top of page

The Subdue and Rule Mandate, Dominion Gone Wild!

“Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” (Proverbs 29:18, KJV)

In my humble opinion, the above verse is one of the Bible’s most misinterpreted verses. I’ve often heard pastors and ministry leaders use the first part of the verse, “Without a vision, the people perish,” as their clarion call to their congregants and supporters to hop onto their bandwagon and follow them to outstanding accomplishments. It’s usually a prelude to a massive building program, church-wide program launch, or large-scale community outreach.

But that’s not what this verse says or means.

Here’s another version that’s closer to the truth. “Without revelation people run wild, but one who follows divine instruction (Torah) will be happy” (CSB). The revelation is “a message from God, with a possible focus on the visual aspects of the message” (Kohlenberger and Mounce Concise Hebrew-Aramaic Dictionary of the Old Testament). In short, revelation = God’s word, His Torah, the way He wants us to live.

In other words, without God’s word restraining us, we run wild. No surprise because it’s in our fallen nature. Even after being born-again and regenerated by the Spirit, our everyday battle is fighting our habitual rebellion. But with the Holy Spirit’s help, we work to bring those ungodly thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors into line, rightly aligned with God’s instruction.

“People gone wild” happened at the Fall. The Man and Woman fell because they threw off God’s divine instruction, His restraint, His “Don’t partake of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Do things My way only) command. And from then on, everything went to hell in a handbasket, as most of us know.

But let me narrow the focus. What did that mean for the Couple? From the Fall forward, humanity would engage in reproduction as they desired, not as God directed. Why? They jettisoned His Law of what’s the right and wrong way to express human sexuality for their self-determined law. Every person was now the master of their destiny. As we know from history and experience, humanity has made a mess of how we express our innate sex drive. God intended it to be enjoyed only between one man and one woman within the boundary of marriage. “Pshaw,” we said. “God doesn’t know what He’s saying. Forget Him. We’ll satisfy our sex drive as we see fit.”

Uh-huh. How’d that work out for the world?

For millennia, humanity has enjoyed sexually transmitted diseases, broken relationships and homes, children out of wedlock, abortion (in the attempt to stop an unwanted pregnancy), abuse, pornography, and all manner of sexual combinations and practices to the nth degree.

Throwing off God’s restraining word didn’t just affect our sex drive. It brought about untold devastation to humanity via an unrestrained Subdue and Rule Mandate, our innate drive for control. Our dominion drive is a powerful thing God gave to us. Our Subdue and Rule Mandate carries God’s authority and powerful abilities for us to bring His world under control and manage it for Him as His vice-regents. Like the unrestrained sex drive, the unrestrained dominion drive was quickly perverted and used against other people. But unlike the sex drive, our unrestrained urge to subdue and rule everything around us has been the root of the worst devastation humanity has ever known, from one-to-one conflicts to tyrannical empires to wars of near-global annihilation. Sadly, humanity isn’t done running amok. According to Bible prophecy, we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

So far, we’ve looked at how the Subdue and Rule Mandate was corrupted at humanity’s Fall in Genesis 3. Let’s look at the ruinous consequences once humanity disconnected their Subdue and Rule Mandate from God’s dominion and moral law.

The Subdue and Rule Mandate Continues

The Fall didn’t cancel the Subdue and Rule Mandate within humanity. God never revoked it. We’re hardwired with it because that was one of the reasons for which humanity was created. The drive for dominion continued through the Fall and remained part of our human nature, even though it was separated from God’s will and corrupted by human autonomy. The same is true with the sex drive that was given in concert with the dominion drive (“reproduce” and “rule,” Genesis 1:28). Look around. There was no end to the sex drive after the Fall. Cain and Abel were living proof of that, and to this day, I don’t see it stopping any time soon. Likewise, there was no end to the dominion drive after the Fall because we experience it operating daily through every person’s urge to take control of the world around them in micro or macro ways and maintain that control. Cain and Abel also proved that via Cain’s work with crops and Abel’s work with animals.

