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 Gods 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 Bibles 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 humankinds 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, Plano, Texas. 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.

Do you have an opinion or a different interpretation? Let me know!