Genesis 10:8-12, Kingdom-Building, Nimrod, Creation/Cultural Mandate, and the Great Commission

thy-kingdom-comeGenesis 10:8–12 (ESV) — 8 Cush fathered Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. 9 He was a mighty hunter before the Lord. Therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord.” 10 The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. 11 From that land he went into Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-Ir, Calah, and 12 Resen between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city.

Nimrod is noted as a “mighty hunter,” and his name itself is connected with the verb “to rebel,” thus feeding the interesting tradition that identifies him as a tyrant. He helped found several mighty city-states and eventual imperial powers that became a centrifuge for opposition to Israel. If the people of God don’t fulfill the creation mandate of Genesis 1:28, then the vacuum will gladly be filled by God’s enemies, the Nimrods of the world.

John Frame elaborates on the “creation mandate” (also referred to as the “cultural mandate”):

The Cultural Mandate

The cultural mandate is found in Genesis 1:28, after the story of Adam’s and Eve’s creation. “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’ ” This is especially important, because God addresses it to the entire human race, which at the time consisted only of two people. This is the task of the whole human race.

The cultural mandate has three parts. The first is the divine blessing. The cultural mandate is not a burdensome rule but an expression of God’s good will to us. The second and third parts are commands. One is to have children, grandchildren, and so on, so as to fill the entire earth with people. Of course, those people were to glorify God. The cultural mandate does not anticipate the fall. So, Adam and Eve would fill the earth with people who are eager to do the will of God, and who would therefore live in God’s presence, under his blessing.

The third command is to “subdue” the earth, to have “dominion” over it. This means to bring out the potential of everything in the earth so that it will be of service to human beings as they bring glory to God. It doesn’t mean to exploit the earth. Some secular environmentalists blame the cultural mandate for pollution, for they think “subdue” means to exploit, to take anything in creation for our selfish gain. But, of course, subduing includes preserving, nurturing, as we see, for example, in Genesis 2:15. Human beings cannot live on God’s earth if it is utterly polluted. So, God expected them as part of their stewardship to keep that from happening.

Thus we have three elements: a divine blessing, a commandment to fill, and a commandment to subdue. I think of the first as normative, the second as existential, the third as situational. God’s blessing comes first, and his commands set our direction. Filling the earth is the personal, existential commandment, and subduing it focuses on what we do in and with our environment.

These three elements recur over and over again in the Bible. In every covenant God makes—with Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and Jesus—there are these three elements: a divine blessing, a seed, and a land. God blesses his people by giving them descendants to live in a land, subduing that land to bring glory to God.[1]

The mandate requires creativity on the part of the creature, thus reflecting an element of our image-bearing status. Eckman provides a helpful list in ways that this creativity is manifested:

Rooted in the proposition that God is the Creator and we are His creatures, the following principles provide the basis for thinking and acting biblically when it comes to creativity. Such a foundation, then, enables the Christian to gain an appreciation for and an involvement in the arts.

1. Human creativity derives its value from God’s creativity. In Genesis 1:26–30, after God had finished His creative work, He detailed His creation mandate for humanity. Humans are to subdue and have dominion over His creation.

2. Human creativity manifests God’s image. Bearing God’s image means that we carry His creativity into our human capacity for sensory, intellectual, and emotional delight.

3. Creativity is to be developed in all persons, not just a creative elite. Since all bear His image, all have some dimension of creativity.

4. Creativity extends to all cultural activities, including art, science, work, play, thought, and action. One of the clear teachings of God’s Word is the lordship of Jesus Christ. If He is Lord of all, then that lordship extends to all dimensions of life.

5. Human creativity exists for the glory of God. First Corinthians 10:31 makes clear that we are to do all to the glory of God. Each time we exercise our creative potential, we are giving glory to the one who created and gifted us. All praise to Him![2]

Lastly, returning to Frame, it is important to not view the “great commission” and “cultural mandate” as an either/or but as a both/and, the one fulfilling the other in an intertwined nature:

We should compare the cultural mandate with Jesus’ final command to his disciples in Matthew 28:19–20 (the Great Commission): “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” We shall discuss the Great Commission further in chapter 19. For now, notice that the two commands have a worldwide focus: both call on God’s people to fill the earth with godly people. The cultural mandate focuses on procreation; the Great Commission, following the fall into sin and Jesus’ great work of redemption, focuses on evangelism. The evangelism here is very broad; not just a simple gospel message intended to save people from hell but a comprehensive message: all that Jesus has commanded us. That is a message that will both save sinners and transform cultures, so that the Great Commission fulfills the cultural mandate.[3]

 



[1] Frame, J. M. (2006). Salvation belongs to the Lord: an introduction to systematic theology (pp. 249–250). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.

[2] Eckman, J. P. (2004). Biblical ethics: choosing right in a world gone wrong (pp. 80–81). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[3] Frame, J. M. (2006). Salvation belongs to the Lord: an introduction to systematic theology (p. 98). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.

© 2014, Rick Hogaboam. All rights reserved.

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