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Per Genesis 9:3, man is given the animals as food after the flood. A reasonable implication of that statement is that prior to this, man was supposed to be vegetarian.

That said, Genesis 4:2 clearly states that Abel kept flocks, and of course God was pleased by the sacrifice of meat that Abel brought.

So, is the implication of 9:3 justified, or did Abel keep flocks for some other reason?

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4 Answers 4

The context of the commandment to Noah is important. If you read it in context, it is not for the first time allowing meat as food, it is simply forbidding eating meat that is not slaughtered, meat which is still alive, with blood coursing through it's veins. I suppose this is why swallowing live goldfish was a popular fraternity hazing practice in the 1950s.

Anyway, here is the passage:

Bear fruit and multiply, and fill the land. And your peculiar feats will awe all the land animals and all the fowl of the sky. All that will crawl the land, and all the fish of the sea; into your hands they are given. Every land crawler that lives, will for you be for eating, of green plants, I give you all. But flesh, with its soul still in its blood you will not eat. And even the life-blood of your soul I will demand, by the hand of every animal, I will demand it, and by the hand of man, in the hand of a man and his brother, I will demand the soul of man. Who spills man's blood, will that man's blood be spilled: because in the image of God, is man made. And you, bear fruit and multiply; infest the land and be many there.

First, the permission is granted to eat plants, which is not a new thing. The "Bear fruit and multiply" is not new either. The new thing here is the commandment for killing killers and to not eat things that are alive.

The nature of this commandment is simple: don't murder and eat whatever you want, so long as you kill it first. It is this governance for non-Jews, to be contrasted with the more detailed Mosaic law that follows, which applies to Jews. The Mosaic law is very detailed regarding what one should do in this circumstance or that, the Noahide law is the religious version of anarchy.

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Yes, only after Gen 9:3 did God expressed clearly that human may eat meat after they took the life of the animal. Though we can argue that the violent-ness of mankind on Noah's time (Gen 6) included some bloody deeds, like gulping down living animal. Still, it is reasonable to concludes that Adam and family ate only vegetables, as God also ordered him of this, before Adam was chased away from the garden of Eden (Gen 3). NIV did write 'flocks', you can try to read parallel verse of the bible. The Hebrew word tson refers to small cattle, sheep and goats, flock.

I'm no master in shepherding, but you can get other things out of sheep and goat other than their meat. You can get wool (some goat also have long hair), milk, butter and cheese from them. Well, at least milk, since the fermentation method might not be established yet. And they can help clear the land, since they're eating grass, before mankind can plant anything.

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They're also good for sacrificing. – Jas 3.1 Apr 7 at 0:47

At least one other reason for keeping flocks in addition to other answers here is so that sacrifices could be made. In Genesis 4:4, it is recorded that Abel offered a sacrifice from his flock. This provides us some important clues. From the same passage, we know that Cain offered a grain offering (4:3). Based on the fact that this was offered "at the designated time" and that grain offerings were often offered along with peace or burnt offerings. If the case was the former, then this would be the first recorded instance of meat-eating in The Bible, but we simply have no way of knowing for sure which offering this is.

Additionally, in Genesis 8:20, Noah offered a burnt offering. The fact that they made a burnt offering would tend to indicate that eating meat was not taboo as it is doubtful that you would be willing to kill an animal, but not eat meat. However, that is not conclusive proof for this position.

Regardless, it would have been impossible to make these burnt and peace offerings without keeping flocks.

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It is my opinion that Abel kept flocks for all the practical reasons of milk, clothing and yes, meat. A diet of vegetation alone does not provide sufficient protein. But, of course the story is that Cain and Abel apparently became of 'accountable' age at the same time. Did Abel, apparently 'out of the blue' decide that the animals would be an acceptable sacrifice? I don't think so. If as in Hebrew law 'accountable age' is about age 13-14, then it seems to me that he must have had some help in his flock-keeping. I vote for Adam's instruction. Because in fact, Abel did NOT make the first recorded animal sacrifice.

Because, after all, Adam knew that animal sacrifice is needed and God requires a blood sacrifice. True, one may say, but the law was not yet given about the blood sacrifice! Yes it was, my friend. It was not only previously written, it was also demonstrated by Christ Himself, and used to forgive the sins of Adam and Eve. How can we think Abel knew?

Gen 3:21:

"Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them."

It does not require a lot of thought to see that those animals couldn't give up their skins without losing both their lives and their blood. Thus, in plain sight it is written in Gen 3 that Christ Himself showed Adam and Eve the (then) acceptable requirement for forgiveness. In this case it was both a physical "covering" as well as a spiritual one acceptable to God. Now think for just a moment. Can you imagine what an impression this act must have made on Adam and Eve? They had NEVER seen ANY death up till this time, yet here is some totally innocent being shedding it's blood for THEIR sins. Oh yeah---they knew alright...and it is obvious that Abel listened to mom and dad..he tended the critters.

Does this first sacrifice remind us of something? It does remind me of Christ who came through Adam and Eve's offspring to pay for all of the sins of all mankind, He being declared "the lamb of God" at His Baptism.

The punch line? Surely, Adam and Eve told Cain and Abel what God expected, but Abel alone believed, and worked toward it. That is why Abel did it just right (Gen 4:4). Cain surely was told, but just did not accept. He wanted to do it his own way.

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Welcome to BH. You have given this answer some thought, but you have not shown your sources or how you arrive at the conclusions you offer, a requirement for answers on this site. – Dick Harfield Apr 10 at 7:10

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