"Then the Lord said to Noah, "Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you alone are righteous before me in this generation. Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and its mate; and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and its mate; and seven pairs of the birds of the air also, male and female, to keep their kind alive on the face of all the earth." - Genesis 7:1-3
Imagine what it smelled like on that ark. You had dogs, cats, reptiles, bugs and every creeping thing. There probably wasn't room for a litter box. What animals would you most hate to be with? We all draw the line somewhere. Rats? Snakes? Pigs? Whales? I would not want whales on my boat. I don't see how it would work. Their aquariums would take up too much room.
The birds could fly overhead but I wouldn't want to sunbathe on the deck of that ark. Not with every bird species flying over me, dropping what birds tend to drop.
As for the animals actually on board the ark, let's be realistic here about the transportation of significant numbers of carnivores. Noah may have started with 400 species but probably about half that many reached dry land.
Did they mourn the loss of the 200 missing species, eaten for dinner? "Ah, the dodo, now extinct," says Noah. "We'll miss that noble bird."
A brief sigh is heard through the ark, before someone says wistfully, "Yeah… Tasted like chicken."
I would not have accepted an assignment like this from God. I would have argued:
"You want me to put all my relatives on a boat with every species of animal? You want to pack together every smelly, disgusting, feuding creature, poorly groomed and slimy, in a tiny space, for food fights and pissing matches? And that's just the family. Don't add every species, please, God, reconsider the animal issue. So….how about we just bring the kittens?"
Thank you, God, for ancient stories that remind me that your earth is shared space among all kinds of creatures. Amen.
Lillian Daniel, author of When "Spiritual But Not Religious" is Not Enough, has a chapter in the new anthology, What My Mother Gave Me: Thirty-one Women on the Gifts That Mattered Most. Follow her on twitter @lillianfdaniel.