Do ethics matter and where do Christians get their ethics from?

Read Genesis 9:1-7

God’s blessing of Noah’s family mirrors the original Genesis 1 blessing as they are commanded to be fruitful and re-fill the earth (v1).  In contrast to Genesis 2 where the animals were brought near to Adam to be named, God causes them to fear him, this would protect him from attack and enable him to keep the other part of the creation mandate, to subdue (v2). As Adam was permitted to eat from any tree, so, Noah is permitted to eat from the animals, birds and fish (v3).  The boundary limit prohibiting him consuming blood mimics the prohibition on eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Notice too the connection again to life and death.  Blood symbolises life (v4).

Life and the blood which represents it is counted as precious.  Just as Cain was held accountable for the murder of his brother, so too, God insists that any other human and indeed any animal responsible for the shedding of human blood will be held accountable (v5).  This reckoning involves the setting of the death penalty for murder (v6).  The blessing of fruitfulness and mandate or command to multiply is repeated. WE sometimes refer to such a literary device as an inclusio.  The command to “be fruitful and multiply” brackets or includes the creation of fear, the permission to eat, the ban on eating the life blood and the reckoning for killing. This both emphasises the importance of the repeated creation mandate and shows that the detailed instructions are now included within that mandate (v7).

A continued mandate

The mandate to fill and subdue the earth is repeated and emphasised here.  This reminds us of its importance and continuing relevance.  Humanity continues to have a responsibility for the planet. This does demonstrate the blessing of both work and childbearing. It also reminds us of the importance of creation care as we seek to be wise stewards of the planet.

The value of life

This passage is an important part of the foundation for the Christian doctrine of humanity and Christian ethics. It reminds us that humans are made in God’s image and therefore to be treated with dignity and respect.  Whilst today in many countries, the death penalty has been removed, we still take murder and manslaughter seriously and rightly so.  The question of course is whether or not our culture will allow the most vulnerable in our society, the unborn, the very young, the very old and frail, those with severe illness or disability that same dignity.

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