Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28)
HAVE you ever wondered how Adam and Eve were to subdue the earth and have dominion over it? It would not be by toil or the sweat of their brow — that was not part of the mandate, but part of the curse when they fell into sin (Genesis 3:17-19). So what was God’s plan for them to accomplish these things?
In order to answer that question, let’s first take a look at who they were. In Genesis 1:26, God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” That’s just what God did: “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (v. 27).
Who were Adam and Eve? They were beings created upon the earth in the image and likeness of God. Whenever anything in the earth would look upon them, they would behold the image of God. Now, not only did Adam and Eve bear the image of God on earth, but they were also given dominion over all the earth and everything in it. This was the authority of God, given to them from heaven, to exercise the will of God on the earth.
Now, let’s break out Genesis 1:28. First, we see that God blessed them. You and I often say “God bless you,” and hardly mean it all. When someone sneezes and we say, “God bless you,” no one gets particularly thrilled by that or experiences the power of heaven being released on their behalf, because we do not really mean it, we are merely being courteous. But when the Bible says, “God blessed them,” it is telling us about something very dynamic, for the blessing of God is actually an empowerment. It is the favor of God and all of heaven brought to bear on behalf of the one being blessed. In blessing the man and woman, God was saying, “I’m going to bring all My power and provision to bear on your behalf, to assist you and bring you into the destiny for which I have created you.”
Second, the Bible says, “And God said to them ...” Notice that it did not simply say, “Then God blessed them and said to them …” No, there were two distinct acts: God blessed, and God said. There is an emphasis on God saying something to them. This is important, particularly when we consider the context of Genesis: God created the heavens and the earth by what He said. “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God” (Hebrews 11:3). For example, God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God said, “Let there be a firmament,” and there was. God said, “Let the waters be gathered together and let the dry land appear,” and that is what happened.
You see, whenever God speaks, He is creating and establishing something. That is the very nature of His Word. So, when “God said to them …,” He was establishing something in them.
God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply.” What was it that He was establishing in them? The word “fruitful” has to do with increase. “Multiply” refers to abundance, but can also carry the idea of authority. We usually understand “Be fruitful and multiply” to mean that they were to have many children, but there is more to this mandate than that.
What was to increase and multiply in abundance on the earth? They could only increase and multiply that which they were and possessed. Since they bore the image of God, God charged them to increase, multiply and fill the earth with that image. They also were being given dominion — authority over the earth — and that was to multiply and abound, as well. This would happen as they fathered and nurtured their children in the purposes of God. Their children would bear the image of God and extend the authority of God throughout the earth. In turn, they would father and nurture their own children in the same.
Next, God told them, “Fill the earth and subdue it.” To fill means to accomplish and confirm something, to bring it to fullness and completion. To subdue means to bring into subjection. Man was created to multiply the image and authority of God on the earth, to bring the earth and everything in it to completion, fully in line with the will and purpose of God.
“Have dominion,” God said. They were to rule over the fish, the birds, and every creature. Indeed, God gave them dominion over the whole earth. That’s a tall order. Just how were they to accomplish it? To answer that, we need to consider how God did things, since Adam and Eve were created in His image.
How did God create and establish things? By His Word. “And God said …” God operates by His Word, but is that how He created Adam and Eve to operate? Look in Genesis 2:7, which is part of a close-up account of how God created Adam: “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”
Man is a creature who is unique in all the universe. He alone has the breath of God in him. Literally, God puffed the breath of life into Adam’s nostrils, then Adam became a nephesh chayyim, a “living being.” Chayyim is the word for living, but Adam was not just living as the animals of Genesis 1 were said to be living. There was a qualitative difference to his life. He was living solely and especially because the breath of life from God’s own mouth was in him.
In other Bible passages, the word for “being,” nephesh, is often translated as “mind” (for example, Genesis 23:8 and Deuteronomy 18:6). In the context of what God did and what man became, nephesh refers to more than mere existence. It involves the capacity for thought.
There are a couple of other words translated as “mind” in the Old Testament which help us understand this connection even more. The Hebrew word for “spirit,” ruach, is often used to refer to “wind,” and even “breath.” But it, also, is used as a word for “mind” (Genesis 26:35). The breath that God breathed into Adam’s nostrils was actually the Holy Spirit, giving life to Adam’s body. But we can also say that what God breathed into Adam was the mind of God.
Another interesting word in this regard is the Hebrew word peh. In Leviticus 24:12, it is translated as “mind.” But it literally refers to the mouth as a means of blowing. God, with His mouth, blew the breath of life into Adam’s nostrils, which certainly gives a new meaning to the term “mind-blowing.”
God says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways, My ways” (Isaiah 55:8). But that does not mean that we cannot know God’s thoughts. Indeed, we were created with the capacity to know the mind of God, to understand His ways and walk in them. Though Adam fell, we still have this capacity to think the thoughts of God after Him, if we have experienced the new birth by the Holy Spirit. For Paul says:
Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. (1 Corinthians 2:9-11)
An ancient Hebrew commentary, the Targum Onkelos, has something very interesting to say about Genesis 2:7. The commentator concludes that God blew into Adam’s nostrils a speaking spirit, and thus Adam himself became a speaking spirit. Not only did Adam bear the image of God, and the authority of God, but he was also created as a speaking spirit, to breathe forth words, even as God does. Now, follow on in Genesis 2 and see how this began to play out in Adam’s first assignment:
Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. (Genesis 2:19)
Remember that God gave Adam authority over the beasts and the birds, and now He brought them to Adam, for Adam to begin exercising that authority. How did Adam do it? By giving each creature a name. He called them, and whatever he called them, that was their name.
Today, we are prone to miss the significance of this because we often think of our names as being incidental, having no particular meaning or value within themselves. But in the plan of God, names are very important. They are words by which destinies are established. For example, in the midst of the darkness in Genesis 1:2, God called forth Light. He named it, and by naming, established its function. Or take Abraham as another example. Abraham was old and childless, and his wife was far beyond child-bearing years. Yet God promised that he would be the father of numberless descendants. So God gave him the name Abraham, which means “father of a multitude.” Every time Abraham or Sarah spoke the word of his name, they were calling forth Abraham’s God-given destiny.
Names are important. They are words brought forth by breathing, speaking spirits. When Adam gave names to the animals, he was not merely discovering and exposing their identity and characteristics, he was actually establishing, by his words, the purpose, meaning and destiny of each one of those creatures. He was exercising his God-given authority, speaking forth words with the breath of life that came from God’s own lips. Or to put it another way, he was “having dominion” over the animals, ruling over them to bring them into line with the plan and purpose of God.
God has not given up on the plan He established in Genesis 1. Today, every believer in Jesus Christ has the authority to fulfill God’s mandate:
- Multiplying the image of God on the earth by establishing godly families and nurturing relationships.
- Filling the earth and bringing it to completion through prayer and faith, calling for the will of God to be done on earth as it is in heaven.
- Subduing the earth, bringing it into line with the faith-filled proclamation of the Word of God.
- Exercising the dominion of the kingdom of God everywhere we go, through the authority of the Name of Jesus (John 16:23-24), the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), Binding and Loosing (Matthew 18:18), the Prayer of Agreement (Matthew 18:19), and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).
© 2005 by Jeff Doles.
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“JEFF DOLES is a Christian author, blogger and Bible teacher. His books include The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth: Keys to the Kingdom of God in the Gospel of Matthew and Praying With Fire: Change Your World with the Powerful Prayers of the Apostles. He and his wife, Suzanne, are the founders of Walking Barefoot Ministries. Visit their website at www.walkingbarefoot.com.”