When did God first allow people to eat meat?

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At creation, God said to Adam and Eve, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food” (Genesis 1:29). At the beginning of time man was to eat of the products of both field and tree, in other words of grain, nuts, and fruit. And the animals, were to eat of “every green herb,” vegetables, or green plants, and grass.

It was not the will of God that humans should kill animals for food, or that animals should feed on one another; accordingly, the cruel and often painful destruction of life by man and animals is a result of sin. For there will be no killing of animals in the New Earth (Isa. 11:6–9; 65:25)

It was not till after the Flood that the Lord allowed people to eat meat (Genesis 9:3). The Flood had made eating meat a necessity. With the temporary destruction of all plant life during the Flood and the finishing of the food supplies in the ark, a crisis arose that God met by consenting for man to eat the flesh of animals.

This permission did not imply the unlimited eating of every kind of animal. The phrase, “moving thing that liveth,” clearly eliminates the eating of unclean animals which the Mosaic law specifically forbade (Ex. 22:31; Lev. 22:8). Noah knew about the distinction between the clean and unclean beasts when he took animals into the Ark (Gen. 7:2). And he offered only clean animals as his burnt offering to the Lord (ch. 8:20).

This distinction was known to early man so well that it was not necessary for God to draw Noah’s special attention to it. It was only when this distinction had been lost through the centuries of man’s separation from God that new and written laws were given regarding clean and unclean animals (Lev. 11; Deut. 14). The unchanging character of God (James 1:17) prevents us from interpreting Genesis 9:3 as permission to kill and eat all creatures without distinction. Animals that were unclean for one purpose could not have been clean for another.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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