The Disappearing Honey Bees…and the pesky problem of “dominion”

Perhaps one of the most misunderstood, misapplied and consequently messed-up teachings of the first chapter of Genesis comes in God’s command to man to “subdue the earth and have dominion” (Gen. 1:28).

Theologians have often discussed the differences of the Dominion Theology presented in Genesis 1 and the Dependence Theology of chapter 2. The Hebrew word, radah rendered as dominion inescapably has the tone of ruling, or governing over. It’s the same word used for kings to subdue their enemies.

While the word avad found in Gen. 2:15 (“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden to till it and keep it”) means to serve, to work with. In this second creation account of Genesis chapter 2, men and women are made of dust and breath; the very same substances that the rest of the animals are created with.

Domination theology has…well, dominated our western ideas of humans struggle for survival – highlighting the wrestling match we’ve had with the earth to hand over her resources. The second, dependence or stewardship theology has been more recent and reflects our different sensitivities that the fate of the earth and the fate of humanity are tied together.

Which leads us to the honey bees – 1/3 of all honey bee colonies collapse each year- this means no honey is produced in these hives. This has been a 10 year pattern around the world. The honey bee decline is significant because it’s not just one fixable cause that is behind the decline. Instead the abysmal bee situation is related to a synergistic mix of pesticides, farming habits, decline of wild flowers, etc.

A new study – previewed in the New York Times today, is helpful if you want to learn more.

Perhaps the disappearing bee is just the canary in the mine we need to jog our memory that our domination is one of service and love.

Hum. Reminds you of Jesus doesn’t it? “For even the Son of Man has come not to be served but to serve.” Mark 10:45.

4 thoughts on “The Disappearing Honey Bees…and the pesky problem of “dominion”

  1. Living in harmony with the rest of creation has proved difficult. Perhaps we assume that we have in fact eaten of the tree of knowledge, coming to know the difference between good and evil–but we haven’t and we don’t. The essential lesson of self-regulating, self-sustaining natural systems seems to be balance & reciprocity & delicate networks. Oblivious egotists need not apply, and if they show up they will soon find themselves in a dreadful mess, with poisoned water and so forth. And the collapse of honeybee hives upon which food crops depend. Compassion can mean, first of all, suffering-with: do we think to suffer-with the landscape around us and downstream?

    I should go count the number of times Jesus heals the blind.

    These old texts ask all the nastiest questions and raise all of the impossible issues. Maybe that’s why they were preserved and transmitted against all odds century after century after century.

  2. Radah vs Avad….Sad that most Westerners have grabbed on to the first. So much more fun to be in charge. The American Indians had a much more Avad perspective on nature. Another way that American Christianity seems to take more direction from the OT than Jesus. And these two passages point out that it has been a selective reading of the OT.

    • So…I’m doing my little bit. Eating less meat. Way less since I’ve started focusing on how much water and fossil fuels it takes to produce beef. That’s one smallish thing. The other is to prayerfully + practically be aware of how I’m connected to all other living things. We stand together.

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