The Work of the “Creation Mandate” (Genesis 1:28, 2:15)

Bible Commentary / Produced by TOW Project

In describing God’s creation of humanity in his image (Gen. 1:1-2:3) and equipping of humanity to live according to that image (Gen. 2:4-25), we have explored God’s creation of people to exercise dominion, to be fruitful and multiply, to receive God’s provision, to work in relationships, and to observe the limits of creation. We noted that these have often been called the “creation mandate” or “cultural mandate,” with Genesis 1:28 and 2:15 standing out in particular:

God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” (Gen. 1:28)

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. (Gen. 2:15)

The use of this terminology is not essential, but the idea it stands for seems clear in Genesis 1 and 2. From the beginning God intended human beings to be his junior partners in the work of bringing his creation to fulfillment. It is not in our nature to be satisfied with things as they are, to receive provision for our needs without working, to endure idleness for long, to toil in a system of uncreative regimentation, or to work in social isolation. To recap, we are created to work as sub-creators in relationship with other people and with God, depending on God’s provision to make our work fruitful and respecting the limits given in his Word and evident in his creation.