Associate Professor of Biblical Languages, Andrews University

When Darwin, after long study and observation, became con­vinced that variations do occur in animals and plants, producing new "species," since he believed that the Bible teaches absolute fixity of species by the act of crea­tion by God, and since he did not go to the Genesis record and study it for himself in the original lan­guage or even in English transla­tion, the result was that he felt forced to abandon the Genesis Creation account and to accept the facts of nature with which he was faced. This same reaction occurs today, for people too often accept a hearsay idea of what the Bible says, or if they go to it, they carry their own ideas into it instead of letting it speak.

Is it true that the Bible teaches absolute fixity and excludes development of varie­ties or species? What does the phrase trans­lated in the KJV "after his kind" really mean as it is used in the original Hebrew language of the Old Testament? What is the basic meaning of other Hebrew words, such as those for classes of creatures and kinds of plants?

There are three groups of nouns refer­ring to living creatures.

1. Creatures of the air. a. 'oh (Gen. 1:20, 21, 22, 26, 28, 30; 2:19, 20; 6:7, 20; 7:3, 8, 14, 21, 23, etc.) is defined as "flying creatures: fowl, insects" "what is flying . . . in the air." b. In the Flood record a sec­ond noun is used: sippor (Gen. 7:14), de­fined as "birds, winged animals" = is related to an Arabic verb meaning "peep, twitter, whistle," and therefore usually thought of as a small bird, a songbird.

2. Creatures of the sea. a. dag (Gen. 9:2; feminine, dagah, 1:26, 28) is "fish." b. sheres (Gen. 1:20; 7:21) refers to "swarming things" that swarm or reproduce abundantly in the sea (1:20) or on the land (7:21).5

3. Creatures of the land. a. be­hemah (Gen. 1:24, 25, 26, etc.; plural, behemoth) is "cattle, ani­mals,' often thought of as the larger animals and especially those that are or can be domesti­cated. b. chayyath (Gen. 1:24, 25, 30, etc.) is "the not domesticated" animal living "in the open coun­try," "in most cases big and dangerous" ani­mals, "rapacious animals, beasts."' It is re­lated to hay, "alive, living." c. remes (Gen. 1:24, 25, 26; 6:7, 20; 7:14, 23, etc.) means "the small animals, creeping things (herpe­ton reptile)." The verb is used of creatures both on the land (Gen. 1:26, 28, 30; 7:8, 14, 21; 8:17, 19; 9:2, etc.) and in the water (Gem 1:21, participle; Lev. 11:46; Ps. 69:34).

A group of nouns refers to land plants: 1. deshe' (Gen. 1:11, 12) means "young, new grass." 10  'eseb (Gen. 1:11, 12, 29, 30; 2:5; 3:18; 9:3) is "herb, herbage . . . plants of one season."" 3. 'es is defined as "coil trees (as . . . wood) . . . (single) tree . . . trees .. species of tree .. . wood (material)  timber . . . pieces, sticks of wood.'


The word translated "kind" is min, pro­nounced like the English word "mean." It occurs thirty-one times in the Hebrew Old Testament-ten times in Genesis 1, three times in Genesis 6, four times in Genesis 7, or a total of seventeen times in Genesis; nine times in Leviticus 11:14-29, and four times in Deuteronomy 14:13-18 -a total of thirteen times in the two lists of creatures that are clean and unclean. It is also in Ezekiel 47:10, a total of thirty-one times.' It is always found in a preposi­tional phrase (le prefixed) with a suffix pronoun. The pronoun is masculine singu­lar eighteen times (-ehii fourteen times, -6 four times), feminine singular twelve times (-ah), and plural once (-ehem)."

The definition of min in the Koehler-Baumgartner Lexicon is: "kind, species: . . min. [Modern Hebrew] . . . schismatic, (Christian) heretic.' Thus it basically means a subdivision of a larger group. The cognate Arabic verb means to "split," as in plowing the earth." The Jewish-Ara­maic mina' means "species"; the Syriac mina', Edessa dialect, likewise; the identical word in the Palestinian Syriac dialect means "nation," " or "family, race," " or "race, family, stock." "

The Preposition le

The preposition le, prefixed to min, has the following meanings: "to, towards: . . . unto. . . (temporarily) until . . . at . .  in . . during a time . . after . . . of, concern­ing . . . indicating dative; . . for . . . be­longing to . . . as notion of the genitive-relation: . . . of . . . namely . . . indicating the parts of a whole: after, by . . . after Gn 1, 11, . . [cf.] Nu 4, 29 1 S 10, 19 etc.; . . . by bands 2 C 26, 11, .. by 1 S 29, 2, . . ." "

For example, in Numbers 4:29 is the statement "thou shalt number them [the sons of Merari] after their families by the house of their fathers" (K.J.V.); the R.S.V. says "you shall number them by their fam­ilies and their fathers' houses." In both phrases the Hebrew has the preposition le. In 1 Samuel 10:19 the same preposition occurs in the phrase "by your tribes and by your thousands," K.J.V. and R.S.V. having the same wording. In 1 Samuel 29:2, the phrase "by hundreds and by thousands" (K.J.V. and R.S.V.) has the same prepo­sition le. 2 Chronicles 26:11 has "by bands" in K.J.V., "in divisions" in R.S.V., the He­brew preposition again being le.