Each person continues to take control of their worldly domain and shape it as they can. Every day, people take what’s around them and work to organize chaos, generate systems, shape the formless into new forms, create new things from base materials, and so on. Every act of “creation” and re-creation, or subduing and controlling aspects of one’s world, manifests our God-given drive for dominion.

Humanity didn’t lose God’s image as earth’s subduer and ruler in the Fall, and humankind didn’t lose its drive to subdue and rule either. However, just as God’s image in us became distorted after the Fall, so was the dominion drive once humanity disconnected from God. People began to exercise dominion not according to God’s law but each person’s self-determined moral law as “god-wannabes.”

We see the Subdue and Rule Mandate’s continuation through God’s words to Noah in the Noahic covenant, “The fear and terror of you will be in every living creature on the earth, every bird of the sky, every creature that crawls on the ground, and all the fish of the sea. They are placed under your authority” (Genesis 9:2, italics author).

The continuing Subdue and Rule Mandate can also be seen in the Abrahamic covenant. “I will indeed bless you and make your offspring as numerous as the stars of the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your offspring will possess the city gates of their enemies” (Genesis 21:17, italics author). By the way, did you notice that God’s grants to Abraham are the same as the Creation covenant’s commands, “offspring” (reproduce) and “possess gates” (rule)? Because of Abraham’s proven obedience to God and His word, God blessed Abraham’s “reproduce and rule” as he faithfully followed his covenant with God.

The Sinai covenant continues the same Subdue and Rule Mandate. “Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Israel—you swore to them by yourself and declared, ‘I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of the sky and will give your offspring all this land that I have promised, and they will inherit it forever” (Deuteronomy 32:13). Again, note the dual grants: “offspring” (reproduce) and “land” (rule). However, within the Sinai covenant (a suzerain-vassal type of covenant), Israel is required to “do it the King’s way,” that is, obey the King’s Law (the Torah) whereas Abraham was already living and teaching God’s ways. Finally, if we look ahead, the two commands to “reproduce and rule” are also at the core of the New Covenant Commission (Matthew 28:19-20).

So, the Subdue and Rule Mandate didn’t end with the Fall, but because humanity separated from God and His word, our drive for dominion runs wild, insanely wild at times, as human history attests. So, let’s look at the consequences of the Fall that severely twisted our drive to control everything.

Consequence: The death penalty

In the beginning, there was one covenant punishment, “Do this and die,” or, on a positive note, “don’t do this and live” (Genesis 2:17). The Man and Woman chose poorly.

Because they chose to become autonomous (a Greek root meaning “having one’s own laws”), the Couple experienced the promised “death,” separation from God. Their separation from God began to affect their physical bodies and how they carried out God’s mandates.

Yes, they would eventually physically die, but until then, they would experience a “living death,” existing apart from God’s presence and all that involved (Genesis 3:23-24). In a sense, God said to the Couple, “So you want to do this without Me? Then here you go. This is what life is like on your own without Me or My help.” Even though the Couple continued with the reproduction and rule mandates, the consequences of separating those two drives from God and His moral law caused enormous changes in their function. The commands to reproduce and rule became increasingly difficult and painful.

Consequence: The ground curse

Okay, word geeks. Here’s your etymology lesson for the day. The basic meaning of the word radical is root. So, when we say life changed for the Couple at a radical level, it means they were changed at the very root of their existence. Rather than being rooted in God, they were rooted in the world, becoming like the wild, untamed, and unrestrained world outside of Eden they were commissioned to tame. Now they were the “ground” that also needed taming. It’s fitting that God exiled them from Eden because they no longer “matched” their environment. Uncontrolled people exist in uncontrolled environments (Genesis 3:23).

The Lord also drove them out of Eden to keep the Couple away from the Tree of Life so they wouldn’t be left to live forever in their rebellious state. If they ate of the Tree of Life, they would remain forever alive in a perpetual state of rebellion against God. So, could we say that although death is tragic, there’s mercy in it because it put humanity in a holding pattern until the Lord could bring us to the Tree of Life, the cross, to restore our roots in Him so we could once again live in His Edenic presence? Yes!

