As we again look forward in the story of Noah to Genesis 9, we see additional changes that God brings about. Let's look at verses 1-3 before discussing them:
1. And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, "be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.
2. "And the fear of you and the terror of you shall be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky; with everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into your hand they are given.
3. "Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant.
From verse 1 we see that God gave His blessing to Noah and his sons, and commanded them to populate the world. This all seems quite straight forward in its direction, but as we look to the following verses we see that the conditions of their life-style has been altered. Or, more likely, God had conceded to man's evilness of eating flesh, but along with this, there will be other changes, too.
Verse 2 definitely shows a change in the relationship between man and animals. The verse implies that there was a relationship between man and animals that will no longer exist. Now the fear and terror of man will be with all animals. This is not just a change in relationship of the animals that were on the ark. It is not that God had removed the fear and terror within the animals while coming to, and while being on, the ark. Now God has changed the relationship between man and animals. He has put the fear of man into wild animals, a condition which did not exist before. The proof of this is that here in verse 2 we see that this fear and terror will also be upon the fish of the sea, creatures that were not on the ark.
Is the fear and terror of man within animals created by God to protect them beyond the point that they are now being given to man as food? Did evil man so abuse them, who previously had no fear, before the Flood, that God did what is now indicated?
It also should be noted that the cattle are not mentioned in verse 2. Domesticated animals are being treated separately, or the relationship that had existed previously is not being altered as far as the fear and terror of man is concerned. Beyond the domestic animals, however, the relationship is changed. This can be supported by the numerous stories I have heard of the shocked and pleading ways these domestic animals have looked at their "owners" when they are being killed.
Verse 3 explains the reason for this change, or at least the outward reason. God now gives "every moving thing that is alive" to man as food. He further amplifies this by specifically emphasizing it: "I give all to you, as I gave the green plants." Just because God granted this concession, doesn't mean that He has changed His mind concerning His original intent
Let's look back to Genesis 1:29-30 to see what God said about the green plants:
29. Then God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you;
30. and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to everything that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food"; and it was so.
Nowhere in the Bible prior to Genesis 9:3 do we see animals being considered as food for man or even for other animals. The only reference to food of any kind is to plant food. Even in the fall of man in Genesis 3, we see that in God's punishment of man, He still refers only to man's food as being plant food. We can see this in Genesis 3:17-19:
17. Then to Adam He said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat from it':
Cursed is the ground because of you;
In toil you shall eat of it
All the days of your life.
19. "Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you;
And you shall eat the plants of the field;
19. By the sweat of your face
You shall eat bread,
Till you return to the ground,
Because from it you were taken;
For you are dust,
And to dust you shall return.'
If man or animal ever ate flesh before the Flood, God did not indicate its acceptance. Perhaps part of the evilness of man or beast included the eating of flesh, but even this is not indicated specifically. Therefore, for the sake of this discussion we will assume that neither man nor beast was originally considered to require flesh to survive upon the earth.
Besides the destruction of the Flood, this new condition of the sanction of eating flesh also entered the world. This was not God's original intent, as we saw in Genesis 1:29-30; thus, we must consider this sanction to be a "concession" and not a "commandment".
Looking back again into the early rabbinical writings to that of Rabbi Shlomo Ben Yitzhak, the eleventh century Bible commentator known by the acronym Rashi, we see in his comment on Genesis 9:3 the following, which is written as if God is speaking:
I did not permit the first man (Adam) (to eat) meat, only green herbs; but to you - as the green herbs which I declared free to the first man (Adam), I have given to you everything.
H. C. Leupold comments on the same verse as follows:
Now man's power over the animal world is enlarged in another direction: animal diet is made permissible. If men before the Flood ever ate meat of beasts, they did so without divine sanction.
From The Bible Commentary edited by F. C. Cook, with specific comment by E. Harold Browne, we read the following dissertation on verse 9:3:
In the primal blessing (Genesis 1:26-30) there had been mention of man's supremacy and power over the inferior animals. It has been a question whether there had been a permission of animal food or not. The almost universal opinion of the ancients was that only vegetable food was then permitted; and if we remember that most probably the early race of men lived in a warm genial climate, and that even now some Eastern nations are contented and healthy upon a vegetable diet, we shall be more disposed to acquiesce in an interpretation which seems to do less violence to the text. It cannot, however, be said that there was from the first a prohibition of animal food.
From very early times we find sheep and cattle kept at least for milk and wool, and slain for sacrifice, Genesis 4:2, 20. Whether then it had been conceded or not from the first; it is likely that those who fed and sacrificed sheep, like Abel, who kept cattle, like Jabal, or who handled instruments of bronze and iron, like Tubal Cain, would in the course of time have learned the use of animal food. If so, we may consider the words of this verse as a concession to the infirmities or the necessities of mankind, coupled with restrictions, which may have been called for by the savage practices of the Antediluvians.
