As we observed in our previous post in this series, for many readers of Genesis 6–9 the account of Noah’s Ark contains deep mystery. Which animals boarded the Ark with Noah? Did any of them fail to make it? Could millions of animals really have squished themselves in Noah’s ship for a yearlong voyage in the rough and open seas? Though Genesis 6–7 do not enumerate the creatures on the Ark with Noah, these chapters give us clues to their silhouettes.
The images that emerge are striking.
What Does Min Mean?
The most important Scriptural clue stems from the Hebrew word min, which English Bibles typically translate as kind. Though the word min occurs only 31 times in the Old Testament, these uses are enough to reveal a clear meaning. Just like the English language, the contexts in which min is found illuminate its interpretation.
The use of min in Genesis 6–7 is the most relevant for our purposes. In verses 19–20 of chapter 6, when God commands Noah to bring animals on board, God says,
"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 after their kind, of animals after their kind, and of every creeping thing of the earth after its kind, two of every kind will come to you to keep them alive."
Why would God stipulate that both male and female of the kinds be brought on board the Ark? In the long term, an important function would need to be fulfilled—“to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth” (Genesis 7:3, KJV). The Hebrew word translated seed1 is elsewhere used to obviously denote offspring (e.g., see the promises of God made in Genesis 3:15 and 13:16). Hence, Noah brought males and females on board the Ark for the purpose of reproducing after the Flood in order to preserve the lineage of each kind.
This conclusion has profound ramifications for identifying what the kinds may have looked like. Back then, individuals within kinds would have been reproductively compatible with each other. Today, if two individuals can produce offspring, this would suggest that they’re part of the same kind. Furthermore, even if two individuals are classified as separate species, the production of offspring by the hybridization of these two species would argue that they belong to the same kind.
This hybridization test for identifying kind membership has its limits. Failure to produce offspring does not constitute sufficient evidence to put two individuals in separate kinds. Since many biological reasons exist for the inability to hybridize, these reasons would all have to be eliminated before inability to hybridize could be used as a criterion for distinguishing kind membership. Thus, hybridization is useful primarily as an inclusive criterion, rather than an exclusive criterion, for determining kinds.