Earth Problem,” (Accessed on April 21, 2012). This was brought to my attention via an inquiry and response posted on the CMI website, “Did fish die before the Fall?” Posted at (Accessed on April 21, 2012).

[2] This means that God must have explained to Adam what “you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17) meant, as the word “die” by itself would not have conveyed meaning to Adam.

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