Subdue and Replenish the Earth

This is the third part in a series of blog entries related to the First, Greatest, and Last law of God, the command to make, multiply, spread, and steward life.

The command from God comes from Genesis 1:28 which says “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 moves on the earth.”

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This command from God has three parts. First is the command to multiply, then the command to fill the earth, and last the command to replenish and subdue the earth. I have said before that each of these three laws correlate with one another in such a way as to be impossible without their own mutual support.

This third law, to subdue and replenish the earth is probably the most misunderstood. Many translations have used the word “steward,” in place of “subdue,” while others use the word “Master” and others use “dominion,” or even “dominate.”

Obviously the word creates difficulty in translation, but the general theme is clear. Humankind is to have a leadership role over the creation. A good way to understand what kind of leadership is expected is to look in Genesis 2, when God’s creation of Adam is clearly explained. After creating Adam, God says to him “Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.” Other translations says “care for it and keep it,” in place of “cultivate.”

However, the intention is clear. Adam’s job description given directly by God is to care for the garden. God has created it, and Adam’s job is to take care of it, to make sure the plants are living in harmony, they are pruned well, they are producing fruit and seeds, etc.

As such, the command in Genesis 1, to “subdue and replenish” the earth is much easier to understand. We are to to be gardeners, weeding out the trash and keeping everything in line.

God desires his creation to not only create and spread life, but he wants that life to be beautiful, complete, healthy, and thriving. He wants his garden to spread to the whole earth, and he wants it to do so in a healthy way. He created humankind to tend it and ensure that it thrives.

This is why, after sin enters the world, among the first things it effects are the earth itself and the life on the earth. God curses the ground, saying that instead of springing up new life, it will resist Adam’s work, and will grow weeds and thorns instead. Rather than a world that Adam can cultivate, he will get a world that resists him.

Adam, the one who was supposed to make the world better by replenishing it, instead made it worse by introducing sin into it. This is why in Romans 8, the apostle Paul tells us “For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.” The creation itself is waiting earnestly for the sanctified children of God to come back and subdue, replenish, and cultivate it.

The creation was made with the original intention of yielding to God’s image. Now it is broken, because God’s image is broken, but through Jesus we can have God’s image restored in us, and as it is restored in us we are able to bring the earth back into its right position.

The earth is waiting for it eagerly. The command is still in play. God still desires us to have a right position under him and a right position over the earth.

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