the Genesis account of the creation of man, there are four words that describe
God’s intentions for man’s responsibility to his environment. The first two of
these words are found in Genesis 1:28 where God tells the man and
the woman “…Subdue the earth and rule [have dominion] over the fish of the sea
and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the
words here that have to do with man’s responsibility to the earth are to subdue it and to rule or have dominion
over it. These are words can be construed as having a rather strong and even
Subdue the Earth
word subdue (kabash), for instance, is most used in Scripture as relating to the
state of the nations who have lost in warfare. For instance, when the early
Israelite nation was entering into Canaan, Joshua told them, “The hill country shall be yours…for you shall
drive out the Canaanites, even though they have chariots of iron and though
they are strong.”
the result of this warfare was that the land was “subdued” before the Israelites
(Joshua 17:18-18:1). In most cases in the Bible, this is the sense of this word subdue. (See also 2 Samuel 8:10-11)
Have Dominion over the Creatures of the Earth
word for rule or dominion (radaw) is much
the same, although perhaps a little less stern. As an example, when God was
later giving the Law to the Israelites, and in the case of an Israelite who may
have become so poor that he would have had to sell himself into slavery, God told
the one who may buy him, “You shall not rule over him with severity, but are to
revere your God” (Leviticus 25:43 NAS). This ruling was not to be with a heavy
the Psalms it is sung of Jesus, “In his days may the righteous flourish, and
abundance of peace till the moon is no more. May he also rule from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth” (Psalm 72:7-8 NAS).
is dominion that brings peace to the earth.
two words, subdue and rule, are the words used in the first chapter of Genesis
to describe the relationship of man to all of the domain of the earth. At first
blush, this may seem like it could be a rather strong-handed relationship.
we need to read on.
part one of this series on the 6th day we saw how the account of the creation of man was
introduced in the first chapter of Genesis, and then expanded in the second
chapter. It is much the same in this case.
As we move on to the second chapter of Genesis, we learn more of what
man’s relationship is to be with the environment. Two different words are used.
the LORD God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to cultivate it
and keep it. (Genesis 2:15 NAS)
Cultivate the Garden
first of these words is cultivate. The
Hebrew word here is ‘abad. The word
in this particular verse is variously translated to dress the ground, or to till
or work it. All of these terms are
good words for this verse in Genesis, since the sense of the verse is that the
man would be farming the ground.
of the more than three hundred times that this word ‘abad appears in the Old Testament, it is most usually translated
as serve, or some form of that word.
In fact, there is only eight or nine times when it is not. For this reason, I prefer
the English word cultivate concerning
the relationship that Adam was to have with the Garden on Eden.
is why I prefer this:
is easy to see that our word cultivate
is closely associated with the word agriculture.
Indeed, they both come from the common Latin root colere (variation cultus.)
This Latin word had two separate meanings which may seem unrelated to us, but
which to the ancient Latin speaking people had a connection.
first meaning has to do with the tilling
of the ground and with agriculture as we know it. The second meaning for the
word is to worship. As we see in the
Genesis account, the tilling of the ground was one of the original occupations
of man. This is why I have said in other places (perhaps with some bias), that
farming is the most honorable of occupations. This is also why this word till also a good translation in the
there is another aspect to this, and it has to do with the inflection of serving, which is how this same word of
Genesis is used in other parts of the Scripture.
Spanish language has been derived more directly from Latin than has English.
When I was first learning Spanish, I was a little surprised to learn that the
worship service in the churches was called the culto. In North America, I was accustomed to hearing the word cult only in relationship to a religious organization or church
that has deviated from the truth of the Gospel in some way.
like the words agriculture and cultivate, this Spanish word culto is also derived from the same
Latin word colere, which has the alternative
meaning of to worship. This is why Spanish
speaking people call their worship service the culto (pronounced cool’tō, or something similar to that).
God gave Adam the task of tilling the ground, it was more than an occupation.
Adam was, in some ways, to serve the
ground. It was the way in which the Lord intended man to worship God, by
serving the creation which God had made.
God’s original intent, we see true environmentalism. It is true that the earth
was made for the good of the man and the woman and that they were free to
utilize its resources. God told them to “Rule over the fish of the sea and over
the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the
earth…Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface
of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be
food for you” (Genesis 1:28-29 NAS).
the attitude in this dominion was not to be exploitation, but service. It is by
taking care of our environment that we show worship to God.
Keep the Garden
other word in this verse in Genesis 2 that has to do with man’s relationship
with the garden is the word keep;
Adam was also to keep the garden. This
is not used in the sense that we would normally say that someone has a
well-kept garden. This word is shamar,
which means to hedge around (as with
thorns), or to protect or guard.
might ask; what threat was present at that time against which Adam had to
protect the garden? The Garden of Eden, we have always thought, was a perfect
environment. And so it was. There was no evil that was present there. However,
there was evil lurking around the edges.
It would eventually come to the garden. It did eventually come, we are told,
using the form of a serpent.
do not know specifically when God created the angels and the heavenly host.
However, at the end of the sixth day, God looked at all that he had made and
saw that it was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). Thus, it seems that up to
this point, Satan had not yet led the great demonic rebellion against God.
soon-to-come rebellion was not a surprise to God. He knew that sin would become
a threat to the garden environment. Thus God told Adam that one of his tasks
was to protect and to guard the garden from the introduction of
evil. As we
know now, this was a task at which Adam later failed. Satan did enter the garden
and deceive the woman Eve into sin, after which Adam also sinned.
we consider all of these four words in relation to man’s role in the earth, we
can understand that when Adam sinned, it was not only the human race that was
affected, but also all that was under his domain. This included all things on
earth and even the earth itself. God’s original intent for man was that he should
subdue the earth and to rule over it. Man was to cultivate and to keep it. This
was to be his service to the Lord.
is why the Apostle Paul writes of creation of being “subjected to futility, not
of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it” (Romans 8:20
neither is this the end of the story. Again we need to read on:
itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of
the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21 NAS).
the end, we will see God’s original intent and assessment of his creation. We
will look on it all and see that it is “very good.”