Does The Bible/Torah Condone Meat Eating? Take a Closer Look at Genesis 9:3
Bible-literate carnivores cling tenaciously to a slender verse in the Book of Genesis to justify their consumption of animal flesh.
Genesis 9:3 is the Biblical invitation to a Texas buffet. It plainly states, “Every creature that lives shall be yours to eat.”
The Beet-Eating Heeb cannot pretend that this verse doesn’t exist. In fact, faithful readers of his blog will tell you that he has never, ever stated that Judaism or Christianity prohibits meat eating.
But he is not afraid to address Genesis 9:3 head-on – and show that carnivores should take little comfort in its words.
Consider the context. In language, context matters.
For instance, if The Beet-Eating Heeb announces that he is “on fire,” it could mean that he either fell into a barbecue pit, or bowled five straight strikes.
Compare the contexts of Genesis 1:29, in which God prescribes a vegan diet, with Genesis 9:3.
Genesis 1:29 culminates the Creation story and takes place in the Garden of Eden. God describes his vegan menu as “very good.”
Fast forward to Genesis 9:3, which comes immediately after The Flood, in which God exterminated virtually all of humanity to put an end to its licentiousness. God was clearly not smiling when he granted Man permission to eat meat.
Indeed, it is a widespread view among rabbinic authorities that God granted this permission with profound reluctance, after sadly observing the flesh-eating ways of humans in the years before The Flood. If God were going to promise to refrain from wiping out humankind again, as he did in Genesis 9:11, He would have to lower his expectations and his standards.
In short, a carnivorous diet is clearly not God’s preference. It a God who is deeply disappointed in humankind’s behavior who authorizes meat eating.
The Beet-Eating Heeb isn’t finished dismantling Genesis 9:3.
This verse cannot be understood apart from Leviticus 11, in which the laws of kashrut are laid out. Those laws put meat-eating inside some narrow boundaries. Pork? No way. Shrimp? Not allowed. Cheeseburgers? Forget about it.
What is the overarching message of Leviticus 11? God wanted to make it difficult for us to eat meat, in hopes that we wouldn’t eat too much of it. You can only eat certain animals slaughtered under certain conditions.
But if God gave an inch, most of The Beet-Eating Heeb’s fellow Jews have taken a mile. So have a little meat once in a while, if you can’t live up to God’s highest ideals. But do you really think God wants you to be eating animals two or three times a day, seven days a week?
One last thing.
The Beet-Eating Heeb could not help but notice that life spans recorded in the Torah became dramatically shorter after God granted people permission to eat meat. Adam, for instance, didn’t check out until after his 930th birthday, long after he had drained his 401(k). Abraham, in contrast, passed away at the tender age of 175.
Whether or not you interpret these life spans literally, the message is clear, and verified by modern scientific research: Vegetarians and vegans live longer. And The Beet-Eating Heeb would say that’s God’s will, and His clearly expressed preference.
The Torah/Bible Verse That Turned Two Meat Eaters into Beet Eaters
You don’t need to unfurl the Torah scroll too much, or turn too many pages in your Bible, to find the foundational verses of religion-based vegetarianism.
It’s right there in the opening chapter of Genesis.
Discovering this changed The Beet-Eating Heeb’s life and the life of Wife of BEH, too.
Their discovery occurred on Rosh Hashanah morning, 5766, when The Beet-Eating Heebs were still meat-eating Heebs.
The morning’s service had plodded along for two hours or so when the Torah was taken from the Ark to be read. At this point, many of our fellow congregants weighed two options:
- Head to the restroom and stay there for an extended period.
- Doze off.
But BEH and Wife of BEH chose a third option: Actually pay attention.
When the Torah reader arrived at Verses 29 and 30 of the opening chapter, we did a double take. Here’s what it says:
And God said: ‘Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed–to you it shall be for food;
and to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is a living soul, [I have given] every green herb for food.’ And it was so.
Every herb-yielding seed. The fruit. Every green herb. It seems filet mignon, chicken cordon bleu, and Thanksgiving turkey didn’t make the cut.
Wait. It gets better. Or very good, anyway.
In the very next verse, Genesis 1:31, it says:
And God saw every thing that He had made, and, behold, it was very good.
Not just good, mind you. Very good.
And that’s very significant.
G-d evaluates his creation seven times in the first chapter of Genesis. On the first six occasions, he gives His handiwork a rating of “good.”
Only after giving Adam and Eve a vegan menu does G-d utter “very good,” or, in Hebrew, “tov m’ode”.
It’s painfully obvious. G-d wants us to eat fruit, vegetables, nuts and grains. Period.
Bible-literate carnivores, please hold your fire. The Beet-Eating Heeb knows what you’re going to say. And he is going to address those arguments in future blog postings.
For now, suffice it to say that BEH and Wife of BEH looked at each other (lovingly) that Rosh Hashanah morning five years ago and simultaneously decided to become vegetarians.
That was their beginning.