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If you know even a little about how the story of the Bible unfolds, then you know that it doesn’t take many chapters of Genesis to get from Adam and Eve and the fall to the trouble in Noah’s day. By chapter six, things are going poorly; Noah is given a specific building project in chapter seven; the great flood comes in chapter eight.

What is particularly intriguing is the instructions that God gives to Noah and his descendants after the flood.

And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. The fear of you and the terror of you will be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky; with everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into your hand they are given. Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant. . . . Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God he made man. As for you, be fruitful and multiply; populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it.” (Genesis 9:1-7)

God is re-issuing the instructions he had given to Adam and Eve. But, surprisingly, of the four provisions of that original set of instructions, only two are mentioned.

Noah and his descendants are told to be fruitful and multiply and also to fill the earth; those were the first two parts of the instructions given to Adam and Eve. But what of the other two parts? What about the call to subdue the inhabited planet and to rule over every living thing?

We saw that when Adam and Eve failed to fully rule over every living thing (in particular, the serpent), God stepped in, in grace, to take responsibility for their failure to rule the serpent. God is apparently stepping in again to cover, in grace, mankind’s failure to fulfill what he intended for them. God says that he will be the one who will require man’s blood for capital offenses. God will undertake to provide for the subduing of life on the planet.

Adam and Eve and their descendants were supposed to subdue the inhabited world. They were supposed to keep things “under control.” Mankind’s wickedness had gotten out of hand; their wickedness was “great on the earth” (Genesis 6:5). Apparently, the descendants of Adam and Eve were not subduing life on planet earth very well at all.

So, God brings the flood. And in setting things up after the flood, God does not re-issue the instruction to Noah and his descendants to “subdue the earth.” God has stepped into to take responsibility for that part–the part that people failed to carry out well.

Once again, early in Genesis, we see a marvelous picture of grace. God has intentions for his people. They fail to carry out his intentions for them. So God himself steps in to ensure what he wants for them and what he desires through them will come to pass.


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