This is a pivotal point in our understanding of God’s teaching as it relates to the study of economics.
Prior to this account the book of Genesis deals with man’s relationship with God, our moral failures, and the permanent nature of God’s love for man. This emphasis should not be overshadowed. The message of the Bible is God’s love for mankind as demonstrated by the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is the salient point of the bible.
The study of economics is a peripheral matter. We should learn and study economics, just as we learn and study creation, to better understand the God who redeemed us, but we must never forget it is redemption that we need to proclaim. “The heaven’s declare God’s glory” is an easy link to creation science. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit…” is an easy link to psychology and the depravity of man. The biblical link to economics is certainly more subtle, but none the less vital.
God commanded mankind, prior to the fall, to “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. But God did not tell man how to accomplish this. He equipped man with intelligence (“Let us make man in our image” Genesis 1:26) that allowed man to be fruitful etc. Man, using his intelligence and ingenuity thought of ways to be “fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth and subdue it” all for God’s glory and man’s best interest.
“Abel kept sheep” Genesis 4:2. How did he know how to keep sheep? Observation and, trial and error, which require thought. He then had to translate what he learned into something tangible that would protect the sheep, feed them, and generally care for them. He was fulfilling Genesis 1:28’s command; the birth of animal husbandry.
“….but Cain was a tiller of the ground.” Genesis 4:2 He was a farmer. How do I take what God originally planted and keep it going? That was the problem he had to solve and he did. He is the father of agriculture. Both cases required ingenuity, labor and property. Ingenuity, the thinking that was required to harness the natural elements into a system that would be productive. Labor, the necessary effort to materialize the system. Property, the stuff that labor was applied to.
NOTE: While having no direct bible evidence, it would be hard to imagine that the two of them did not involve themselves in some sort of trade. The surplus of sheep for the surplus of produce. Later, we will find biblical evidence that trade did indeed take place.
Noah built an ark. God gave him the design, “Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch. And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it.(Genesis 6:14-16). Where did he get the tools? A saw? Hammer? Measuring devices? The adhesive necessary to put the ark together? Noah either had the tools already that were necessary to fulfill the command that God gave to Adam, or he developed them in order to make an ark. Ingenuity, labor and property.
A reasonable observation at this point is worth bringing up. God commanded Adam to be “fruitful, multiple, replenish, subdue” not his descendants. It is logical that Adam would tell his sons; “God talked to me and this is what he said”. In light of the physical evidence surrounding the family, it is highly probable that the boys listened. But what about Noah? He is ten generations removed from Adam.
Fortunately, the bible gives a chronology of births and deaths. I will leave it to you to investigate. Spoiler alert, Lamech, Noah’s father, and Adam were contemporaries. They both were alive at the same time.