What the Bible says about
(From Forerunner Commentary)
To environmentalists, letting man have dominion over the animals and being told to subdue the earth means that God gives man free rein to do anything he wants to the planet—bend it to his uses and abuses, rape it of all its beauty and diversity—for his own benefit. "Does not the land have any rights?" they cry. "What about the plants and animals, birds and fish? What gives us the right to mine and burn and kill without care for nature?"
Certainly, God did not give man the authority to degrade and destroy His earth. Environmentalists are correct in saying that mankind should consider and address environmental concerns. They are quite wrong, however, to blame God for the earth's ecological problems; He is not responsible for man's destruction of the natural world.
To think that God gave man carte blanche to plunder and destroy the earth is simply ludicrous. He is its Creator! Why would He immediately command Adam to ruin it? Would any woodworker, upon just finishing a beautifully stained piece of furniture, tell his son to break it up for firewood? No! Just as God desires for His creation, the woodworker would put his handiwork to use and also care for it by keeping it waxed and dusted to prolong its life.
This is exactly what God told Adam. Genesis 2 contains a parallel account of creation, adding detail to certain parts of the narrative of the first chapter. Notice God's expanded instruction: "Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend [dress, KJV] and keep it" (verse 15). This greatly modifies the force of "have dominion" and "subdue it" from Genesis 1:26, 28!
Tend (Hebrew 'abad) means "to work or serve," and thus referring to the ground or a garden, it can be defined as "to till or cultivate." It possesses the nuance seen in the KJV's choice in its translation: "dress," implying adornment, embellishment, and improvement.
Keep (Hebrew shamar) means "to exercise great care over." In the context of Genesis 2:15, it expresses God's wish that mankind, in the person of Adam, "take care of," "guard," or "watch over" the garden. A caretaker maintains and protects his charge so that he can return it to its owner in as good or better condition than when he received it.
To Noah, God gives a similar command after the Flood:
So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand. (Genesis 9:1-2)
Once again God gives man dominion over all other life on the earth, and with this renewed authority comes the implicit responsibility to tend and keep what was explicitly given to Adam. In this post-Flood world, God gives mankind a second chance to use and preserve the resources He had so abundantly provided. To that end Noah, after 120 years as a preacher and shipwright, took up farming and planted a vineyard (verse 20). We can assume, from what we know of human nature, that this attitude of stewardship did not pass to very many of his descendants.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Bible and the Environment
From our childhood, we carry an image of God kneeling over the created but inert Adam. He is lifeless until God performs the first mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, and then Adam springs to life! His eyelids flutter, he takes a deep breath, and then he bends from his waist and sits up.
Nowhere does the Bible show God breathing life into any animal that He created. When He created them, they started breathing. Why should man be any different?
He is different because he is in the likeness of God. He did something to man that actually made man into the image of God. While he was lying there on the ground, he was still yet a creature. But when God knelt down and breathed into him, the infusion of the spirit in man occurred. That is what made man in the image of God! That is what gave man the power to have dominion. It gave man the intellect he needed to rule what God has created.
Man has creaturely life, but with the infusion of the spirit in man, he is more—a living being with intelligence. Man was given the power to govern his actions, not by instinct, but by memory, by conceptualization and thinking spatially. A man can appreciate beauty, communicate verbally, or write. A human being has feelings that are—in the expression of their subtly and power—far above an animal in terms of love or hate, and above all of the emotions that fall in between.
We can create and destroy. The power is in a man to do these things. The power is in the spirit when combined with the brain, but it has to be developed.
God shows very clearly that, as we are, we are nothing more than a pale representation of what we can be. Yet, we are endowed with powers that lift us so far above the animals on earth that we can have dominion over them.
Mankind is then commanded to fill the earth and subdue it. Subdue means "to tread upon," which implies "to bring into subjection." It does not mean "to destroy" or "to treat violently," but "to control and direct." In Genesis 1:26 and 28, God implies that He has conferred powers to mankind not given to animals.
It is also the first indication, when combined with Genesis 2:7 and 15, that when God confers a responsibility, He also confers the powers to carry out that responsibility.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Right Use of Power
In verse 15, God clarifies why he gave man powers. At first glance, it only appears to cover what is physical and material, but with God's spiritual revelation and other scriptures, it carries far greater implication.
In the King James Version, the word meaning "tend" or "cultivate" is dress. The Hebrew means "to work at." In 1611, when the King James was translated, the word dress meant "to set in order," but gradually, it was applied to applying decorative details, "to embellish."
Today, when we say that we are going to dress, we include both parts of that definition. We put ourselves in order and embellish how we look.
In modern Bibles, “dress” has been translated "tend" or "cultivate." They have subtle meanings that are slightly different from "dress." Tend means "to pay attention to" or "to serve." For example, “I am going to tend to the dishes.” It means "to apply oneself to the care of" or "to manage the operations of."
Cultivate, which is the best of the three definitions, means "to put through a finishing process," "to foster the growth of," or "to further or encourage." Neither "dress" or "tend" is wrong, but "cultivate" most accurately applies the Hebrew meaning of the original word.
There is the word "keep" as well. We are to "dress and keep." Keep means to "guard," "preserve," "be faithful to," and "maintain."
God has given man powers to carry out the responsibility that has been given into his hands: to have dominion. Man must do the following: Put what has been placed into his hands through a finishing process, watch over it, guard it, protect it, and preserve its beauty.
