Have you ever thought about what kind of food Adam ate for the 930 years he lived? Perhaps you have pictured him eating leg of lamb or roasted chicken that Eve prepared over a hot fire. Maybe you thought Eve frequently cooked beef, venison, or fish for all of her children and grandchildren. You might be surprised to find out that we never read of humans eating meat until long after Creation—in fact, not until after the Flood.
After the creation of man and land animals, God instructed Adam saying, “I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food” (Genesis 1:29). There is no record of God telling Adam and Eve that they could butcher cows or smoke chickens, but He did authorize them to eat the seeds and fruits of plants and trees.
In the very next chapter of Genesis, God told Adam that he could eat “of every tree of the garden” (except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil—2:16-17). Notice that nothing was said about animals—only plant life. Then again, in Genesis 3, when God sentenced Adam and Eve to life outside of the Garden of Eden, He said: “And you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground” (3:18-19).
Three times in the first three chapters of the Bible, God instructed man regarding his diet. Each time, the Bible records that God allowed man to eat vegetation (some of which could be made into bread—3:19). The Bible nowhere mentions man receiving permission from God to eat any kind of animal until after the Flood. It was then that God said:
Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. 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. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs (Genesis 9:1-3).
Just as God had approved mankind to eat “green herbs” hundreds of years earlier, after the Flood, God gave His permission for mankind to eat “all things”—including all animals that move on the Earth and swim in the sea.
Prior to the Flood, God also had not put “the fear” and “the dread” of man on the animals. Adam lived in harmony with them, and even gave them names as God brought them to him (Genesis 2:19-20). Noah and his family lived peaceably with them on the ark for about a year. After the Flood, however, things changed. God gave mankind approval to eat animals, while at the same time changing their relationship so that (generally speaking) animals became fearful of humans.
So did men ever eat animals before this time? We simply do not know. Since God apparently did not authorize men to eat animal flesh before the Flood, it might have been sinful. But that does not mean that all mankind would have avoided eating animals. It seems likely that (just as people today reject God’s will on various matters) there would have been at least some people who ate animals even though it might have been against God’s will.
But wasn’t Adam’s son, Abel, “a keeper of sheep” (Genesis 4:2)? Why did he (and likely many others after him) tend sheep if they were not supposed to eat them? Although the Bible does not say exactly why Abel herded sheep, most likely it was because, by raising sheep, he could provide clothing for himself and others, as well as supply animals to sacrifice to God.
From Creation to the Flood, the only approved foods for mankind that the Bible mentions were fruits, nuts, and vegetables and what could be made from such. It was only after the Flood that the Bible tells us God permitted man to eat animals. It was at that point in time that the relationship between animals and man changed forever.