Questions About Genesis 1:28-29

Each night, I pray ten minutes before I go to bed, and I decided a few days ago to incorporate Bible reading into that.  Essentially, I will read a passage, and then I will talk about it in my prayer.  I figure that it’s better for me to do that than it is for me to struggle to find things to say, or to talk primarily about my day and my plans (which is not to say that I can’t talk to God about those things).  I may blog about some of my thoughts from those daily quiet times, but I won’t obligate myself to do so.  For one, I don’t want to impose on myself another blogging obligation.  Plus, there are some thoughts that I like to keep personal—-rather than displaying them on the Internet for the public.

What has amazed me about my reading so far is that I have had questions rather than answers.  I was expecting to go through the same-old stories and to say the same-old things about them—-things that I have learned from biblical scholarship and other sources.  Instead, I’ve had questions.

Let me give you an example.  Genesis 1:28-29 states (in the KJV): “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.  And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.”

The word translated as “replenish” is rendered as “fill” in many other translations because the root m-l-aleph often relates to filling.  I have two questions (or categories of questions):

1.  So the first man and woman are to fill the earth.  That appears to contradict what I was taught about Genesis, which is that, had Adam and Eve not sinned by eating the forbidden fruit, they would have stayed in the Garden of Eden for all of their lives, as would their descendants.  Is there a contradiction between Genesis 1, in which God at creation tells the man and the woman to fill the earth, and Genesis 2, in which Adam and Eve leave the Garden and inaugurate the process of filling the earth only after their transgression of God’s command?

I realize that many scholars say that Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 have different creation accounts—-that Genesis 1 is by P and that Genesis 2 is by J (or whoever).  But they disagree about whether or not P knew of J’s creation account and was trying to supplement it, thereby creating a sort of “Fall” story in which human beings fall from a state of being good.  Does P in Genesis 1 manifest any awareness of Genesis 2, in which God appears to intend for humans to obey him and thus be cooped up in a Garden for the rest of their lives?  Or would P think that the transgression was the means by which humans could begin to obey God’s command to fill the earth?

2.  Many maintain that Adam and Eve were to be vegetarians, and that human beings were allowed to eat meat only after the Flood, as a concession to human brutality.  This view makes a degree of sense, for, in Genesis 1, God tells human beings that they can eat plants, without mentioning eating animals.  But God specifically tells humans that they can eat animals in Genesis 9:3.

But here’s my question: What does God mean when he tells the man and the woman to have dominion over fish and fowl?  Why would we want dominion over fish and fowl, except to eat them?  Does God granting the first man and woman dominion over fish and fowl imply that he was allowing them to eat those creatures?

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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