This was all given to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, a beautiful place. God let them and us know that, as beautiful as the Garden was, it would not stay that way. It was subject to natural law and would degenerate. The Garden would need to be maintained, cultivated, dressed, and kept, requiring a great deal of work. Man was not only to preserve, control, and direct it, but also to strive even to ennoble the Garden of Eden through work.
It begins to become clear that God intends mankind to make more of his environment than he has been given. God has given the powers to do that. We are to understand this not only physically, but more importantly, spiritually.
Here in Genesis, God has shown the fact that a person works, the reason why he works, and the way he works all have a great deal to do with his spiritual development. It is important to note the difference between "salvation" and "development." We are saved by grace. But if there is going to be development from where God begins whenever we first receive His Spirit, then it requires something on our part to enable the fullness of development to take place. That involves work.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Right Use of Power
"Tend" and "keep"—We might say "embellish" and "guard" or "add to" and "keep from deterioration." Anybody who has taken care of a piece of material equipment of some kind—a garden, a house, an automobile, clothing, it matters not—knows that one can embellish it, dress it, and that it takes work. It also takes work to maintain it, to guard it from falling into a state of disrepair.
God's real purpose here has something to do with the material things of life, but He is considering something much greater than that, something spiritual. He is indicating that spiritual things in our lives are also going to have to be embellished, added to, dressed, and they will have to be kept from deteriorating and guarded. There is work involved in those activities. Proper management, or dominion, over the things that God has put within the scope of our authority take work. So, both of these words indicate work.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Love's Greatest Challenges
Never let anybody convince you that Christianity is not a religion of works. Christianity is hard work! That is what our Savior says. It is difficult! It is hard work because its direction and purpose run counter to human nature.
Confusion about "works" enters the picture when people wrongly try to associate "works" with "salvation." We are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8)—there is no argument with this biblical fact. Works enter the picture as a necessary part of the process of growth within God's purpose—not salvation. Salvation is, in a major sense, an already finished work of Jesus Christ, which is why so many biblical statements about salvation are written in the past tense.
However, laziness plays a large part in why we do not grow. God expects us to work, though we will not earn salvation by it. We grow because of work, by overcoming problems. If we are too lazy to work at overcoming things, though we may be in God's Kingdom, we are not going to reap the rewards God's promises to overcomers.
God is looking for His children to grow. Every parent wants his child to become a mature adult who is able to take his place in society, to live independent of the family yet still be connected to it in a loving way, to stand on his own feet. God sets the pattern, and He wants His children to grow as free and independent moral agents. However, we are not that way when He finds, calls, reveals Himself and His way to us, and leads us to repentance. He wants us to grow into what He is:
And God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." (Genesis 1:26)
God gives everybody who reads His Book an early indication that work will play a major role in what He has created. Dominion! That is "rulership" or maybe a better word would be "management." And dominion over or management of our own personal environment requires work.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Love's Greatest Challenges
A large school of fish miraculously appears alongside Peter's boat just when Jesus says, "Let down your nets." Some may not view this by itself as a miracle. Yet, David writes: "You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen—even . . . the fish of the sea that pass through the paths of the seas" (Psalm 8:6-8). As Creator, Jesus knows where the fish are in the Lake of Gennesaret, a power Peter obviously lacks. Christ, as the sovereign Lord of the earth and its seas, could have commanded thousands of fish to leap onto shore, but He directs them into the man's net. The combination of the precise place, time, and mass of fish following Jesus' instructions qualifies this as a genuine miracle, one witnessed by many.
Note that this first miracle of fish (Luke 5:1-11) happens at the beginning of Jesus' ministry, and the second occurs near the end (John 21:3-11). Both miracles take place on the Sea of Galilee after a night of fruitless work.
Martin G. Collins
The Miracles of Jesus Christ: The Great Catch of Fish
Paul states that the law has "dominion" over a man only as long as he lives. Some have interpreted this to mean that, now that we have died with Christ, the law is no longer binding on Christians. Indeed, some modern translations of the Bible translate this verse to say just that. However, note how Paul uses this word "dominion" in other places.
In Romans 6:9, Paul speaks of Christ's immortality now that He has been resurrected, saying, "Death no longer has dominion over Him." During the period that Christ was a flesh-and-blood human being, He could die, and He did die on the cross. Now, however, death no longer has any power over Him, because He is an immortal Spirit Being.
In Romans 6:14, Paul uses the same word to describe our relationship with sin. "For sin shall not have dominion over you." Here he shows how our past sins have been forgiven, and we have access to Christ's atoning grace for forgiveness of future sins. Therefore, sin no longer has the power to condemn us to death.
Throughout Romans 6 and 7, the Greek word translated "dominion" is kurieuo, meaning "exercise lordship over." Paul uses this term in the context of having power over something. In Romans 6:9 and 14, he states that death and sin no longer have power to harm us or to cause any adverse effect in our lives.
Now we can better understand Paul's meaning in Romans 7:1. In this verse, Paul explains how the law has "power" over a human being only while he lives. He means the law has power to condemn us as a sinner and, consequently, condemn us to death only as long as we are alive. Once we have died, the penalty for sin has been paid, and the law has no more power to condemn us.
Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Dead to the Law?
Find more Bible verses about Dominion:
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