Monday, March 18, 2013

In Gen. 9:3 we read that God told Noah "every moving thing that lives shall be food for you". Can we assume from that statement that humans were vegetarians prior to the flood? Would that account for their longevity before the flood?

I am going to answer this question in two parts.

1. Were humans vegetarians prior to the flood?
2. Why did humans live so long prior to the flood?

Question #1 - Were humans vegetarians prior to the flood?

This is a common assumption that many students of the Bible make. We have no direct reference of any humans eating meat prior to God "authorizing" it in Genesis 9. I would caution the reader of the Bible to not just assume that because God "authorized" an action at one point that some had not already been engaging in it. Mankind has a tendency to do lots of things without God's authorization. 

Our friend Eric Lyons at Apologetics Press wrote a detailed article in reference to the aforementioned question. Here is what he wrote in his article titled "Were all men vegetarians prior to the flood?"

After the creation of man and land animals on day six of the Creation week, God instructed Adam saying, “I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food” (Genesis 1:29). There is no record of God telling Adam and Eve that they could butcher cows or smoke chickens, but He did authorize them to eat the seeds and fruits of plants and trees. In the very next chapter of Genesis, it is recorded where God told Adam that he could eat “of every tree of the garden” (except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil—2:16-17). Notice that nothing is said here about animals—only vegetation. Then again, in Genesis 3, when God sentenced Adam and Eve to a life outside of the Garden of Eden, He said: “And you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground” (3:18-19). Three times in the first three chapters of the Bible, God instructed man regarding his diet. Each time, the Bible records only where God permitted man to eat vegetation (some of which could be made into bread—3:19). The Bible nowhere mentions man receiving permission from God to eat any kind of animal until after the Flood. It was then that God said:

And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs (Genesis 9:1-3, emp. added).

Just as God had authorized mankind to eat “green herbs” many centuries earlier, after the Flood, God gave His permission for mankind to eat “all things”—including all animals that move on the Earth and swim in the sea. [NOTE: It appears that laws regarding the eating of clean and unclean animals were not given until the Law of Moses (Leviticus 11; Deuteronomy 14:3-21). Although a difference was made between clean and unclean animals prior to the Flood (cf. Genesis 7:2-3), this distinction seems to have applied only to the matter of which animals were suitable for sacrifice, not for consumption (cf. Genesis 8:20).]

To answer the question, “Were all men prior to the Flood vegetarians?,” one merely can conclude that the Bible reveals God giving instructions only regarding the eating of food made from vegetation prior to the Deluge. God’s Word is conspicuously silent regarding the eating of animals. However, just because God apparently did not authorize man to eat animal flesh before the Flood, does not mean that mankind abided by this regulation. It seems likely that there were some people who went beyond what God allowed, and ate various kinds of animals anyway. It is not difficult to imagine those living just prior to the Flood, whose every thought was evil continually (Genesis 6:5), leaning over a sacrificial sheep, smelling the sweet aroma, and taking a bite out of the lamb’s leg (cf. 1 Samuel 2:12-17).

Some have asked why Adam’s son Abel raised flocks, if he and his descendants were supposed to be vegetarians? Although the Bible does not say exactly why Abel was a “keeper of sheep” (Genesis 4:2), most likely it was because by raising sheep, Abel could provide clothing for himself and others, as well as provide animals that people could get from him to sacrifice to Jehovah. One thing we can know assuredly is that before the Flood, we never read of God granting permission to humans to eat animal flesh. Yet, at least three times prior to the Flood the Bible mentions God authorizing the fruit of the Earth for man’s consumption. Furthermore, Genesis 9:2-3 stresses that after the Flood a vastly different relationship existed between animals and humans. Animals developed a fear of humans, and humanity was permitted to use the flesh of animals for food, “even as the green herbs” were permitted since the beginning of the Creation (9:3; 1:29). (By Eric Lyons)  (Copyright Apologetics Press 2003)  

Answer to question #1:

It is a possibility that humans did not eat meat prior to the flood. There is also good evidence that God did not authorize eating meat prior to the account in Genesis 9. To say definitively, however, that no human ever ate meat prior to the flood would be a stretch. I believe that this is one question that does not have a definite answer.

Question #2 - Why did humans live so long prior to the flood?

The Bible does not specifically answer this question. There are many theories on the longevity of the Man in the Old Testament, however, they are nothing more than theories. Some possibilites include diet, lack of disease, climate or that God allowed them to live long to help populate the Earth. Another theory is that mankind was supposed to live forever on earth prior to the first sin, thus it took time for the "eternal genes" to be bred out. Some believe that the flood affected man's lifespan. It is true that the pre-flood earth would have been strikingly different from the post-flood earth, these changes to the world may have also affected man's longevity.

Answer to question #2

The Bible does not give enough evidence to why those in the Old Testament lived so long for one to come to a solid conclusion. There are many theories and it may be fun to speculate, however, we must all understand that unless we have a "Bible Answer", our ideas are nothing more than guesses. 

By Cliff Sabroe