In the Garden of Eden, Adam, Eve and animals were instructed to eat food that came from plants (Gen 1:29-30); after the flood, God allowed Noah to eat all animals, but told him not to consume their blood:

“… everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into your hand they are given. Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant. Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. (Gen 9:2-4 NASB)

It may be surprising, but God told Noah to eat כָּל־רֶמֶשׂ אֲשֶׁר הוּא־חַי (kol remes asher hu chay)all living things that creep/crawl.” This is a broad-sweeping description that implies the totality of animal life. Indeed, רָמַשׂ (ramas) means “to crawl” or “creep”; in other words, “to move close to the ground” – thus, רֶמֶשׂ (remes) can be translated as “reptile” or even “insect.” For Noah, not only insects and reptiles, but all species—including those that the Torah would later deem unclean—were now on the menu.

Noah is the only man called אִישׁ צַדִּיק תָּמִים (yish tzadik tamim) “righteous” and “perfect/ blameless” (Gen 6:9). Even long after the flood, biblical authors continue to call him “righteous” (Ezek 14:20; Heb 11:7; 2 Pet 2:5). Despite his Gentile status and unlimited menu, Jewish sages saw Noah in a very positive light, as the model for a righteous non-Jew (cf. Talmud, b. Sanhedrin 108a; Genesis Rabbah 30:10).

Noah clearly knew the difference between clean and unclean animals even before the flood. He was told to bring “clean animals” הַבְּהֵמָה הַטְּהוֹרָה (habehemah hatehorah) in sevens and “the animals that are not clean” הַבְּהֵמָה אֲשֶׁר לֹא טְהֹרָה (habehemah asher lo tehorah) by pairs into the Ark (Gen 7:2-3). Curiously, animals were categorized this way even before they were considered a food source.

Noah could have eaten unclean animals, and he still would have been considered righteous in God’s eyes. It may be hard to reconcile this if one understands the dietary laws of Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 as laws for all humanity (Jew and Gentile alike). But the Torah defines righteousness for Israel by specifying that certain animals are “unclean/clean to you” – that is, only unclean for the children of Israel (cf. Lev 11:4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 29, 35, 55; Deut 14:7, 8, 19). However, as non-Israelites, Noah and his family could have eaten any food they liked without becoming unclean or unrighteous.

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145 COMMENTS

  1. The literal interpretation of the Hebrew words to Noah after the flood can also be interpreted as an almost exact repetition of the original command to Adam to only eat the living green plants.
  2. It is very important part of Bible. but, I am afraid, English version you have quoted is far from it's originall meaning. Could you try to translate that yourself? Otherway it is not worth to lead that lesson.
    • Actually, that is why I am giving you the important parts in original Hebrew. Which part of Gen 9:2-4 do you think was translated incorrectly into English? I am interested...
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  3. Shalom. I think God took certain animals off the menu for Israelites because they were less healthy. My Dr. says pork because raises blood pressure. Also there are more problems with shellfish than other foods such as alergies and contamination. People who live long lives do not eat much meat. Their diets are mostly plant based with a little fish and fowl.
    • Yes, ancient people ate meat very rarely. Health may be a reason, but I do not think that is the only reason. Did God not care about Noah's health since he let him eat anything?

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    • Exactly! Becuase oir God really cares for us and His glory. May His light shine upon us so people will see our good works and praise our Father in heaven!
  4. This is a very big error, the writer of the book of Genesis was Moses, the one who received the Torah from God, so it was no need for Moses to write again about what is clean and what is not, it was common sense that clean animals were not only accepted on the Altar when Noah offered them but also for eating. we are told that God told Noah which animals are clean and which are not when he instructed to bring them on the Ark, so the same clean animals were good for eating as they were for sacrifice.
    Not only that murder, lying, sin offering and dietary laws were already in place before mount Sinai, but you also missed the part where God tells them not to drink the animal's blood, that's another commandment that was given before and during mount Sinai, this proves that God's laws are eternal and exist outside of his covenants.
    having said that, "Remesh" can mean insect as well as a reptile, but since we know what is considered a clean animal, it is safe to conclude that the "crawlers" were locust and their kind, which are clean for us to eat.
    Just because God said all, it doesn't mean both clean and unclean, and here's an example, he told Noah all of the plants you may eat, does that mean Noah was eating poison ivy and snacking on stinging nettle? of course not! one must read scripture not only by the letter but by the spirit.
    God's laws are a direct expression of his character, it is who he is, just like God doesn't change, so does his laws, are eternal, what does change, are covenants, which are agreements between God and his people(Abraham, Israelites and then the world)
    • Good points! I also believe that God's laws existed long before Sinai. But that is a theological issue. You are very right to point out that "all does not always mean all" and I commend you on the poison ivy argument. It makes sense. Notice I do not insist that Noah actually ate all and any edible things. He could have... In Torah, God gave seed/fruit-bearing plants specifically, so no ivy presumably. Reading Scriptures "by the spirit" without the understanding of "the letter" is exactly why people come up with the craziest theological conclusions I have ever heard. It is a good practice, but it is designed for the personal spiritual benefit, not for interpretation. The letter is from God, and it is objective. :)

