In Genesis 2:19:

And the Lord God formed from the earth every beast of the field and every fowl of the heavens, and He brought [it] to man to see what he would call it, and whatever the man called each living thing, that was its name.

The obvious question (so obvious that I fear that the answer may be well-known to everyone but me), is how did the fish, insects, worms, bugs, and other critters which are not "beasts of the field" or "fowl of the heavens" receive their names?

I see two possible explanations:

  1. Adam only named the animals related to agriculture (somewhat strange given that agriculture didn't exist for a while later, and so "beasts of the field" is an unexpected category of animals, unless the "field" is not a ploughed field but just non-mountainous terrain, but I digress) and fowl (and what about birds which are not fowl)... but then why "every living thing" in the verse?
  2. Adam did actually name all the animals, but this isn't mentioned anywhere because the readers of Genesis would primarily care about beasts of the field and fowl and not about little insects and some obscure creature of the sea. Maybe G-d didn't bring these animals to man (as it is written) but presented it to him mentally.

Anyway, I sure would appreciate your input on this. Thanks!

  • 1
    The word used for “fowl” is עוף, which typically refers to birds in general, in spite of this translation. You are correct that this is an obvious question - so obvious, in fact, that I feel really stupid that I never noticed this. :)
    – DonielF
    Jan 4, 2018 at 17:19

1 Answer 1


Regarding whether or not he named the fish, Rav Saadya Gaon to the verse (viewable here) writes that Adam named the fish along with all the other animals. This is also stated by the Midrash Hasserot V'yiterot (printed in Battei Midrashot Vol. II: 14). They both imply that this includes all creatures, and the Midrash is explicit that this includes bugs as well.

However, Radak to Genesis (2:19) writes that he didn't name the fish, since it would not be feasible to take them out of the water to come be named. Hizkuni there writes similarly.

Tosafot to Hulin (66b s.v. kol), however, assumes that Adam only named the fowl and land animals; not the fish, but writes that it is possible that the seemingly superfluous end of the verse stating that "whatever Adam called each living creature was its name" includes fish.

Notably, the Baal HaTurim to Leviticus (11:8) suggests that in describing the kosher vs. non-kosher fish, the Torah doesn't use their names since "fish don't have names."

If he did name them, this doesn't address why the Torah wouldn't mention it.

  • In case anybody is wondering, I don't know the provenance of "Midrash Hasserot V'yiterot". The work it is printed in is a compilation f lesser known works.
    – mevaqesh
    Jan 4, 2018 at 16:24
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    According to Rasag, I see no reason why bugs would be excluded. According to Radak and Chizkuni, since bugs don’t live in the water, that line of logic is irrelevant to bugs. According to Tosfos, perhaps the end of the passuk included bugs too. But those last two statements are far from definite.
    – DonielF
    Jan 4, 2018 at 17:27

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