The previous post in this series may be found here.
Genesis 9:3–5 (ESV)
3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. 4 But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5 And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.
Goya, Three Salmon Steaks
In chapter six, Kuyper considers the provisions of the Noahic covenant which pertain to the relationship between animals and human beings. He will conclude that the primary basis for this command is to erect a clear demarcation between human beings and animals.
First, human beings may animals as well as plants.
Second, human beings must be distinguished from animals, in that we will not eat living animals. In distinction from animals and in reverence to God, the animal must first be dead before it may be eaten.
Third, animals are not given the equivalent right to eat human beings.
Some further observations.
Three points of elaboration.
Kuyper notes the Noahic covenant has no foreshadowing of the New Covenant in the way the Mosaic Covenant points forward to the coming Messiah. He refers to the Mosaic Covenant as being a covenant of shadows – and that the foreshadowing did not start until the giving of circumcision and the coming of Israel.
As to killing animals, he contends rightly that this is a provision of the Noahic covenant – it is not based upon the creation order. Kuyper notes how we naturally revolt against killing animals – it takes some to overcome that hesitancy.
Kuyper also infers a high degree of barbarism in the pre-flood world, such that limitations on tearing animals in the manner of beasts and restrictions on cannibalism were necessary as a common grace restraint.
He notes that by requiring the life to depart to God who gave it, we are giving deference to God in the taking of the animal. Calvin, who informs a great deal of Kuyper’s thought on this subject writes in his commentary:
This ought justly to be deemed by us of greater importance, that to eat the flesh of animals is granted to us by the kindness of God; that we do not seize upon what our appetite desires, as robbers do, nor yet tyrannically shed the innocent blood of cattle; but that we only take what is offered to us by the hand of the Lord. We have heard what Paul says, that we are at liberty to eat what we please, only we do it with the assurance of conscience, but that he who imagines anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean, (Romans 14:14.) And whence has this happened to man, that he should eat whatever food he pleased before God, with a tranquil mind, and not with unbridled license, except from his knowing, that it has been divinely delivered into his hand by the right of donation? Wherefore, (the same Paul being witness,) the word of God sanctifies the creatures, that we may purely and lawfully feed on them, (1 Timothy 4:5.) Let the adage be utterly rejected which says,‘that no one can feed and refresh his body with a morsel of bread, without, at the same time, defiling his soul.’Therefore it is not to be doubted, that the Lord designed to confirm our faith, when he expressly declares by Moses, that he gave to man the free use of flesh, so that we might not eat it with a doubtful and trembling conscience. At the same time, however, he invites us to thanksgiving. On this account also, Paul adds “prayer” to the “word”, in defining the method of sanctification in the passage recently cited.
John Calvin, Genesis, electronic ed., Calvin’s Commentaries, 1998, Ge 9:3.