Commentary on Genesis 9:2-4
By John Vujicic
The first biblical passage which supposedly states that a human being can and is permitted to kill an animal in order to eat its meat is that of Genesis 9:2-4. Good News Bible:
“All the animals, birds, and fish will live in fear of you. They are all placed under your power. Now you can eat them, as well as green plants; I give them all to you for food. The one thing you must not eat is meat with blood still in it; I forbid this because the life is in the blood.”
King James Bible:
“And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hands are they delivered. Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb I have given you all things. But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.”
This text was the subject of great debate and controversy. Some Jewish and Christian sects actually used this passage to prove vegetarianism and the fact that killing of animals is expressly forbidden by God. Most others however have used and still use this passage in order to justify their butchering and mass slaughter of animals in order to eat their flesh. What a paradox! The same text is used to prove and justify two diametrically opposed ideas. So what does the text of Genesis 9:2-4 really say?
Let me first tell you what it does not say. It does not say that we can KILL or SLAUGHTER animals in order to sacrifice them to God or to eat their flesh. The word “animal” does not even appear in the Hebrew text, although the Good News Bible and some other translations use it in order to mislead you. The text does not say that you must not eat simply “blood” – as vast majority of Jews and Christians would want you to believe. So what does the text actually say? God here reverses the status between all animals and humans. Just before the Flood, animals became corrupt and wild and killed one another and they also killed and devoured human beings. So God now reversed the status to its original condition. He again subjected all living creatures to the dominion of man. This of course in no way means that this dominion of man gives him the right to kill, slaughter and butcher animals in order to gratify his lust after meat. All things were subjected under Adam and he had complete control and dominion over them but this authority most certainly did not give him permission to slaughter animals for food. Adam was told to be an herbivores being all his life.
God told Noah that “all moving things which are alive” shall be his for food. The Hebrew word translated in the KJV “moving things” or “animals” in the Good News Bible is actually “remes” which most certainly refers to “reptiles.” There is a definite and clear distinction in the Bible between animals, birds and reptiles. This distinction is pointed out at the very time they were created. Genesis 1:24 shows that God created all living creatures: “cattle,” “creeping things,” and “beasts” of the Earth. Verse 25 states:
“And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind.”
The beasts are those animals which we call wild beasts. The cattle refer to animals we now refer to as domesticated and herbivorous. The creeping things refer to all the reptiles. The Hebrew word used is “remes” and most definitely refers to reptiles. Remember this, for it is crucial in the study of Genesis 9:2-4. In Genesis 6:20 God again made the distinction between other animals and reptiles, that is, “remes,” translated “creeping thing” in the King James Bible. In Genesis 7:14 we again find a clear distinction in the animal kingdom:
“They [Noah and his household], and every beast after his kind, and all the cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind [remes], and every fowl after his kind.”
In verse 23 we find this statement:
“And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven.”
A clear distinction between man, cattle, birds and reptiles that is, “remes” who “creep” or “move” on the ground. With this firmly fixed in our minds, let us return to Genesis 9:2-3 where we read:
“And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered. Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.”
The first thing we must note in this text is the fact that there is a distinction between the fishes of the sea, the birds of the air, the beasts of the Earth and the one who “moveth upon the earth.” The King James translators have used the word “moveth” in this case instead of “creepeth” as they have done in other passages. It means one and the same: “to glide or crawl” and is used in reference to reptiles. Cattle, sheep, goats, chickens, etc., are not reptiles and therefore they were not included in “all that moveth upon the earth” of which God spoke to Noah. God spoke to Noah only about “remes” that is, reptiles who crawl or creep upon the ground and who lay eggs in order to reproduce.
The next thing we must realize is the fact that God did not tell Noah to KILL and EAT the reptiles who have life but rather that they will all be to him FOR FOOD. There is a vast difference in this idiom. To kill and eat means to take life and that would be something that God actually expressly forbade Noah to do as I will shortly point out. A bee keeper keeps bees for food but this does not mean that he kills them in order to eat them but rather that they produce honey for him of which he can eat. People keep laying hens for food. This does not mean that they kill them and eat their flesh but rather they are for their food because they supply them with their eggs.
