Gene 7 notes


מִכֹּל הַבְּהֵמָה הַטְּהוֹרָה תִּקַּח לְךָ שִׁבְעָה שִׁבְעָה אִישׁ וְאִשְׁתּוֹ וּמִן הַבְּהֵמָה אֲשֶׁר לֹא טְהֹרָה הִוא  7:2

שְׁנַיִםאִישׁ וְאִשְׁתּוֹ

Gene. 7:2         “From every clean beast you shall take seven to you, seven each and its mate.  And of the beast that is not clean bring two, a male and its mate.”

How was Noah to know which animals were clean and which were not?  God does not designate clean and unclean animals until Leviticus 11    Once more, the scribe, probably the same one so far, at least since chapter 2, anticipates what comes later, probably before his own time.  The scribe undoubtedly was intimately familiar with which animals were clean and which were unclean, so it apparently didn’t occur to him that a reader new to the Torah might question this verse.  But the cleanliness of animals was for the Israelites, not for the nations.  So it probably would have seemed premature and inappropriate to the scribe to specify them here in this chapter.

So what does that mean for our understanding of the accuracy of this story?  Did God tell Noah which animals were clean?  Certainly God could have “anticipated” His directions to the Israelites and informed Noah.  And He might have kept the scribe from describing them here because that would have been premature.  On the other hand, the problem in this verse might lead us to two other possible interpretations.  One is that the story is mythical, or is enlarged by the author in order to take into account the necessity for sacrifices immediately after the flood.  He appears to be meticulous in his details and would have taken something like that into account.  But, as before, this appears to be another of his booboos.  After all, Noah was not a Jew and was therefore not required to observe the Jewish laws of sacrifice.  Perhaps we have here another prophetic symbol.    Is it possible that Noah also represents the Jews?  As the Jews are unique among nations, so Noah was unique among men.  And he is God’s instrument for saving the world and preserving humanity.  So it might have been appropriate for Noah to be informed of the Jewish laws of cleanliness.  Decide for yourself.  Another possible interpretation is that God intended for clean animals to start with a numerical advantage over unclean animals after the flood, as they would be later subject to slaughter, and thus their numbers might have been diminished.  In any case, the questions that opened each of these paragraphs still remain.                             [Back]                        [Return to Gene. 8:20]