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    • You are exactly right in my opinion. The words “as I gave you the green plants” is the key. There were restrictions on seed bearing and herbs. Not anything you want.
    • I have to make a comment on “all”! God fulfill His words by the dot of the “i” & the dash of the “t” if I may translate it as; God is also a very sensible & reasonable God!! He said you may eat all but He did not say, you must eat all. So, we don’t have to sweat if we loves peas & hate kale. As for poison ivy, it could be a useful herb for certain illment. I know in Chinese history, people had to save life w a certain poison on a poisoned person. Cheers!
    • You are correct. So many people run over the words “ as I gave you the green plants. “. Jehovah did not give all green plants either. Only seed bearing and herbs.
    • Yes, of course. God's word never stops communicating spiritual truths to us. It is hard to get into spiritual matters when many people struggle with understanding the plain text and what it actually says. :) Have to start somewhere.

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    • Yes, Job is called perfect and upright, but upright is not the same as "tzadik", a different word there. But great, point, thanks!

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    • Also ref. Luke 1:6 re. Zechariah & Elizabeth. Could you unpack that Greek a bit for us?

      We have Noah, Job, Abraham. Moses: Torah is "not too hard" to be followed. Enoch, Zechariah, Elizabeth. Then Paul writes both Phil. 4:13 and Romans 3:23 .

      All combined it's a challenging study.
  5. Shalom! Prof,Pinchas Shir, I liked your article really.A thought came to my mind,and I could be wrong
    I think, after the flood Noah and his family needed some new ‘ diet’, so God permitted them to kill animals
    I’m thinking of pork,beef, etc.fish were in their ark,so they didn’t need to go fishing,just a thought
    Noah and the flood make me think of life also,just to know there is our God who loves
  6. I consider it strange logic if when Noach knew the difference between clean and unclean animals, he would choose the unclean ones to eat while having no qualms of eating clean animals. If cleanliness is next to godliness, why would he choose unclean animals for food? Just because God permitted him too? Is that a correct interpretation of the Bible? If so, you are accusing God of leading people to uncleanliness. Unclean people eat unclean meats.
    • "cleanliness is next to godliness" is our idea, of course, not Noah's. James, it seems to me you do not understand the essence of the "Tameh" the same way I do. I may be mistaken, but I fell like you imbue that term with some meaning that I do not see. To me, "unclean" is a technical category. It is not immoral. Unclean is not "bad". And vice-versa "clean" does not mean "good" Poor kittens, rabbits, puppies and etc. do not deserve for me to see them as "bad". They did not do anything. They were born that way. Unclean just means not for the altar or food for those who eat from the altar (Israel). It's like this. I do not wear women's clothing. It is not for me. It does not mean that dresses are bad, or those who wear it are somehow lower, it's just not for me. That is not who I am. The same with kashrut laws.

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  7. God the Father always takes care of his loyal ones. If you look at a strict literal reading of the flood story there is very little chance there was enough food to go around (esp for the lions, tigers and bears.). I’ve always suspected they had help from God in some way to make it through. If God can feed thousands of people quail and manna for years he can take care of Noah and all the critters
    • Amen Barry. We should always see these stories through spiritual eyes, assuming that God worked supernaturally. That is how ancient people read them. People today are so scientific! They will exclude the possibility of God doing what he does and tell you that this story is bunk, simply because they take everything at face value and cannot figure out the logistics. God is so beyond this realm and laws of physics.
    • Barry, I was once asked the question, "What did Noah do with the refuse (sewage) that would've amassed during the 40 days and nights upon the water?" My seminary class pondered this for 24 hours, and we came back with all kinds of suggestions, none of which were plausible. We put a lot of thought into that question, but our answers were wrong. We were finally given the most logical and plausible answer by our professor: "There was none, for God put them all to sleep, a deep hibernative state. There would be no need for food or sewage disposal!

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  8. What comes to mind is the very restricted diets of some cultures who really have no choice. After the flood, it seems that people were permitted to consume meat mostly for practical purposes. Immediately after the flood, there was no vegetation because of the world-wide destruction. I think an organization like Answers in Genesis wrote an article about this. Now in our day and I think for centuries, there are cultures like the Inuet in the North Pole who must eat meat from seals and whales. They absolutely have no choice.
    • Yes, that is true. There are always exceptions. Jewish law allows one to break some commandments for the sake of keeping others. Example... If I am in danger of starvation I can eat horse meat, elephant meat or a camel (not that I would want to - they are quite smelly) You get the point. Life preservation is a higher commandment than kashrut.
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