Question: How did Adam have dominion over the sea creatures if he couldn’t breathe under water?
The question arises from God’s instructions to Adam upon his creation:
Gen. 1:27-28 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
Recently, a friend told me a story of how their family dog years ago had given birth to a litter, and how the mother kept pushing one of the pups away from her, not even allowing it to feed. A visit to the vet revealed that the neglected pup had a fatal heart disease, and the poor little thing had to be put to sleep.
We’ve all heard or experienced similar accounts. But how did that mama Beagle know? Or how does a salmon know how to find its way back to the place of its birth to spawn?
God has designed both the human and animal kingdom with incredible abilities which, on the human side of the equation, are often seriously under-utilized and perhaps often unrecognized. Consider how a blind person learns to use the other four senses with a much higher degree of effectiveness that the rest of us.
Adam and Eve and their descendants were given the task of exercising dominion over every living creature on the earth. “Dominion” (Heb. “rada”) means “to rule over,” as a king rules over his subjects:
Is. 14:2 Nations will take them and bring them to their own place. And the house of Israel will possess the nations as menservants and maidservants in the LORD’S land. They will make captives of their captors and rule over their oppressors.
To enable man accomplish this great responsibility, God did two things. He “crowned him with glory and honor” (i.e., Authority), on the one hand, and “put everything under his feet” (i.e., submission), on the other (Ps. 8:5-6; Heb. 2:7-8). This means that living creatures were given an instinct to submit to mankind, even as man was given authority to rule.
The entrance of sin into the world destroyed man’s authority over creation, which also affected the animal instinct to submit to man. Jesus, however, reclaimed that authority by His death on the cross and His resurrection (Heb. 2:9). He even demonstrated that dominion with regard to the fish of the sea after His resurrection:
John 21:4-7a Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!”