What does Genesis 9:3 mean?
ESV: Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.
NIV: Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.
NASB: Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I have given everything to you, as I gave the green plant.
CSB: Every creature that lives and moves will be food for you; as I gave the green plants, I have given you everything.
NLT: I have given them to you for food, just as I have given you grain and vegetables.
KJV: Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.
These first verses of Genesis 9 echo God's blessings and commands to Adam, but with certain changes. As He did with Adam, God tells Noah and his sons to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth (Genesis 9:1). Instead of simply commanding them to subdue the earth, God describes humanity's adversarial relationship with the animals. In this man-dominated relationship, animal-kind would fear people and people will triumph (Genesis 9:2).
God had said to Adam that he could eat from every plant, except for a single forbidden trees. God again gives humanity specific permission to eat, saying to Noah and his sons that they can eat anything that moves, as well as any of the plants. This, in part, might explain the reason why man's relationship with animals is characterized in this passage as hostile.
At this point in God's relationship with humankind, no restriction is mentioned about defining certain animals as edible or inedible: clean or unclean. This may have been understood, in the sense that Noah would have considered those animals not previously defined as "clean" as inappropriate to eat (Genesis 7). The other possibility is that humans may have been free to eat animals categorized as "unclean" until God made them off-limits for His people in the Law (Leviticus 11, Deuteronomy 14).
The permission to eat anything that moves may have included an implied restriction against eating animals which had died of natural causes. In other words, only animals "moving" when man decided to eat them were acceptable.
Genesis 9:1–17 continues God's interaction with Noah and his sons following the flood. First, God blesses them and gives them specific instructions about how to live in this remade world. God commands them to reproduce and fill the earth, among other things. Next, God establishes His unilateral covenant to never again end all life on earth with a flood, offering the rainbow as a sign of this promise.
Chapter 9 describes God's interactions with Noah and his sons following the flood. First, God gives blessings and instructions, including the command to reproduce and fill the earth. Next, God makes a unilateral covenant with humanity and animals never to end all life with a flood again. He offers the rainbow as a sign of this promise. Finally, Noah prophesies about the future of his son's descendants after an awkward episode in which Ham talks to his brothers about seeing Noah passed out drunk and naked.
Chapters 6, 7, and 8 describe God's destruction of the world in a massive flood. Now, in Genesis 9, Scripture describes God's dealings with Noah and his sons following the flood. First, God blesses them and gives specific instructions, including the command to fill the earth. Next, God expands on His promise to never again end all life on earth a flood. Finally, Noah curses Ham and blesses Shem and Japheth after Ham tells his brothers about seeing Noah passed out drunk and naked. Chapters 10 and 11 will sketch out the history of mankind from Noah to Abraham.
The book of Genesis establishes fundamental truths about God. Among these are His role as the Creator, His holiness, His hatred of sin, His love for mankind, and His willingness to provide for our redemption. We learn not only where mankind has come from, but why the world is in its present form. The book also presents the establishment of Israel, God's chosen people. Many of the principles given in other parts of Scripture depend on the basic ideas presented here in the book of Genesis. Within the framework of the Bible, Genesis explains the bare-bones history of the universe leading up to the captivity of Israel in Egypt, setting the stage for the book of Exodus.
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