The Meatless Kingdom | 2
The Meatless Kingdom | 2
In the first study in this series, we looked at a few of the common verses used to support a meat diet. This began when Noah and his family were leaving the ark, and it was allegedly codified in the Mosaic law. These brief analysis were in light of facts revealed to us by modern epidemiology, which exposes the fact blood remains in the meat, albeit in trace amounts. Because objections are natural in this sort of study, we're going to consider details of these passages and others. Naturally, we'll begin in Genesis.
The Garden of Eden
Many will agree that Adam, Eve, and their family enjoyed a meatless diet. Certainly, the mainstream is under the impression that Abel offered the flesh of an animal as a sacrifice. If this is the case, we have two questions: 1) where did they learn that killing an animal and blood sacrifice was acceptable? 2) was the meat eaten, or was it wasted? To be sure, there's no answer explicit for question two--to say that the meat was eaten or wasted are both assumptions (eisegesis). But if we can answer the first question with proper exegesis, we'll have an answer to the second question for sure.
First, let's address the obvious. Adam and Eve only ate herbs before the fall; it's obvious this is mankind's ideal diet.
And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so. And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
Please notice a few things with me. Mankind was given "dominion" over the fish of the sea, fowl of the air, and every living thing that moveth upon earth. The word "dominion" in Hebrew is râdâh, pronounced "raw-daw'." It's, "A primitive root; to tread down, that is, subjugate; specifically to crumble off: - (come to, make to) have dominion, prevail against, reign, (bear, make to) rule, (-r, over), take." So the word has no other meaning than to "subjugate" or to "make subject." This places man in a higher status than the animals of the land, sea, and air. So let's ask this question: "Does this give license to kill God's other creatures and to mar the face of the earth?" The answer in this context is obviously no because man and beast enjoyed only herbs for their diet, and the harmony enjoyed by all of creation is evident in comparison to what we see later. However, people will still use this word, from this text, to somehow prove that we have "dominion" over beasts in such a way that justifies our killing and eating of them.
Eventually, Adam and Eve sinned. The solution was to banish them from the Garden, but not before a supposed blood sacrifice was made. Here's the account in Genesis 3:2. We read,
Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them.
I would like us to ask basic questions before we move on. Here, I'll quote from a ministry known as "Swords to Plowshares," which is dedicated to answering questions like the ones we're attempting to answer. They say, "Where in that passage does it say God killed an animal? If God can fashion Eve from a rib, Adam from dust, and the whole world from waters, he can surely create skin without needing to kill an animal." The point is that God doesn't need to kill something in order to create something. God has already demonstrated to us that he can make anything out of nothing. Second, where does God say the "skins" were from slain animals that were used as the purported sacrifice? Third, in light of New Testament scriptures commonly cited by Christians, telling us that the blood of animals can't take away sin, what purpose would the slaying of this animal be for exactly? Adam and Eve certainly didn't eat the meat; so we're to believe God was only interested in showing them a picture of the Messiah he already promised them? You can see how easy it is for eisegesis ("reading into") to happen.
The next supposed proof of God not only approving of animal sacrifice but also meat consumption occurs in the Cain and Abel controversy. Let's now consider this frightening scene.
Cain and Abel
Readers of the Bible know well that God accepted Abel's gift because he offered it in faith. Cain's effort faithfulness is a good example for sure. The issue at hand is whether or not Abel killed the animal. In Genesis 4:2, we learn Cain was a tiller of the ground and Abel was a keeper of sheep. In the next few verses (vv. 3-5), we read the following:
And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.
First, we're going to consider what Abel's offering may have been. It's clear that it was the "firstling" or "first born" of the flock. This undoubtedly is representative of Messiah, who is our elder brother in the faith--the firstborn among many brethren, or the firstborn from among the dead, referring to his resurrection unto eternal life. But the other important information is the following phrase: "and of the fat thereof." The word(s) here are חֵלֶב | חֶלֶב, or cheleb | chêleb, pronounced "kheh'-leb," and "khay'-leb" respectively; "From an unused root meaning to be fat; fat, whether literally or figuratively; hence the richest or choice part: - X best, fat (-ness), X finest, grease, marrow." It needs to be understood that the word can be used figuratively. Interestingly enough, we can find other interpretations that follow this line of thought. John Gill in his commentary notes that Josephus believed the word was indicative of milk. Besides this interesting tid-bit, an identical word is an adjective used to describe the promised land in Exodus 33:3. Here's the verse and the word's defintion:
Unto H413 a land H776 flowing H2100 with milk H2461 and honey:
The Strong's number H2461 is חָלָב, or châlâb, pronounced "khaw-lawb'" and is, "From the same as H2459; milk (as the richness of kine): - + cheese, milk, sucking," Note that H2459 is the word used to describe Abel's offering. The two words are related, with some vowel differences. Here are interesting facts we must keep in mind.
- The Hebrew language had no written vowels until 600 BC (1). The pronunciation of the words was learned through memorization and word of mouth. The only way to distinguish between some words was through context or pronunciation.
