First here’s the King James Version:
4 But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.There’s a footnote for verse 4 that points to a Joseph Smith Translation Genesis 9:10-14 in the Appendix.
5 And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man.
6 Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.
7 And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein. (Genesis 9:4-7)
10 But, the blood of all flesh which I have given you for meat, shall be shed upon the ground, which taketh life thereof, and the blood ye shall not eat.In the King James version, verse 5 seems to imply that the Lord will hold animals accountable for killing men, but in the JST it clarifies that it is the other way around—the Lord will hold man accountable for the lives of animals and we are given this phrasing: “blood shall not be shed, only for meat, to save your lives”. To me this has echoes of D&C 89 admonitions to eat meat sparingly and only use in cold, winter, famine, and excess of hunger. I think this is because Heavenly Father wants animals to enjoy life on earth too and that He hates to see animals be killed only to have their meat wasted.
11 And surely, blood shall not be shed, only for meat, to save your lives; and the blood of every beast will I require at your hands.
12 And whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed; for man shall not shed the blood of man.
13 For a commandment I give, that every man’s brother shall preserve the life of man, for in mine own image have I made man.
14 And a commandment I give unto you, Be ye fruitful and multiply; bring forth abundantly on the earth, and multiply therein. (JST Genesis 9:10-14)
Next thing we notice is that verses 12 and 13 seem to read in a contradictory way.
12 And whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed;I don’t know about you, but when I read that, I get mental whiplash.
for man shall not shed the blood of man.
13 For a commandment I give, that every man’s brother shall preserve the life of man, for in mine own image have I made man (JST Genesis 9:12-13)
I think that if the order is changed a little bit it becomes somewhat clearer. Here’s the Michaela Stephens ultra-unofficial translation:
For a commandment I give, that every man’s brother shall preserve the life of man, and man shall not shed the blood of man, for in mine own image have I made man;
But inasmuch as men shed blood, whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood inevitably be shed, for whoso liveth by the sword shall die by the sword, that wickedness be punished by the wicked when the fullness of my wrath come.
Okay, so I added some stuff too, but that seemed to make more sense to me based on what we know of the observations of Mormon and John the Revelator:
But, behold, the judgments of God will overtake the wicked; and it is by the wicked that the wicked are punished; for it is the wicked that stir up the hearts of the children of men unto bloodshed. (Mormon 4:5)
He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints. (Revelation 13:10)Giving these principles to Noah after the flood adds to their significance. The violence and blood shed by the wicked world before the flood had just been wiped from under heaven and previous to these verses we readers learn that the Lord will never again destroy the wicked by flood. We’re starting all over again, so here are the rules, the Lord says. I’ve fixed it once, and now I expect you to remember to restrain yourselves because I’m going to let things just run their course and let the wicked destroy each other. So save life.
One reason we are given for this commandment is that man is in the image of God. Considered one way, if you and every one else around is in the image of God, murder would be like sacrilege. Considered another way, the reminder of being in the image of God calls to mind man’s divine origin and destiny—we’re in the image of God, so we came from God, and we’re in the image of God so we can become like God. It is almost like an encapsulated version of the plan of salvation.
I find that I personally really like that addition of the phrase “every man’s brother shall preserve the life of man” because it shows how the Lord is focused on the positive—saving life—and that He’s not just a “thou shalt not” Being.
So how do we stop the violence and the massacres (which various scriptures seem to term “the abomination of desolation”)? If we stop it by massacring the killers, are we any better than them? I remember watching the first part of the movie Persepolis and realizing that if you try to stop systemic violence with revolution, when it gains power, the revolutionary movement can’t seem to stop the violence. Once it purges the worst offenders it doesn’t know when to quit and it has to keep finding scapegoats to retain galvanized support—“them against us”—until it has institutionalized its own brand of violence, which invites another revolution… You get the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror, and you get Hutus and Tutsis. And of course we know you also get Coriantumr versus Shiz, and you also get Nephites versus the Lamanites on the Hill Cumorah. The best hope for stopping violence is to bring in the troops, corral the violent, and try them in a court of law for crimes against humanity. (It’s when the violent outnumber those trying to enforce the law that you’re in serious trouble.)
But let’s move on.
The last part of the verses also has this theme of being accountable for life and it seems pretty much the same between the KJV and the JST, but there is one subtle difference. See if you can pick it out.
And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply (King James)
And a commandment I give unto you, Be ye fruitful and multiply (JST)In the Joseph Smith Translation, the commandment becomes explicit, rather than implicit. I’ve run across some websites that seem to think that the King James version suggests it was not a command but a blessing. The Joseph Smith Translation shows us that it is indeed a commandment. This shows us that not only are we accountable for preserving life once it has started, we are also responsible for bringing new life into the world. (And of course there are right ways and wrong ways to do that…)
In conclusion, we can plainly see from the JST that Heavenly Father really cares about life. He cares about humans (His children) and He cares about animals. He cares about how life starts and He cares about how life ends. I’m glad we have the Joseph Smith Translation to clarify these things for us.