The Ark - Two Missions

Moshe Ben-Chaim



My friend was studying the story of the Flood, and questioned an apparent repetition in the verses, when comparing Genesis 7:6-10 to Genesis 7:11-16. In both accounts, we read of Noach’s age, the commencement of the Flood, that he and his entire family entered the ark, and that the animals came in pairs. Why this repetition?

However, as would be expected upon closer examination, we find many distinctions between these two accounts:

Genesis 7:6-10

Genesis 7:11-16

7:6: “And Noach was 600 years old...”

7:11: “In the 600th year of Noach’s life...”

7:7: “And Noach entered...due to the Flood

7:13: “On that very day, Noach entered...”

7:8: “From the pure animals”

7:14: “And all animals according to their species...”

7:9: “Two of each came to Noach, male and female...”

7:15: “Two of each came....all that possessed life...”


Why these distinctions? Not only in the description of the Flood event itself do we find discrepancies, but previously, in God’s original command, there too we find two, distinct accounts.

In verses 6:18-22 we find God commanding Noach to enter two of each species - with no mention of “pure and impure” animals, but simply, to sustain their “species”. God also commands Noach to take food for his sustenance. Only later in verses 7:1-2, do we read, “And God said to Noach, ‘come, you and your entire household to the ark, because you I have seen as righteous before Me in this generation. From all the pure animals take seven each, man and his wife, and from the animals that are not pure, two, man and his wife.” There is a clear distinction between God’s two commands. First, God addresses the issues of “species” and “Noach’s sustenance”. Later, in a separate address, God refers to the “pure and impure” animals, His appellation “man and wife” is seen (regarding animals), and also, we read of Noach’s “righteousness.” (The Rabbis teach us that the seven pure animals were required, as Noach was to offer sacrifices with them. What does this teach us?)

The alignment of Noach’s fulfillment of God’s word and the pure animals, is indicative. Similarly joined, (previously in God’s command) is God’s aligning of Noach’s righteousness, and the mention of pure animals. In another other matter, we find a correlation between God’s command that Noach take food, and the reference to animals as species, not as pure or impure. It appears there are two distinct goals in the Flood.

I would suggest that God had two plans; 1) the survival of human and animal life, and, 2)sustaining man as a servant of God.

I say this, as God addresses Noach two distinct times. His first address refers to animal life as a “species”, and He urges Noach to take food for all. Here, God outlines the first goal in the plan of the flood, i.e. that human and animal life continue, “as an ends in itself”. This is a subtle point, but quite interesting: God desired - for whatever reason - that life continue, aside from the second goal that man perfect himself. Why else would God address this aspect, separate from the second address? Only afterwards do we read that God noted Noach’s righteousness, and referring to animals as pure and impure. What is this element of “purity” to teach us? This is what the Rabbis stated, that the animals have a future purpose of sacrifice, which is dependent upon animal purity. God aligns Noach’s righteousness and animal purity to teach of a second goal in the ark, i.e., that man exist to serve God. Sacrifice is the service of God.

There are two distinct goals in the ark; 1)sustaining all life, 2)enabling man’s perfection. The reason this is startling, is that we read (Psalms, 115:16)”The heavens, are heavens to God, but the Earth He gave to the sons of man.” This indicates that the Earth is solely for the goal of man’s perfection. If this is so, how can there be a separate goal in the ark of sustaining life, independent of man’s perfection? How can there be two goals? There should be only one goal for the Earth: man’s perfection!

On this verse in Psalms, Radak writes the following:

“And those lacking knowledge think, that man’s dominion in the Earth, is akin to God’s dominion in the heavens, but they do not speak properly. For the kingship of God, over all does He reign. Rather, the explanation of ‘but the Earth He gave to the sons of man’ (is) that man is like an appointee of God in the Earth, over all therein, and all is at the word of God.”

