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I have wondered this for a long time. Early in the Book of Genesis we read:

Genesis 6:7: "And the LORD said, 'I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.'"

Why were ocean animals spared from this destruction if "man to all animals to creeping things to birds of the sky" would all perish? (There may be a trivial answer to this and I'm just not seeing it.)

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  • . . . .. because both humankind and the nehilim were earth-bound, not aquatic.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 15, 2021 at 5:11
  • @NigelJ If the flood was about purging nephilim (which it might be, though I'm not entirely convinced), that wouldn't fully explain why all the land animal life also needed to be purged. What is different about fish from land mammals, birds, and reptiles that means they didn't need to be purged because of humans/nephilim?
    – curiousdannii
    Aug 15, 2021 at 8:03
  • @curiousdannii The interaction (which produced nephilim) was land-based. And the nephilim (from recent archaeology) were widespread on land, but not in the sea. 'All flesh on the face of the earth' is quite specific. I'm halfway to a full answer, at the moment.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 15, 2021 at 8:10
  • "And the nephilim (from recent archaeology)" That would be amazing ;) I haven't heard of such an interpretation like that before. But that's beside the point. Usually the explanation of God flooding the earth because of the nephilim is because of the idea that they were interbreeding with humans. Which again doesn't explain why all land animals needed to be purged. They weren't interbreeding with animals were they? I look forward to your answer though.
    – curiousdannii
    Aug 15, 2021 at 8:12
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    Because, for obvious reasons, they cannot be drowned. :-)
    – Lucian
    Aug 15, 2021 at 10:07

5 Answers 5

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Why were ocean animals spared from this destruction if "man to all animals to creeping things to birds of the sky" would all perish?

Fish are not in the categories of man, animals, creeping things, or birds of the sky.

This is because the only possible category which would include them would be "animals", but the Hebrew word here is "behemah" which means livestock, cattle, etc, and does not include fish.

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The phrases used to describe exactly what God intended to destroy are very instructive:

  • Gen 6:7a - "mankind" - but this did not included Noah and his immediate family
  • Gen 6:7b - beast, crawling creature and birds of the air (literally "heaven")
  • Gen 6:11, 13 - "all creatures"
  • Gen 6:17 - "every creature under the heavens that has the breath of life" - this clearly only means creatures/animals that breath air.
  • Gen 7:4 - "every living thing I have made". Again, this only includes animals that breath air as above.
  • Gen 7:15 - "every creature with the breath of life." That is every animal that breaths air.
  • Gen 7:21 - "every living thing that moved upon the earth perished—birds, livestock, animals, every creature that swarms upon the land, and all mankind." This specifically excludes the sea because it was only land animals.
  • Gen 7:22 - "all that was on dry land, everything that had the breath of life in its nostrils died."

Note that is exactly corresponds to the description given in Gen 1 & 2 -

  • Gen 1:30 - And to every beast of the land and every bird of the air and every creature that crawls upon the land—everything that has the breath of life in it—I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.
  • Gen 2:7 - Then the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, and the man became a living being.

Thus, the record is quite specific. The only creatures that the flood would destroy were those that:

  • lived on the land
  • breathed air

This would include a large variety of creatures including: mankind, birds, cattle and all quadrupeds, mammals, etc, etc. It did not include sea creatures.

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  • Question is why were the fish excluded. They're included in Genesis 1 in the list of what mankind was to rule over, but maybe in practical terms at the time of the flood they were not under control of the dominion of man, and so did not need to be purged?
    – curiousdannii
    Aug 15, 2021 at 7:33
  • @curiousdannii - I do not know, but the record in Gen 6 & 7 is clear- only air breathing creatures were in the ark and only air breathing creatures were destroyed from the LAND.
    – Dottard
    Aug 15, 2021 at 8:06
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point number one

This seems obvious enough

The Hebrew says that God will destroy man from the face of the earth. The word eretz earth is land. Aquatic life is not on the land. Not on the face, or surface of the land.

second point

The means of destruction was via water. It’s extremely difficult to drown a fish or aquatic life.

point three

The OP’s English translation says “and animals”. But the Hebrew says and behemah or beast. One could use this to argue that fish aren’t beast. This isn’t the strongest argument because behemah could be used to refer to animals collectively. But it’s specific to beasts on the (sur)face of the earth, which again aquatic life is in the water.

fourth point

“And all flesh died that moved on על the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on על the earth, and all mankind. Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. He blotted out every living thing that was on על the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark.” ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭7:21-23‬ ‭

The Bible goes through the effort to highlighting that these were upon the earth, not in the water.

Why were the aquatic life spared? By chance they escaped. But in the final destruction, everything will be destroyed, heavens (full of water) and the earth too. They will all pass away and there will be a new Heaven and a new earth. Nothing will escape that dreadful day of the Lord

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.” ‭‭2 Peter‬ ‭3:10‬ ‭

There’s no escaping this fire

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  • (+1) "It's extremely difficult to drown a fish" - citation needed. ;)
    – Steve can help
    Aug 18, 2021 at 13:44
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"And the LORD said, 'I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.'" (Genesis 6:7)

I think the most important part of this verse for understanding the logic behind sparing oceanic creatures but not land creatures is the last clause after the semicolon, '. . .for I am sorry that I have made them.' It stands to reason that if any creature was spared it was because God was not sorry that he made them. This is ultimately why Noah and his family were spared after all, as well as the pairs of animals that were gathered on the ark with them.

Of course, this only leads to the question, "Why was he sorry that he made some creatures and not others." I don't think this is the kind of question we can really answer, certainly not with anything beyond "Because He's God and he created everything so he can do that sort of thing."

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Symbolically, the flood represents going back to day one of creation. All humanity outside the ark is dead. Most animals are dead, too. The whole earth is flooded. Floodwaters that came from the above and from the below represent collapsing firmament of day two.

The world is again a dark, chaotic, uninhabitable, and wet place like it was in Gen.1:2. The theological message is clear even with some of the ocean animals spared.

Gen.7:11

In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.
(water from the above of the firmament join water from the below → reverse of Gen.1:6)

Gen.1:6

And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.

Gen.8:1

And God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the cattle that was with him in the ark: and God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters assuaged; (parallel with Gen.1:2)

Gen.1:2

And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

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  • That’s an interesting approach except I suspect you can’t substantiate it from the Bible. A collapsed firmament G1:2? The firmament wasn’t even made yet. Not to mention that at the flood the firmament was intact and only the ports/door on the firmament and of the deep were opened. Aug 18, 2021 at 11:01
  • @Nihil Sine Deo - You clearly misunderstood what I had said. Aug 19, 2021 at 23:39
  • Please explain how so Aug 20, 2021 at 1:09

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