The passage of Genesis 9:2-4 was the subject of great debate and controversy. After years of study and research and virtually leaving no stone unturned on the subject, to date I have not read a commentary on the passage which is worthy of a serious consideration. Generally it is argued that here we have the first biblical passage where God explicitly told Noah that he may kill any animal he wanted to in order to eat its flesh. Even vegetarians who abhor meat eating and who practice vegetarianism on ethical grounds admit that here we are faced with a biblical text which clearly sanctions the killing of animals and eating of their flesh. All they can say is that due to the fallen and corrupt nature of humanity God gave a “concession” concerning meat diet but it was not His ideal as in Genesis 1:30 where God ideally prescribed a completely vegetarian diet. But nothing can be further from the truth.
The early Jewish Christians who were the descendants of the original disciples of Jesus argued their vegetarianism on the basis of this passage. The Jewish Encyclopedia, art. Jewish Christian Sects, points out that these early believers referred to the 4th verse of Genesis 9 in order to show that it is sin to kill an animal and to justify their vegetarian diet. I will first of all give the version of this passage as is rendered in the Good News Bible where it is impossible to miss the point that the translator wanted to bring across:
“All the animals, birds, and fish will live in fear of you. They are all placed under your power. Now you can eat them, as well as green plants; I give them all to you for food. The one thing you must not eat is meat with blood still in it; I forbid this because the life is in the blood.”
And now please note the translation given in The Bible for Today:
“All animals, birds, reptiles, and fish will be afraid of you. I have placed them under your control, and I have given them to you for food. From now on, you may eat them, as well as the green plants that you have always eaten. But life is in the blood, and you must not eat any meat that still has blood in it.”
Now please note The Living Bible – Life Application Bible:
“All wild animals and birds and fish will be afraid of you, God told him; for I have placed them in your power, and they are yours to use for food, in addition to grain and vegetables. But never eat animals unless their life-blood has been drained off.”
The lying pen of the scribe was not at work just in the days of Jeremiah but it is very much at work today also. These translations are nothing but plain and blunt lies. At least they reveal very plainly that before the Flood Noah was vegetarian and that he ate only grain and vegetables even though he lived many centuries after Adam’s alleged fall. Some Jewish and Christian sects actually used this passage to prove vegetarianism and the fact that killing of animals is expressly forbidden by God. Most others however have used and still use this passage in order to justify their butchering and mass slaughter of animals in order to eat their flesh. What a paradox! The same text is used to prove and justify two diametrically opposed ideas. So what does the text of Genesis 9:2-4 really say? Let me first tell you what it does not say. It does not say that we can KILL or SLAUGHTER animals in order to sacrifice them to God or to eat their flesh.
The word “animal” does not even appear in the Hebrew text, although these translations use it in order to mislead you. The text does not say that you must not eat simply “blood” – as vast majority of Jews and Christians would want you to believe. So what does the text actually say? God here reverses the status between all animals and humans. Just before the Flood, animals became corrupt and wild and killed one another and they also killed and devoured human beings. So God now reversed the status to its original condition. He again subjected all living creatures to the dominion of man. This of course in no way means that this dominion of man gives him the right to kill, slaughter and butcher animals in order to gratify his lust after meat. All things were subjected under Adam and he had complete control and dominion over them but this authority most certainly did not give him permission to slaughter animals for food. Adam was told to be an herbivores being all his life. Please note the text as it stands in the King James Bible:
“And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hands are they delivered. Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb I have given you all things. But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.”
God told Noah that “all moving things which are alive” shall be his for food. This most certainly did not include his wife, sons and their wives, even though they were “living things.” The Hebrew word translated in the KJV “moving things” or “animals” in other versions is actually “remes” which most certainly refers to “reptiles.” Because Noah could not eat herbs and fruits just after the Flood, since it took some months before they became available and in season, God permitted Noah to live on eggs of the reptiles – since it was very easy to access them. All other animals however were to live on grass – which was already available at the end of the Flood. The Greek Septuaging Bibe clearly states that God spoke only of the reptiles and not all animas. Please note how Sir. Lancelot Brenton translates the Greek text:
"And the dread and the fear of you shall be upon all the wild beasts of the earth, on all the birds of the sky, and on all things moving upon the earth, and upon all fishes of the sea, I have placed them under your power. AND EVERY REPTILE WHICH IS LIVING shall be to you for meat, I have given all things to you as the green herbs. But flesh with blood of life ye shall not eat."
Think for a moment. Why would God allow Noah and his family to kill any animal they desired to eat when even carnivorous animals continued to eat herbs and grass? Even carnivorous animals had to live on grass and not on living prey as later - when the change took place. Lions could not have hunted their prey nor other carnivorous animals. There were only a pair of each specie alive at that time. Or if you prefer the other version then one pair of all so called unclean animals and seven or fourteen of the so called clean. If the carnivorous animals killed and ate only one of the few so called unclean animals that specie would not have survived and God's original purpose in preserving each spcie would have been destroyed.
