Introduction: What does “dominion” mean? The Commonwealth of
Virginia, where I live, is called the “Old Dominion.” When I looked
this up in Encyclopedia Virginia, I discovered that Virginia was the
first of the “overseas dominions of the kings and queens of England.”
I thought “Old Dominion” meant something grand. Instead, it means I
live in a place that was dominated by another country! The King James
version of the Bible says humans have “dominion” over the creation.
Let’s dive into our Bibles and learn what that means!

  1. Creation and Dominion

    1. Read Genesis 1:26-27. Over what does God give humans
      dominion? (“Over all the earth.” Then the Bible names the
      animals, both domestic and wild. It sounds like we have
      dominion over all of the creation.)

      1. Notice that God then says that He is creating us in
        His image. Why? (Since God is the ultimate ruler, He
        made us to look like Him. I guess it is good for the
        rulers to have a similar look.)

      2. You may have noticed that the New International
        Version uses the term “rule” instead of “dominion.”
        Does that make “dominion” easier to understand?

        1. If you say, “yes,” tell me how you rule over
          the animals?

    2. Read Genesis 1:28. We see a new word, “subdue.” How does
      “subdue” add to our understanding of how we should “rule”
      over the creation? (Clearly, humans are in charge.)

    3. Read Genesis 1:29-30. If you had just been told that you
      were in charge of the animals, would this add to your
      authority or limit your authority? (Given our culture
      today, this is a major limitation on our authority. We are
      not permitted to eat the animals. Instead, the animals and
      humans have essentially the same diet – green plants.)

      1. What does this limitation teach us? (Our authority is

    4. Read Genesis 2:15-17. What additional limits do we find on
      our authority? (Adam and Eve are told not to eat of the
      fruit of one tree. In addition, they are give an
      obligation regarding the creation. They are told to “work
      it” and “take care of it.” This is another limit on our

      1. Given these limits on our total authority, how would
        you best describe the nature of our authority?
        (Benevolent or symbiotic. We take care of the
        creation and it takes care of us.)

  2. The Fall and Dominion

    1. Read Genesis 3:17-19. After Adam and Eve sinned, how has
      their relationship with the creation changed? (Nothing in
      the text says that humans are no longer in charge, rather,
      nature is in rebellion. Nature is not cooperating as it
      did in the past.)

    2. Read Genesis 3:16. What logic do you find in the
      punishment for sin? (Remember that we were created to be
      rulers like God? We will now experience something like
      God is experiencing with us. God is our Creator. As we now
      create more humans, the experience is painful – just as we
      are creating pain for God. God’s creation is now creating
      difficulties and trouble for Him. The plants are now
      creating difficulty for Adam. God gives us a parallel
      experience to what He now suffers.)

    3. Read John 12:31-33. Jesus calls Satan the “prince of this
      world.” To what extent did dominion pass to Satan when
      Adam and Eve sinned? (Jesus clearly calls Satan “prince,”
      and ascribes some authority in the world to him. But,
      Satan’s authority is limited because it was God who told
      Adam and Eve (after they sinned) their new relationship to
      the creation. It is revealing that Jesus calls Satan
      “prince” as opposed to “king.”)

    4. Read Genesis 6:5-7. In light of this text, how would you
      describe the relative authority of Satan and Jesus after
      the sin of humans? (God retained ultimate authority. God
      proposes to destroy the creation. If Satan had complete
      authority over the earth, he could block this, or at least
      would have a legitimate complaint that God was destroying
      his property, his kingdom.)

    5. Read Genesis 7:1-4 and Genesis 7:20-23. Who is in charge
      here? (God!)

    6. Read Genesis 9:1-5. Who is in charge here? (God and

      1. After the flood, what does God say about the
        authority of humans over the creation? (God says a
        couple of things. First, He announces that humans can
        eat animals. Second, God proclaims that animals “are
        given into your hands,” but God prohibits eating the
        blood of animals. God is in complete control. Once
        again, God delegates part of that control to humans.)

    7. As you contemplate the verses we have read, does it seem
      to you that we humans are laboring under the control of
      Satan, or that God has retained control and that we are
      still operating “in His image” in the sense that the
      problems we have created for Him now are problems with
      which we must deal? (Humans never had authority to
      transfer power from God to Satan. What humans did is
      complicate their own authority by participating in the
      rebellion against God’s authority.)

    8. Re-read Genesis 9:2 and notice what it says about a
      further alteration in the relationship between humans and
      animals. What is that change? (Animals will now fear
      humans. They will want to stay away from humans.)

      1. Why would God do that? (To preserve the lives of the
        animals because humans are now eating them!)

      2. Is there a parallel, once again, between God’s
        authority and our authority in “His image?” (Men now
        understand that God is capable of destroying His
        creation. Animals understand that humans can destroy

  3. Toward More Perfect Dominion

    1. Read 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5. How should we handle the fact
      that our sin and Satan’s work creates real problems for
      us? (Pray that we will be delivered from wicked and evil

    2. Read 2 Thessalonians 3:6-10 and Deuteronomy 15:7-8. Are
      these two texts in conflict? How would you reconcile them?

      1. Re-read 2 Thessalonians 3:6. What “teaching” is Paul
        writing about? (Context tells us the teaching is
        their example of work. Thus, the poor being helped in
        Deuteronomy 15 are the working poor. These are not
        people who disobey the teaching to work.)

    3. Read Leviticus 19:9-10. What is required of the poor as
      part of this provision for their food? (That they work.
      They work to “reap” what has been left over.)

    4. Read 1 Timothy 5:3-4. What is the rule for widows who are
      “really in need?” (That the first source of help should be
      the family.)

    5. Read 1 Timothy 5:9-10. What is the rule for helping
      elderly widows? (They can only be put on the “list” (the
      official church list for help) if they have done good
      deeds in the past.)

    6. Re-read Genesis 3:17-19. We previously decided that the
      hard work required to raise food from the newly rebellious
      nature, reflected the great difficulty that God now faces
      because of our sin. What does this suggest about work? (It
      improves character. Work teaches us about dominion and

      1. Why does God generally require that we give help only
        to the poor who are working? (If you look again at 2
        Thessalonians 3:9, Paul tells us he is a model for
        teaching the importance of work. We teach the
        importance of work when we work and when we create
        methods of helping the poor that require them to

    7. The discussion of helping widows, and the warning to “keep
      away” from a “brother” who is idle ( 2 Thessalonians 3:6),
      refer to those within the group of believers. Do you think
      these rules also apply to those outside the church?

    8. CNS news reports that, according to the United States
      government, only 62.8 percent of the population (age 16 or
      older and not in an institution) is in the workforce. This
      number includes those who are unemployed, but actively
      looking for a job. What does this say about the state of
      God’s plan for work?

    9. Friend, humans rebelled against God in Eden and He imposed
      punishments that allow us in some measure to experience
      His suffering while improving our character. Are humans in
      rebellion today by separating help for the poor from a
      requirement to work? If you agree, will you consider how
      you can help restore the lesson in Eden of God’s dominion?

  4. Next week: Justice and Mercy in the Old Testament: Part 1.