1 So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.
2 And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand.
3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs.
4 But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.
5 Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of man.
6 “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man.
7 And as for you, be fruitful and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth and multiply in it.”
These verses constitute essentially a renewal (with slight modifications) of the original divine mandate given to man by God in Genesis 1:26-28. Just as Adam and Eve had been told to “be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth,” so Noah and his three sons were now commanded once again to multiply rapidly and fill the earth.
Actually, the specific command to “have dominion over the earth and subdue it,” as given to Adam (Genesis 1:28) is omitted here, possibly an intimation that Satan still retained at least proximate dominion on the earth (1 John 5:19). Thus, man no longer was to exercise direct authority over the animal creation, as had apparently once been his prerogative; rather, there was to be fear manifest by animals, rather than obedience and understanding. If it were otherwise, the animals, since they would be multiplying much more rapidly than man, might quickly have exterminated mankind.
It is significant that the animals that were to be characterized by fear of man [did not include] the “cattle.” The domesticated animals, which apparently are those meant by this term, would not shun man’s presence and company. — Morris, page 221-222
Animals were for the first time authorized for use as food (although quite possibly this had been done before the Flood without authorization. …
Apparently no restrictions as to which animals man could eat were made at this point, though in the special economy of Israel only a few animals were later denominated by God as “clean” for this purpose. Mankind in general, both before the call of Israel and after the formation of the Church, incorporating believers of every nation, was free to partake as freely of “every moving thing that liveth” as he had been previously free to partake of every green herb (Genesis 1:29-30).
But with this permission, there was also the restriction: “flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.” The flesh was given for meat, but the life of the flesh was given for sacrifice. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” (Leviticus 17:11). The words “life” and “soul” in these verses are the same word. … The “life” of an animal, spilled on a sacrificial altar, was accepted by God in substitutionary death for the life of a guilty sinner, who deserved to die but who was permitted to live because of the sacrifice, whose blood “covered” his sins. — Morris, pages 222-223.
The blood of animals, representing their life, was sacred and not to be eaten, since it was accepted in sacrifice in substitution for the life of man. Also involved was the simple matter of reverence to the life principle, as a specially created entity by God (Genesis 1:21).
Man’s blood, representing his life, was even more sacred than that of animals, for “in the image of God made he man.” Though animals shared the possession of a soul and body with man, it was only man who had an eternal spirit, the image of God. Neither beast nor man was therefore permitted to spill man’s blood. For any animal or any man who shed human blood, God would require satisfaction; and that would be nothing less than the very blood of their own lives.
The word “require” is a judicial term, God here appearing as a judge who exacts a strict and severe penalty for infraction of a sacred law. If a beast kills a man, the beast must be put to death (note also Exodus 21:28). If a man kills another man (willfully and culpably), then he also must be put to death by “every man’s brother.” At the time these words were first spoken, all men indeed were literal brothers; for only the three sons of Noah were living at the time, other than Noah himself. Since all future people would be descended from these three men and their wives, in a very real sense all men are brothers. … This is in essence a command to establish a formal system of human government, in order to assure that justice is carried out, especially in the case of murder.
The authority to execute this judgment of God on a murderer was thus delegated to man. … The anarchistic conditions that had developed before the Flood—men slaying whom they would and defending themselves as they could—were not to be permitted to recur. Before the Flood, there was evidently no formal arrangement of human government, save perhaps the patriarchal authority of the father. There was no formal mechanism for the punishment of crime, or of crime prevention, even for the capital crime of murder, as evident in the individual histories of Cain and Lamech. Evidently each person was able to act quite independently of all restraints except those of his own conscience and self-interest. This eventually led to a universal state of violence and anarchy.
It is clear, of course, that the authority for capital punishment implies also the authority to establish laws governing those human activities and personal relationships which if unregulated could soon lead to murder (e.g., robbery, adultery, usurpation of property boundaries). Thus, this simple instruction to Noah is the fundamental basis for all human legal and governmental institutions.
The instruction here given in no way refers merely to vengeance; the emphasis is rather on justice and on careful recognition of the sacredness of the divine image in man, marred by sin though it be. Obviously some means of impartial verification of guilt prior to execution of the judgment is assumed, though no formal legal system is here outlined. Evidently the particular form of government might vary with time and place; but the fact of human government, exercised under God, is clearly established.
The modern “liberal” objections to capital punishment are insufficient to warrant setting aside this decree of God. The prohibition in the Ten Commandments against killing plainly applies only to murder, not to judicial executions. — Morris, pages 224-225.
The Mosaic covenant is most certainly superseded by the new covenant of Jesus. For this reason, the many death penalties describe in the Law for various sins are not to be translated into the law of current Gentile state governments. That these laws illustrate the seriousness of sin is undeniable. That the Mosaic laws define the various activities which are to be labeled as sins, is also the case. But the Mosaic death penalties are equivalent to loss of salvation rather than a blueprint for a 21st century penal system. Yet one death penalty is exceptional. It is the death penalty for murder. The fact that this death penalty alone is introduced under the Noahic covenant of common grace, rather than the Mosaic covenant for the Israelites, suggests that the death penalty is as much a part of the current natural order of things as the post-diluvian animals’ fear of human beings. — Taylor, pages 180-181.