Were God’s laws of clean unclean meats upheld with Noah in Genesis 9


Could Noah eat unclean meat after the flood?

Clearly the Word of God stands forever. It is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Malachi 3:4 “For I am the LORD, I CHANGE NOT.” But then when we read in English translations of Genesis Chapter 9 verse 3 something odd appears to be happening regarding the definition and permissions of food.

Because some like to use this verse to suggest that the Word of God can change, we need to fully examine this verse, context, translation and discover the truth. Enjoy this teaching.

Before the flood, we are clearly told that there is a difference between clean and unclean animals.

Genesis 7:2
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;

Even after the flood we still see the difference between clean and unclean animals…

Genesis 8:20
Then Noah built an altar to the LORD (Yahweh), and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar.

This difference between clean and unclean animals is completely consistent with Leviticus 11

Leviticus 11:46-47
This is the law regarding the animal and the bird, and every living thing that moves in the waters and everything that swarms on the earth, to make a distinction between the unclean and the clean, and between the edible creature and the creature which is not to be eaten.

We also understand that the Word of God is said not to change:

Psalm 105:8
He has remembered His covenant forever, The word which He commanded to a thousand generations,

Isaiah 40:8
The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.

Psalm 119:89-92
Forever, O LORD (Yahweh), Your word is settled in heaven. Your faithfulness continues throughout all generations; You established the earth, and it stands. They stand this day according to Your ordinances, For all things are Your servants. If Your law had not been my delight, Then I would have perished in my affliction.

We can even see this in the New Testament: It is clearly taught that Yeshua is the Word of God:

John 1:14
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Revelation 19:13
He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.

We are also told that Yeshua our Messiah, the Word of God, is and has always been the same.

Hebrews 13:8
Jesus Christ (Yeshua Ha’Mashiach) is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Thus, the Word of God is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. This of course, just like the sample of other verses we read, leads us to the same conclusion.

The Word of God does not change.

Therefore, when we see the Biblical difference between clean and unclean animals immediately before and after the flood, and then see the exact same understanding presented in Leviticus 11, then we should not be surprised.

The Word did not and does not change.

There is and has always been a difference between clean and unclean animals, and we have never been permitted to eat unclean things. The law of God always existed before it was written down at Sinai, they simply passed it on from generation to generation, whether orally, or perhaps even written down many times before. We know that God’s people have always had His law, His Torah…and we can only assume that the same law has been given to God’s people since Adam and Eve. How else would have Cain and Able known the particulars of offerings (Genesis 4:3) or that it was wrong to murder (Genesis 4:8)?

Some confuse the fact, that since the law was written down at Sinai, that that the same law did not exist before. It must be new…That would not make any sense.

The law is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

It was simply written down so it could be easily disseminated to about 2.5 million people. Because we understand that the law of God does not change, we should not be surprised that clean and unclean animals also existed before and after the flood, and that we were always to only eat clean animals, not unclean animals.

It is to be the same law for all, for all time. Yet, Genesis 9:3 presents a challenge…

Genesis 9:2-3
The fear of you and the terror of you will be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky; with everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into your hand they are given. Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant.

If the law does not change from before the flood, till after the flood, till Sinai, and even after the cross, then how is it that Noah is told that he can eat every moving thing? Would that not include unclean animals? Unclean animals move, and here, in the English it says Noah was permitted to eat every moving thing… How can the Word of God never change, but Noah be permitted to eat everything, which is contrary to Leviticus 11? Was Noah told that He could eat unclean animals? It seems to be a contradiction. But is it really?

kissing-bride-behind-veilWe’ve heard it once said, that reading the Word of God through a translation, is like kissing your bride through a veil…it simply isn’t exactly the same. Something is always lost in translation…

Let’s read verse three again:

Every moving thing (reh’mes) that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant.

We need not overlook the fact that a specific category of animal was given permission by God for Noah to eat: the remes. NASB, NKJV, and ESV translates “remes” as “moving thing”. While remes is often defined as “moving thing”, we may just want to invest more analysis in this word.

John H. Walton, a mainstream Christian scholar, makes some very careful observations that we need to pay close attention to:

The noun (remeś) and the associated verb (rmś) each occur seventeen times in the Old Testament, ten times each in Genesis 1-9.

This word group is distinct from both the 1) wild (predatory) beasts and 2) domesticated flocks and herds.Neither verb nor noun is ever used to refer to larger wild animals or to domesticated animals.

In no place is remeś a catch-all category for all creatures. It is one category of creature only.

The division of the Hebrew terms used up to this point in Genesis reflects the nature of the animal…” – John H. Walton’s, The NIV Application Commentary: Genesis (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), pp 341-34

What Walton is stating quite simply, is that the word remes certainly does not and can not literally mean ALL CREATURES like it seems to be commonly rendered in the English. He is saying that it the usage of the word in scripture implies this group of animals has some sort of separation from other animals. This would mean that Noah could not eat all things, but only animals that were remes. But what is remes?

