Subdue & Rule (Jesus & Justice Part 2)

First, we looked at the ancient Near Eastern practice of calling kings “the image of god.”

As the image of god, the king represented the character of his god and ordered his kingdom on earth the god’s good way. 

Likewise, in Genesis 1:26-18 our God created humans as His image on earth, to represent God’s character and order God’s kingdom on earth God’s good way.

But how?


Genesis 1:28 says, “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and SUBDUE (כָּבַשׁ kabas) it. RULE (רָדָה radah) over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.'”


The words “subdue” and “rule” have been used to justify everything from slavery to polluting the environment. 

In fact, the Hebrew word “kabas”, translated here as “subdue”, DOES mean to overcome, enslave, and conquer. Sounds pretty ominous!

It’s usually used of people subduing other people and circumstances that pose a threat though. In Micah 7:19, for instance, the prophet says God will “subdue (kabas) our iniquities.” The aim of subduing is to bring something or someone under control in order to preserve, protect, or rescue from harm.


But God also tells humans to “rule.” This word in Hebrew has to do with governing and managing, or exercising authority over someone or something else – a shepherd rules flocks, a governor rules citizens, a farmer rules the earth, a steward manages an estate, a potter rules the clay.


So these words together both have to do with bringing something under someone’s control, to suit their purpose, to conform to their will. Whose control? Whose purpose? Whose will?

Remember the context of Genesis 1:28: Humans have been created to represent GOD, the King of the Universe, and to spread out over the world ordering it GOD’s good way – not their own.

But will they? And what IS God’s good way? We’ll get there next time…