But I get ahead of myself.

When the Man and Woman realized they were caught, their dominion drives kicked in by laying the blame on someone else. The Man blamed the Woman and God (“the Woman You gave me,” Genesis 3:12), and the Woman blamed the nachash, the shining one, the serpent, Satan. (I wonder if Satan sat there smiling?) Then God started dishing out the punishment.

Many people believe God cursed the Man and the Woman. These people falsely believe the Man’s labor was cursed and the Woman’s childbearing was cursed. Not exactly. God cursed Satan (Genesis 3:14) and the ground (the adamah, Genesis 3:17). The only thing the Couple received from God was the covenant punishment of separation, which was actually worse than a curse, but they weren’t cursed. However, they experienced the effect of God’s curse. Not the curse on Satan, but on the ground from which humanity was formed.

The change to humanity’s dominion drive was part of their ground-breaking experience.

Since the Man and Woman were made from the adamah, God’s ground (adamah) curse likely affected them as well. Being made from the ground, the Couple were likely “attuned” to it, and like a pair of tuning forks, when one is struck (the ground), the other resonates (those made from the ground). The curse that affected the ground also affected the Couple as the curse’s collateral damage, for humanity and the ground are inseparable. “…Until you return to the ground (adamah), since you were taken from it. For you are dust, and you will return to dust (a form of adamah, Genesis 3:19).

This ground-to-ground connection is plausible since the text clearly shows that under God’s “groundcurse,” both the adamah of the earth under the Man’s stewardship and the adamah of the Woman’s body would produce only with increased pain and effort. For the Man, the adamah would only produce “fruit” (sustenance, food) through his painful labor (Genesis 3:17). For the Woman, her adamah would henceforth only produce “fruit” (offspring) through her painful labor (Genesis 3:16).

As the Woman’s labor would intensify with ramped-up pain and effort, it would be the same for the Man’s labor. The ground would respond poorly to the Man and produce unwanted vegetation to add to his painful labor and thwart food production, threatening the Couple’s sustenance (Genesis 3:18). Without God’s help, the exiled Man’s exercise of dominion became a burden as he would now have to fight harder to keep his new, untamed domain under control.

The Man’s trouble is a typical “measure-for-measure” covenant punishment seen throughout God’s word (Genesis 9:5; Judges 1:7). Since the fashioned-from-adamah Couple became unresponsive to God and failed to produce the fruit of faithfulness, so God caused the adamah of the ground and the Woman’s body to become less responsive, producing the fruit of her womb only with intense struggle and suffering as well. Also, the ground curse would cause the Man to produce the fruit of the earth “by the sweat of his brow” until he rejoined the ground in death.

After the Fall, the Man and Woman had to exercise their dominion drive without God’s help and provision. The noxious vegetation (thorns and thistles) accompanying the cursed ground is worth noting. They would add to the Man’s painful labor and show the ground’s lack of response to the Man’s Subdue and Rule Mandate. Without God’s help, subduing and ruling creation would continue, but in a highly challenged capacity against a heavily resistant environment. So much for humanity’s mastery over the earth! We were designed to effectively master and rule our world only under our Master and Ruler.

For those who like to speculate, here’s something to mull. Since creation’s lack of response and productivity demonstrated God’s curse in operation, could we say the opposite was true in Eden under God’s blessing? In Eden, God provided an abundance of readily available food (Gen. 1:29-30; 2:9), opposite the ground curse. Perhaps producing children was also easy for the Woman, without pain or effort. Wouldn’t that be every pregnant woman’s dream?

