What does Genesis 7:2 mean when it says “seven clean beasts?” I always thought Noah took two of each kind of animal: a male and a female.
Genesis 7:1-3 records an instruction God gave to Noah prior to the worldwide flood which began in verse 6. God told Noah to take two kinds of animals into the ark: clean animals and animals that were not clean.
Then the LORD said to Noah, “Enter the ark, you and all your household, for you alone I have seen to be righteous before Me in this time. You shall take with you of every clean animal by sevens, a male and his female; and of the animals that are not clean two, a male and his female; also of the birds of the sky, by sevens, male and female, to keep offspring alive on the face of all the earth.” (NASB) Gen. 7:1-3
There were two parts to God’s instruction. First, Noah’s family was to enter the ark and be saved since they alone were righteous among all of the peoples on the earth. The second part concerned animals: clean and unclean animals. What are clean and unclean animals?
Clean and Unclean Animals
Clean animals were animals that God said the Israelites could eat. Leviticus 11 provides an extensive list of these beasts, insects, fish, and birds.
And you shall . . . make a distinction between the unclean and the clean, and between the edible creature and the creature which is not to be eaten. Leviticus 11:46-47 (NASB)
Some of the animals that were unclean were the camel, rock badger, rabbit, and the pig. They could eat any of the fish with fins and scales. Among the birds, the eagle, vulture, buzzard, kite, falcon, raven, ostrich, owl, sea hawk, little owl, great owl, cormorant, pelican, stork, carrion vulture, heron, hoopoe and bat could not be eaten. Among the insects, they could not eat were those that walked on four legs, except for the cricket, locust, and grasshopper. The following were also unclean: the mole, the mouse, the great lizard in its kind, the gecko, the crocodile, the lizard, the sand reptile, and the chameleon. Leviticus 11 provides a more detailed list.
Two Pair of Unclean and Seven of Clean
Noah was to take one pair, a male and a female, of each kind of animal into the ark. But of the clean animals and birds, Noah was to take seven pairs. Later in the chapter, Noah his family and all flesh – birds, animals, and breathing things – entered the ark in pairs.
So they went into the ark to Noah, by twos of all flesh in which was the breath of life. Those that entered, male and female of all flesh, entered as God had commanded him; and the LORD closed it behind him. (NASB) Genesis 7:15-16
The animals entered the ark by twos – male and female. That shows God’s design for males and females. The animals were to enter a pair at a time: a male with a female. At the end of the flood, Noah offered a sacrifice to God using some of the clean animals and birds (Gen. 8:20). How many did Noah use? We do not know. To provide for sacrifices is the reason more of the clean animals were to be taken into the ark.
God had planned ahead by providing the sacrificial animals. The sacrifices were an act of dedication and thanks to God for His provision. This is a reminder to all of us to thank God in some specific and unusual way when He does something for us. We should always be thankful to Him.
. . . let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. (NASB) Hebrews 13:15
But just as Noah did something unusual, so should we.