Question: "What does it mean that God gave humanity dominion over the animals?"
Answer: The word dominion means “rule or power over.” God has sovereign power over His creation and has delegated the authority to mankind to have dominion over the animals (Genesis 1:26, 28). David reinforces this truth as he testifies that God has “made [mankind] ruler over the works of your hands” (Psalm 8:6). However, with the authority to rule comes the responsibility to rule well. Man has a duty to exercise his dominion under the authority of the One who delegated it. All authority is of God (Romans 13:1-5), and He delegates it to whomever He will (Daniel 4:17).
There is an inherent accountability in the command to “subdue” the earth (Genesis 1:28). The word subdue means “to gain an understanding of and a mastery over.” Man is to be the steward of the earth; he is to bring the material world and all of its varied elements into the service and good of mankind, and he is to do so with understanding. Only then will dominion be truly according to God’s command.
When God gave humanity dominion over the animals, it was in order to care for, tend to, and use those animals to their fullest potential in a just manner. At the time that God gave mankind dominion over the animals, humans did not eat meat (Genesis 1:29). Eating meat did not begin until after the Flood (Genesis 9:1-3), and it was at that time that animals started to fear humans. However, although God changed the way we interact with animals, in that they are now “meat,” we still bear a responsibility to care for or treat animals humanely. Human “rule” over animals does not mean we have the right to mistreat or misuse those animals.
Therefore, dominion over animals should entail a humane management of them as the resource that God has ordained them to be. We must fulfill our duty to manage the earth wisely until that time when the wolf shall lie down with the lamb in the kingdom of Christ (Isaiah 11:6).
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