Consequence: The loss of our land grant

Speaking of the ground, let’s go back to Eden. The garden was God’s Forward Operating Base, out of which the Man and Woman were to work. By calling it a garden, the Bible implies Eden was first under God’s control, which He then handed off to the Couple to rule on His behalf. From the security of Eden, they were to extend God’s domain outwardly as they subdued and ruled the uncontrolled remainder of the earth (Genesis 2:8, 1:28). After the Fall, however, the Man and Woman were expelled from their God-given home. In covenant terms, they lost their land grant from their Sovereign due to their disloyalty and were exiled from it. However, the Couple was still tasked with their covenant responsibilities. From that time on, they were to carry on their dominion mandate in a resistant, untamed world without the safety and security of Eden. Fulfilling their commission would be much more difficult and fragile with questionable results.

Consequence: Dominion claimed over all adamah

The Subdue and Rule Mandate also changed because of the shared adamah between the ground and the Man and Woman. From what I see in Genesis, humanity was commissioned to rule the earth and all living creatures made from the ground, but never fellow human beings who were also made from the ground. However, after the Fall, “dominion over adamah” began to include all the living creatures formed from the adamah, human beings included. The evidence of humanity’s inclusion under the dominion mandate can be seen in the Woman’s subordination to the Man’s authority, confirmed by the Man naming the Woman.

Consequence: The beginning of interpersonal conflicts

It’s painfully clear that the Man and Woman were both guilty of autonomous dominion, although the Woman was the first to be deceived and act. Please note, however, that the Man was not deceived. The Man immediately joined her autonomous exercise of self-dominion, and he wielded his self-rule with full knowledge of God’s command and thus rebelled alongside his mate. As for the Woman, by self-dominion, she did not step out from under the Man’s authority but acted independently of it, as she was not originally “under” but alongside him as his ezer kenegdo, co-equal partner.

God’s punishment was a measure-for-measure judgment in the form of relationship power struggles between the Man and Woman because they used His delegated dominion independently. Dumbrell puts it well. The Fall and God’s subsequent judgment “initiate(d) a power struggle in the relationships between God and humankind and male and female.”

God’s plan is to rule over humanity while humanity rules over His creation. However, in the post-Fall paradigm, people resist and reject God’s dominion in favor of their own. And immediately after the Fall, the Couple began to impose control over the “other person” and resist the other person’s attempt to control them.

Case in point: The Woman. Because she first acted independently of her mate (taking and eating), God told her, “Your desire will be for your husband, yet he will rule over you” (Genesis 3:16). The words for “desire” and “rule” here tell us a lot about the new post-Fall relationship paradigm between the Man and Woman. This new paradigm was passed on to every following generation since.

Knowing the Hebrew words helps us. The Woman’s desire (teshuqah) shall be for her husband, yet he will rule (mashal) over her. Teshuqah means “desire” or “longing,” and mashal means “to rule, have dominion, reign.” Other interpretations for mashal can include “to gain control, have authority, govern, rule, master” (NAS Hebrew Dictionary/Kohlenberger/Mounce Concise Hebrew-Aramaic Dictionary of the Old Testament).

Again, Dumbrell brings out an excellent point. Teshuqah is only used three times in scripture (Genesis 3:16; 4:7; Song of Solomon 7:10), but only one verse uses mashal together with teshuqah. This use is when God cautions Cain about self-control and temptation. “If you do what is right, won’t you be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire (teshuqah) is for you, but you must rule (mashal) over it” (Genesis 4:7). “In 4:7b, sin (feminine) is at the door crouching (masculine), expressing its desire to overpower Cain, to control, possess him” (Dumbrell).

In other words, Cain must master that which seeks to master him.

Using the rabbinic principle of scripture interpreting scripture via identical word use, God’s caution to Cain gives us the sense of what God said to the Woman. “You failed to rule over yourself, your adamah, which is your primary domain. Therefore, your Man’s dominion mandate over the living creatures will now extend to you. He will help you govern yourself by him governing you. Your dominion will now function under his dominion as you continue My delegated function on earth. However, from this point forward, you will desire to overpower your husband, control and possess him, yet he will be your master.”

And so, humanity’s long history of interpersonal conflict between individuals began. From there, it spread from the Couple’s marital relationship to every other human relationship and erupts when individual “domains” collide.

