Genesis 1:28 (RSV) And God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth."|
The word subdue in Genesis 1:28 is the Hebrew verb kavash meaning to subdue but, it is important to have the "full" picture of a Hebrew word as "subdue" is very limited in its ability to describe the Hebrew. The noun form of this word is kevesh and means "a footstool," a place where one places the foot. The verb kavash literally means to place your foot on the neck of your conquered enemy signifying a submission of the enemy to his defeater. Figuratively this verb means to bring a people or nation into submission (Num 32:29). This word can also mean to bring into control (Mic 7:19). Incidentally, this is the same word we use today such as in "put the kabash on it" meaning to make an end of something or to "subdue" it.
While the word kavash means to subdue, there is another word with a similar meaning. The words "have dominion" are the Hebrew verb radah. Our normal understanding of "having dominion" over another is to rule over them, but this idea is found in the Hebrew verb malak. The Hebrew verb radah is related to other words which have the meanings of descend, go down, wander and spread. This verb literally means to rule by going down and walking among the subjects as an equal.
The use of the two Hebrew verbs radah and kavash imply that that man is to rule over the animals as his subjects, not as a dictator, but 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.