A different view of Genesis 9:3

I am going to suggest that God is not giving, as in allocating, plants to the animals in this verse, but He is restoring plants for animals. Similarly all things are restored to Noah and his family. Perhaps it seems minor to you but it really is significant. Our creator God didn’t just drain the water after the flood, but He also regenerated the vegetation.

Created: 2009/10/03. Updated: 2013/09/11.

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I hesitate looking specifically into the Hebrew because if I suggest something different from what the body of experts has offered in various good translations, it seems like I am trying to twist the Bible. Further, I cannot claim expertise in Hebrew. So please consider all the other arguments in the Creation was not Utopia and Seed and Fruit articles which, in my opinion, already demonstrate what I wanted to show. Then consider this argument. But note that translation always assumes some context. I am not trying to twist the words as much as showing that some better assumption can be made.

The “give” verb

Here are two translations of Genesis 9:3. In fact most translations are very similar. I am really only concerned here with the latter half of this verse.

The “give” verb here and the “green plants” words are the same as those used in Genesis 1:29-30 which seems to have a strong bearing on how this verse is being understood. Note that in 9:3 the “give” verb only occurs once. The Hebrew words are more like, “as I give green plants then everything”. Now it seems fine to expand this in translation and repeat the “give” word before “everything” but note that it is first inserted as past tense “gave” green plants and then when repeated it becomes the present tense “give”. Again, that is reasonable if we are assuming that the giving of green plants is referring back to Genesis 1:30 and this is being contrasted or expanded now to include everything.

But guess what, in Genesis 1:29-30 the green plants were given specifically to the animals and not to man. Here in Genesis 9 they are being given to man in most translations but NASB does not state who the green plants are given to. So it seems wrong to assume this backwards past tense reference. Or perhaps a mistake is being made in who is given what.

The tense of Hebrew verbs has to be derived from context. Suppose now that the “give” word is present tense in both its application to “green plants” and to “everything”. Further note that the “give” word, naw-than, used here is tremendously wide in its application and could be seen as restore, to bestow, or bring forth. Isn’t this exactly what is happening? Isn’t God (present tense), restoring the vegetation on the earth after the flood? And as He is restoring the vegetation, now He is restoring Noah’s access to the animals for food, because they were not to be eaten while on the Ark.

My suggestion

So instead of implying that animals were not eaten until after the flood, it is saying that animals could again be eaten after the time in the Ark, as they were before the flood. This is how I think Genesis 9:3 should be understood.

Or adding some implied context.

The current translations seem to look back at Genesis 1:29-30 that talked about giving green plants. But what I am now doing is going back to Genesis 1:28 where God gave dominion and blessing to man and seeing that this is being restored. In fact the verses of Genesis 9:1-2 are also clearly reinstating the dominion and blessing already given in Genesis 1:28. Since that blessing was clearly already given then it must be a restoration that is happening here. This makes me very confident that these verses should be pictured as a restoration rather than a first time giving.

You figure it out

Have a look at what The NEW STRONG’S DICTIONARY of HEBREW and GREEK WORDS says about naw-than: Strongs 5414 . It is clear that considerable latitude must be allowed in its application and “restore” is an option. All I have done is to look at the very obvious context and seen that “give” is better understood as a “restoration”. You make up your own mind.

Support from Psalm 104

Are there any other verses in the Bible to support this understanding of restoration? Well, it’s a big book, but I did come across support in Psalm 104. This Psalm draws extensively from the early chapters of Genesis to give God glory, but in many places it goes beyond what is know from Genesis and uses different words that give extra insight:

Genesis 8 just says that the waters receded; the ark came to rest on a mountain, and Noah remained in the ark several months until the land dried. But now we can see that during this time God restored the face of the earth. It was not just seed sprouting and trees budding, as in spring time. There was an active renewal of vegetation.

There is a side story here. Modern secular geology has an axiom that: “The key to the past is the present.” In other words, what we see happening today reveals the processes that shaped the earth. Hence geologists try and explain everything assuming the slow changes they see today is all that has ever happened. It seems naive to ridiculous to assume this, but none the less it is necessary to sustain billions of years needed for a “no God” explanation.

Sadly, some Christians have made the same mistake. They look at Genesis 2:1, where God said it was complete, and then assume He turned off His creative power and nature and sat back and watched everything unfold via natural means. The same attitude unveils itself in modern times where some would assert that once the Bible was canonized, there was no longer any need for miracles to be performed to confirm the Word, so the miraculous ceased.

Well, He didn’t cease to use His creative powers and He has not ceased being the source of miracles.

Day-8 man gets dominion

I have suggested that there was day-6 man and then Adam was created after God rested and have described Adam’s lineage as day-8 man. Nothing I have said above about a restoration after the flood depends on this assumption. So what I now share can not detract from what I have already suggested.

At one stage I was correctly challenged to establish where day-8 man is given dominion because clearly the blessing and dominion in Genesis 1:28 applied to day-6 man. At the time I suggested that if the servants, day-6 man, were given dominion over the animals then the sons of God, day-8 man, inherited even greater authority. I still like this, but can you see what is happening after the flood?

Day-6 man was just wiped out in the flood. There is only day-8 man left, represented by Noah and his sons and their wives. And what do we see? God explicitly passes the blessing and dominion of Genesis 1:28 to Noah and his descendants in Genesis 9:1-3. So day-8 man, who has descended a long way from his created glory as sons of God, to more like the status of the ordinary day-6 men, is now given the blessing originally given to day-6 man. So God is not repeating Himself by repeating the blessing of man first given on day 6, but He is giving the blessing to Adam’s lineage now that day-6 man has died out and can no longer be servants.

The chess game

Boys and girls, if you feel that there is no big deal here about first time giving or restoring; it’s clear that God is blessing Noah and his descendants; then God bless you. But there is a bit of a chess game going on in my mind. I may not get a chance to reply to rebuttals of my suggestions, so I try and anticipate such arguments and build in my defence. Sadly, this makes my articles at little long and wordy, but I have seen the Apostle Paul attempt to cover all bases in some of his letters, so it seems to be a necessary thing at times. On the other hand Jesus would just say it, whether we understood it or not, and he trusted the Holy Spirit to reveal it to us. So perhaps I should not worry.

My suggestion strongly counters the use of Genesis 9:3 from implying that man did not eat meat before the flood. This then has strong implications about whether animals might have died before Adam sinned. That impacts a presumed perfect initial state and has a plethora of implications. None of these implications bother my theology but do bother some people’s theology. (It’s strange when so much theology hangs on just one verse.)

So there is a counter move from people who don’t agree. They might say that if I suggest that day-8 man, Adam and his descendants, was not given dominion until now, then would I concede that Adam and his descendants did not eat meat until now, that is, after the flood. It’s sort of an attempt to hang on to Adam and his descendants as vegetarians. Actually it’s quite a good argument. But since Abel exercised dominion over his flocks and made sacrifices, I don’t think this argument will hold up, and anyhow, no one arguing this wants to acknowledge day-8 man, so it’s a bit pointless.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB®

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