God placing the Man “over” the Woman is the first evidence of the Subdue and Rule Mandate deployed against other human beings. We can also see it in the Woman’s desire for her husband, the yearning to return to her co-equal, cooperative state for which she was specifically designed. Why the urge for co-equal authority? Because it’s a rare person who doesn’t know the difference between being another person’s equal or being subordinate to them.

This male vs. female striving for dominance helps explain the driving force behind the modern feminist movement of the last forty years, the more recent insane efforts of the political Left and LGBTQ+ community for gender-neutral language, and the push for transgenderism. Generally speaking, feminism has long sought to correct what its proponents view as inequalities between men and women regarding various societal roles, expectations, and discrimination, real or imagined. The idea of a woman’s parity with a man has long been feminism’s goal for career opportunities, equal pay, and in many cases, respect.

My position may surprise many of my friends, but from my point of view, co-equality with the required gender differentiation is God’s design. However, modern feminism has also revealed a dark side that often displays Eve’s punishment – the deep desire for dominance (teshuqah) over men, even dismissing men entirely.

An illustration of this is the phrase, “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle,” which became popular in Gloria Steinem’s 1970s-era feminism. While this phrase is a relatively tame declaration of feminism’s desire for the legitimate recognition and validation of equality with men, more recently, there are those whose feminist ideologies seek to eliminate the male side of God’s image entirely. For example,

“Radical feminist theorists do not seek to make gender a bit more flexible, but to eliminate it. They are gender abolitionists, and understand gender to provide the framework and rationale for male dominance. In the radical feminist approach, masculinity is the behaviour of the male ruling class and femininity is the behaviour of the subordinate class of women. Thus gender can have no place in the egalitarian future that feminism aims to create” (Sheila Jeffreys, Gender Hurts: A Feminist Analysis of the Politics of Transgenderism).

Others seek to feminize men, masculinize women, or actively neutralize gender, thus establishing equality by abolishing the masculine side of God’s image or blurring any distinction between the two complementary gender half-images (

What’s fascinating is that this is precisely the human-centered autonomous exercise of dominion over God’s design for human sexuality and His declaration of women’s subordination to men. But rather than find God’s path to restore His original male-female partnership, the activists reject God, striving to make humanity in their image based on human desire and reasoning alone.

Here’s the startling biblical fact I discovered. Women were never meant to be subordinate to men’s authority, and women’s subordinate status is a post-Fall consequence. The subordination of women is a result of sin and is often exploited for sinful reasons and purposes.

God’s original design is for men and women to be co-equal, cooperative partners, subordinate to God alone. The teaching that women must be submissive to men is a post-Fall reality. But God intends to restore humanity to its original design under His rule and reign. In that case, the truth is that men and women can now be mutually submitted to each other as they were in the beginning because God’s kingdom through Jesus exists in each born-again person.

Some people I know would immediately jump on my last statement and exclaim, “You’re wrong! Ephesians 5:24 says women are to be subject (submit) to their husbands as the church (all believers) are subject to Jesus!” Yes, that’s what it says. But is that God’s final goal for humanity? Or is Paul’s instruction to the Ephesians and us recognition of a post-Fall reality that will eventually be changed to conform to the original design?

Let’s be honest here. Who does God hold ultimately responsible for the Tree debacle? Both of the guilty parties. But if we’re looking for who bears the greater responsibility, let’s remember that it wasn’t the deceived Woman but the Man who had the whole unvarnished truth from God’s mouth and still failed.

So, as for the submission/subordination issue, the onus is on the husband. If he truly loved his wife “as Jesus loves His people,” his wife would have no problem standing as his shoulder-to-shoulder partner and yielding to him as needed to make the relationship work smoothly.

Am I saying well-meaning Christians are wrong for supporting the headship of men over women? Not at all. They’re following the correct interpretation of the scriptures based on our current condition. I won’t fault them for their honest conviction, and who am I to judge another of my Master’s servants? I’m proposing that it’s valid to look past the submission/subordination issue to God’s ideal. According to God’s original pattern for man-woman relationships, Jesus’ redeemed people can practice His original intent in our present situation.

