Holy Hemp?

by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Discernment

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God’s gift, every “seed,” and Marijuana.

And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.” Emphasis Added, Genesis 1:29, KJV

Advocates of marijuana have long cited a passage in Genesis that seemingly, if stretched beyond the bounds of sound interpretation, gives God’s endorsement to the recreational use of this drug. God announced in the creation narrative, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you” (Genesis 1:29). Alluding to this Genesis verse, Timothy Leary (1920-1996), psychologist and psychedelic, reportedly remarked, “They’ve outlawed the number one vegetable on the planet.”[1] So in light of the way and purpose for which drug advocates employ this biblical reference, it becomes necessary to investigate to see whether this passage endorses marijuana use or, for that matter, the use of other consciousness altering drugs derived from plants on this planet (i.e., peyote, grain alcohol, heroin, tobacco, etc.).

At the outset, let it be stated that distinction should be made between the medical and the recreational use of drugs. As we know, the drug industry is huge in America. Under doctors’ orders, most Americans take at least one prescription drug. Many of us live better through chemistry. Drugs help many persons overcome disease and pain in order to live longer, healthier and more productive lives. When used medically, perhaps marijuana can serve to that end. Medical and legal authorities in our nation must sort the implications and problems of this issue out. However, my contention is that in no way does Genesis 1, verse 29, endorse marijuana to be God’s gift to humanity for the purpose of recreationally altering one’s consciousness as some of its users claim. Here’s why.

God’s gift of seed bearing plants is coordinate with his gift of the fruit bearing trees. There is one verb in the verse, “I have given . . .” There are two objects of God’s giving: plants (herbs) bearing seed and trees yielding seed.[2] Genesis is not recording two different categories of plants, one for smoking and the other for eating. As the last phrase in the verse states, God gave “every plant yielding seed” and “every tree which has fruit yielding seed” for food (i.e., “meat,” KJV). That is the purpose for which God gave the seed born by plants and yielded by trees. This purpose is born out by the very next verse which states that God also gave ”every green plant” to the beasts of the earth and the birds of the sky for food (Genesis 1:30).

Therefore, when we read of God’s gift of “seed” to mankind in verse twenty-nine, we ought to envision apples, oranges, pears, plums, beans, tomatoes, corn, wheat and all the bounty harvested from the plants and trees of God’s creation. Commentators understand that this was the purpose of the divine gift; that for nutritional purposes, God gave vegetables and fruit to the human race. Before both the Fall and the Flood, God intended the human race to be vegetarian in its eating habits. As the Jewish commentator Umberto Cassuto (1883-1951) interpreted God to have said in these verses,

You are permitted to make use of living creatures and their service . . . but you may not treat the life-force within them contemptuously and slay them to eat their flesh; your proper diet shall be vegetable foods.[3]

The Bible is also clear regarding the unacceptability of using drugs for spiritual purposes. In the New Testament, drug use for purpose of altering one’s spiritual consciousness (i.e., “sorcery,” NASB, NKJV, NRSV, or “witchcraft,” KJV, NIV, Greek pharmakeia from which is derived the English word pharmacy) is linked to “idolatry” and categorized among the “lusts of the flesh” ( Galatians 5:20). The apostle warns that those who recreationally do drugs “will not inherit the kingdom of God“ (Galatians 5:21). Likewise, the Apocalypse links together “sorcerers and idolaters and all liars,” and pictures their destiny to be ”the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:6). 

In light of God’s gift of food from seed bearing plants and trees to the human race, it becomes impossible to see how marijuana, narcotics, alcohol, tobacco and other drugs derived from the earth can be included in that gift. Such substances do not have nutritional value. To those who seek to derive God’s endorsement for the recreational use of marijuana by reason of the “seed” inherent within His created order , all I can say is, “Nice try.” In Scripture, God gave seed for food not pot, to eat not smoke.

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ENDNOTE
[1]
“20 Quotes on Marijuana,” California Marijuana Hub, http://www.californiamarijuanahub.com/790/20-quotes-on-marijuana/
[2] The Hebrew language closely ties together what God gave for food. The objects of God’s gift are marked by a sign of the direct object, a conjunction and the repeated sign of the direct object. The Hebrew grammar does not allow for two categories of gifts, one for smoking and the other for eating. From God there is but one gift (seed and fruit) for one purpose–eating.
[3] U. Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Genesis, Israel Abrahams, Translator (Jerusalem, Israel: The Magnes Press, The Hebrew University, 1961): 58.

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