I am still getting pulled back to the first few chapters of Genesis, the story of Noah in particular. Remember the movie Noah? In one scene, men kill an animal. When asked by his sons, Noah explains that they do it because it makes them stronger. Later, the animals are described as “innocent.” They lived still as they did in the garden. I recently purchased a student edition Hebrew-English Tanakh תנ״ן, JPS version. This Bible has the Hebrew text on the right side and the English text on the right. As I read chapter 9, I noticed something that never stuck out before:
God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them “Be fertile and increase, and fill the earth. The fear and the dread of you shall be upon all the beasts of the earth and upon all the birds of the sky – everything with which the earth is astir- and upon all the fish of the sea; they are given into your hand. Every creature that lives shall be yours to eat; as with the green grasses, I give you all these. You must not, however eat flesh with its life-blood in it. Genesis 9: 1-4 (JPS)
I grew up with the KJV of the Bible. It is not a bad version, but some of the word choices for the translations do not fully capture the nuances of the original text. In the KJV, the word used for food is “meat.” The word in the original Hebrew is אָכְלָה (‘oklah), which means food, eating.
3 Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.Genesis 9:3 (KJV)
When I was younger and read these verses, I just naturally assumed that plants and animals were for us to eat. The word “meat” brings up the image of chicken nuggets and hamburgers. Humans are at the top of the food chain. We eat animals. Carnivorous animals eat vegetarian animals. The circle of life, to quote the Lion King (ok, so who started singing in their heads after reading that? I know I did!)
But what if that wasn’t how it was originally designed? In the verses of Genesis 1, God created the humans and the animals to be vegetarian.
29 And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so. Genesis 1:29,30 (KJV)
If you think about it, that actually makes sense. The garden of Eden was perfect. Adam had the task of ruling over all the animals, but how was he going to keep the lions, tigers, and bears in order? Much less the T-Rex! They were veggie eaters. Adam had no fear for his life in dealing with these animals.
It was not until after the Flood however, that God allowed man to actually eat animals for food (just not their blood). After the Exodus, He gives the commandments for clean/unclean animals. Then in the New Testament, God allows all animals to be eaten. Or did He?
I came across this bit of about Jewish vegetarian:
Growing up, I always said if I ever stopped to think about the meat I was eating, I would turn vegetarian. I hated the idea of killing animals for food. I just ignored any squeamish thoughts and continued to enjoy my fried chicken. Then a friend had me read “My Year of Meats.” Another friend went vegan not long ago. I just chatted with my sister today, who just told me she is now vegetarian. After doing more research on how animals are bred, fed, and slaughtered and then those bible verses smacking me in the face. Now, this post is not to preach that anyone reading this should become vegetarian/vegan too. This blog is my own personal journal and journey.