Does God Say in Genesis 9:3 that Mankind is Free to Eat Any Kind of Animal?

Photo: Platter of Fresh Vegetables and Fruit

Let’s take a look at the verse in question: “Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given.” Many people have read this verse and quickly concluded that it makes a broad provision for humans to eat any living creature for food. However, this is simply not true.

We know from Genesis 1:29 that the original diet before the fall of Adam and Eve consisted of fruits, grains, and nuts. For the animals, food was the “green herb” (Genesis 1:30). After the fall, God added vegetables — or the “herb of the field” — to mankind’s diet (Genesis 3:18).

Moreover, in preparation for the coming global watery cataclysm, God told Noah to “take thou unto thee of all food that is eaten, and thou shalt gather it to thee; and it shall be for food for thee, and for them” (Genesis 6:21). So before the Flood, God made it clear to take “all food that is eaten.”

This command suggests Noah already knew the distinction of what was good for food. At this time in earth’s history, that definition did not include flesh. So this food stored in the ark was to sustain Noah’s family and the animals during and following the Flood until edible vegetation grew back. After the Flood, God made an emergency provision. He allowed the use of flesh food for the first time. This is why God required the clean animals to be brought on the ark in greater numbers (in seven pairs) and the unclean in fewer numbers (Genesis 7:2). Also, it was only from the clean animals that sacrifices were offered (Genesis 8:20).

The Lord allowed His people to use the flesh from these clean sacrifices as food. (See Exodus 12:8.) Obviously, God never intended for man to eat every creature that had been created. It’s hard to even picture a person eating cockroaches, rats, vultures, skunks, or jellyfish. In fact, the flesh of some creatures is so toxic it will kill a person immediately. God also said that man could eat every herb on the face of all the earth. Yet no one thinks this means God intended humans to eat poison ivy and the deadly nightshade.

In the same way that not all plant life is to be eaten, so not all animal flesh is to be eaten. The term “every moving thing” must be taken in the same manner as “even as the green herbs.” The unclean animals never consisted as part of either the sacrificial services or the diet of God’s people. Had the unclean animals been used for food, they would have been rendered extinct, since there was only one pair of each species in the ark. God never intended that every plant and animal be added to our buffet.

In addition, there were even restrictions that came along with the permission to eat clean animals. “But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat. And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man” (Genesis 9:3–5).

After the Flood, as the widespread eating of clean animals became more common, man’s lifespan was reduced from over 900 years to around 100! So “every moving thing,” in context of this verse, means that anything that moved could be eaten so long as it did not violate the ordinance of not eating unclean animals.

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