Bible Review 8:5, October 1992

“Subdue the Earth”: What Does It Mean?

Humans received a God-given freedom to choose between a lifestyle that fosters life on this planet or that leads to death for the earth and its inhabitants. In the words of Deuteronomy 30:19: “Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.”

By Bernhard W. Anderson

Bible Review

The international Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992 summoned all nations to assume responsibility for the proper care of the earth. This challenge demands a return to the Bible to see whether we have understood its teaching concerning the role of human beings in God’s creation.

One text immediately leaps to our attention. The Genesis creation story announces God’s decision to create the human species in “the image of God” (Genesis 1:26–27). The resolution was accompanied by a mandate: “Let them have dominion” over non-human creatures. And God’s blessing empowered human beings to carry out this command.

“God blessed them and said to them: ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Genesis 1:28, NIV).

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