Gen.1:29-31 food declaration

From: Peter Ruest (
Date: Wed May 22 2002 - 11:47:23 EDT

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    Hi Mike,

    here are Armin Held's remarks about the interpretation of Gen.1:29-31
    (translated from German; after the first paragraph, it is taken from his
    book, cf., available in Word 2, Works
    4.0, or .html):

    Concerning the food question: Mike Satterlee's translation does not work
    out because the Hebrew "le", repeatedly used in v.30, clearly specifies
    the dative case for "every beast of the earth", for "every bird of the
    air", and for "every crawling one of the ground". It definitely doesn't
    work out from the Hebrew, one would have to change the text. And this is
    not acceptable. - For myself, I have solved the problem, satisfactorily
    I believe, in the following way:

    The food declaration

    And God said (to the humans!): Behold, I have given you every plant
    yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree
    with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast
    of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that
    creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, [I have
    given] every green plant for food.

    There have been those who understood this as saying that all animals and
    humans consumed plants exclusively, up to the time of Noah. But this
    would rule out any predatory animals and would contradict the "predatory
    sea monsters" in the creation account (Genesis 1:21).

    It is also remarkable that God told this the humans, not the animals of
    the fifth day, where it actually would have been appropriate, e.g. in
    the context of blessing them. Accordingly, it would be not so much a
    command to the animals, but rather a proclamation for the humans of the
    sixth day, a clarification making plain God's thoughts and provision, at
    the same time as a perspective for the future.

    Habitats and provisions

    The blessing of the animals had already contained a demarcation, making
    a distinction between the habitats of the terrestrial and the marine
    animals. It is interesting that the food declaration, as well, leads to
    a demarcation, which is correctly emphasized by a "But" in the
    translation [Hebrew "wa": and or but]. That is, whereas the humans are
    given seeds and fruit, the animals, in contrast, are allotted green
    fodder only: But to all animals of the earth, and to all birds of the
    air, and to all that moves on the earth, in which is a living soul, I
    have given all green plants for food (Genesis 1:30).

    Thus, in reality, the text of Genesis 1 does not deal with the contrast
    between plants and meat, but it is about the question of seeds/fruit or
    green plants. In fact humans primarily live on seeds and fruit to this
    day, but most herbivores primarily on "green fodder". We are quick to
    consider as competing for our food all animals which also or primarily
    feed on fruit or seeds (e.g. rats, mice, or the birds in our cherry

    Besides, the allotment of the seed- and fruit-bearing plants to humans
    logically includes for them the "green" (Hebrew "yereq") plants, as
    well. But the reverse does not apply.

    The food declaration given to Noah (Genesis 9)

    Often, Genesis 9 is interpreted to mean that up to that time, humans
    were allowed to eat plants only (concluded from Genesis 1!), but that
    now they were permitted to consume animals.

    But this is incorrect, since already very much earlier, Abel killed
    animals, and this not at all against God's will (Genesis 4:4-5)! Also,
    one wonders why after the flood Noah should suddenly be allowed to
    consume animals. In fact, even before these words, he himself had
    already slaughtered animals (Genesis 8:20). The mere fact that animals
    were classified as either clean or unclean - before the flood already! -
    proves that they were consumed. No, a different explanation is much more

    Because the reason for the flood was corruption becoming rampant,
    particularly violence - "the land was filled with violence" (Genesis
    6:11) -, at this fresh start, God not only repeated the blessing, which
    he had pronounced before, but in connection with the catastrophe which
    had happened, he qualified the food declaration with a restriction: Only
    you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood! (Genesis 9:4)

    The purpose of this command may have been to restore the respect for
    living beings, particularly humans, as living souls. This would fit very
    well into the context, for immediately following this verse, the blood,
    that is, the life of all humans, is placed under a special protection.
    Thus, in Genesis 9, the blessing of Genesis 1 is not just repeated, but
    it is repeated (cf. the preceding verses [Gen.9:1-3 with Gen.1:28-29])
    with a restriction!

    Dr. Peter Ruest, CH-3148 Lanzenhaeusern, Switzerland
    <> - Biochemistry - Creation and evolution
    "..the work which God created to evolve it" (Genesis 2:3)

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