Why did Noah take unclean animals on the Ark?

First, what are clean vs unclean animals in the Bible? Here’s a simple definition and examples of clean vs unclean animals according to the Bible:

Clean animals are land animals that chew the cud and have a divided hoof, such as cattle, deer, goats, and sheep; seafood with both fins and scales, such as bluegill, grouper, and cod; certain birds, including chickens, doves, and ducks; and even some insects, such as grasshoppers and locusts.


Unclean animals are land animals that either do not chew the cud or do not have a split hoof, such as pigs, dogs, cats, horses, donkeys, and rats; seafood lacking either fins or scales, such as shellfish, lobster, oysters, and catfish; some birds, such as owls, hawks, and vultures; and other animals, such as reptiles and amphibians.

Even if you didn’t attend Sunday School in America, if you heard about Noah’s Ark, you had the impression that Noah built this big boat and put two of every animal in the boat to save every species of animals. But the scriptures actually say,

“Take with you seven pairs of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and one pair of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, and also seven pairs of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth” (Genesis 7:2–3). The Hebrew phrase translated “seven pairs” literally means “seven sevens,” so there is some question as to whether Noah took seven specimens of each “clean” species (three pairs and an extra) or seven pairs. Either way, he was told to take more clean animals than unclean on the ark. Only the unclean animals came in pairs (Genesis 6:19). – GotQuestions.org

So the question remains, if God was going to create a flood to get rid of all the evil in the world, why would He have Noah bring “unclean” animals on the Ark? God had a list of “approved” animals for sacrifice and for eating. If you read through the scriptures and commentaries you’ll find that the distinction between clean and unclean was about a person’s diet vs good or bad animals for consumption.

The second question is, “Why were there more clean animals than unclean animals on the Ark?”

God instructed Noah to bring seven pairs of every clean animal, that was for sacrifices to God as well as to repopulate the earth with those animals after the flood receded.

I’m looking forward to visiting the Ark Encounter sometime soon in Kentucky to learn more and see the life-size Ark.

I’m intrigued by the Old Testament vs New Testament scriptures about what people were “allowed” to eat and why, that will be for another post.


Genesis 2:7-3 BlueLetterBible

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