God gives us an enormous responsibility in the first chapter of the first book of the Bible. Speaking of Adam and Eve, it reads, "And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." - Genesis 1:28.
To understand what God actually expected of them we must examine the verbs of "subdue" and "have dominion". Since much of the Bible was written in Hebrew, it would make sense to study the terms in Hebrew. The Hebrew word for "subdue" is kavash, as in "put the kavash on it", meaning "make an end of something or bring into submission." The Hebrew word for "have dominion" is radah. This verb literally means "to rule by going down and walking among the subjects as an equal." The use of these two words implies that man is to rule over the earthly creation as his subjects, not as a dictator, but as a benevolent leader. Man is also to walk among and have a relationship with his subjects so that they can provide for man and that man can "learn" from them. In other words, we are to be guardians, or stewards of the Eden God has created.
Dr. Iain Douglas-Hamilton (pictured above), zoologist and conservationist, does just that. Living in Kenya for most of his life, he has become a guardian for the African elephant. (I guess you can say that he is my hero.) Iain moved to Africa at the age of 23, married and raised a family while living among these gentle giants. He has literally walked among the elephants. In 1993, Iain founded the organization Save the Elephants, headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya. Their Mission Statement reads, "Our mission is to secure a future for elephants and to sustain the beauty and ecological integrity of the places they live; to promote man’s delight in their intelligence and the diversity of their world, and to develop a tolerant relationship between the two species." Sound familiar? Their collection of data including animal behavior, poaching hot spots and migrations proves invaluable in landscape planning and animal protection. Thus, making them a responsible guardian of these creatures.
As I have said before, I believe, as stated in the book of Job, that elephants are chief in the ways of God. What better creature to protect and learn from than the elephant? The mission is urgent as the greed for ivory increases. Statistics now show that an elephant is killed every fifteen minutes just for its tusks. At that rate, the African elephant will become just a memory in a few short years.
Elephants are just part of the story. Creatures of all kinds are being exploited and killed for one reason or another, many to the edge of extinction. Our planet groans from the stress we have placed upon it. We have drastically polluted the air, water and soil. I fear we have disappointed God in our failed stewardship. His glorious creation deserves better. May we all pick up the task and help those like Iain to secure a future for God's creatures and sustain (or regain) the beauty that was bestowed upon us all.
Let us all be successful Guardians of Eden.