- Historically many Jews recognized that it was milk that Abel bought and not fat cut from inside the sheep (2).
- The text here appears to be feminine. This is why some translations bring a different view of this verse. (Genesis 4:4 YLT) “…From the female firstlings of his flock,…)
- The word “חֶלְבֵ” or “Chlb” is the same word used for “a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 33:3). And many other verses translate Chlb as “milk” (3). At that same time that are several verses that translate Chlb as “fat.”
In this author's footnotes, we learn he's getting the same information from sources I've already alluded to in this study. Here, i'll provide them for your benefit. His second footnote refers us to Antiquities of the Jews – 1.2.1 found at https://sacred-texts.com/jud/josephus/ant-1.htm, and his third one is a string of the following addresses: Genesis 18:8; Genesis 49:12; Exodus 3:8,17; Exodus 23:19; Lv 20:24; Num 13:27. If it's true that the vowels came later, and that proper understanding was based on context and, or, pronunciation, then we have some more questions to consider:
- Is it possible that the later vowel insertions by scribes were intentional in an effort to support what had become a mainstream practice, namely animal sacrifice?
- Perhaps the idea of intentional interpolation is too offensive. Is it possible an incorrect vowel addition was accidental?
- Does the context of Genesis 1-4, so far, actually support meat eating or animal sacrifice?
I believe the answer to the last question should inform our understanding of the immediate context. The other two questions will be answered later in the series. For now, understand that regardless of an intentional or accidental vowel change, there's no clear indication that God killed the animal for Adam and Eve's clothing; and there's no reason to assume Abel slew an animal. He could've just as easily chosen the firstling from his herd, milked it, and brought "the fat" before God. In any case, the real principle we learn from Cain and Abel's tragic tale is that God wants the best. Cain's offering might've been accepted if it were the first-fruits, or the "first harvest" of his crop. Clearly it wasn't. His offering was an afterthought; Abel's was with forethought.
The flood and Noah's allowance
We've seen how there's no reason to just assume a meat diet based on animal sacrifice is what God wants or expects for mankind. The problem is that we assume our "dominion" over other creatures gives license for us to kill them. This same language is repeated to Noah and his family in Genesis 9:1-5.
[...] The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man.
Note the difference from the Genesis ideal here is that "the fear" of mankind is upon every beast. This indicates a severe departure from Eden. And it isn't anything other than God stating a fact: "Animals will now fear you." This might be because, "Every moving thing that lives" is now, allegedly, made to be food. In the Garden, this also wasn't the case. God told the man and woman, "Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed [...] to you it shall be for meat." Before we actually look at the alleged permission (concession) from God to Noah, let's consider some other facts related to this unique event in history.
And God spake unto Noah, saying, Go forth of the ark, thou, and thy wife, and thy sons, and thy sons' wives with thee. Bring forth with thee every living thing that is with thee, of all flesh, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth; that they may breed abundantly in the earth, and be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth. And Noah went forth, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons' wives with him: Every beast, every creeping thing, and every fowl, and whatsoever creepeth upon the earth, after their kinds, went forth out of the ark.
Noah and family, and all the kinds of animals, left the ark; God says to Noah that the animals are to "breed abundantly in the earth," and "be fruitful and multiply." This tells us that God wants the animals to prosper as they had before. It sounds a lot like the Edenic ideal. Did God want Noah and family to begin mankind anew with hopes that Eden could be recaptured in a sense? Or did God really intend for his endangered creation to begin killing and devouring one another?
The next scene is strange because Noah is already building an altar and killing animals. In verse 20, we read the following:
And Noah builded an altar unto the LORD; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.
Notice something interesting: Noah took "of every clean beast, of every clean fowl." In John Gill's commentary, we read the following: "one of each sort at least was taken. The Targum of Jonathan says, he offered four upon the altar" (thought to be the bull, sheep, goat, and turtledove). There are two assumptions made here: 1) Noah's actions are based on a precedent set by God's original sacrifice for Adam and Eve and Abel's sacrifice; 2) God commanded Noah's sacrifice. As we've seen, the first premise is flawed. God didn't kill an animal for Adam and Eve, and their son didn't kill an animal, either. To say otherwise is to read something into the text. The second premise is also assumption. We see no command from God for Noah. Still, we read,
And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.
What a wonderful promise to man and beast: God himself will never again curse the ground; nor will he smite every living thing. Yet, here's Noah: killing animals, thinking this is what God desires. Clearly, God had lowered a standard in how he dealt with man. God says after Noah makes sacrifice "the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth." If this was a concession, which many believe it is, it's to teach us what to do and not do. If God isn't going to kill men or animals anymore, then why do we? Do we not see that for our lifeblood God will require a reckoning? that from every beast he will require it, and from man? We've certainly struggled to learn from the mistakes of our ancestors. Animals and man now are doomed to slay one another. But this certainly displeases the Creator.
