b) Gen 1:26 cont.: Concerning humanity—the ones made in his image—God said, “And let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the heavens and over the beasts of all the earth and over all of the creeping things which creep about on the earth.”

In Akkadian, a related Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) language, the word “rule” means to guide or drive animals. Thus, this term connotes exercising dominion by caring for creation.[1]

Typically, the Hebrew verb “rule” (radhah) applies to human relationships (Lev 25:43; 1 Ki 4:24) or nations (Ps 72:8–14).[2] It implies protection and care for those under one’s dominion.[3]

Within Israel, the Lord condemned rulers whom he compared to shepherds abusing their flocks (Ezek 34:1–4, 10).[4]

Regarding just dominion, an Egyptian pharaoh wrote this to his son:

Foster thy younger generation, that the residence city may love thee, and increase thy adherents with recruits. Behold, thy citizenry is full of new growing (boys). It is twenty years that the younger generation is happy following its heart, (and then) recruits [come] forth anew

Make thy officials great, advance thy [soldiers], increase the younger generation of thy [follow]ing, provided with property, endowed with fields, and rewarded with cattle.[5]

Our commission and empowerment to govern creation comprises a significant aspect of our likeness to God.[6]

Far greater than the ANE view of humanity as slaves of the gods, the Lord made us to serve as creators and laborers with him to promote the flourishing of the world.[7]

Compassion must characterize our dominion, not exploitation (Prov 12:10). Even in Eden, the ones created as lords of all served the garden (Gen 2:15).[8]

As representatives of the Lord,[9] he calls us to manage the earth for its true owner (Ps 24:1–2).[10]

Freedom to rule involves being bound to those over whom we exercise dominion, for when we care for creation, it cares for us.[11]

Therefore, believers must seek the redemption of not only people but of our environment and all who dwell within it.[12]

Image via Wikimedia Commons


Read Gen 1:26. How do you fulfill God’s mandate to rule over all the creatures of the earth? What steps can you take to improve the way you care for our planet?





Go to Male and Female He Created Them (Gen 1:27)


Related posts include An Israelite View of Genesis 1; Let Us Make Humanity (Gen 1:26); Made in the Image of God (Gen 1:26 cont.); Male and Female He Created Them (Gen 1:27); The Blessing of Fruitfulness (Gen 1:28); God Evaluates His Creation (Gen 1:31); Serving and Keeping (Gen 2:15); and Ancient Literature]


[Click here to go to Women and Marriage Throughout Redemptive History or to Chapter 3: The Image of God (Genesis 1:26–31)]


[1] Philip J. Nel, “רָדָה” (radhah), NIDOTTE, 1056.

[2]H.-J. Zobel, “רָדָה” (radhah), TDOT 13:331–6, 331.

[3] Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 137–8.

[4]Zobel, “רָדָה” (radhah), TDOT 13:333.

[5]Wilson, trans., “The Instruction for King Meri-Ka-Re,” in ANET, 59–61, 415. Italics original.

[6] Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall: A Theological Exposition of Genesis 1–3, 66.

[7]Venema and McKnight, Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture After Genetic Science, loc. 2945 of 5792.

[8] Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 138.

[9]Hart, “Genesis 1:1–2:3 as a Prologue to the Book of Genesis,” 317–9, http://tyndalehouse.com/tynbul/library/TynBull_1995_46_2_06_Hart_Gen1Prologue.pdf.

[10] Douglas J. Moo, “Nature and the New Creation: New Testament Eschatology and the Environment,” JETS 49, no. 3 (September 2006): 449–88, 478, http://www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PDFs/49/49-3/JETS_49-3_449-488_Moo.pdf.

[11] Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall: A Theological Exposition of Genesis 1–3, 66.

[12]Moo, “Nature and the New Creation: New Testament Eschatology and the Environment,” 474, http://www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PDFs/49/49-3/JETS_49-3_449-488_Moo.pdf.