A Dominion Mandate

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Having uniquely designed humanity to serve as His stewards over creation, God bestowed upon Adam and Eve both a blessing and a charge:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:27–28).

Variously titled by theologians, this dominion mandate is both humanity’s purpose statement and receipt of divine authority. In short, it is our original commission.

How exactly this dominion was to be executed in an orderly manner as humanity multiplied is not explicitly stated. Instead, the text focuses on the institution of family units through the establishment of marriage and independent households: “Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.’ … And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. … Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:18, 22, 24).

Notably, God’s dominion mandate failed to grant us authority over other humans outside of our family households. Presumably, communities would eventually form around common interests in our effort to govern creation. In his book God and the Nations, Henry Morris argues that humanity’s mandate to steward creation necessitates the development of the disciplines we today call culture:

  • Science (to understand how to control creation)
  • Technology (to control creation)
  • Commerce (for effective implementation of science and technology)
  • Education (to effectively transmit knowledge and skills)
  • Fine arts (to glorify our Creator and King)[1]

The development of such culture would necessitate sizeable communities of people, but these communities would function according to a mutual respect for one another and for the greater purpose of stewarding God’s creation. They would not be held in check by fear of a governing authority’s ability to punish them. Morris concludes:

At that time there theoretically would be no need for such occupations as the military, law enforcement, or other such governmental agencies.

In fact, as far as the record goes, in the Edenic world as intended by the Creator, there would have been no government necessary at all, except the patriarchal system, with the father as head of each family and with his wife as a “help” [mate] for him. Presumably as each son grew to manhood and took a wife, he would then “cleave to” her, leaving his father and mother and thus establishing his own family unit. Society would eventually consist of many families, each with its own head, working together to honor God and serve mankind.

But such an idyllic society never actually existed, because Satan and the entrance of sin into the world complicated the world before the process of filling it could begin.[2]

With the introduction of sin, humanity’s unified purpose was supplanted by competing self-interests (Gen. 3). Humanity devolved into a state of perpetual wickedness and violence, ultimately compelling God to intervene with a sweeping judgment that virtually reset humanity (Gen. 6). Our dominion mandate would be preserved, but God’s original intent would be notably amended (Gen. 9:1–7). This time, God’s dominion mandate would authorize human government.

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Timothy Zebell

As a former missionary to Asia for twelve years and the author of several books, Timothy is passionate about helping people understand the relevancy of God's Word in today's world. His goals are to help Christians discern truth from error, empower Christians to speak into cultural matters with relevancy, and to help Christians capitalize on the opportunities that these matters provide for sharing the truth about God and His gospel message.
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1. Morris, Henry. God and the Nations, 29. Green Forest: Master Books, 2005.

2. Morris, 29–30.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. Biblegateway.com.