Walton continues:
“These animals were typically characterized as being the prey of hunters and predatory beasts,” This agrees with Yahweh’s preceding statement to Noah:

Genesis 9:2
“The fear of you and the terror of you will be on 1) every beast of the earth and on 2) every bird of the sky; 3)  with everything that creeps [ramas, fm;r’] on the ground”

gods-laws-clean-unclean-meats-upheld-noah-genesis-9Verse three is then allowing Noah to go out and hunt certain food. Interestingly enough, the animals that Walton lists that would principally fall into this remes category include “wild cattle, antelope, fallow deer, gazelle, and ibex.” These are all animals considered clean on the specific food lists of Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14. The remes animals would have been clean animals, but many would have needed to be hunted and/or tamed in order to actually be eaten. The fear that such animals would have for humans would come as they were hunted for food, and/or hoarded and domesticated for food. Noah just needed approval from God to go out and “get them.”

So that solves the issue of Noah being able to eat everything, including unclean animals. When we examine how the Hebrew word remes is used, we discover that it is dominantly used for clean animals.This means that Noah was not instructed that he could eat all things, since the Hebrew word remes seems to be consistently used in the context of animals that would be defined as clean. This would not be granting permission for Noah to eat unclean animals, as unclean animals are not included in the Hebrew word of remes.

Thus verse three would read better as follows:

Genesis 9:3
Every “clean” moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant.

Yet, we still have a problem. There is now another challenging question to consider? Why is Noah suddenly allowed to eat clean animals? If the law of God never changes, why does it seem to imply that he was not able to eat clean animals? If the law of God never changes, he should have been able to eat clean animals before and after the flood. Why would Noah seemingly need permission again to eat clean animals after the flood, as if this is a new opportunity?

Consider this…perhaps Noah or any of the others in the ark were not permitted to eat any animals? Consider the implications if those in the ark ate bbq chicken every night till they ran out of chicken…we simply would not have any chicken today….chicken would be extinct. Maybe it might just make perfect sense that those in the ark were instructed by Yahweh to eat as vegetarians while aboard the ark, so that Yahweh’s mission of preserving animals from extinction could be possible.

It clearly doesn’t make any sense whatsoever for man to bring animals into the ark to save them from extinction by the flood, just for those on the ark to eat them all and instead become extinct as the result of man’s appetite. After considering this, it might now just seem obvious. This would explain why Yahweh had to give permission to Noah to eat clean animals again.

Yahweh had to temporarily restrict the eating of animals while on the boat so that we would still have chicken, sheep, cow, etc…today. If they ate all of the clean animals on the ark, we would have no clean animals today. Clearly this should go without saying, but sometimes we need to step back and consider these things. Logically this makes sense, and clearly must be the case…however, do we see this scripturally revealed in the flood account?

Were they told not to eat animals and only grain? Actually….yes!

Genesis 6:20-21
Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive. And take thou unto thee of all food that is eaten, and thou shalt gather it to thee; and it shall be for food for thee, and for them.

So at least two things here are revealed to us…two very important things to consider. One….Noah was commanded to keep the animals alive…that means they can not eat the animals on the ark…that means that for a short time, the eating of animals was revoked to accomplish a purpose…because of the circumstances of the flood.

Number two….the same food that was gathered for the animals, is to be for the animals is also to be for Noah…this would likely be different grains to feed the animals…and thus was what those in the ark were also to eat. Once they exited the ark, Yahweh restored their right to eat clean animals.

Genesis 9:3
Every “clean” moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant.

In context, this even makes sense, because Noah had just sacrificed animals, and not just any animal, clean animals:

Genesis 8:20
Then Noah built an altar to the LORD (Yahweh), and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar.

So what Genesis 9:3 is teaching us IS NOT that Noah could eat all animals and before the flood they were all vegetarians. Such an understanding is contrary to Leviticus 11, and the fact that the Word of God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

After further Hebraic analysis, and scriptural context of the flood account, we find that man was simply restored to being able to eat clean animals, which was temporarily placed on hold in the ark in order to prevent the extinction of animal species. Thus, Leviticus 11 is applicable before and after the flood, just as clean and unclean is clearly present before and after the flood.

Yet, Genesis 9:3 is simply a result of Yahweh having to temporarily change the diet of those in the ark, and then restoring the eating of clean meat after they exited the ark. It is certainly confusing in the English, however, through the study of even mainstream Christian scholar’s, we find that their analysis even does not leave room for Noah being permitted to eat all things.

We wanted to show the interpretation by a mainstream Christian scholar on Genesis 9:3 just to demonstrate that we are attempting to not be biased, or serve our own theology through interpretation. If mainstream Christianity can teach and believe that Noah could not eat unclean animals, then it should be of no concern that we arrived to the same conclusions.

And just to offer another example, not that we even come close to agreeing with John Calvin on most of his theology, but just to demonstrate we are not being biased in our own interpretation of Genesis chapter 9 verse 3, we find that John Calvin came to the same perspective. Even John Calvin does not believe Noah could eat all things, or was a vegetarian before the flood.

Consider his comment:
Calvin argued, “God here does not bestow on men more than he had previously given, but only restored what had been taken away, that they might again enter on the possession of those good things from which they had been excluded.”

Thus, those that are forcing Genesis 9:3 to say that Noah could eat all things most certainly cannot say that with 100% confidence. Even mainstream Christian scholars would disagree with such a statement, and actually, so would we.

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