The Ark - Two Missions
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:
7:6: “And Noach was 600 years old...”
7:11: “In the 600th year of Noach’s
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
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.