I am not sure that Browne's choice of terms is correct when He refers to "inferior" animals. "Governmentally" only were the animals "inferior", as man was to ru1e over them. I do not personally consider any of God's creations "inferior" to another, only that they were created differently, or that one was more exalted than another.
Brown's reference to no "prohibition" of animal food, and the examples sited, omit the change of relationship of the entire world with God. If man had not fallen there would have been no need for sacrifices, no need for the death of the innocent for forgiveness of the guilty. As for the eating of meat, man probably did eat it, but that is no reason to assume that it was not also prohibited.
The following commentary the Pulpit Commentary brings forth the thinking of many on the meaning of Genesis 9:3:
"Every" - obviously admitting of "exceptions" to be gathered both from the nature and case and from the distinction of clean and unclean beasts mentioned before and afterwards (Poole).
"moving thing that liveth" - clearly excluding such as had died of themselves or been slain by other beasts (Exodus 22:31; Leviticus 22:8).
"shall be meat for you". Literally, "to you it shall be for meat" Though the distinction between unclean and clean animals as to food, afterwards laid down in the Mosaic code (Leviticus 11:1-31) is not mentioned here, it does not follow that it was either unknown to the writer or unpracticed by the men before the Flood.
"Even as the green herb have I given all things." An allusion to Genesis 1:29 (Rosenmuller, Bush); but "vide infra".
The relation of this verse to the former has been understood as signifying
1. That animal food was expressly prohibited before the Flood, and now for the first time permitted (Mercerus, Rosenmuller, Candlish, Clarke, Murphy, Jameison, Wordsworth, Kalisch) -- the ground being that such appears the obvious import of the sacred writer's language.
2. That though permitted, from the first, it was not used till postdiluvian times, when man was explicitly directed to partake of it by God (Theodoret, Chrysostam, Aquinas, Luther, Pererius) -- the reason being that prior to the Flood the fruit of the earth were more nutritious and better adapted for the sustenance of man's physical frame, while after it such a change passed upon the vegetable productions of the ground as to render them less capable of supporting the growing feebleness of the body, (Pererius).
3. That whether permitted or not prior to the Flood, it was used, and is here for the first time formally allowed (Kiel, Alford, "Speaker Commentary"); in support of which opinion it may be urged that the general tendency of subsequent Divine legislation, until the fullness of the times, was ever in the direction of concession to the infirmities of necessities of human nature (Matthew 19:6).
The opinion, however, which appears to be the best supported is:
4. That animal food was permitted before the fall, and that the grant is here expressly renewed (Justin Martyr, Calvin, Willet, Bush, Macdonald, Lange, Quarry). The grounds for this opinion are:
(1) That the language of Genesis 1:29 does not explicitly forbid the use of animal food.
(2) That science demonstrates the existence of carnivorous animals prior to the appearance of man, and yet vegetable products alone were assigned for their food.
(3) That shortly after the fall animals were slain by Divine direction for sacrifice, and probably also for food -- at least this latter supposition is by no means an unwarrantable inference from Genesis 4:4.
(4) That the words "as the green herb," even if they implied the existence of a previous restriction, do not refer to Genesis 1:29, but to Genesis 1:30, the green herb in the latter verse being contrasted with the food of men in Genesis 1:29. Solomon Glass thus correctly indicates the connection and the sense.
(5) That a sufficient reason for mentioning the grant of animal food in this connection may be found in the subjoined restriction, without assuming the existence of any previous limitation.
From the commentaries above concerning Genesis 9:3, we can see quite a divergence of opinion as to whether or not God had made meat available as food before the Flood. One thing that everyone seems to agree on is that the Bible does not mention that flesh was to be eaten. Yet on the other hand, God's word specifically states that green plants were food for both man and beast.
I personally believe that if God had desired man to eat flesh, He would have told him so, but God did not. No, God did not desire man or beast to eat flesh prior to the Flood. Rashi may be closer to the truth than anyone when he said that, "God did not permit the first man (Adam) to eat meat". I truly believe that God wanted no eating of flesh by either man or animal.
But what about after the Flood? Did God change His mind? I don't believe He did. He only seems to be expressing His compassion for man, in the hope that one day humans would come to their senses.
God said in Genesis 6:5 that every intent of man's heart was evil continually. It also says in 6:8 that, "Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord". It does not say the same for Noah's family. Even after the birth of Noah's sons, God again emphasized this evilness of man, as in Genesis 6:12:
12. And God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth.
Note that God did not exclude Noah and his family again, but let it stand that, "all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth". What then was the difference with Noah? He listened to God. He did whatever God told him to do.
And as we can all see today, evilness did not end with the Flood. In fact, shortly after the Flood, Noah became drunk and Ham compounded the sin by talking about his father's condition to his brothers instead Of covering him. (See Genesis 9:20-27) Yes, sin was still in the world.
You are probably saying, "What does all this have to do with the eating of meat?" Well, I believe that God recognized that man's evil nature would carry through into the "new world" after the Flood. Remember also that nothing had yet reversed the Fall. Additionally, God knew that man had developed a taste for meat, so He set down the rules for eating it, which we will discuss later. This doesn't mean that this was God's desire, but only that it was part of His concession.
