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Monday, May 23, 2016

M3 Flood Myths: Bible: Noah: Which Animals?

The Biblical Flood, like the creation of humanity is represented twice. Specifically, there are two versions of which animals to take. The first, and more commonly reference, is found in 6:19 “And of every living thing, of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female.” It goes on for birds, animals, creeping things. However, in 7:2 we have something different: “Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and its mate; and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and its mate.” Again it goes on to talk about the birds.
So which one is right? The second version appears to be a further refinement of the first, expanding the requirement to allow for seven pairs of certain animals. But then why have the previous chapter’s version at all? It just becomes confusing. Again, we have two different versions of the narrative, most likely gleaned (or inspired by) different story sources.
Now, by now I can practically hear the question “What does it matter? Doesn’t it just mean there will be more animals?” Well, yes, and that’s exactly the problem. The clean animals are a reference to the animals that are permissible to eat. This makes a degree of sense as while the animals would provide a basis for food for Noah and his family.
Also, and perhaps more significantly, only the chapter 6 version of the story mentions that the entire world will be destroyed. Chapter 7 talks about flooding the ground, but does not specify the entire world. So the scope of the entire myth is no brought into question.
We have to take it further. Both myths instruct Noah to take the animals with him. There is no mention made of having to find them, nor is there any mention that God will send the animals to him. He is told to take them, as if he already had them.
This really is the key to the whole story. Many people focus on the language that Noah needs every animal, but they are less inspective when it comes to the word take. These animals must come from somewhere, and the discussion of the clean vs unclean animals provides a basis to say that the animals in question are his animals. Like most people in the ancient world, Noah is a farmer and keeper of animals. By keeping this in mind, the instruction on taking the number of animals is not meant to be an encouragement that Noah must find all the animals of the world, but rather that Noah can only take two of each animal. Likely he has dozens if not hundreds of animals to provide for his family, and this instruction is to limit how many he may take because of the limitations of the ark.

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