Genesis 8:20

Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. (ESV)

How long afterward Noah landed did he make this sacrifice to God? He only had two of every kind of animal when he landed, so wouldn't sacrificing one of them render the species unable to propagate?

  • Welcome to BHSE! We're a little different here, please review our site directives before asking and answering questions. This is a valid question, and one that is easily answerable from the text; however, it needs a scriptural reference-would suggest Gen. 8:20-21. Thank you! – Tau Nov 11 '14 at 1:00
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    Nick, here's some guidance on how to cite the text(s) you're asking about. Also, to make this read more clearly it would be helpful to mention the event you're referring to prior to using the word afterwards. – Susan Nov 11 '14 at 1:06
  • He had either 7 or 14 (depending on how you interpret it) of the clean animals! – curiousdannii Nov 11 '14 at 5:08

It is commonly assumed that Noah only took two (2) of every kind of animal into the ark. However, the scripture actually states that Noah took seven (7) of every clean animal and two (2) of every unclean animal into the ark.

In Gen. 7:2, it is written,

Of every clean beast, you shall take to yourself by seven, a male and his female; and of beasts that are not clean, by two, a male and his female.

מִכֹּל הַבְּהֵמָה הַטְּהוֹרָה תִּקַּח לְךָ שִׁבְעָה שִׁבְעָה אִישׁ וְאִשְׁתּוֹ וּמִן הַבְּהֵמָה אֲשֶׁר לֹא טְהֹרָה הִוא שְׁנַיִם אִישׁ וְאִשְׁתּוֹ

Therefore, Noah could have offered a sacrifice immediately since there was enough clean animals to continue propagating their own species after the sacrifice.

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You are right - Noah took only two of each clean animal - see Genesis 6:19-20. This clearly includes cattle and all clean and unclean animals. This means he would make the entire species extinct if he slaughtered one animal before breeding took place.

But Noah also took seven of each clean animal and only two of each unclean animal - see Genesis 7:2. This means he could slaughter one animal without making the entire species extinct.

The reason for this is that there are actually two stories of Noah's Ark in Genesis 6-8, written by two different authors and cleverly interleaved so that the result appears to be just one, rather complicated story. The Redactor who edited the final version of Genesis no doubt felt that he would face opposition if he removed either one of the stories, so skilfully interleaved them so that the proponents of either story would find familiar text, yet the existence of two stories is not apparent.

The Flood verses attributed to the Priestly author are: Genesis 6:9-22, 7:6, 7:8-9, 7:11, 7:13-16a, 7:18-21, 7:24, 8:1-2a, 8:3b-5, 8:7, 8:13a, 8:14-19, 9:1-17.

The verses attributed to the Yahwist are: Genesis 6:5-8, 7:1-5, 7:7, 7:10, 7:12, 7:16b-17, 7:22-23, 8:2b-3a, 8:6, 8:8-12, 8:13b, 8:20-22.

The Yahwist reported that on leaving the Ark Noah built an altar and sacrificed one of each clean animal and each clean fowl. This was possible because the Yahwist was the author who reported that Noah took seven of each clean animal onto the Ark.

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    Very good answer. – fdb Nov 11 '14 at 22:20

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