Jesus answered a similar situation of God's actions (Re: intent vs. concession) with evil man in His discussion of divorce in Matthew 19:4-9:
4. And He answered and said, "Have you not read, that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female,
5. and said, 'For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become on. flesh'?
6. "Consequently they are no more two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.
7. They said to Him, "Why then did Moses command to give her a certificate and divorce her?"
8. He said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart, Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way.
9. "And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another commits adultery."
Is not this the same type of situation as with the eating of meat? I believe it is, because both are God's concessions to man's hardness of heart. Is this not also the way a loving parent might respond to a child in the hope of later improvement in behavior?
In a similar situation, and this time involving the eating of meat, God expresses His anger with the people.
When the Israelites were led out of Egypt and did not listen to the Lord even after being in His presence, the Lord made them wander in the wilderness, and there He fed them with Manna and water. They needed only Manna for food. They needed no meat.
Numbers 11 sets the stage for this discussion. Note what we are told in verses 1-3:
1. Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of the Lord; and when the Lord heard it, His anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.
2. The people therefore cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to the Lord, and the fire died out
3. So the name of that place was called Taberah, because the fire of the Lord burned among them.
And then, what appears to be immediately after this event, the people again complained. Note verses 4-6:
4. And the rabble who were among them had greedy desires; and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, "Who will give us meat to eat?
5. "We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic,
6. but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except the manna."
And just in case you don't remember what manna is, God tells us in verses 7-9:
7. Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its appearance like that of bdellium.
8. The people would go about and gather it and grind it between two millstones or beat it in the mortar, and boil it in the pot and make cakes with it; and the taste was as the taste of cakes baked with oil.
9. And when the dew fell on the camp at night, the manna would fall with it.
Now from all of this complaining, we see in the remainder of Numbers 11, that the anger of the Lord is still kindled against the people. Moses has become distraught to the point of asking the Lord to kill him. Then in verses 31-33 we see that the Lord did provide meat, and along with it His wrath:
31. Now there went forth a wind from the Lord, and it brought quail from the sea, and let them fall beside the camp, about a day's journey on this side and a day's journey on the other side, and all around the camp, and about two cubits deep on the surface of the ground.
32. And the people spent all day and all night and all the next day, and gathered the quail (he who gathered least gathered ten homers) and they spread them out for themselves all around the camp.
To get this into perspective, the estimated size of a homer is between 6.5 and 14 bushels. Thus the least of them gathered between 65 and 140 bushels of dead quail. I would suppose we could say they were a little greedy.
And remember, they were in the desert, and there was no refrigeration as there is today. By the second day we could say that the fowl were quite foul.
33. While the meat was still between their teeth, before it was chewed, the anger of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord struck the people with a very severe plague.
Whether or not the Lord was trying to separate the Israelites from the eating of meat, through the providing of manna, not told. We are told that, because of the complaints of the people, He did provide meat as well as His wrath.
There is, perhaps, an additional meaning that God is here implying. That with God we can live without killing and eating flesh, but without God we must now do both. Also, since we no longer have manna, and no other equal, we now must live on both plant and animal food in our normal course of life. I am not saying that man can not survive without eating flesh, but that he must go to a much greater than normal effort to live as a vegetarian. The main reason for this is that our society is on a meat based diet, and most prepared foods contain some animal product.
There may have been times and places in the world that could not grow a balanced diet without supplementing it with animal food, but this isn't the case today.
This, however, does not alter God's "original" plan. There was no need for the eating of flesh for survival in God's creation, and it is still the desire of His heart. Could that be also what he was trying to tell the Israelites?
Man's basic problem is that he always tries to make excuses for his contrary actions to the will of God. Note Adam's remarks in Genesis 3:12 when God questioned him after he ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil:
12. And the man said, "The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate."
We almost continually forget about God's plan for us. We constantly try to recreate God's plan to our liking, and then think up excuses why it is all right or why it is God's fault that it didn't come out as we planned.
It is quite obvious that God never intended man to sin. It is also equally obvious that man was given a free will. The only reason Scripture expresses for this free will, is that we would desire to worship God, not as robots, but as thinking, living, beings with a true desire.
Man approached his gift of free will by saying that he was better suited to resolve things than his Creator. He knew better than God what was good for him. God gave man everything he could ever desire. He also gave something that man could see, but could not have, a test of his heart, the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God did not tease man like the potato chip advertisement that dares someone to eat only one. He simply stated that man was not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But as we all know all too well, man knew better than God, and so we find ourselves in our present condition. However, nothing in our present condition, other than Him, is according to His "original intent".
The condition of eating of meat, or for that matter, the killing of any living creature, was not God's "original intent". The first killing occurred after the Fall. A life for a life? Is there also something very special in the creation of both man and animals that we don't usually see or perhaps don't accept? Stay tuned for the next chapter.