The genesis description of creation states that on the 5th day, G-d created all fish and sea creatures and filled the sky with all variety of birds that fly.

After this, G-d creates all the land animals and then Adam, who is given the responsibility of overseeing the whole of creation as a tender.

My question is do the sages give any insight into why G-d may have compartmentalized the animals that fly and animals that swim from land animals and animals and Adam?

From a human perspective, animals are animals. While they all have different traits and qualities, the fact that G-d created a separate day for creating those of the sea and those of the air makes me think it was meant to send a specific message regarding their natures and their qualities.

Could it be related to the fact that humans cannot fly and humans cannot breathe underwater? Essentially, God is categorizing each to a domain of their natures. Hence why humans were grouped with other land animals whom we share an equal footing with in terms of inhabiting land. That said, how could Adam have had true ability to oversea animals that fly and animals that swim if he existed in a domain separate from them?

3 Answers 3


It seems that you have two questions: First, "Why weren't all types of animals (mammals/birds/fish/swarming creatures) created on the same day, and the creation of humans reserved for a day of its own?" Second, "How can humans control birds and fish if we occupy different domains?"

As for question one, as you hint, the answer can be explained by the fact that humans and animals both occupy the land. This is expressed by Radak, who says:

ויאמר אלהים תוצא הארץ, ביום הששי נבראו חיות היבשה עם האדם, כי שניהם ביבשה. "And God said, Let the earth bring forth [living creatures] (Gen. 1:24)": On the sixth day both the mammals and man were created, seeing both of them inhabit the dry land on the earth.

The Torah groups "like" with "like," and given the order of creation, in which the major separations involve the division of the heavens from the earth and the dry land from seas, so too the Biblical creation of animals follows these divisions.

And we see elsewhere that the Torah often applies similar rules to humans and land animals -- for example, in redemption of the first born (Ex. 13:12-15), in the disqualification of sacrifices as well as Kohanim with blemishes (both treated in Lev. 22), and in the juxtaposition of arayos involving humans and animals (as well as kilayim with animals) in Lev. 18-20, see esp. Lev. 18:23-24. In all of these cases, humans and land animals belong to the same classification.

As for the second question, how can humans have dominion over the fish and the birds, this statement comes immediately after God says, "Let us make man in our image" -- just as God has dominion over all creatures, so is man imbued with that capacity (albeit to a lesser degree) (see Or HaChaim). However, the Kli Yakar notes that the verse is nuanced such that the dominion over the air/sea is less than that over the land, and also points out that the root of dominion ("veyirdu") is the same as descent ("yeridah"), such that humans can merit to have more control, or less control, over the these domains, based upon their actions.


According to Rabbenu Bachaya on 1:24, based on Bereshit Rabba 7:7, man was created on the same day as the land animals because the phrase "נפש חיה" (living soul) on the 6th day, in pasuk 24, is not the same as the phrase "נפש חיה" in from the 5th day in pasuk 20. Flying and sea creatures, it seems, are not the same level of life force as land animals. They are one step closer to plant life, and the חיה is referring predominantly to the fact that they can move. חיה regarding land animals is referring to a more complex life form, and one of the differences brought by our Rabbi is that it has a connotation of intelligent life. To put it simply, birds and fish are not considered fully fledged animals, and the collective living soul of animals, of which humans have a share, was created on the 6th day.

However, this is not enough of an understanding as the truth is, humans may share a part of themselves with the animal world, but they are their own category altogether, and were made in the second half of the day. Indeed, man is "made" by God, together with the earth, whereas the animals, fish and birds were "brought forth" from the earth.


Even better, at least one sage says we don't need to take this part of the Scripture literally in the first place. In Guide to the Perplexed Part 2.17 Maimonides (Rambam) says:

We therefore do not reject as impossible the opinion of those who say that the heavens were produced before the earth, or the reverse, or that the heavens have existed without stars, or that certain species of animals have been in existence, and others not. For the state of the whole Universe when it came into existence may be compared with that of animals when their existence begins; the heart evidently precedes the testicles, the veins are in existence before the bones; although, when the animal is fully developed, none of the parts is missing which is essential to its existence. This remark is not superfluous, if the Scriptural account of the Creation be taken literally; in reality, it cannot be taken literally, as will be shown when we shall treat of this subject.

If I may be permitted a pun, Rambam said that that the order of creation, although written in the Torah, is not exactly written in stone.

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