You really could go broke on this book.

First-rate: Bovon, Bock, Fitzmyer, Green, Geldenhuys, Marshall, Johnson, Stein

Second-rate: Nolland, Godet, Plummer, Ellis, Morris, Craddock

Third-rate: Morgan, Leaney

Conservative: Bock, Green, Geldenhuys, Stein, Godet, Morris

Moderate: Bovon, Fitzmyer, Marshall, Johnson, Nolland, Ellis, Craddock, Plummer

Liberal: Leaney

Forthcoming: Head (Pillar)

Be Fruitful, Don’t Murder

Genesis 9:1-7
There was once a classifed advertisement that read as follows: “Wedding dress for sale, never worn. Will trade for .38 caliber pistol.” Some people have murder in their hearts. As Jesus said, hate is murder. Bitterness is also a form of murder, often directed at God. Some people say, “I don’t get mad, I get even.” But revenge is also a form of murder. It was the sin of murder that God punished in the Flood. Instead of multiplying and filling the earth, murder divides and empties the earth. If we divide by murdering, instead of multiplying by having children, we are doing the wrong kind of math! God loves multiplication, not division.

God has promised that the earth will endure, and that the seasons will be continuous, and that they will predictably change. That means that there is room for God’s grace to work in human lives. The grace that God has on everyone, called common grace, makes room for the special grace that God exercises toward His people. That grace is called saving grace. But in this chapter, we see the full description of common grace.
Now, the Ancient Near Eastern description of the Flood said that over-population was the world’s problem. Nothing is new under the sun, is it? Many modern people think that over-population is the world’s problem. Often they use that idea as a justification for abortion. But as we saw several months ago, the world is far from being over-populated. One has only to drive through our own state (ND) to realize that the world is not over-populated. But the ancient epic called the Atrahasis Epic said that the gods destroyed humanity because there were too many of them. Unbelief does not think that man is made in the image of God, and that therefore they should multiply. Unbelief will always say that there are too many people on this earth. That belief reflects the low view of the value of human life.

Verse 1 is a truly comforting thought. If one had gone through the waters of judgment as Noah had, one might be tempted to thnk that God no longer cared for those creatures on earth. One might be tempted to think that God did not value human life any more. That is not true. God did not recant His earlier position. Instead, he repeats Himself: “multiply and fill the earth.” The blessing is still there, despite the Flood. But there are some changes now that judgment has come.

Verse 2 says that all of the animal world will fear humanity. This, however, is also of God’s mercy. If animals did not fear mankind, then the animal world would take over. Beasts would completely destroy the world of men if God did not restrain them by putting into them the fear of mankind.

In verse 3, we see that animals are quite clearly not in the same class as human beings. Human beings are made in the image of God: animals are not. That is why they can be caught, killed, and eaten for food.

But there is one caviat on eating animals. There is to be no eating of blood. Now to understand why this is important, we must look what people thought about blood in the ancient world. Most ancient people thought that if someone ate the blood of an animal or a human, then that person would gain the life-force of what was eaten. It is true that the life of the flesh is in the blood, as Leviticus 17:11 tells us. Blood was the life-force of the animal. Indeed, here the text says, “You shall not eat the flesh with its life, that is, its blood.” That means that life and blood are equal. Popular thought said that people could absorb the life-force of the animal by eating is blood. But here, the text says that the life-force belongs to God. Therefore, the blood should go back to the God who gave it. Life belongs to God. Verse 4 is the reason why every sacrifice would have to be drained of its blood before it could be eaten.

