Vegetarianism

My neighbor was telling me about a recent Bible study where he became aware that originally God had us as vegetarians and the animals were no threat and that after the flood God told Noah that was no more & we could now eat meat. We were wondering why the change.

Our thought was that because God was angry with us he made life more challenging and that we would have to be more engaged. So our question is are we right or way off base on why the change was instituted?

David T.

Dear David,

We saw your question as we were finishing up two bonus episodes of Unit 1: Scrolling Through Scripture, so the timing was apt. (Current students: Don’t worry. We will send you notification as soon as the new lessons are posted.) In one of these lessons, I (RDL) mentioned exactly your friend’s point—in the Garden of Eden, mankind was given permission to eat all vegetation. It was not until after the Flood that animals were permitted.

While an in-depth answer will need to wait until we reach the post-Flood section of Genesis in the above on-line teaching, you and your friend are not quite on target. From the time of the sin in the Garden of Eden, work no longer automatically produced results. Planting and tending one’s fields were no guarantee of a good crop, just as giving birth was no guarantee of one’s children growing up physically and spiritually healthy. Animals too, now became a threat.

What changed after the Flood was the relationship between man and animals. There was never an equivalence between the two, (I show in detail how this idea emerges from the text in Unit 1 of Scrolling Through Scripture) but during the Flood animals were completely dependent on Noah and his family for survival. Furthermore, the actions that led to the Flood showed how man could lose his spiritual uniqueness and act as if he was an animal. These two realities changed the man/animal connection. After the Flood, man could now eat animals if—and only if—his behavior showed that he understood his privilege and responsibility to act, not on instinct as an animal does, but rather by choosing conscious actions that elevate his behavior in ways that bring him closer to the world of angels than to the world of apes.

Something to think about next time you enjoy a hamburger.

Bon appetit,
Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin


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7 thoughts on “Vegetarianism”

  1. God made clothing for Adam and Eve using animal skins so I think animals were killed in order to use their skins. If eating animals was forbidden before the flood, why then did Abel raise sheep? Did he only raise them to sacrifice them to God or did he trade them for other foods also? It seems to me that Adam’s children did eat meat and fruits and vegetables even though Scripture does not specifically and clearly state that they did.

    “Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a tiller of the ground. 3 In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, 4 and Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, 5 but for Cain and his offering he had no regard.” RSV

    I think Cain had a “heart” problem and that was why his gift was rejected.

    Matthew 15:19
    For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander.

    2 Corinthians 9:7
    Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      Dear Jan–
      It’s always important to stick to the ‘evidence’ and not project one’s own feelings. When you say “It seems to me that Adam’s children did eat meat…..” you undermine your letter. I might as well write “It seems to me that Adam ate hamburgers with milkshakes”. Furthermore, that God made leather garments does not mean that He allowed His children to do the same. Thanks for writing; we are knowledgeable only on Old Testament books so we can comment no further.
      Cordially
      RDL

  2. I do recall a discussion from “ancient Jewish wisdom” about people prior to the flood eating animals that had not been killed yet. That might have been part of the “hamas” that was discussed as the cause of the flood. Additionally, Abel was described as one who raised flocks, and considering that the Creator clothed his parents with the skins of animals, it would stand to reason that they were being raised for clothing, and the first indication was skins and not wool. It be a shame if the meat were wasted when the skins were made into clothes.

  3. Heather Psihogios

    Good morning! I currently possess all of your works. The only one I do not have yet is the masterpiece “Scrolling Through the Scriptures.” I want to purchase it and do it with my daughter after we finish our current Bible study. I see you are still adding content. Should I wait to purchase? Will it be available on DVD at some point? I lack the words to express my appreciation of your knowledge! Thank you!

    1. Hi Heather, We’re delighted that you are planning to start Scrolling through Scriptures with your daughter. At the moment, we have no plans for it to be in any format other than an online course.
      Originally, we thought Scrolling through Scripture would be 15 sessions, but we have 18 lessons currently online and 2 more are in process. We are also working on a study guide! Once the package is expanded, we will be raising the price to reflect the extra material and our added production costs. However, anyone who has already purchased will be grandfathered in and will be able to access all the extra material available, so it is your choice to jump in now or to wait until you are ready for the study down the road.

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