A person can live in the post-Fall paradigm of women’s inherent subordination to men if they want and not be at odds with the scriptures. Or we can be “transformed by the renewing of our minds” to strive for God’s original design – a holy, redeemed, co-equal and cooperative partners exercising dominion together over their “domain.” This approach demands that both partners strive to keep sin from hampering God’s relationship ideal through lack of love, refusal to cooperate, or sinfully striving for equality or dominating the other person.

But I contend that our Heavenly Father’s grace, Jesus’ work, and the Holy Spirit’s power and guidance make the original relationship paradigm possible right now.

Consequence: Adam’s authority over Eve – naming

Okay, let’s finish this part by going back to Genesis 3. After the Man and Woman shut off their “blame-throwers,” God declared the penalties. He cursed the serpent (Genesis 3:14-15). He gave the Woman the bad news about how tough it will become to have children and submit to her husband’s governance (Genesis 3:16). The Man received the awful news that the ground would no longer produce easily for him. On the contrary, the Man will have to fight the ground to get it under control to grow food and keep it under control to prevent noxious plants from threatening the Couple’s food supply. The Man would have to wrestle with this until the day he’s planted in the ground (Genesis 3:17-19).

Suddenly, the narrative shifts. In Genesis 3:20, the Man names the Woman Eve (Heb. Chavvah, “life” or “living”). What’s that all about?

This naming event is the Man exercising his authority over the Woman according to the new governing structure. Remember, in a biblical sense naming something denotes authority, power, and control over it, and a name often reflects something’s nature or function.

When God created humans, He named the first one “Man” (Genesis 1:27; 2:6), signifying His authority, power, and control over the Man. When God named the first human, He also revealed the Man’s origin and nature, the Adam from the adamah. It’s not until after the Fall that the text drops the Hebrew definite article (haAdam, the Man) and uses just Adam as the Man’s name (v’l’adam, “And to Adam,” Genesis 3:17). In both cases, pre- and post- Fall, naming the first human showed God’s dominion over the Man and all future humans (whether they know it, like it, acknowledge it or not).

As I pointed out earlier, the Man’s dominion over creation was initially shown when God allowed him to name the living creatures God created (Genesis 3:19-20). As for the Woman, the Man didn’t name her but referred to her with a word showing that he recognized that she shared his exact physical nature – the Woman (ishah) having been made from the Man’s (ish) substance.

However, just after the Fall, Adam named the Woman Eve (Life/Life-giver, Genesis. 3:20), thus authoritatively declaring her function as the producer of life. Adam naming Eve also shows Adam understood God’s new dominion paradigm and realigned authority structure. Instead of “God over humanity” and “humanity over creation,” there was a fundamental shift. Rather than Adam and Eve serving God by ruling shoulder to shoulder over creation, Eve would serve God in a subordinated position under Adam’s governance.

Think of a three-layer pyramid with God on the top, humanity in the middle, and the entire earthly creation on the bottom. God intended humanity to be a firm ruling stratum of co-equal teammates between Himself and His creation. However, with the change in the Subdue and Rule Mandate, this middle stratum became an arena where we now use our dominion drive against one another as we jockey for dominion over our domains within God’s creation.

How did all this happen? Because Adam and Eve refused God’s word, His revelation. And “Without revelation people run wild, but one who follows divine instruction will be happy” (Proverbs 29:18). Without God’s word, dominion runs wild.

This Dominion Arena is where a new form of “cooperation” was created, people-centered hierarchies, another consequence of the Subdue and Rule Mandate’s corruption. While some form of order is needed for societies to function, our dominion drive created vertical dominion rather than the horizontal cooperation God designed initially. That’s what we’ll explore in the next part.


Dumbrell, William J. Covenant and Creation, An Old Testament Covenant Theology

Dumbrell, William J. The End of the Beginning, Revelations 21-22 and the Old Testament

Pastor Jay Christianson

The Truth Barista, Frothy Thoughts


bottom of page