It appears that Radak denounces the view that the Earth has a singular goal - that it exits solely for man. Yes, God did instruct man to “subdue” the Earth (Gen. 1:28), but neither this statement, nor the verse in Psalms, indicates a ‘singular’ purpose of the Earth. These two verses teach a purpose, not of the Earth, but of man, i.e., that this Earth be used by him in his pursuit of perfection. However,...the Earth may have another purpose (although including mankind) aside from man’s goal of perfection. It sounds contradictory, but it is not.

Mankind may exist under two frameworks; 1) as a reflection of God’s wisdom, and 2) for his own perfection. It appears to me that this explains the two accounts of God’s command that the ark be built and life be spared. The first account teaches the objective that life be spared - for the sake of life itself. The second account teaches that due to Noach’s righteousness, aside from the sustaining of life for itself, man will be spared for the “second” purpose, that he perfects himself. There are two goals in the existence of life; 1) that life exists as a reflection of God’s wisdom, and 2) that man perfect himself. One goal is not dependent upon the other. Life, including man, may exist, even if man does not perfect himself, provided he does not corrupt his ways too far.

Radak says man is merely “appointed” over the Earth. What is the status of an “appointee”, an overseer? This means that God created the Earth, and He then appoints man over this creation, perhaps indicating that the Earth was created for one purpose, even without man, and only afterwards was man given subsequent rule. And if man may lose his position, the Earth appears to still serve some purpose. I do not know to which other goal Earth ascribes, but we do read that the angels’ praises of God include their praises of God’s Earth. This means that the angels - what ever they may be - give purpose to the Earth, as the Earth is a means though which they laud the Creator. Without man, the Earth still serves this purpose.

There is another account which I feel may be related. In the Musaf prayer of Yom Kippur, the angels question the death of the Ten Martyrs as follows, “This is the Torah, and this is it’s reward?” To this, God replies, “If I hear another sound, I will turn the universe into water.” God says that He will destroy the universe if the angels do not accept the death sentence of the Ten Martyrs. How do we understand this dialogue? Perhaps, this teaches that if the angels do not accept God’s unfathomable wisdom, as expressed in this case, then the universe forfeits its purpose. God’s destruction will ensue, as the universe serves no purpose. This is in line with our answer, that aside from man’s purpose of perfection, the universe serves to attest to God’s wisdom. Man’s existence, as part of the universe, may serve a purpose, other than his own. God said that the universe would be destroyed if the angels are not silent. This means that if there is not some being which accepts God’s unfathomable wisdom, only then does the universe serve no purpose. But provided the angels accept God’s rule, the universe serves some purpose.

In the verses quoted above, we read of the second account recording the Flood, but divorced from ‘mankind’ as the goal. Although he is included in the description of the events surrounding of the Flood, Noach is not referred to as a ‘subject’ of the Flood, but merely as a reference for the time line. Animals are not referred to as “pure” - a term applicable only in relation to man - but as “species”, something divorced from man.

We see two accounts of the Flood, both, in God’s command, and in the description of the Flood as it occurred: In God’s first command, animals are only referred to as “species”, and Noach is simply told to take food for survival - as if to underline one goal: the survival of life. In God’s second address, (7:1 states again, “And God said...”) Noach’s righteousness is first mentioned, and so is the “purity” element of the animals. It appears as thought there is a second goal: man’s perfection. When describing the Flood itself, in its first account, (Genesis 7:6-10) animals are referred to as “pure and impure”, pointing to man’s future sacrifices, man’s perfection . In the second account, (Genesis 7:11-16) animals are referred to as “species”, and in this account, Noach’s righteousness is omitted.

Could it be that the Earth - including man - also exists for some goal, other than mankind’s own perfection? Can both man and the universe exist, not just for man, but for another goal, that God’s wisdom be reflected not only through the cosmos, but through all Earthly, plant life, minerals, animals...and man? I do not know for certain, but the aforementioned distinctions incline me to consider that human existence – besides offering man an opportunity for perfection, might also offer the angels another display of God’s wisdom through which they extol the Creator.