dominion over hake

There is a verse in the opening chapter of the bible that has been bothering me.

“Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

It is this command to subdue the earth and have dominion over other creatures that troubles me as it seems to legitimize treating other creatures as natural resources to be exploited for our enjoyment.

I was looking at the words on the STEP Bible software :-

Subdue =to subject, subdue, force, keep under, bring into bondage
Dominion =
to rule, have dominion, dominate, tread down

The idea of subjecting, forcing, keeping under, bringing into bondage seem like aggressive even violent words, especially since they are words given before the fall of man.

Similarly the idea of having dominion, dominating, treading down don’t seem to be words that are in tune with the idea of the lion lying down with the lamb. It seems like a rough way of living with little affection.


On Sunday  night a kind lady popped around  with fish  that had just been landed from the North Atlantic.
She kindly gave us a big white box of some type of fish and some prawns.
The box was unmarked but checking a book I reckon it was probably hake. Reading on book then said:-

‘We all have our weaknesses, certain things – like roulette, scrumpy or chocolate – we can’t quite  trust ourselves to be around. The Spanish tend to lose their heads over fish, and none more so than hake. Merzula, as they call it, is their fish of choice, bordering on a national obsession – and now bordering on an international ecological disaster… much of it is caught by Spain’s extensive deepwater fleet, the biggest and most heavily subsidised in the European Union. Few species apart from cod and bluefin tuna are under more pressure”
The River Cottage Fish Book, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Nick Fisher

The verse in Genesis with the idea of dominating and treading down doesn’t seem to fit easily with the idea that we should fish gently and carefully.

And that was a command in the Garden of Eden before sin had entered the world. Now that sin has entered how much more aggressive and violent is mankind?See the tuna fleets clearing the sea out.


2 thoughts on “dominion over hake”

  1. Good thoughts Dave. I love the way a delivery of fish sets you off on these reflections.

    I think it’s definitely true that those words in Genesis can be (and often have been) read in a way that justifies using the created world for our own pleasure without thought for consequences.

    But I would argue that we get our understanding of a word, not just from a dictionary definition, but also from the context. And in Genesis the context is about God making humans “in his own image” – so what does it mean to “subdue” creation and exercise “dominion” in a way that reflects the nature of God? That clearly is not about exploiting or using, but ruling with love, in a way that brings creation to its full potential. “Subdue” becomes more about taming the forces of chaos and bringing order and peace. We are to be benevolent rulers, working for the good of our subjects. It’s a high responsibility, rather than a license to use and abuse.

    Have you ever read “For the Beauty of the Earth” by Steven Bouma-Prediger? We had to read bits of it at Regent. I think you would enjoy it.

  2. thanks for the comment JM,
    I guess that the bit about ‘subduing’ got me a little because I had it in my head that the creation before the fall sort of looked after itself and was some type of perfect ecosystem that didn’t need mankind to look after it as God was looking after it.
    I sort of thought things only went bad because we disobeyed the only command God gave us about not eating the apple.
    I didn’t realise that the peace of the garden depended on us subduing it and keeping it in order and from not getting chaotic.

    The verse bothers me in the same way that the verse about not allowing women to teach bothers me. It seems so obvious that the Bible says women shouldn’t be ministers unless you think for a while about stuff like context or cultural and that for me is tiring.
    With the words subdue and dominate it seems that it is obvious that it is OK to farm chickens or salmon intensively as they are there for us too use. I get tired working through the context and that sort of thing, especially if trying to talk about something like climate change
    Must check out that book sometime!

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