Moses, the writer of the Genesis creation account, used the word nephesh (Hebrew: soul, self, life, creature, mind, living being, desire, emotion, passion) to describe the creation of the most advanced animal life next to man. These creatures are sometimes described as the “soulish” animals; those that display a mind, will, and emotion. They differ from humanity in the ways that are most important — they are not able to understand, relate to, or seek to communicate with the Creator Himself. But they seem to be perfectly suited to be in relationships with human beings. They seem to be made to please us.
They are sad when we are sad. They rejoice in our happiness. In fact, many of us have no doubt that they seem most content, and are indeed most determined, to seek to provide that happiness for us. They are designed to bring joy and comfort to us in ways that are completely inexplicable apart from what seems to be a deliberate creative act of God for that purpose.
How else do you explain an animal who runs to the window before you pull in the driveway; who cowers when you are angry; who fetches a ball until his tongue hangs down on his chest, covered with leaves and dirt; who licks your arm where it itches even if you cannot see or feel any physical reason for the itch; who senses cancer a doctor cannot see?
How else can pure evolutionary biology explain why a dog wags his tail?
Years ago our golden retriever, Hank, learned to be excited when we celebrated someone’s birthday. He would start to wiggle when we’d light the birthday candles. He would pant and jump when we sang “Happy Birthday.” When the song was over, he would beg the one whose birthday it was for one of their birthday card envelopes. He would take the envelope in his mouth and make his way around the house, wagging his tail and offering it to every person he could find.
None of us can explain why he started doing this. It seems he just wants to join us when we celebrate.
Today our family lost our favorite birthday party friend. Hank was the most kind, loving family pet we could ever imagine having. It was a joy to share our home with him and we will miss him greatly. When we remember Hank, it will always be with a smile and the tune of the “Happy Birthday” song in our hearts.
If God had a picture in His mind when he made nephesh, it must have looked just like Hank.