Although animals have many good qualities, and many of us have been blessed by their faithfulness and labor, there are some ways in which we are not to be like them. Psalm 32:9 admonishes: “Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding …”
The word for “understanding” here in Psalm 32:9 is the Hebrew “bin”, which means to “discern.” According to Brown-Driver-Briggs, a related Arabic word means to “separate” or “distinguish.” Animals, though possessing many good qualities which are a blessing to man, are very limited in their understanding and in their decision-making process.
The problem with many people in our age (and every ungodly age) is that they do not distinguish right from wrong any more than these undiscerning animals do. They seek after pleasure, without thought for its morality, or long-term consequences. As Philippians 3:19 says; “Their god is their belly” — whatever feels good, they do.
God created us better than that. Genesis says that He made us “in His image”. Included in this is the ability to “separate”, to distinguish, to discern — to determine that although some things may be pleasurable, they are not “right.” We have the ability to think through the consequences of our actions, and we are able to postpone instant gratification for a longer-term good. God made us with higher mental and moral sensibilities than the animals. In Psalm 32:9 He encourages us to act like it.