9:1 And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. (Genesis 9:1-3)

Verse 2 describes how all the beasts of the earth will fear man: birds, – which includes birds later unclean under the Jewish law such as crows, things creeping on the ground – which included animals like lizards and rabbits later unclean for Jews, and all the fish of the sea – including fish such as marlin, swordfish and shark which Leviticus made unclean for Jews. There is no need for all these animals to fear man if man would not kill and eat them.

Some Christian groups which do attempt to follow Jewish food rules will occasionally argue that “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you” cannot include animals like pigs, rabbits, camel, eel, catfish, crab, lobster, and shrimps because these animals are not food. This not only contradicts the plain reading of verse 3, and the prior context of verse 2, but also archaeological evidence which shows plentiful bones from all these animals in settlements in the Ancient Near East before and after the Exodus from Egypt. In fact it is the archaeological map of settlements without pig bones in the Judges and Kings era shows clearly the limited area conquered by the Jews, while the areas retained by the Canaanites are marked by pig bones.

Another attempt by those Christian groups which attempt to follow Jewish food rules, or promote or enforce them on others is the argument “do you think that Genesis 9:3 includes man, and therefore permits cannibalism?”. To this statement there are two things to say. First the Hebrew text clearly says “every remesh”(kol-remesh כָּל־רֶמֶשׂ). The Hebrew noun remesh literally means “creeping animal” and is used 17 times in the Hebrew Old Testament to mean only this, firstly three times in Genesis 1:24, 25, 26. The death knoll for this argument is where exactly the same phrase “from every remesh” (m-kol remesh מִכֹּל רֶמֶשׂ) occurs in Genesis 6:10 where two of every unclean animal can enter the Ark. Two of every unclean is distinct from seven of every clean animal. And is it is two of every remesh that enters the Ark, underlining that these “creeping animals” are unclean. And yet when Noah exits the Ark he is now told that “every remesh” is now food for him.

Remesh is also clearly considered to be unclean creeping things in Ezekiel 8:10. Man is never called a “creeping thing” or remesh, so even the most basic check in a Hebrew lexicon shows that Genesis 9:3 can only be understood as creeping animals, not men. So the question about cannibalism is rather silly. But remesh can be, and in fact most are, unclean for Jews as Ezekiel 8:10 shows.

A second point showing that Genesis 9:2-3 means exactly what it says is the context in the following verse which establishes the first ever food rule – that Noah was not to eat all these animals with blood. So while pork and rabbit and eel and other seafood was given to Noah, the blood of these animals was not.

But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. (Genesis 9:4-5)

This is not the end of the subject. There is a more extended answer as to why Christians are not bound by Jewish food laws here: Is it okay for Christians to eat pork and shellfish?

There is also a separate issue about the issue of blood in meat and whether Christians are like Noah bound against this – as they were temporarily in Acts 15. Does Paul’s advice to eat whatever is sold in the meat market (1 Co 10:25) contradict James’ letter (Acts 15:29) not to eat meat with blood in it?

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