The Food Of Primeval Man Genesis 1:29-30

Genesis 1:29-30

When God informs the newly created man, that he assigns to him for meat “every herb bearing seed, and every tree in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed,” it seems impossible to resist the conclusion, that this is designed to point out to him the kind of food intended for his use, and that what was not so pointed out, is not designed to be food for him. To contend that the specification of herbs, grain, and fruits, can in any way comprehend the use of the flesh of animals, seems altogether monstrous; and it may be safely affirmed, that the flesh of animals is the last thing a man would think of eating, who has been told that his food is to consist of vegetables. It seems clear to us, that animal food, even to this day but sparingly used in the East, and in some eastern countries held in abhorrence, was not intended to be the food of man, at least in his original condition. Instinctively we recognize the fitness that it should not have been so. We know not what were the Divine intentions with respect to the state of man if he had not fallen; but it is reasonable to assume, that this rule respecting food would have continued in operation, and that his climate, and other circumstances, would not have been such as to create the need of, or appetite for, the flesh of animals. This appetite is, after all, as we have seen, much the effect of climatic influences; and it was probably not until mankind had spread into climes far distant from their first seat, that they began to transgress this rule of food; for we agree with those who think that the distinction of clean and unclean beasts, at the time of the flood, implies the previous use of animal food. From the permission to use such food, expressly granted to Noah after the deluge, it may be thought that Noah and other righteous persons had abstained therefrom in obedience to the paradisiacal law or at least that they had been troubled with  doubts on the subject, and were hence favored with the express permission to use the flesh of beasts. It is even more than possible, that the constitution of the earth underwent such changes at the deluge, as rendered meat, more than before, suited to be the food of man. In any case, it appeals to us that the words then uttered afford a distinct reference to the original grant, and an extension of it - “Every living thing that moveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.” (Genesis 9:3.) And if, as the language most clearly implies, the extension was now first made, and was necessary to satisfy the conscience of a righteous man, it is manifest that animal food could only, before the flood, have been eaten by those whose transgressions brought that awful judgment upon the world.

From this it seems clear, that whatever we say as to the period between the fall and the deluge, vegetable food only was allowed to, or used by, man in his first estate. The poets, therefore, are here again right in regarding vegetables only as -

“The food of man,
While yet he lived in innocence, and told
A length of golden years unfleshed in blood,
A stranger to the savage arts of life,
Death, rapine, carnage, surfeit, and disease;
The lord, and not the tyrant, of the world.” - Thomson.

This abstinence from animal food is in fact preserved in the traditions of all nations, as one of the characteristics of their golden age - the age of innocence. Some have thought that the restriction was designed for a temporary purpose, that there might be no check to the increase of the newly created races; but if so, it would have been equally necessary after the deluge, when only the few animals that had been saved in the ark remained.

It is not at all necessary to enter into the old and somewhat entertaining question as to the comparative merits of vegetable and animal diet. As it is certain that but little of the latter is used in warm countries. whereas large quantities  are consumed in colder regions; and as we can observe in our own experience, that the inclination for flesh-meat is less active in summer than in winter, the matter seems to be in the result chiefly one of climate, men residing in the colder climate requiring a stronger nutriment than vegetables supply, to make up for the greater waste of animal heat. Be this as it may, there cannot be in the practice anything essentially wrong, or it would not have been expressly permitted by God himself after the deluge.

The objections as to the cruelty of the practice, sound well in poetry, but will not bear the test of reason. Myriads of animals have been called into being, and allowed the full enjoyment of the happiest period of animal life, cared for and well fed by man, that would not have existed at all, or could not have been maintained in existence, had they not been needful to him. What would be the result for the advantage of the domesticated animals, were they not thus needful to man? Most of the land now left for pasturage, would be brought under culture; and the animals not been needed, and therefore not worth the cost of rearing, would not be allowed to increase; or, being left to themselves, they would starve, or become the prey of ravenous beasts.

Even in the article of death the animals are not losers. Sickness and decay, softened by many tender circumstances to the human creature, is a horrible matter, is death by starvation, to animals constrained in a state of nature to seek their own food; and the other alternative, death from beasts of prey, is accompanied by circumstances of dread, horror, and pain, in the pursuit, the struggle, and the torturing laceration, which are unknown under the hands of the butcher, who suddenly and once for all attacks the seat of life.

Doubtless there is more real humanity in the system which allows ten thousand animals to enjoy their youth, than in that which would, in proportion, only permit one to live, to exist to old age, and to die of slow decay. Of the fifty millions, or thereabout, of sheep in these islands, how many would be in existence, were mutton not an article of food?