1:28 replenish. God’s first command to man was that of producing abundant progeny sufficient to fill the earth (not “replenish,” a misleading translation of the Hebrew word male). Perhaps the animals had been created in large numbers of each kind, but the human population began with only two people. The function of subduing the earth and having dominion over it would necessarily require a long time–first, for the growth of a large enough population to fill the earth, and second, for the acquiring of enough knowledge and skill to enable man to bring it under full control and development.
1:28 have dominion. This primeval commandment to conquer and rule the earth has been called the dominion mandate, though a better term might be the primeval commission to mankind. It has never been abrogated, but was specifically renewed and extended after the Flood (see notes on Genesis 9:1-7). The military terminology in no way implies hostility and resistance from the earth, for it was all “very good” (Genesis 1:31). It suggests, rather, intensive study of the earth and its creatures (that is, “science”) and then application of that knowledge (that is, technology and commerce) for the optimum benefit of mankind and the animals, and for the glory of God.
Note that no instruction was given to exercise dominion over other men, but only over the earth and the animals. Had man not rebelled against God’s Word, all would have remained in perfect fellowship with God and, therefore, with one another. There was no initial need for the so-called social sciences and technologies, but only the natural sciences and their implementation. This situation was radically changed at the Fall, and God’s commandment accordingly expanded officially after the Flood.
1:29 given you every herb. It is plain that both men and animals were originally intended to be vegetarian and herbivorous in their appetites. There was adequate nourishment and energy value available in the fruits and herbs to enable both to accomplish the work God had given them to do. The supply could not be exhausted, since these plants were designed to replicate themselves through the seeds they produced.
1:29 all the earth. The fact that their food would be available everywhere, “upon the face of all the earth,” shows that in the originally created world there were no deserts or other uninhabitable regions, no frozen tundras or ice caps, no rugged high mountain ranges. With lush vegetation everywhere, the animals no doubt soon had populated all the earth.
1:29 be for meat. The question as to how or when some of the animals became carnivorous is not definitely answerable at this late date, since the Bible does not say. In the future kingdom age, there will again be no predation or struggle between animals or between animals and men (Isaiah 11:6-9; Hosea 2:18; etc.). Even today, both animals and men can (and do, on occasion) live on a strictly vegetarian, herbivorous diet. The development of fangs and claws, as well as other such structures and practices, may be explained as either (1) recessive created features which became dominant by selection processes as the environment worsened following the Fall and Flood; (2) features created originally by the Creator in foreknowledge of the coming Curse; or (3) mutational changes following the Curse, converting originally benign structures into predatory and defensive structures.