Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 9:1–3

Genesis 9:1–3
Then God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. 2 Every living creature of the earth and every bird of the sky will be terrified of you. Everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea are under your authority. 3 You may eat any moving thing that lives. As I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.”
(NET Bible)

 Grace opens the food supply

Even after bringing a world-wide judgment upon human sin, God grants a new start to Noah with an abundance of blessing and grace. This symbolizes a wider situation: even though each of us starts life with a measure of opportunity that may be different, we each have all we need to please him.

To whom much has been given, much will be required (Luke 12:48). How are God’s blessings to be used to greatest advantage? Whose advantage are we talking about?

When God blesses Noah and his sons in Genesis 9:1, he uses the exact words given to Adam and Eve in Genesis 1:28: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” Accordingly, Victor Hamilton says: “Noah is a second Adam. What God told Adam he now tells Noah.”[1]

Genesis 9:2
“Every living creature of the earth and every bird of the sky will be terrified of you. Everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea are under your authority.”

The NET Bible’s translation of Genesis 9:2 smooths off a few too many rough edges; that is known as over-translation. “Every living creature of the earth” (NET) sounds totally comprehensive of all life forms, but that is likely not the case. The standard Hebrew lexicon says that the underlying word usually refers to “animals that are not domesticated.”[2] For this reason, Old Testament commentator John Walton says: “It should be noticed that the word for . . . docile cattle (behema) is not included in this list. That suggests that they are not necessarily characterized by this fear.”[3]

Further, the phrase “are under your authority” (NET) may be more literally translated “Into your hand they are delivered” (ESV). In the Old Testament, the latter phrase is connected to having the power of life and death (Deut. 19:12; 20:13). This is the correct meaning in context, because God is defining a new food supply for man; animal life will now become part of humankind’s food (Genesis 9:3). Kenneth Mathews affirms, “God has now put the life and death of the animal under the power of the human arbiter.”[4]

Walton makes an interesting suggestion when he says, “I tentatively propose, then, that domesticated plants and animals were always considered legitimate sources of food, while permission was granted for gathering of food growing wild (1:30) and hunting animals (9:3).”[5]

Throughout Genesis it is useful to see how all the parts relate to one another. Walton says: “It is likely that the permission to use animals for food should be seen as a concession of grace. If so, it is parallel to the making of skin garments for Adam and Eve and putting the mark on Cain.”[6]

We have already considered examples of a general rule that seems comprehensive until God expresses a specific exception (Gen. 2:16–17 and Gen. 6:5–8). Genesis 6:2–3 gives the general rule concerning food, but in our next post we will encounter the specific exception.

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.



[1] Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1–17, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990) 313.

[2] L. Koehler, W. Baumgartner and J. J. Stamm, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (HALOT), translated and edited under the supervision of M. E. J. Richardson. 5 vols. (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1994-2000)  ?ayyah, animal, q.v.

[3] John H. Walton, The NIV Application Commentary: Genesis (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001) 311, fn 1.

[4] Kenneth A. Mathews, Genesis 1–11:26, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1996) 401.

[5] Walton, Genesis, 343.

[6] Walton, Genesis, 341.

Exposition in Genesis 1–11: Genesis 1:29–31

Genesis 1:29–31
Then God said, “I now give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the entire earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.  30 And to all the animals of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to all the creatures that move on the ground– everything that has the breath of life in it– I give every green plant for food.” It was so.
31 God saw all that he had made– and it was very good! There was evening, and there was morning, the sixth day.

God Finds Satisfaction in Creation

The Bible shows that God is concerned about every aspect of our existence. Nowhere is this more obvious than when God made humanity and created an enormous food supply to sustain them. With regard to food, drink, and clothing, Jesus said, “Your heavenly Father knows that you need them” (Matt. 6:32).

So, what will it take for us to focus on the goodness of God in providing for our needs? What will it take to pull us out of the mad scramble for material wealth and the security it allegedly provides?

The Old Testament writers use various means to emphasize ideas, and one of the most common is to use the word hinneh meaning “behold, see.[1] Curiously, the NET Bible translators say the word means “Look, this is what I am doing!”[2] and yet they represent it with “now” in the phrase “I now give.” This is under-translation; when the Bible emphasizes something, the translation should contain the emphasis in the text, not in the margin! For example, the ESV has “Behold, I have given you . . .” and the RSV, NASB and KJV do the same. In the NIV the word hinneh is not translated at all! NLT wins the prize with “Look!”

Someone will say, “Are you making too big a deal out of this?” Perhaps, but the identification of food looms large at my house. Nobody wants to be called to the very first supper by a whisper.  :-)

God speaks to the man and the woman (“you” plural in Hebrew) in verse 29; animals will be addressed in verse 30. Wenham cites another scholar who documents “other [non-biblical] texts to show that there was a widespread belief in antiquity that man and the animals were once vegetarian.”[3] While Genesis 1 does not forbid eating meat, the practice is not explicitly mentioned until Genesis 9:3, after the fall into sin (Genesis 3) and the flood (Genesis 6–8).

Genesis 1:30 defines the food supply for all animal life on earth. Note carefully that humankind has been separated from all the rest of life on earth. That is fully in keeping with the fact that man and woman are the only portion of the living creation made in God’s image. We have already seen that when God speaks things happen immediately. So, Genesis 1:31 finishes with the words “It was so.” Unfortunately, a time will come in the great story of Genesis when God will speak and it will not be so, but that will be addressed in another post.

Genesis 1:31
God saw all that he had made– and it was very good! There was evening, and there was morning, the sixth day.

Once again the NET Bible buries the emphatic hinneh (behold, see, look) in a marginal note; the only remnant of its emphasis is in the exclamation point. In contrast, the ESV says, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31a, emphasis added). Wenham says of this use of hinneh that it is “suggesting God’s enthusiasm as he contemplated his handiwork.”[4]

The problem of evil in the world is well-known, and the issue has been extensively discussed. Those who do not know God look upon a world filled with instances of evil and ask how God could possibly be good. Genesis explains that what God made was “very good” to the point of arousing his enthusiasm, so the cause of evil must be found elsewhere. Later in this study we will see where.

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.


[1] L. Koehler, W. Baumgartner and J. J. Stamm, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, translated and edited under the supervision of M. E. J. Richardson, 5 vols. (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1994-2000) hinneh, behold, see, q.v.

[2] NET Bible Notes for Genesis 1:29, fn 5.

[3] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1–15, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Word Incorporated, 1987) 33.

[4] Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 34.