What the Bible says about
Mankind's Dominion over Animals
(From Forerunner Commentary)
Two things are made especially plain. God states three times in verse 27 that man is created. In verses 26-27, He says four times that man is created in the image of God. He wants us to grasp those points because the same applies to us! Even though we are now about 6,000 years from when He first spoke those words, these realities have not changed one iota.
In addition, God clearly gave us beings created in His image authority over animals. That authority has not been taken from us. This dominion implies responsibility in managing them that we owe to our Creator.
Many people seek to escape the responsibility of answering to our Creator, devising complex explanations to deny His existence to themselves and others. They may reason that, if He does not exist, how can they be responsible for submitting to His commands?
They will move heaven and earth, as the saying goes, looking for proof to back their denial of God. The great bulk of mankind lacks the resources, the time, or the education to make such a search, so for their own benefit, they simply deny His existence by ignoring Him. These two categories of people are part of the “Nones”—those who claim no spiritual attachment whatever—of this generation.
Others, without making any real effort to search out the truth, create a god or goddess they are comfortable with and worship him or her to salve their consciences. They do not seem to grasp that their dodges do not alter their responsibility to conform to what God laid out in the beginning.
Another category is quite worrisome: the sincere folk who consider themselves Christian. However, either due to false teaching in their churches or perhaps their own laziness, they believe that much of the Old Testament no longer applies to them. In their minds, it has been “done away” along with what they consider Old Covenant laws, deliberately ignoring what Jesus Himself says about those same laws (Matthew 5:17-20).
However, God's Word still stands, and mankind is still responsible to follow this covenant, as Romans 1:20-21 declares:
For since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead [margin, divine nature], so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Five)
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
This dominion does not give mankind the right to destroy God's creation. Man is to act responsibly, but unfortunately, this does not happen very often in this world. Animals are tortured, rivers and seas are fouled, whole areas are devastated of plant and animal life to fill the coffers of big business.
In Genesis 2:15, God tells Adam and Eve to "tend and keep" the Garden of Eden. They were to take what God had made and work to maintain it and help it to produce. They could harvest its bounty and eat of its fruit. Certainly, God allowed certain trees to be cut for their wood, and certain animals could be killed for their meat. In no way, however, was any part of His creation to be equated with man or to be worshipped.
Mike Ford (1955-2021)
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