Ruling and Multiplying in Creation
Genesis 1:26–31 26
26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
As we saw yesterday there are three components to the creation mandate:
- God’s blessing,
- the command to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth,
- the command to subdue creation and have dominion over it.
According to William Edgar, Apologetics professor at Westminster Theological Seminary, it is likely not a coincidence that our modern word for culture expresses these three ideas in its historical etymology. Cult in one of its derivatives expresses the idea of worship, which we will talk about tomorrow (see #1 above). Colonize, which carries very negative connotations today because of how the word is used to describe various immoral efforts in history, yet in its most basic form it means to inhabit a new territory, spread or advance (see #2 above). Finally, cultivate carries the meaning of working to produce (see #3 above). All of these ideas are present in the creation mandate of Genesis 1.
Today we will zoom in on 2 and 3. the command to be fruitful and multiply and the command to subdue and rule creation.
In these two imperatives God give humanity the responsibility to cultivate the power of creation (make culture) and spread that culture throughout the creation. The command to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth certainly teaches the inherent goodness of reproduction but it is more than that. In the context it points to the spread of this culture that humans are called to build. As we saw yesterday that involves all of the work we do. These are all acts of worship to God in the Garden.
The *dominion (*radah) God gives humans, gives them lordship over creation but not unconditionally to exploit and exhaust creations resources. The rule of humans is still subject to God himself for “he let them have dominion…” (v. 26) and it is contingent on humans bearing God’s image. So humans ought to rule for the good of creation. This, as commentator Allen Ross says, “legitimizes humanity’s use of the world’s resources it doesn’t give license for abuse of it.” it is meant to reflect God’s rule and God’s care of his creation. As stewards of creation it is the human’s responsibility to “work and keep it” (2:15) not exploit and destroy it for our own benefit. Yet we see here the call to harness it’s power to produce tools that promote human flourishing. Your job most likely falls into this category in some way, shape or form.
I’ve included a part of a conversation Jon and I had about worship extending to every part of our life and not just on Sunday morning. ff to 4:45 for the beginning of that conversation.