Fulfilling the Genesis Mandate While Helping the Poor
by James J. S. Johnson, J.D., Th.D. *
Aquaculture expert Jon Steeves recently helped an African community establish a fish farm to supply local food needs—a wonderful example of biblical multitasking through obeying the Genesis mandate while also serving and loving others. But before reviewing that philanthropic project, let’s consider what is commanded in the Genesis mandate, a divine decree also called the dominion mandate.1
As Noah’s family disembarked the Ark after the worldwide Flood, God renewed mankind’s authority over animals and mandated that the Flood survivors (both humans and beasts) resume the multigenerational task to “be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth”—all key components of the Genesis mandate.2
This divine decree demonstrated God’s love of both life and biodiversity, anticipating tremendous population growth as a result of reproductive fruitfulness. But is that mandate limited to reproductive success and numerical population growth? Or does it command outcomes that spread creatures over the large geographic areas of the earth?3
To answer those questions, consider how the group effort to build the Tower of Babel showcases a partial rejection of the Genesis mandate. Led by the rebellious Nimrod (whose name literally means “let’s rebel”) at Babel (same word as “Babylon” in the Hebrew), this post-Flood population prided themselves in resisting God’s instruction and said, “Let us make us a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4).
Geographically speaking, being “scattered” all over the earth would fulfill God’s original mandate to mankind (Genesis 1:28) and His post-Flood renewal of that mandate to fill the earth (Genesis 9:1). When the early Babylonians refused to fill the earth, however, God’s will was not thwarted by their prideful building project—He disunified them by dividing their communication into many different languages, thereby scattering humanity across the lands (Genesis 11:9).
It is still God’s plan that Noah’s descendants “fill” habitats around the world. But some habitats expose humans to survival challenges like the struggle to find readily abundant food for easy “hunter-gatherer” acquisition. In those places, the dominion mandate provides a key solution for hungry humans to successfully fill the earth: agriculture.1 Whenever humans raise livestock and crops for food, they are actually obeying and furthering the Genesis mandate, often in interesting and diverse ways.
Farming, in fact, is not limited to land crops. Aquaculture is also a type of farming or ranching, with the livestock “herds” being water creatures—usually fish—as Jon Steeves’ experience illustrates:
My goal has always been to help people in low-income, food deficient countries. Since returning to Cooke Aquaculture from university, I decided I wanted to use business and newly acquired aquaculture skills to make an impact; to feed, educate, and employ people in countries around the world that struggle to meet their basic needs.4
Steeves volunteered to help “farm” tilapia in an aquaculture project in Ghana. A bulldozer-built pond was stocked with fingerling tilapia after predatory frogs were removed, and local resources were used to produce affordable fish-feed. This is a “win-win” example of obedience to the Genesis mandate by exercising responsible dominion (i.e., stewardship) over the animal kingdom worldwide and helping the poor avoid starvation.
Managing the animal kingdom—fish included—with wisdom and care is what God originally commanded, and it’s also an example of showing the kindness that Christ taught: “For I was hungry and you gave Me food.”5
(Adapted from a text lecture in ICR’s School of Biblical Apologetics [SOBA] online program.)
- See Johnson, J. J. S. 2013. Siberian Huskies and the Dominion Mandate. Acts & Facts. 42 (6): 18-19.
- Compare Genesis 1:26-28 and 9:1-7 with Genesis 9:19.
- Johnson, J. J. S. 2013. God Fitted Habitats for Biodiversity. Acts & Facts. 42 (3): 10-12.
- Steeves, J. 2013. Tilapia Project Helping African Community. Cooke Aquaculture Newsletter. Spring/Summer: 4-5.
- Matthew 25:35.
* Dr. Johnson is Associate Professor of Apologetics and Chief Academic Officer at the Institute for Creation Research.
Cite this article: James J. S. Johnson, J.D., Th.D. 2013. Fulfilling the Genesis Mandate While Helping the Poor. Acts & Facts. 42 (12).