We read:

17 I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. 18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you. 19 You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. 20 Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive. 21 You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them.”

  • Genesis 7:1-4:

1 The Lord then said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation. 2 Take with you seven pairs of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and one pair of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, 3 and also seven pairs of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth. 4 Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made.”

  • Genesis 7:14-16:

They had with them every wild animal according to its kind, all livestock according to their kinds, every creature that moves along the ground according to its kind and every bird according to its kind, everything with wings. 15 Pairs of all creatures that have the breath of life in them came to Noah and entered the ark. 16 The animals going in were male and female of every living thing, as God had commanded Noah. Then the Lord shut him in.

  • Genesis 7:20-23:

20 The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than fifteen cubits. 21 Every living thing that moved on land perished—birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind. 22 Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. 23 Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; people and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark.

I think it is quite reasonable to deduce from the above that God did not instruct Noah to bring plants and trees into the Ark. Furthermore, "every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out". Now, even if the Jew did not consider plants to be living creatures, God knew that they are (because, well, they are). Thus, it is reasonable to think that if the Great Flood happened, all of the plants and trees died too. Even the aquatic plants died (presumably), because as the sea level rose, they were too far below it to capture sunlight to produce photosynthesis (plus the sky was covered in clouds). And yet, we read in Genesis 8:10-11, several days after the flood stopped:

10 He [Noah] waited seven more days and again sent out the dove from the ark. 11 When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth.

So, how come an olive tree did not die during the flood, if all the surface of the earth was under water for more than 40 days? Or is it that God repeated what He did in the third day of creation? Genesis 1:11:

Then he commanded, “Let the earth produce all kinds of plants, those that bear grain and those that bear fruit”—and it was done.

  • 1
    New plants grew from seeds.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 11:51
  • @curiousdannii Which seeds? Also the olive tree? Is that in the Bible or is it a deduction based on non-biblical information? Can you elaborate, maybe in a answer? Notice not all plants have seeds.
    – luchonacho
    Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 14:22
  • If so, how? They held their breath. Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 18:54
  • @KorvinStarmast Is that reason based on something? Couldn't animals hold their breath too?
    – luchonacho
    Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 19:17

3 Answers 3


You are falling into a linguistic trap because of translation issues. The core of the problem is your statement "Now, even if the Jews did not consider plants to be living creatures, God knew that they are (because, well, they are)." The actual meaning of the passage is that all the living animals died, but not necessarily the plants.

You are assuming that when the Jews did not include plants in the term "living things" that was a mistake due to ignorance. That's not the case - instead it's about definitions.

Interestingly the KJV makes the meaning clearer than modern translations, saying that the flood will destroy "all flesh" rather than all living things.

The Jews used a specific word to describe animal life. It's defined in their language to include animal life, but not to include plant life. We translate it as 'living', because that's the closest word we have, but it doesn't change the meaning that the Jews assigned to it. The word is theirs, and just because our definition of 'living' doesn't quite match their definition of their word does not mean they are 'wrong', or cause a theological problem. The context makes it clear what the meaning of the original word is.

You might also note that the definition of 'living' is not as clear cut as you might think, even in our times. The question of whether viruses (for example) are 'living' is not definitely decided.

  • 1
    Thank you. But I am not sure how this addresses the issue.
    – luchonacho
    Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 17:30
  • I've added a sentence to make it explicit. Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 17:39
  • 1
    @luchonacho Sometimes, the best way to answer a question is to challenge the frame of a question that is based on faulty assumptions. Some things in language reflect something highly contextual in a culture, hence the phrase "something lost in translation" is a common diagnosis of a phrase not parsing exactly from one language to the next. DJ has identified both your question's faulty assumption, and a problem of 'lost in translation' ... Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 18:56
  • "not necessarily" mean they did not? By "actual meaning", what do you mean? I don't think any reasonable person would state that plants and trees are not alive. But as you seem to suggest, the Jewish word did not mean plant. I'm fine with that, but then the question is how did plants survive underwater. Is it a miracle? If so, why the narrator does not acknowledge that?
    – luchonacho
    Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 19:22
  • 1
    It's true that no reasonable twenty-first century Westerner would say that plants were not alive. But the Bible was not written by twenty-first century Westerners. I'm going to leave the 'how' to another answer. Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 19:32

Are plants "living things"?

No. Biblically speaking, "living things" refers to organisms with "the breath of life". Plants do not engage in an O₂ → CO₂ respiration cycle and thus, Biblically, are not "alive". Moreover, "life", Biblically, is found in blood. Accordingly, insects and microorganisms are also not "alive" in the Biblical sense. Thus, we should be careful applying passages such as you cite to these sorts of organisms. Note also this question and its answer, as well as DJClayworth's answer here.

Did Noah bring plants on the ark?

Yes! Although you correctly note that Noah is not instructed to bring plants using the same language as he is instructed to bring animals, Noah was instructed to "take with you every sort of food that is eaten, and store it up" (Genesis 6:21). Since animals and humans were created as herbivores (and certainly, as some remain remain herbivores even today), "every sort of food" would have included plants, fruits and seeds. Moreover, since living plants can grow and continue to produce food (even reprocessing animal wastes), it is highly likely that Noah would have brought living plants and not just dead plant matter.

Did plants die in the flood?

Yes! Many, many plants "died" and were buried and became massive coal and oil deposits. Others became petrified or fossilized.

How did plants survive?

There are numerous articles online ( 1 2 3 4 ) which address this question.

One point to keep in mind is that the oceans would not have been nearly as saline as they are today. In fact, the flood waters presumably would have started out fresh and only become saline as minerals were picked up from the ground.


All the plants came from seed when the flood was over and the sun came out all seed germinated and grew from the ground as Jehovah said for them to do in the beginning. All plant life died in the flood.

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