Exposition of Genesis 1-11: Genesis 1:28

Genesis 1:28

God blessed them and said to them, Be fruitful and multiply! Fill the earth and subdue it! Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and every creature that moves on the ground.
(NET Bible)

The mission God gave humanity

Humanity had a God-given mission to accomplish from the very beginning. God did not leave the man and woman in doubt about whether there was a God or whether he had orders for those he had made.

What would God say about humanitys management of the ecosystem? What would God say about the extensive extinction of species under our care? What would God say about the attention we devote to our comfort compared to the attention we give the mission he assigned to us so long ago? We are going to find out!

Blessing from God has already occurred in Genesis 1:22, when God blessed the creatures that swarm in the sky, the land and the sea. But there is a major difference between Gods communication in Genesis 1:22 and his communication in Genesis 1:28. In both cases God pronounces a blessing, but only to the man and the woman does he speak –God said . . . to them (Gen. 1:28, emphasis added). In this indirect way we learn that the man and woman had the ability to communicate with God, and they understood what he said.

Another implicit lesson in Genesis 1:28 is that God wanted the man and woman to know what he expected of them. He did not leave them without guidance. You may be thinking, Well, of course! But some who (allegedly) believe in God do not believe as you do. For example, the deists, such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine, held that God created the world but had nothing further to do with it; man was left with only the guidance of reason. Deism is very far from Genesis! Genesis teaches that God communicated with humankind from the start and made clear what he wanted.

So important is this theme of blessing that commentator Gordon Wenham says, Genesis may be described as the story of fulfillment of the divine promises of blessing.[1] So, of what does a blessing consist? Consider the following Word Study.

Word Study bless

The Hebrew verb barak occurs in an intensive form in Gen. 1:28 where NET translates it as God blessed them. The word means: to bless = to endue [i.e., to furnish with a gift] someone with special power.[2] In this verse it appears that the power is to reproduce, to subdue the earth and to rule over the creatures God has made.

In addition to the mandate to reproduce and fill the earth, humanitys rulership is stated even more strongly than it was in Genesis 1:26. Not only does God say to rule over the creation but also to subdue it. The latter verb is the Hebrew verb kabash, which means subjugate[3] [a seldom-heard English word which means to bring under control, conquer[4]]. However, God does not say that the man and woman should rule or subdue other human beings or each other.[5] In addition, animal life was not granted as food until after the flood (Gen. 9:3). A manager of the world has to know these things!

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

[1] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Word Incorporated, 1987) 24.

[2] 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) barak, bless, q.v.

[3] HALOT, kabash, bring under control, q.v.

[4] subjugate. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 28 Aug. 2008. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/subjugate>.

[5] 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) 139, fn 21.


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