The Gemara (Zevachim 113b) mentions the fish in the sea died:

ואמאי קרי ליה חרבה כדרב חסדא דאמר רב חסדא בדור המבול לא נגזרה גזרה על דגים שבים שנאמר מכל אשר בחרבה מתו ולא דגים שבים

And why does the Torah call it “dry land” during the flood? There was no dry land during the flood. It is in accordance with the opinion of Rav Ḥisda, as Rav Ḥisda says: During the generation of the flood no decree was decreed upon the fish in the sea, as it is stated: “Whatsoever was on the dry land, died” (Genesis 7:22), i.e., only those creatures that had been on dry land, but not the fish in the sea.

Would that mean fish kept in ponds or aquariums would have died?

  • 1
    . . . or rivers?
    – msh210
    Oct 9, 2018 at 22:43
  • @msh210 I wondered that too, but thought כָּל־הַנְּחָלִים הֹלְכִים אֶל־הַיָּם (Koheles 1:7) would connect rivers to oceans
    – NJM
    Oct 9, 2018 at 23:14

2 Answers 2


Clearly the word "yam" here denotes any body of water, be it an ocean, sea, lake, etc. Jastrow concurs with me that the word has other meanings aside from "sea":

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A good thing to know is oftentimes a Hebrew word will have more than one accepted meaning.

  • I don't know that it's so clear. We're talking about the beginning of Genesis, not long after ולמקוה המים קרא ימים
    – Double AA
    Oct 10, 2018 at 12:18
  • @DoubleAA I agree with your assessment. Chazal are not in agreement about what this means based on their scientific knowledge in their time & the traditions they had. The written Torah could be understood many ways (see examples in Petach Einayim in Shmuel Brown's answer. Based on modern, scientific evidence we have today from the geological record, it would suggest that such a cataclysm would be much more forgiving to those creatures actually existing in the ocean. Bodies of fresh water on land would be severely corrupted & the aquatic life there would perish quickly regardless of decree. Oct 30, 2019 at 13:58

The Petach Einayim emphasizes that "Mikol asher b'charava" applies specifically to those things that were on dry land from the beginning. As such, even creatures that might have been captured from the sea and brought onto dry land like the scenarios you presented would still have been spared. At least, that's how I'm learning it.

It's too lengthy to quote in full here.

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