Summary: God makes a deliberate distinction between the clean and the unclean—a fact that strengthens our hope in the promise.
I told you in our last study that Genesis 7 can be broken into three main parts: the imputation of righteousness, God’s deliberate classification of the animals into clean and unclean, and His faithfulness to keep His word to both the righteous and the wicked. We’ve already covered the imputation of righteous, so now we come back to verse two where we’ll move on to the next two points. God commanded Noah to come into the ark with his whole family and all the animals:
2Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female. 3Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the female; to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth.
I want to focus on the deliberate distinction between clean and unclean animals. Cain and Abel knew that there was a difference in the kinds of sacrifices that were to be made, and it’s obvious that Noah did too. But what’s the point? Let me suggest that these animals are symbolic of a greater spiritual truth. Remember, God makes everything for a purpose (Prov. 16:4). It’s no accident that verse 2 comes after verse 1, and the statement about the animals reinforces what we just read about the imputation of righteousness to Noah: God makes distinctions.
He made a distinction between Noah and everyone else in the world just as He makes distinction between the clean and unclean animals. You couldn’t bring just any sacrifice; there were rules. And these rules often were in conjunction with the animal’s physiology or habits. Let me give you an example:
Whatsoever parteth the hoof, and is clovenfooted, and cheweth the cud, among the beasts, that shall ye eat. 4Nevertheless these shall ye not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the hoof: as the camel, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you. 5And the coney, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you. 6And the hare, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you. 7And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you. 8Of their flesh shall ye not eat, and their carcase shall ye not touch; they are unclean to you (Lev. 11:3-8).
Doesn’t this all seem a little bit…cumbersome? And legalistic? Why in the world would God care about an animal’s foot? Couldn’t we just read John 3:16 instead? You know, this isn’t one of those verses you’ll see painted on a sign in someone’s front yard, but there’s just as much of the gospel here as any other place. Who they are and what they do shows us whether these animals are clean or unclean. They are types and shadows, which explains why God revokes the prohibition with Peter (Acts 10:9-15)—now that Christ has come there’s no need for them and they become obsolete with the rest of Moses’s Law. Clean and unclean animals point us towards the fact that God does indeed makes a distinction.