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?
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.
Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin
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