The Bible Project

Humans & Animals - Son of Man E2

Episode Summary

Welcome to episode two of our series discussing the biblical theme of the Son of Man. In this episode, Tim and Jon discuss humanity's role in relation to other parts of creation, specifically animals.

Episode Notes

Welcome to episode two of our series discussing the biblical theme of the Son of Man. In this episode, Tim and Jon discuss humanity's role in relation to other parts of creation, specifically animals.

In part one (0:00-30:15), the guys briefly recap the first episode and quickly go over Daniel’s dream in Daniel 7, where he has a vision of the Son of Man appearing.

Tim then dives into the language and ideas presented in Genesis 1 and specifically focuses on the order of creation and how the days are paired.
Genesis 1:1-2:
In the beginning God created the skies and the land
and the land was wild and waste, and darkness was over the face of the watery deep, and the spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

Wild (tohu) = unordered
Waste (vohu) = uninhabited
Day 1 - Light: Separated from dark, day and night.
Day 4 - Lights appointed to rule the day and night.
Day 2 - Waters above separated from waters below.
Day 5 - Creatures in waters below, creatures in waters above.
“And God created the great sea monsters..." (1:21)
“And God blessed them, saying be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters…” (1:22)
Day 3 - Water separated from dry land.
“Let the land bring forth (ותוצא) plants and vegetation and seed-producing plants and trees producing fruit.” (1:12)
Day 6 - Creatures on the land.
“Let the land bring forth (ותוצא) living beasts by their kinds.” (1:25)

“Let us create the human (ha-adam) in our image and as our likeness…
And God blessed them, and said, (1) be fruitful and multiply and fill the land and subdue it, and rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and the beasts on the land.” (1:26-28)

Gen 2:1-3: God rests on the seventh day, which does not end.

Tim then focuses on humanity's relationship with animals. Tim notices that humans are the “second comers” to creation, who are given the responsibility to rule over the animals who came first. This is a pattern that shows itself many times in Genesis. (Think about Joseph’s sons later in the story.)

Tim then asks what it means for humans to be called to rule over the animals. Tim cites Richard Bauckham’s book Living with Other Creatures,

“It is not often well enough noticed that the command God gives to humanity refers to two rather different matters. It refers first to the relationship of humans to the earth, secondly to their relationship to other living creatures...and they are not the same thing. Humans are not alone in being told to be fruitful and to multiply and to fill, the first and birds were given the same blessing on day 5. Only humans are told to fill and to subdue the land. In the narrative this refers clearly to agriculture, taking possession of the soil and working it in order to make it yield more food for humans than it would otherwise do.

But what about all the other land animals? How does humanity’s role of subduing land relate to God’s blessing of the animals to fill the land? Notice God’s next words to the humans:
See, I have given you (humans) every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food. (Gen 1: 29– 30)

Why does God tell humans that he has given every plant for food for the other living creatures? Surely, the reason is that it is the humans who need to know that the produce of the earth is not intended to feed them alone, but also all the living species of the earth. The clear implication is that the earth can provide enough food for all creatures. Humans are not to fill the earth and subdue it in a way that leaves no room and no sustenance for the other creatures who share the earth with them. God has given them too the right to live from the soil. So the human right to make use of the earth, to live from it, is far from unlimited. It must respect the existence of other creatures.

The biblical portrait of human dominion over the animals must be filled out by the Bible’s vision of “royal rule.” Since Genesis depicts the image of God as a kind of royal function, the rule of a king over others, it is worth recalling the only passage in the law of Moses that refers to the role of the king in Israel (Deut. 17: 14– 20). There it is emphasized that the king is one among his brothers and sisters, his fellow-Israelites, and should not forget it. He should not accumulate wealth or arms or indulge in any of the ways kings usually exalt themselves above their subjects. Only if they remember their fundamental solidarity with their people will kings be able to rule truly for the benefit of their people. Similarly, only when humans remember their fundamental solidarity with their fellow-creatures will they be able to exercise their distinctive authority within creation for the benefit of other creatures.” (pp. 226-228)

In part two (30:15-41:30), Jon asks about carnivorous animals like lions. Tim says that life survives at the expense of other lives right now, but apparently, in the new creation, that will fundamentally change.

Tim says that humans bear responsibility for animal’s destiny; that’s why we are called to rule them. This is humanity acting in their identity of the divine image.

Tim shares this quote:
“The close relation of the term for God’s image with that for the commission to exercise dominion emerges quite clearly when we have understood selem as a plastic image. Just as powerful earthly kings, to indicate their claim to dominion, erect an image of themselves in the provinces of their empire where they do not personally appear, so man is placed upon earth in God’s image as God’s sovereign emblem. He is really only God’s representative, summoned to maintain and enforce God’s claim to dominion over the earth.”
Gerhard von Rad, Genesis: A Commentary, ed. Peter Ackroyd et al., trans. John H. Marks, Revised Edition., The Old Testament Library (Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster Press, 1972), 59–60.

Tim says that a human making an idol is an oxymoron. Humans are the image of God, so why would they make one?

Tim then posits that in Genesis 3, an animal (the snake) is the one who deceives Adam and Eve. Humans end up getting ruled by the animals instead of ruling them.

In part three (41:30-53:00), the guys discuss Psalm 8:

O Lord, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth,
Who have shown Your splendor above the heavens!
….When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
What is human that You take thought of him,
And the son of man (human) that You care for him?
Yet You have made him a little lower than elohim (God or angelic beings),
And You crown him with glory and majesty! [kavod va-hadar ‘divine attributes’]
You make him to rule [mashal] over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet,
All sheep and oxen,
And also the beasts of the field,
The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea,
Whatever passes through the paths of the seas.
O Lord, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth!
Notice how God’s exaltation and glorification of humans is set within an inclusion frame about God’s own majesty and reputation. An exalted humanity doesn’t compete with God, rather it increases God’s own honor, because humans are an expression of the divine beauty and creativity.

In part four (53:00-end), Tim shares this quote:

“One point of saying that God is the absolute sovereign (as the biblical texts say time and again) is to say that he is free: free to exalt and share his own power and divine power with those whom he wills, through a transformation of their nature and identity; free to create entities that in various ways share in his identity as ruler and judge, and who manifest his presence within the world… The God of the biblical story is able to enter into and take on the nature and identity of the very reality he has created, taking it up into his very self. God’s identity is, apparently, “sharable.” … God’s identity is not a zero-sum game. To say that God shares his identity with humanity does not mean he suffers a loss of being; on the contrary, it is actually a way of saying that his identity is magnified and his glory extended.” [Tim’s note: “and, we may add, this is the way the divine love is extended as well.”] - Crispin Fletcher-Louis, Jesus Monotheism, 310-312.

Tim says that for God, relationship with creation means entering into a shared relationship with it.

Show Produced By:
Dan Gummel, Jon Collins

Show Music:
Defender Instrumental, Tents
The Cave Resides Deep in the Forest, Artificial Music
Talking with You, Copyright free
Very Chill Saxaphone, Copyright free

Show Resources:

Gerhard von Rad, Genesis: A Commentary
Crispin Fletcher-Louis, Jesus Monotheism
Richard Bauckham, Living with Other Creatures.
Our video on the Son of Man: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6cWEcqxhlI&t=113s