On the sixth day, God gave humans green plants as food:

And God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food..." (Gen 1:29 ESV)

Then after the flood, meat was added to the diet:

Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. (Gen 9:3 ESV)

However, the NLT suggests that meat was already approved before the flood:

Take with you seven pairs--male and female--of each animal I have approved for eating and for sacrifice, and take one pair of each of the others. (Gen 7:2 NLT)

Several other translations render "each animal I have approved for eating and for sacrifice" merely as "clean animal" (Gen 7:2 parallel).

Is this a mistake in the NLT or could "clean animal" be correctly translated as "approved for eating" even before the flood?

Also, if the world was so corrupt that God decided to destroy it as described in Gen 6, could this mean that the human race already ate meat in violation of the prescribed diet before the flood? Furthermore, livestock is mentioned in Gen 4:20, but whether the meat was eaten is unclear.

2 Answers 2


The New Living Translation (NLT) is providing its own interpretation of the Hebrew, rather than precisely translating it. More literal translations such as KJV, NKJV, ESV, and NASB all provide a more precise translation: “clean beast” or “clean animal.”

However, the NLT does include a footnote in Genesis 7:2 acknowledging that the Hebrew means “of each clean animal.”

New Living Translation, Genesis 7:2, from biblia.com

So, why would the text distinguish between clean and unclean animals if they were not to be eaten by man? For the purpose of sacrifice. Even after the Torah was given by Moses (wherein unclean and clean animals were distinguished at length), some sacrifices, like the עֹלָה (olah),1 would be wholly burnt and never even eaten by the priest.


1 cf. Exo. 29:8


It is distinctly possible that after the Fall that people (especially those who were not in the line from Seth to Noah) had already begun to eat animal flesh, without regard at all to whether God approved of this or not. The narrative does relate to us that sin was rampant in that society.

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