9:1 replenish the earth. This is the same command given to Adam and Eve; the word “replenish” (Hebrew male), simply means “fill.”
9:2 are they delivered. In essence the primeval commission to mankind (the so-called “dominion mandate”) is here reiterated to Noah and his descendants, though with some emendations. Man is still to be in dominion over all other creatures and over the earth itself, even though Satan’s usurpation of that dominion must continually be recognized and rectified, with God’s enablement. Man’s relation to the animals (except perhaps for the domestic animals not mentioned here) has been changed by God’s imposition on them of literally the “terror” of man. Their newly-developed carnivorous appetites and other abilities inimical to close contact with man, combined with their more rapid multiplication, might otherwise have resulted in man’s extermination.
9:3 meat for you. For the first time, human beings are given divine permission to eat animal flesh. Initially, they were to have been vegetarians (Genesis 1:29). The reason for this change was due to the greater need for animal protein in man’s diet in view of the nutrient-impoverished soils of the post-diluvian world and the much more rigorous climatic conditions. A second reason may have been to emphasize the great gulf between man and the animals. Evolutionary and polytheistic philosophies, then as now, had seriously blurred that distinction (note Romans 1:21-25).
9:4 the blood thereof. The profoundly scientific truth that “the life of the flesh is in the blood” (see also Leviticus 17:11) is here mentioned for the first time. This, as well as the other principles of the Edenic Mandate and the Noahic covenant, is still in effect and should be observed by Christians especially. The blood, both in symbol and in reality, is “the life of the flesh.” Thus, it is appropriate to offer in sacrifice (until the offering of Christ, that is) but never to consume, either as food or as a religious ritual.
9:5 will I require. If the blood of animals is to be regarded as too sacred to be eaten, since it represents the “life” (or “soul”–Hebrew nephesh) of the animal and is acceptable as a substitutionary sacrifice for man’s sins, how much more sacred is the blood of man himself! His blood represents his life and, since he alone is “in the image of God,” the Creator of life, man’s blood is not even to be shed, let alone eaten! If either man or beast slays a man, that man or that animal is, judicially, to be slain himself, the reason being the divine sacredness of human life.
9:6 blood be shed. This establishment of capital punishment, administered judicially by man, has never been changed or withdrawn. It is still God’s law today, and forms the basic authorization of the institution of human government. It implies also the enactment and enforcement of regulations for those human activities (e.g., stealing, adultery) which if unrestrained, would lead to murder. It does not stipulate the form, but only the fact of government. It extends the primeval mandate by giving man the responsibility to control not only the animals but his own society also. The original commission in effect had authorized the natural sciences and technologies; this new extension incorporated in God’s covenant with Noah in effect authorizes the social sciences and their technologies (e.g., psychology, law, sociology, anthropology, political science, government, police, criminology).
Although capital punishment is the proper prerogative of human society (“every man’s brother”) in so far as strict justice is concerned, mitigating circumstances (especially sincere repentance and restitution) may warrant extension of mercy in individual cases. Nevertheless, the basic right of governments to exact capital punishment as penalty for murder cannot legitimately be abrogated as far as God is concerned. This is clear even in the Christian dispensation. The eating of meat (I Timothy 4:3,4), the abstinence from blood (Acts 15:19, 20) and the authority of the governmental sword (Romans 13:4; Acts 25:11) were reaffirmed to the early church, making it clear that the Noahic mandate still applied.
9:9 my covenant. The Noahic covenant (Hebrew berith) is the first covenant mentioned in Scripture and is everlasting (Genesis 9:16). It applied not only to Noah and his seed (Genesis 9:9), but also to the animal kingdom (Genesis 9:10) and even to the earth itself (Genesis 9:13). It was unconditional, promising the age-long endurance of the post-flood cosmos, and also reconfirming and amplifying God’s primeval commission to mankind, involving human stewardship over the earth and its inhabitants.