e) Gen 9:2–4: The Lord said to Noah and his family, “Fear of you and terror of you will be on every animal of the earth and on every bird of the heavens, on all which move on the ground and on all fish of the sea. Into your hand they are given. Every moving thing which is alive, to you will be for food. Like the green vegetation I gave to you, to you [I give] all.”

These verses contain some significant differences from the creation account (Cf. Gen 1:28–30).[1] No longer would humanity rule over the animals strictly in benevolence.[2]

“Fear (mora) and terror (khath)” in the animal world likely began after the fall.[3] In the aftermath of the flood, the enmity between people and creatures escalated.[4]

As a result, human authority yielded ghastly experiences for animals. A radically different environment exists than that of Gen 1:31.[5]

After the flood, God deemed certain types of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and insects acceptable for food. The Lord later declared some of these unclean (Lev 11:29–30).[6]

The text refers to these animals by the way they maneuvered, “creeping” or “moving lightly” (ramas), rather than by a scientific classification.[7]

These small creatures served as prey for other species. They did not include cattle or domesticated animals.[8]

“Into your hand they are given” conveys that God placed these creatures under humanity’s power (Cf. Gen 16:6; Gen 30:35; Gen 39:3–6).[9]

Formerly, the Lord sanctioned only a vegetarian diet (Gen 1:29).[10] Now people can use animals for food.[11]

Then, the Lord expanded what people could consume to include “every moving thing that is alive.”[12]

Just as for Moses’s original audience, this ruled out consuming creatures which were already dead when a person came upon them (Lev 22:8; Deut 14:21; Ezek 44:31). Otherwise—in this covenant with Noah—God did not clearly differentiate between clean and unclean animals.[13]

However, the Lord commanded Noah to take seven pairs of every clean animal and bird onto the ark.

That Noah sacrificed them indicates he knew the difference between the two categories. Given the mention of clean animals elsewhere in the flood account, God may have restricted people to eating clean animals (Gen 7:2–3; Gen 8:20).[14]

In the ancient world, people rarely ate meat unless an animal died or they sacrificed it. Most people who kept domesticated animals used them for their milk and their hair or wool.[15]

God continued, “But flesh with its life, [that is] its blood, you shall not (lo) eat.”

In Hebrew grammar, two kinds of prohibitions exist. The one used here is the strongest form. It has the nuance of “Thou shalt not!” as in the Ten Commandments (Exod 20:1–17). On this matter, the Lord expected strict obedience.[16]

Adam could eat from any tree in the garden but one (Gen 2:16–17). Likewise, here the Lord gave Noah and his descendants one overt prohibition.[17] He would not permit consuming flesh with its blood.

While remedies existed for eating an unclean animal, God would “cut off” (karath) those who ate blood.[18]

In the Old Testament, God equated blood with life (Lev 17:10–16; Deut 12:23–25).[19] He viewed eating blood as equivalent to murder and treachery (Lev 17:1–4; 1 Sam 14:31–34).[20]

Even today, people often take a pulse to determine whether life remains.[21]

Within the sacrificial system, the Lord reserved both fat and blood for himself (Lev 3:2–3; 16–18). If people slaughtered an animal for consumption, they could use the fat for other purposes. However, they still had to discard the blood (Lev 7:22–27).[22]

One of the few bans which remained in place for gentiles in the early church consisted of consuming blood (Acts 15:28–29).[23] However, the apostles may have left this prohibition in place to avoid offending Jewish followers of Christ.[24]

Prior to eating an animal, one had to drain its blood. In effect, this returned the animal’s life force to God, the one who created it.[25]

The Lord demanded that people treat even the carcasses of animals with dignity.[26] All life deserves respect, not abuse (Gen 9:9–10; Deut 12:15–18).[27]

By slaughtering and eating animals in accordance with God’s commands, those who ate could recognize his provision for and blessing upon them. This resembles the common practice in our day of thanking the Lord prior to eating a meal.[28]

No comparable prohibition existed in the ancient extra-biblical world. Therefore, we cannot attribute the ban on consuming blood to Ancient Near Eastern thought. In this regard, Noah and Israel remain unique.[29]

Image via Wikimedia Commons


Read Gen 9:2–4. How was the blessing upon Noah and his sons like that given to Adam and Eve? How did it differ? In what way did their diet change after the flood? Why was consuming blood still off-limits?





Go to Blood for Blood


[Related posts include The Blessing of Fruitfulness (Gen 1:28); The Lord Provides Food (Gen 1:29–30); God Evaluates His Creation (Gen 1:31); Forbidden Fruit (Gen 2:16–17); By Twos and Sevens (Gen 7:1–4); Noah’s Grateful Response (Gen 8:20); Ancient Literature; Exegesis and Hermeneutics; and Author and Date of Genesis]

[Click here to go to Chapter 9: A Covenant with Noah (Genesis 8:20–9:17)]


[1]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 313.

[2]Williamson, Sealed with an Oath: Covenant in God’s Unfolding Purpose, 63.

[3]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 192.

[4]Williamson, Sealed with an Oath: Covenant in God’s Unfolding Purpose, 63.

[5]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 313–4.

[6]R. E. Clements, “רָמַשׂ” (rāmash), TDOT 13:512–4, 512–3.

[7] Brown, Driver, and Briggs, “remesh,” BDB, 943, https://archive.org/stream/hebrewenglishlex00browuoft#page/942/mode/2up.

[8]Walton, Genesis, 341–2.

[9]J. Bergman, W. von Soden, and P. R. Ackroyd, “יָד” (yād), TDOT 5:393–426, 399–400.

[10]Williamson, Sealed with an Oath: Covenant in God’s Unfolding Purpose, 63.

[11]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 144.

[12]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 192.

[13]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 144.

[14]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 192–3.

[15]Matthews, Chavalas, and Walton, IVPBBCOT, Gen 9:4.

[16]Gesenius, Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar, 317, https://archive.org/stream/geseniushebrewgr00geseuoft#page/316/mode/2up.

[17]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 314.

[18]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 193.

[19]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 144.

[20]S. David Sperling, “Blood,” ABD 1:761–3, 762.

[21] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 193.

[22]Sperling, “Blood.,” ABD 1:761.

[23]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 314.

[24]Vos, Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments, 65.

[25]Matthews, Chavalas, and Walton, IVPBBCOT, Gen 9:4.

[26]Williamson, Sealed with an Oath: Covenant in God’s Unfolding Purpose, 64.

[27]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 144–5.

[28]Matthews, Chavalas, and Walton, IVPBBCOT, Gen 9:4.

[29]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 314.