Verse 4 irrefutably proves that the passage under no circumstances could be interpreted that Noah was given permission to kill absolutely any animal that came out of the Ark with him. Verse 4 explicitly states:
“But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.”
This does not mean that you simply must not eat flesh or meat without blood or that meat should be koshered and blood removed from it. The biological fact is: no matter what you do you can never remove all the blood from the flesh of a slaughtered animal. The text does not say that you must not eat “blood” but it says that you must not eat “flesh with blood.” Since you can never actually partake of flesh or meat without at the same time also eating blood, it logically follows that you must not eat meat. But the fact is: the Hebrew text does not speak about flesh or meat in a literal sense which is actually cut or removed from the carcase of a slaughtered animal. The expression “flesh” has been used many times throughout the Bible to mean “living creature” and it has been used several times in reference to the Flood. By closely examining the context in which it is used we shall see that God never meant that we must not eat flesh which is stained with blood but rather that we must not kill and eat animals “living creatures” in whose veins blood circulates. In Genesis 6:12 God says:
“For all flesh had corrupted their way.”
Flesh in this statement does not and cannot mean “meat” but actually “animate beings.” In verse 13 God said:
“The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them.”
Again God was not talking about meat but rather living or animate beings that corrupted their original way of life and God given ordinances. Verse 19 clearly shows that “flesh” in fact includes “all living things”:
“Of every living thing of all flesh.”
Verse 15 also clearly shows that “flesh” refers to animate creatures or animals as animate beings and not meat which you eat:
“And they [all animals] went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh.”
Verse 21 again positively proves that “flesh” does not refer to meat but rather all living creatures:
“And all flesh died that moved upon the earth.”
In chapter 8:17 God says to Noah:
“Bring forth with you every living thing that is with you, of all flesh.”
So in every single case where the word “flesh” is used by God in chapters which deal with the Flood, the word applies to all living creatures, that is, animate beings in whose nostrils was the breath of life. Now let’s take a look again at the passage of Genesis 9:4 where God actually speaks and gives Noah a specific prohibition concerning his diet. In other words, here God tells Noah what he must not eat under any circumstance:
“But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.”
What God actually said to Noah is this: you may eat fruit of the reptiles which contain seed just as you ate grain, herbs and fruits which contained seed, but beings or creatures or souls which are alive or animate whose life is in the blood you shall not eat. The text clearly prohibits the slaughter of animals for food whose life is in the blood. This is precisely how the original and earliest Jewish Christians actually understood the passage. Jewish Encyclopaedia points out that the earliest Jewish Christian sects argued their vegetarianism on the very statement of Genesis 9:4. They argued that in this passage God expressly forbade Noah to kill animals in order to eat their flesh. Before Noah entered the Ark, God told him to take with him all manner of food which is edible so that there would be food for him and the animals. This irrefutably proves that there was no carnivorous animal in the Ark since the Hebrew text plainly shows that food taken was for the herbivorous animals. The text of Genesis 9:2-4 therefore does not teach what the Church has claimed all these centuries but it rather irrefutably proves that Noah was vegetarian and that all animals at that time reverted back to vegetarianism as it was in the beginning and as it shall be in the end. That God did not speak of all animals but rather only of the reptiles is very simple to demonstrate.
God told Noah that “all moving things which are alive” shall be his for food. The Hebrew word translated in the KJV “moving things” or “animals” in the Good News Bible is actually “remes” which most certainly refers to “reptiles.” There is a definite and clear distinction in the Bible between animals, birds and reptiles. This distinction is pointed out at the very time they were created. Genesis 1:24 shows that God created all living creatures: “cattle,” “creeping things,” and “beasts” of the Earth. Verse 25 states:
“And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind.”
The beasts are those animals which we call wild beasts. The cattle refer to animals we now refer to as domesticated and herbivorous. The creeping things refer to all the reptiles. The Hebrew word used is “remes” and most definitely refers to reptiles. In Genesis 6:20 God again made the distinction between other animals and reptiles, that is, “remes,” translated “creeping thing” in the King James Bible. In Genesis 7:14 we again find a clear distinction in the animal kingdom:
“They [Noah and his household], and every beast after his kind, and all the cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind [remes], and every fowl after his kind.”
In verse 23 we find this statement:
“And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven.”
A clear distinction between man, cattle, birds and reptiles that is, “remes” who “creep” or “move” on the ground. With this firmly fixed in our minds, let us return to Genesis 9:2-3 where we read:
“And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered. Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.”
The first thing we must note in this text is the fact that there is a distinction between the fishes of the sea, the birds of the air, the beasts of the Earth and the one who “moveth upon the earth.” The King James translators have used the words “moveth” in this case instead of “creepeth” as they have done in other passages. It means one and the same: “to glide or crawl” and is used in reference to reptiles. Cattle, sheep, goats, chickens, etc., are not reptiles and therefore they were not included in “all that moveth upon the earth” of which God spoke to Noah. God spoke to Noah only about “remes” that is, reptiles who crawl or creep upon the ground and who lay eggs in order to reproduce. It is as simple as that.