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Ask a Pastor: Why Would Adam Have to Subdue the Earth if it was Perfect?

Question

Why would Adam have to subdue the earth if it was perfect? When God created Adam in Genesis 1, he gives him the command to "be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it".  The word subdue means to bring something under control. How does the command for Adam to bring the earth under control align with the belief that the whole earth was perfect before the fall?

Answer

Thanks for your good question.


Indeed, all things were perfect before the fall in paradise. Sadly, however, after the fall everybody and everything has been negatively affected in one way or another by that “original sin.” When God created all things in the first six days of world history, He did so by Himself and for Himself (Col. 1:16) by the word of His power (Ps. 33:9).


In His creative wisdom, although all things were sinless, all things were not equal. Mankind was made in God’s image and likeness (Gen. 1:26), while the earth he lives in was not made in God’s image. According to God’s assessment, the earth was “good” (Gen. 1:25) while mankind was “very good” (Gen. 1:31).


So when the Lord tells mankind (Adam) to subdue the earth, he is simply reminding him (and us as we read this history) that mankind is the “capstone” of creation. He is not equal to the earth, but authoritative over the earth and we are to recognize it was made for humans by our all-wise Creator (Mk. 2:27). Subduing the earth corresponds with the call to “have dominion” over the animal world (Gen. 1:26).


In His great wisdom God afforded mankind the dignity and honor to be His “vice-regents” to take care of His creation in His stead. The idea of subduing the earth has to do with the created order God built into creation and not with the sin that has affected it.  


We are to worship God, but not worship the creation itself (Rom. 1:25), even as we recognize and are inspired by God’s creative handiwork (Ps. 19:1). Are you and I respecting God’s creation, yet living in it realizing that we have divinely granted authority over it?


With that, are we doing so realizing this world is temporary? One day this present earth will “pass away” Jesus said (Lk. 21:33 cf. 2 Pet. 3:10).  At that time the Lord will usher in a new heaven and new earth (Rev. 21:1) where only sinless righteousness dwells (2 Pet. 3:13). Only those who by grace have believed in Jesus Christ will be there with the Lord forever (Jn. 3:36). Will you and I be there as well? I pray it may be so!

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