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God tells humankind to subdue the Earth (Genesis 1:28). Are we doing it properly or improperly? Contradictory Application?
We are to subdue the land to bring peace and prosperity. In the largest sense, that means managing people and resources correctly. Many are, but we’re in dire straights. That’s the contradictory meaning of this word, both in English and Biblical Hebrew. Let’s look at the seemingly incompatible meanings we can attribute to the word subdue used to express how to rule Earth. Here’s the verse and the Biblical Hebrew.
And God blessed them, and God said to them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it (H3533): and have dominion (H7287) over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.
- Do this exercise: practice, practice, practice.
- Go to UnlockBibleMeaning.com.
- You’ll already be in Genesis 1.
- Switch to Strong’s Concordance (drop-down menu on the right).
- Click on H3533 to the right of subdue in Genesis 1:28.
- All the Bible verses with H3533 will display in the left column.
- You can study the full meaning of subdue, H3533.
Here’s the Strong’s entry for subdue.
כָּבַשׁ kâbash kaw-bash’; a primitive root; to tread down; hence, negatively, to disregard; positively, to conquer, subjugate, violate:
KJV – bring into bondage, force, keep under, subdue, bring into subjection.
Notice how this subjugation can be both positive (conquer, subdue) and negative (force, bondage). This is Key 2, contrasting meanings for the same Biblical Hebrew word. It also corresponds to how humans can rule Earth, going both ways, damaging and wrecking or enhancing and beautifying. That’s why we can do an Audit of the Universe and Humankind. There are daily articles about our positive and negative impact on people, the environment, and ecology.
People subdue to destroy or bring rest
Here are two verses indicating this opposition of meaning. Please read the context of Jeremiah 34; in the Sabbatical year, the Israelites were to give their servants freedom. Instead, they subdued them, subjugated them to more unwarranted service. This is the negative mistreatment of people, but it can also refer to the exploitation of the land and resources.
But you turned and polluted my name, and caused every man his servant, and every man his handmaid, whom you had set at liberty at their pleasure, to return, and brought them into subjection (H3533), to be to you for servants and for handmaids.
On the other hand, during King David’s rule, he subdued the land to bring peace and prosperity to all the people, not just Israel but the surrounding nations as well.
17 David also commanded all the princes of Israel to help Solomon his son, saying,
18 Is not the LORD your God with you? and has he not given you rest on every side? for he has given the inhabitants of the land into mine hand; and the land is subdued (H3533) before the LORD, and before his people.
Subdue is synonymous with rulership, one of humankind’s two goals on Earth, the other being relationships. Through King David and proper subjugation, the people benefited from rest.
Subdue, H3533, kabash, is a case where proper scholarship of positive and negative meanings of the same word are clearly indicated, and many, if not most, Bible students remain ignorant of this key.
Strong’s scholarship is impeccable here. The Explanation can rightfully affirm the existence of Key 2 to master Biblical Hebrew, contrary meaning for the same Biblical Hebrew word. Now that I’ve drawn your attention to this Key, you’ll see it more often during your study.
This concept of contradictory meanings spills over into worldly and personal events. Yes, we should ask, how are humans doing as they rule Earth? We should evaluate our individual and collective rulership and relationships. The contradictory meanings of Biblical Hebrew words reflect the two-sided nature of how humans function.
The Biblical Hebrew allows for vocabulary to express both the positive and negative through the same word. We can negatively disregard or positively conquer our Earth. That’s one of the 7 Keys to Master Biblical Hebrew. The very purpose God created humans to rule Earth has become a core planetary issue in 2021. If you don’t think the Bible is a contemporary work dealing with modern issues, then maybe you need to reevaluate.
Subdue reflects on how governors can have helpful and harmful traits. Do you see the relationship with contradictory meanings? Remember, we all govern our part of Earth.
God also subdues to bring upheaval and rest
This is one of the hardest concepts for Bible readers to comprehend. How can a GOOD God allow or cause destruction? Noah’s flood, ordered by God, is a prime example of this two-sided approach by God. Destruction of the world, salvation for Noah and his family.
There are many examples in the Bible revealing this course of action. The existence of a Tree of Death and a Tree of Life. Christ’s Return both for salvation and Armageddon. You can find many other examples of this dichotomy of approach. This is not the place for an in-depth explanation but the contradictory nature of subdue reveals the importance of Key 2 for mastering Biblical Hebrew. This has nothing to do with alphabets and grammar; it’s about unlocking Bible meaning.
We cannot deny or sweep under the rug the fact God subdues negatively and positively. We face and explain it.
And Moses said to them, If the children of Gad and the children of Reuben will pass with you over Jordan, every man armed to battle, before the LORD, and the land shall be subdued (H3533) before you; then you shall give them the land of Gilead for a possession...
God wanted the Israelites armed. Led by God, they annihilated the Canaanites. When I read the above translations, conquer, subjugate, and violate for כָּבַשׁ kâbash H3533, this is what we see and need to explain. See this article for a deeper understanding.
It’s hard to see the positive in subdue! But never forget, God is the God of love. Here’s a totally contrary edifying and uplifting use of the word kabash – subdue in the verse below.
He will turn again, he will have compassion on us; he will subdue (H3533) our iniquities; and you will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.
That’s the positive subjection we want of all our faults and misgivings; this is governance with the right approach and frame of mind. This is the plus side of contradictory meanings. God will fully forgive and pass over all our sins. Subdue reflects perfectly Key 2 to master Biblical Hebrew, contradictory meanings.
Paul told Timothy, “Study to show yourself approved” (2 Timothy 2:15). I designed this course for you to master the Keys, not for me to spoonfeed you. It’s time for YOU to study and find contradictory meanings.
In Genesis 1:28, we also see God’s injunction to have dominion. Check the Biblical Hebrew H7287 for yourself. That word also reveals Key 2, contrary meanings for the same Hebrew word. You’re unlocking Bible meaning.
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