Because the flood waters have destroyed all herbs and the fruit trees were not in season due to the devastation of the Flood, God permitted Noah to eat the eggs of the reptiles since they were at his reach. God told Noah that he gave them reptiles for food as He gave all the green herbs. God told Adam to eat all herbs which bear seed and all fruit of the trees. The seed and the fruit of the reptiles is their eggs. As the herbs and fruit trees bear seed and fruit so do reptiles and obviously birds also bear seed or fruit – that is, eggs. The comparison is clear and logical. It is most absurd to believe that God told Noah to kill and eat any animal that came out of the Ark when we know that there were only a pair of each specie – a male and female - and that they were spared from the Flood in order to be able to propagate their species. Imagine if Noah wanted to kill a pig and roast it on fire. That would have been the end of the swine specie. The same is true of host of other species. God could not have told Noah to kill and eat any animal that came forth from the Ark since that would have defeated God’s purpose of saving them in order to repopulate the Earth. God spoke only of “remes” and I have clearly shown that sheep, goats, cattle and all other mammals are not included in this group since they do not “creep, crawl or move” on the ground but rather walk. That this interpretation must be correct and that God never spoke of killing animals is clear from verse four in which God expressly forbade Noah to shed blood and kill any living creature. Regrettably, virtually no one understands the passage in its proper context. Even those who propagate vegetarianism believe and concede that the passage in question sanctions the killing of animals but they could only say that it was God’s CONCESSION and not ideal. However, this is not the case. God did not authorise Noah to kill any living creature but rather He sternly forbade him to do so. Please note verse 4 as it stands in the KJV:
“But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.”
This does not mean that you simply must not eat flesh or meat without blood or that meat should be koshered and blood removed from it. The biological fact is: no matter what you do you can never remove all the blood from the flesh of a slaughtered animal. The text does not say that you must not eat “blood” but it says that you must not eat “flesh with blood.” Since you can never actually partake of flesh or meat without at the same time also eating blood, it logically follows that you must not eat meat. But the fact is: the Hebrew text does not speak about flesh or meat in a literal sense which is actually cut or removed from the carcase of a slaughtered animal. The expression “flesh” has been used many times throughout the Bible to mean “living creature” and it has been used several times in reference to the Flood. By closely examining the context in which it is used we shall see that God never meant that we must not eat flesh which is stained with blood but rather that we must not kill and eat animals, “living creatures” in whose veins blood circulates. In Genesis 6:12 God says:
“For all flesh had corrupted their way.”
Flesh in this statement does not and cannot mean “meat” but actually “animate beings.” In verse 13 God said:
“The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them.”
Again God was not talking about meat but rather living or animate beings that corrupted their original way of life and God given ordinances. Verse 19 clearly shows that “flesh” in fact includes “all living things”:
“Of every living thing of all flesh.”
Verse 15 also clearly shows that “flesh” refers to animate creatures or animals as animate beings and not meat which you eat:
“And they [all animals] went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh.”
Verse 21 again positively proves that “flesh” does not refer to meat but rather all living creatures:
“And all flesh died that moved upon the earth.”
In chapter 8:17 God says to Noah:
“Bring forth with you every living thing that is with you, of all flesh.”
So in every single case where the word “flesh” is used by God in chapters which deal with the Flood, the word applies to all living creatures, that is, animate beings in whose nostrils was the breath of life.
Now let’s take a look again at the passage of Genesis 9:4 where God actually speaks and gives Noah a specific prohibition concerning his diet. In other words, here God tells Noah what he must not eat under any circumstance:
“But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.”
What God actually said to Noah is this: but beings or creatures or souls which are alive or animate whose life is in the blood, you shall not eat. The text clearly prohibits the slaughter of animals for food whose life is in the blood. This is precisely how the original and earliest Jewish Christians actually understood the passage. Jewish Encyclopaedia, art. Jewish Christian Sects, points out that the earliest Jewish Christian sects argued their vegetarianism on the very statement of Genesis 9:4. They argued that in this passage God expressly forbade Noah to kill animals in order to eat their flesh.
How could have God told Noah that he could kill animals in order to eat their flesh when it was for that very reason that He caused the Flood on Earth? God brought about the Flood only because all “flesh” that is, all living beings or living souls on Earth corrupted their way of life and through their corruption they filled the Earth with violence. The “sons of God” married the “daughters of men” and through this union procreated great giants who were the very first carnivorous beings on Earth and who also perverted and corrupted virtually all other beings on Earth. It is amazing how many Christians would want you to believe that this marriage was not between the supernatural or angelic beings and human daughters but rather a marriage between the lineage of Seth [the righteous seed] and the lineage of Cain [the corrupt seed]. But this fact fails to take into account the fact that this union brought about “nephilim” that is, enormous giants. If the union was between the descendants of Seth and his brother Cain why would the offspring be of a gigantic stature? This just does not make sense. The Book of Enoch which Jude accepted as canonical and from which he actually quoted in his epistle and the Book of Jubilees clearly state that these giants were the sons of the Watchers, special angels who left their original dwelling place and married human daughters. These books also clearly show that these giants were the first to taste flesh and kill animals for food and that they soon afterwards became cannibals.
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