Why did God command Noah to take seven each of the "clean" animals on the ark? Is this evidence that the sacrificial system was in play? Why did God make a distinction between clean and unclean to Noah?

2 Answers 2


As pointed out in a number of commentaries (such as Rav Hirsch and Art Scroll for example) the "clean" animals were those that were allowed to be sacrificed even before Noah and his children were allowed to eat meat. One of the explanations for 7 is that the seventh (unpaired) animal is the one that was to be sacrificed. Other commentaries state that it was supposed to be seven pairs of clean animals to allow for male and female sacrifices.

Rav Hirsch states that one of the reasons for the kosher laws given later is that the Bnai Yisrael were to be an Am Kohanim (nation of priests) and as such were only allowed to eat those animals that were allowed to be offered on the altar of Hashem (by Noach and his descendents). Note that the animals sacrificed by Bnai Noach were not restricted to the animals that Bnai Yisrael could sacrifice. According to Rav Hirsch, any animal that is kosher for Bnai Yisrael to eat (after the giving of the Torah) was allowed to be sacrificed by Noach (even for example a deer or a giraffe).

Also see the answers to How many Kosher animals were in Noach's Ark?

  • I believe Bnei Noach can sacrifice any kosher animal, including chickens and deer.
    – CashCow
    Oct 28, 2015 at 11:52
  • @CashCow That is the reason that Rav Hirsch says that Bnai Yisrael were allowed to eat those animals. I will make it more explicit. Oct 28, 2015 at 13:15
  • My curiosity is more toward the idea of what they ate, not just sacrifices. I get that the 7th animal was used for an immediate sacrifice, but that leaves two extra pairs over and above the unkosher animals. I also wonder if this is true based on the fact that the story does not include God ever describing to Noah what "clean and unclean" even meant. I know that God later told Noah that "everything was food" for them, but of course even that would have had to have limitations. My implication is whether kosher was the intended diet for all man, not just Israel. Oct 31, 2015 at 15:51
  • @LawrenceVoltz According to Rav Hirsch, before they left the ark they had to follow the laws as given to Adam and were forbidden to eat meat. After the flood, they were allowed to eat anything, but sacrifice only "clean" animals. It was only at matan torah that Bnei Yisrael were restricted to eating those animals that Noach was allowed to sacrifice. During the flood, Noach and the animals were sustained by a miracle as they could not have stored enough food for a solar year. They also were probably sustained by a miracle until the initial population explosion was complete (a miracle also). Oct 31, 2015 at 23:40
  • I guess they would have to be sustained by a miracle, since every edible animal they took would have resulted in destroying a mating pair....except for the kosher ones. Nov 1, 2015 at 2:44

I would like to input my thoughts to this discussion; Moses is writing this book and is not describing for us modern readers. He is giving an account and what the people of Israel new what was food to eat, not all animals are considered food except for the one's YHVH described. An animal that is considered food had to go through a procedure before being considered clean or defiled depending how close they followed YHVH's instructions. YHVH would have told Noah what to sacrifice just like he must of told Adam because he was covered in animal skin himself and Cain did not sacrifice what he was to do and many others did not obey which began the downward spiral of destruction. Just as we see in the beginning how YHVH created the sabbath day to keep and had to let Israel know it again. YHVH had to tell Abraham but it doesn't mention that he did.

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    This does not answer the question. This is a question and answer site that expects the postings to actually answer the question as written and not just give an opinion. Sep 4, 2016 at 1:03
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    Joe, welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks for sharing your idea here! If I understand correctly, your response to the question is that God didn't necessarily describe the animals as "clean" or "unclean" to Noah, but that these descriptions would make concise sense to the target audience of the Torah. Is that right? If so, please edit your answer to make this point clearly and prominently. Also, if you can support your suggestion with citations from traditional commentators or evidence from the Torah, that would make your answer more compelling.
    – Isaac Moses
    Sep 4, 2016 at 1:11

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