Richard Kronenfeld
Adult Ba'al Teshuvah Ph.D. Physicist

Were there carnivores on Noach’s ark?

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While reading Parshas Noach the other day, the thought occurred to me that there were carnivorous animals on the ark. How could it be that they didn’t kill and eat any of the other animals?

It turns out that this question has received serious theological consideration, mostly by Christian thinkers. Before presenting their opinions, however, we should note that the simplest explanation is offered by Chabad, namely that like humans, before the Flood all animals were herbivores, and it was only after the Flood that G-d permitted the consumption of meat. While this opinion resolves the issue, it raises questions when compared with verses in the Torah. As the Chabad article by Shaul Wolf which we cited observes, the last of the Seven Noahide Laws forbids consuming a limb from a live animal. Since we are told subsequently that these same laws were communicated to Adam, why would the seventh law be necessary? The author cites several commentaries. Rashi and Tosafos hold that the seventh law prohibits killing animals for their meat and eating them, but doesn’t preclude eating meat from animals that died on their own. On the other hand, Maimonides (Rambam) [Laws of Kings chapter 9], and before him Bereishis Rabbah 16.6 hold that there were no carnivores before the Flood, so the seventh law wasn’t given until Noach was granted permission to eat meat (and presumably the animals were as well), at which time laws governing the consumption of animals became relevant. The Midrash Says concurs with this view [Volume 1, The Book of Bereishis, pp. 42-43]

A comparable secular humanist version of the above explanation concurs with Rashi and Tosafos that prior to the Flood, carnivores instinctively ate only meat from animals that died of natural causes. While this is possible, since no animals died on the Ark, it doesn’t answer our question. There is another secular humanist view that a great many corpses washed up in the flood waters that surrounded the ark, and the difficulties of cutting them up were avoided by throwing the corpses of babies and small children whole into the meat pen. This view, though viable, is highly distasteful. Given Hashem’s subsequent commandments regarding respect for the dead (even the bodies of the Egyptians who perished at the Red Sea were washed up to shore so they could be properly buried), I can’t give any credence to the idea that He would allow the corpses of babies and children to become food for the carnivores.

Turning now to Christian opinions, we find a number of suggestions. A Q and A in 2008 on, a publication of Creation Ministries International, offers the observation that at least some carnivores are capable of surviving for an extended period of time on a vegetarian diet. Examples given are dogs, which live mainly on scraps of rice in Thailand and vegetables in Indonesia, and snakes that live on dry-food pellets provided by commercial breeders. Thus it is possible for normally carnivorous animals to receive proper nutrition from vegetables and legumes. Writing on, Troy Lacey notes: “There have been modern examples of animals normally considered to be carnivores that refused to eat meat, such as the lion known as Little Tike. Additionally, during times of war or natural disaster when meat was unobtainable, zoos and wildlife parks have utilized meat substitutes like nuts, peanut butter, coconuts, beans, soy, and other legumes as their protein-source feed for the animals.” The author mentions other possibilities such as earthworms, eels, snails, dried meats, packed fish, insects, plants such as amarynth and quinoa, and even fungi such as Enoke and Shiitake mushrooms. Serving animals to other animals, however, would seem to contradict the pasukim “And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female. Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground, according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you to keep them alive.” (Genesis 6:19–20). Another intriguing possibility that Mr. Lacey raises is that the animals went into hibernation (for warm-blooded animals such as mammals) or brumation (for cold-blooded animals such as reptiles and amphibians), or into a state of torpor, in which the animal sleeps less deeply and can be roused into alertness more easily.

Thus we can say that there are numerous mechanisms that could have allowed the carnivores on the Ark to live on a vegetarian diet, which comports with G-d’s preference to utilize the natural order rather than work miracles, even if carnivory began before the Flood, as Andrew Lamb adduces both from verses such as Genesis 6:12-13, which refer to “all flesh” (men and animals) having corrupted their way on earth and committed acts of violence, and from evidence in the fossil record such as the tooth of one dinosaur being embedded in the rib of another. The interested reader can find a much more detailed analysis of feeding animals on the ark in chapter 12 of Noah’s Ark: A Feasibility Study by John Woodmorappe.

We can conclude that at least for a year on the Ark, a lion could lie down with a lamb.

About the Author
I'm a native New Yorker (Brooklyn, to be precise) transplanted to the desert as a teen-ager. I hold a Ph.D in Physics from Stanford and have taught mathematics and physics at the high school, community college, and university level. I'm an adult ba'al teshuvah and label myself as centrist Orthodox and a Religious Zionist along the lines of OU, Yeshiva University, and Mizrachi.
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