The 2001 Commentaries

Eating Meat and the Bible

info All commentaries are written by volunteers, readers, or supporters of our Bible translation project. These are not official views of our project; we are not a religious denomination and we do not establish doctrine. These commentaries reflect a variety of views and some disagree with each other.

Understand that the following words are not written to discourage the eating of meat.
Rather, this is just a discussion of the words as they are found in the Bible texts.

It would be foolish to attempt to draw conclusions as to whether animals killed and ate meat before the time of Adam.
But if they did, apparently that wasn’t God’s purpose thereafter.
For notice what He said, as recorded at Genesis 1:30:

‘[I have given] greenish-yellow plants as food to all the earth’s wild animals, all the winged creatures of the sky, and all the slithering animals that crawl on the ground and have life’s breath.’

And after that, with the commission that was given to Adam (at Genesis 1:28), we can see that the situation was to change for all the animals on the earth, because he was told that they were to obey him.
For notice that God told Adam that he was to:
‘Rule over the fish of the seas, the winged creatures of the skies, all the herding animals of the ground, all the slithering animals that crawl on the ground, and the whole earth.’

So it appears as though it was God’s purpose for humans to make the entire earth a peaceful place where none would ‘harm or destroy.’ However, this perfect purpose appears to have ended (at least for the time being) with Adam’s rebellion in the Paradise.

Also notice that from the start, God’s instructions to Adam appear to have been that both he and the animals were to only eat vegetation.
For at Genesis 1:29, it is recorded that God said:

‘Look, I have given you all the seed-bearing plants for planting that are on the entire earth, as well as all the seed-bearing trees for planting, as your food.’

Then after the rebellion, notice that He told Adam (at Genesis 3:18):
‘Briars and thistles will grow for you, and your food will be the grasses in the fields.’

So the texts appear to indicate that both the men and the animals were to be vegetarians.

Thereafter, we don’t know for sure what men people really ate, but they likely did eat animals after they were expelled from the paradise. For the fact that Abel (the one that God found to be righteous) was a herder of animals, would suggest this… remember that Cain was the gardener while Abel was the herdsman.
Therefore, we must assume that the practice of eating animals was not condemned by God.

Then after the Downpour, God’s instructions to men had clearly changed from what He said in His instructions to Adam in the Garden, likely in recognition of what men were actually doing.
For from that point on, He said that men could eat any sort of animal.

However, notice that prior to the Downpour (Flood), people must have already drawn some sort of line for themselves as to which animals were considered clean enough to eat and which were unclean (inedible). For God’s instructions to Noah about the types of animals that were to be brought into the Chest mentioned both types, the ‘clean’ (such as cattle) and the ‘unclean,’ which was probably based on each animal’s diet and habits. And thereafter, only the IsraElites were given the dietary restrictions to eat just ‘clean’ animals in their Law (which came some 1700 years later).

However, the fact that this arrangement of eating animals didn’t really please God, appears to be indicated by the tone of the words in His instructions to Noah when He was telling him that they could eat the animals.
Notice what He said at Genesis 9:3:

‘All living and slithering animals may serve as meat for you.
I’ve given them all to you as though they were green vegetation.’

There was just one restriction that God gave them when it came to eating meat (something that is commonly disregarded by many people today): They were told that they were not to eat the blood, which God indicated is the source of the animal’s life. Pouring the animal’s lifeblood out (as a symbolic sacrifice) seems to indicate that the permission for men to eat animals was something that was temporary, and pouring out the blood is the way for us to acknowledge the sacredness of all life.

But if God considered the lives of the animals to be so important, then why did He create laws that required the IsraElites to offer animal sacrifices to Him on a daily basis?

Well, it appears as though sacrificing animals wasn’t His idea.
For notice what God Himself said concerning this at Jeremiah 7:21-23:

‘Gather up all your burnt-offerings,
As well as your other sacrifices,
Then go on and just eat all the meats!

‘For, on the day that I led them from Egypt,
I didn’t ask your fathers to offer such things
I didn’t really tell them to bring Me Whole burnt offerings or other sacrifices.

So, although the Old Law did require the sacrifices of living animals;
In view of what God said as quoted above, we would have to assume that such instructions were given to the IsraElites as a concession to their views as to how they chose to worship Him.

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