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'Radah'

In Gen 1:26-28, God uses the word 'radah', a Hebrew word that is often translated as 'have dominion over'. But have we Western Christians (and Jews?) misunderstood its meaning? It is a word that is used in only a dozen places in the Old Testament, and thus is rather special in its meaning.

We have taken it to mean 'dominate over' just as a mediaeval ruler or potentate would dominate over his subjects, using them for his own ends, his own pleasure, his own prestige, his own wars, etc. But an examination of radah shows that this is NOT the type of 'dominion' that we are called upon to have over the creation. For example, 'radah' is used in Ezek 34:4, which shows the wrong type of radah. The 'radah' by those uncaring shepherds shows an attitude that God condemns:

"Woe to the shepherds of Israel, who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled [radah] them harshly and brutally." (2-5).

Whilst we might argue precisely how this applies, I am here referring to it at a higher level, namely that it shows the heart of God, whose image we are made in. And, in Genesis 1:26-28, that image is tied up with our radah of the creation.

Our radah, of the creation, is not to be with harshness and cruelty and selfishness. Our radah is to be, not for our own sake, but for the sake of the one ruled, that is, for the sake of the creation. We should heal those parts of creation that are sick, bind up those parts that are injured, bring back those parts that are straying, search for those parts that have become lost.

So we radah creation to represent God to it, to develop and refine and beautify it for its own sake, rather than for ours. (cf. the notion of Love: giving for the other. God is Love.)

Some Implications

We are not to be destroyers nor consumers of the rest of creation, nor even stewards, but shepherds of the rest of creation, just like the Good Shepherd laid down His life for the sheep. See Consumers, Stewards or Shepherds?

This Creation Mandate has never been rescinded. It is still in force for us, even in this gospel period. It is rather fulfilled by the Gospel of Christ and the Holy Spirit; see 'Rich Redemption' by reference to Romans 8.

This is especially important in this age where humanity as a whole is affecting the entire planet. Planet Earth is warning us, in its Creator's Name, that we have been doing wrong and going wrong. It is important to repent, even as Christians, because our radah has been dysfunctional, as destroyers (of rainforests for our own selfish ends), consumers (of oil, fish, cattle, minerals for our own greed and strife of nations). Even when we see ourselves as stewards, do we love the creation as God does whose image we assume we bear? Environmental destruction and climate change are not merely biological, political or economic matters, but a matter of our attitude of heart. Is not our attitude of heart open before the Living God? See our ongoing work on Climate Change and Global Economy.


For a deeper examination, see also:


This page, "http://abxn.org/radah.html" is part of Andrew Basden's abxn.org pages - pages that open up discussion and exploration from a Christian ('xn') perspective. Written on the Amiga with Protext, in the style of classic HTML.

Comments, queries welcome.

Copyright (c) Andrew Basden at all dates below. But you may use this material subject to certain easy conditions.

Created: 20 January 2002, from a section in creation.html
Last updated: 8 February 2004 link to NewView; .nav. 10 October 2010 better links to NV. 7 October 2012 new .nav, .end; slightly better Intro and ending; added Implicatons and several links. 18 October 2015 a few small corrections and link to radah2, slight rewrite, italics, removed count, copyright. 19 January 2020 'See also' list at end tidied up with extra links; new .end, .nav.