Genesis 9:3 is often used to justify meat-eating as God’s will in the present age. At the same time, Genesis 9:3 is normally juxtaposed with Genesis 1:29 — in which humanity is given a vegan diet — with Genesis 9:3 as de facto annulling the previous scripture and inaugurating a new arrangement between God and humankind. In this essay I argue that the whole account of the Genesis Flood is far more nuanced than what is commonly understood, and that the story when read in its context is actually quite different from a superficial reading of the text. In particular, I see the passage in 9:3 primarily as a reluctant concession God is making to human weakness, ignorance and hard-heartedness. More importantly, I hold that the story of Noah and the Flood narrates how God is forced to temporarily lower his standards in order not to have to definitively terminate his creation. After recognising that the human heart is filled with evil, YHWH attempts to regulate and limit the very violence which had just brought about the destruction of the antediluvian world. This is achieved in two ways: first, by codifying the punishment for murder, and second by regulating the eating of meat. In conclusion, I argue that far from being a positive moment in biblical history which should be celebrated, the Genesis Flood story and God’s initial concession to eat meat actually highlights the hard-heartedness, rebellion, and violence of mankind, and the incredible patience and long-suffering of God towards humanity. Ultimately, viewed in the light of the cross, Genesis 9:3 showcases the amazing lengths God is willing to go to in order to redeem a lost humanity.
An Earth Full of Violence
In order to understand the biblical story of the Flood, it is crucial to seek to comprehend the overall context of the event. First, before the actual Flood narrative we are told that the ‘sons of God’ began to intermarry with the ‘daughters of man’:
1 When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. 3 Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” 4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown. (Gen. 6:1-4, ESV)
Much has been made of these verses, one interpretation being that the ‘sons of God’ were fallen angels that had sexual intercourse with women and bore giants, Nephilim, as children. In this interpretation, the birth of the Nephilim, incredibly strong and tall demigods, was one of the reasons God destroyed the earth. While this interpretation is fairly popular it lacks strong scriptural support and seems to run contrary to the fact that Jesus affirmed that angels cannot marry. A better interpretation for the text is simply that the God-fearing line — ‘the sons of God’ — of Seth ended up intermarrying with the evil line of Cain — ‘the daughters of man’. By doing this it seems that the godly descendants of Seth came under the influence of their unbelieving wives, and their children also went in this direction. At this point, it appears that only Noah and his family still feared God and continued to walk by faith, while the rest of humanity sunk further and further into darkness. We are told that, ‘Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God’. This is confirmed in 2 Peter 2:5: ‘if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly’ (ESV).
Interestingly, the Nephilim, which literally means ‘fallen ones’ or also ‘tyrants’, were considered ‘men of renown’ and ‘mighty men of old’. Here there is most probably an underlining on the part of Scripture of the difference between how these people were viewed by God and by men. Paradoxically, while the world held them in high regard and considered them heroes, for God they were fallen and violent tyrants. Either way, the mixing of the sons of God and the daughters of man, and the emergence of the Nephilim, seems to be part of the reason why God brings judgment on the earth.
While the Nephilim are important in understanding this story in Scripture, God’s own explanation for bringing about the Flood is often strangely overlooked. First, we are told that:
5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7 So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. (Gen. 6:5-8 ESV)
The text tells us how the ‘wickedness of man was great’ and ‘every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually’. The situation is so bad that God actually regrets having made the earth and decides to terminate his creation. Shortly after the text explains more specifically what the sin of the antediluvian generation was:
Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. 13 And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. (Gen. 6:11-13 ESV)
In these verses twice we are specifically informed that the main problem of the pre-Flood generation was its violence: first the text and then God himself underline how the earth was ‘filled with violence’. It is this violence — which the Nephilim no doubt participated in and championed — which is the cause of the Flood and which grieves God to the point of him desiring the end of his creation.
Thank you for reading our work and following our blog; we appreciate you very much! We hope you are blessed by this article and will share it with others. Please stay tuned for next weeks publication of Part Two of Noah, Meat Eating, And The Flood – The Concession of Meat-Eating. Many Blessings ~ Marcello
For those who would like to read the entire article: Noah, Meat-Eating, And The Flood.
 A popular interpretation is that the concession to eat meat was based on the lack of plant-food available after the Flood and the destruction it caused. While this is possible based on the context, it does not appear to fully explain the concession to eat meat, and why God did not rescind it after plant-food was again available. It may be that both explanations are true and a combination of factors brought about the change.
 Mark 12:25; Biblehub.com, “International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Antediluvians,” accessed 20 October, 2018, http://biblehub.com/topical/a/antediluvians.htm.
 The NIV Study Bible; Keil and Delitszch’s Commentary goes into great depths on this topic: Biblehub.com, “Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary, Genesis 9,” accessed 16 October, 2018, https://biblehub.com/commentaries/kad/genesis/9.htm.
 See also Heb. 11:7; Gen. 7:1.
 See also: Biblestudytools.com, “John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible, Genesis 6:2,” accessed 20 October, 2018, https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/gills-exposition-of-the-bible/genesis-6-2.html.
 Matthew Henry in his commentary also understands it this way: Biblestudytools.com, “Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible, Genesis 6,” accessed 16 October, 2018, https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-complete/genesis/6.html; See also “John Gill’s commentary.”
 See also Nicholas T. Wright, Evil and the Justice of God (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2006), 15-16.