There is another principle at work here as well. If blood represented life, and killing an animal meant death, then eating a dead animal with its blood still in it meant that there was a confusion of death and life. Those two things are separate. It is only by respecting that boundary between death and life that either one would be truly respected at all. John Calvin said that if man started eating the blood and disregarding the distinction between life and death, they would soon disregard human life altogether. That distinction between death and life symbolized by the blood is why the substitution of the animal’s life for the human’s in a sacrifice could be an acceptable sacrifice in God’s eyes. The principle was a life for a life. This points us unavoidably to our Savior’s sacrifice of His blood to atone for sin. Our sin meant that our own blood would not be sufficient to atone for our sin. Our blood is polluted blood. We have confused death with life. Our blood is not truly alive. It is not spiritually alive. That means that we who are spiritually dead in our natural sinful state cannot make ourselves alive. Our dead spiritual blood cannot satisfy the wrath of a God who requires a live sacrifice. In the OT, the lamb that was slain had to be a spotless lamb, without wrinkle or blemish. That lamb is Jesus Christ. He was the spotless lamb, who took away the sins of the world.

It is highly ironic now that we partake of our Savior’s blood now in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, even if that is a spiritual partaking, not a literal partaking. Genesis tells us not to eat blood, and the Savior tells us to partake of His blood! How is this to be explained? The idea here is that the Savior’s blood in His death is our life. By partaking in His blood, we proclaim the Lord’s death and resurrection until He comes. His blood is shed for us. That life belongs to us now by the power of the Holy Spirit. So now, if we do not partake of the Lord’s Supper, when God has made us worthy, then we will not respect human life. Before, if a person ate blood, he would not respect human life. Now, if we do not partake of Christ’s blood, we will not respect his life and death.

So one question that poses itself to us is this: “Can we eat blood in a steak, for instance, that is not well-done?” Yes, we can. The prohibition against blood had to do with the sacrificial system that found its fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Animals that were unclean are now clean. And therefore, it is quite all right to eat a steak medium rare, if you so desire. But a further application comes to us as a caviat to what we have just said. It is not true that because we can eat a steak medium rare, therefore we can be cruel to animals. God is speaking in this passage as the preserver of man and beast. We should not be wantonly cruel to beasts. One of the ways that the ancient people ate the blood of beasts was to tear off a limb while the animal was still alive and eat that. That is being wantonly cruel to the animal. If we are going to eat the animal, then kill the animal cleanly and quickly. When hunting an animal, for instance, we should not merely wound an animal for “sport,” if we can kill with one shot. We should do our best to insure that animals are not in pain. That respects the difference between life and death.

Ultimately, the question of life and death comes to its most important issue in the discussion about the taking of human life. Notice the contrast between animal and man. It is permissible to kill and eat animal. It is permissible to shed the blood of animals. It is not permissible to shed the blood of a human being. There is a very clear difference between animals and man. Man is made in the image of God, and animals are not. There are some people out there who would save the young of a baby whale, but would fight to the death for abortion rights. Save the whale, and kill the baby! What an upside-down, twisted view of humanity that is! Notice the contrast of that view with what is given here. Instead of saying that animal life is just as important as human life, the Bible says that if an animal kills a human being, that animal is to be put to death. Verse 5 says that God will require the blood of man from every beast that takes. Even animals are responsible to avoid taking human life. They should know better! If they disregard that command, then humanity is to make it right by killing the animal. To say that it is okay for an animal to kill a human being is saying that there is no difference between an animal and a human. That always brings animals up to the point of being worshipped. And there is always a corresponding lowering of the value of human life. There is a story recently of a little girl at the zoo who squeezed in between the bars of the tiger’s cage. When the tiger killed the little girl, the security guard shot the tiger. In the OT, if an ox is known to have gored a man to death, the ox must be killed. Further than that, if the owner of the ox knew that the ox was dangerous, and did not keep the animal penned up properly, and the ox killed a man, then the owner was also responsible, and could be put to death. That is how much God would have to respect human life.

Not only are animals responsible for the death of humans, but also other humans are responsible. “Are we our brother’s keeper?” Cain asked. The answer is a resounding yes. The reason? All humanity is made in the image of God. And, all humans are related one to another. That means that all murder is fratricide, or brother-killing. A human being who kills another human being is killing a brother. All murder is like being Cain. God has made this abundantly plain to us.