But people will also see in this passage that "the LORD smelled a sweet savour" and assume the savour pleased God. But is this really the case? Let's look at a lengthy answer to the same question found on the Question and Answers page of Swords to Plowshares again. We read,
In Leviticus 1:9, Leviticus 2:2, Leviticus 23:18, and elsewhere it speaks of burnt offerings and their pleasing aromas being offered to God. I can see how someone would misunderstand these passages as saying God was pleased by the aromas, but if we consider a related passage in Ezekiel, it becomes clear that this is a misunderstanding.
Ezekiel 6:13 says: “And you shall know that I am the LORD, when their slain lie among their idols around their altars, on every high hill, on all the mountaintops, under every green tree, and under every leafy oak, wherever they offered pleasing aroma to all their idols.”
In this passage people are making sacrifices and offering the pleasing aromas to the idols they worship. If we are to understand this passage as suggesting that the idols are pleased by the aromas, this would conflict with what David says about idols in Psalm 115:4-6, “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell.”
It was clearly not pleasing to God that they disobeyed God and ate from the tree they were instructed not to eat from, just as it was not pleasing to God that Noah deviated from God’s instructions and built an altar and began burning animals on it. Yet in both instances the object that allures humans away from God’s instructions is described as pleasing to the senses.
To be clear, we need to understand some details I left out for the sake of space. The author notes an important detail found in Genesis 3:6, which is, "When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it." They go on to note that, just as in the case with Adam and Eve, Noah was allured by his senses to depart from God's Edenic ideal. It's unclear where Noah learned of animal sacrifices. I've already suggested that it couldn't have been from Adam and Eve, or from Abel. But the fact is that he'd become acquainted with ritual sacrifice.
Before we move on, I want to include some related quotes I thought were interesting. In a search on this subject, I came across a book written by J.D. Meyers titled Nothing but the Blood of Jesus: How the Sacrifice of Jesus Saves the World from Sin. In this book, he makes very astute observations not dissimilar to my own. Here's one quote I think makes the point very clear:
Since God did not kill an animal when Adam and Eve were removed from the Garden of Eden, it also makes no sense to understand Abel as making a sacrificial offering to God in Genesis 4:4. A careful reading of the text reveals that blood sacrifice is not anywhere in view. While Genesis 4:4 does say that Abel offered a firstborn animal from his flock to God, the text does not say that Abel killed or burned the animal. This was not a blood sacrifice or burnt offering. Abel simply gave a young, live animal from his flock to God. It was a gift of love and appreciation. Since Abel and his entire family at this point in biblical history were vegetarians, it would not have entered Abel's mind to think that God wanted a dead animal. A dead animal is a useless animal, and therefore, a bad offering.
We should begin to see that in reading these texts in Genesis, we must lay aside our conditioned, mainstream, evangelical readings and let the text say what it does, not what it doesn't. Abel was a vegetarian. Why would he kill an animal? Meyer also has a reasonable reading of Noah's actions in Genesis 8 and 9. I'm going to relate two quotes and underline statements he makes that form a chain-link leading us to a wonderfully refreshing and honest conclusion we need to keep in mind as we examine ritual animal sacrifice and meat eating. He says the following:
- THE FIRST SACRIFICE in Scripture takes place after the flood, when Noah offers burnt offerings on an altar to God (Gen 8:20. Note carefully that this sacrifice was not commanded or instructed by God, but was initiated by Noah himself. The text also says that the smell of the burnt offering was soothing to God, and as a result, God says in His heart that He will never again destroy the earth. Since God said this "in his heart," one has to wonder how Noah knew what God said. How did Noah know that the smell of the burnt offering was soothing to God? And why does God need to be soothed in the first place? In light of such questions, it seems that what we read in Genesis 8:20-21 were not God's actual words to Noah, but are instead Noah's impressions of what God thought. God never commanded or instructed Noah to offer these burnt sacrifice, but when Noah killed and burned these animals, he himself felt more at peace, and he attributed this peace to God.
- Our violent bloodlust for killing others is somewhat tempered by killing and eating animals.
What startling conclusions! Though Meyers agrees with many that this circumstance was exceptional, the first of its kind, and a concession, Meyer's notes that, "when Noah killed and burned these animals, he himself felt more at peace" and attributed this to God--he assumed this is what God wanted. Meyers also makes the point that the concession is a way for man to satisfy their lust for murder; apparently, if we're going to kill and eat anything, it's better to kill and eat an animal. But this proves my point: in every case, we see men would rather do what pleases them and not God. Ideally, we wouldn't sacrifice and eat animals.
Despite my efforts, and the efforts of others, to help turn your heart to God's perfect will, many will still use the excuse that God has provided a concession to help us. Some go so far as to say we were created to be omnivores. But we shouldn't dwell in concessions and speculations; we should dwell in the true will of God.
 Genesis 1:28-31, KJV
 Strong's H7287
 Genesis 3:15
 John Gill's footnote: Antiqu. l. 1. c. 2. sect. 1.
 Cain & Abel, My Scripture Site
 Genesis 8:15-19, KJV