The same usage of le to enumerate classes and subdivisions of classes is found in many other verses, especially in Num­bers; for example Numbers 1:2: "'Take a census of all the congregation of the peo­ple of Israel, by families, by fathers' houses, according to the number of names, every male, head by head'" (R.S.V.). (The last phrase, if translated parallel to the "after his kind" phrases in Genesis 1, which it perfectly resembles, would be "after their heads"; the K.J.V. has "by their polls.") Likewise in the census recorded in Num­bers 26, as in verse 12, where the K.J.V. has "after their families" and the R.S.V. "according to their families," and many other instances.

Now when we use this common enumer­ation idiom of le to translate lemind, et cetera, what does it really signify to say "by its kind"? Does it not mean "by species or variety," as in Leviticus 11:14, 15, speak­ing of unclean creatures: "And the vul­ture, and the kite after his kind [by kind]; every raven after his kind [by variety]"? And, in turn, does not "by species" really mean "the species of," or equivalently, "all sorts of"? The thirteen occurrences in Le­viticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 are all of this type, clearly meaning "its various spe­cies" or "its varieties," with no reference to a reproductive process going on or to go on.

The real meaning of the expression is brought out in modern English in the American Translation as follows: "the buzzard, the kite in its several species, the raven in all its species," et cetera. In all thirteen occurrences of the Hebrew phrase lemind or leminelra (masculine singular) or leminah (feminine singular), meaning "by, after, or according to its or his kind, her kind," in Leviticus 11 and Deuteron­omy 14, the American Translation has "in its several species" or "in all its species." The new Jewish version, The Torah, has "falcons of every variety; all varieties of raven.""

In Ezekiel 47:10, K.J.V., the latter part of the verse says: "their fish shall be ac­cording to their kinds, as the fish of the great sea, exceeding many." The American Translation reads "and its fish of all sorts shall be very plentiful, like those of the Great Sea." The R.S.V. has "its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea." (The Hebrew phrase is le­minah, feminine singular suffix.) Clearly this and the preceding thirteen occur­rences mentioned have nothing to do with the process of reproduction, but mean "the varieties of," "the different kinds of," or "all sorts of."

Occurrences of min in Genesis

Let us now look at the seventeen occur­rences of min in Genesis. First, Genesis 6:20, where Noah is being told how crea­tures will be kept alive through the Flood, reads: "Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort [literally, "of a11"] shall come unto thee, to keep them alive." This is really saying that the various kinds of fowls, the different sorts of cattle, and the varieties of creeping creatures will come to the ark in pairs. Of course, the purpose is to keep them alive to continue to repro­duce, but this phrase itself is not saying this. The American Translation states: "Of the various kinds of birds, the various kinds of animals, and all the various kinds of reptiles, two of every kind are to join you, that you may keep them alive." The new Jewish translation has "of every kind" in the first two places, and "every kind of" in the third.

The usage is exactly the same in Gene­sis 7:14 (which closely parallels Genesis 1:25); here the American Translation reads: "together with all the various kinds of wild beasts, all the various kinds of do­mestic animals, all the various kinds of land reptiles, and all the various kinds of birds, everything with feathers and wings." Here the new Jewish version has "of every kind" four times, each time following the noun—"all beasts of every kind, all cattle of every kind, all creatures of every kind that creep on the earth, and all birds of every kind, every bird, every winged thing."

In Genesis 1:21, where the K.J.V. speaks of God's creating "great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind [i.e., "by kinds"], and every winged fowl after his kind," evidently it is not speaking of how they are to reproduce from then on, but of how God caused the waters to bring them forth—that is, all kinds of them, in their various species. The American Translation makes the He­brew meaning clear: "God created the great sea-monsters and all the various kinds of living, gliding creatures with which the waters teem, and all the various kinds of winged birds." The new Jewish transla­tion reads" all the living creatures of every kind that creep" and "all the winged birds of every kind."

Genesis 1:24 contains God's command: "Let the earth bring forth the living crea­ture after his kind [i.e., "by kinds"], cat­tle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so." The command is to the earth, not to the ani­mals. The American Translation again plainly states: "Let the earth bring forth the various kinds of living creatures, the various kinds of domestic animals, reptiles, and wild beasts of the earth!'" In the new Jewish version it is "every kind of living creature" and "wild beasts of every kind."

God's direct commands to "multiply" are quoted in Genesis 1:22 and 9:1, and in these verses the word min is not used: "And God blessed them, saying, 'Be fruit­ful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply in the earth ' " (R.S.V.). "And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth (R.S.V.).

Genesis 1:22 would seem to be redundant if Genesis 1:21 were really concerned with a reproduction process. If it were repro­duction process in Genesis 1:21, it would be also in Genesis 1:11, 12, where it would then seem that only three types of land plants (grass, herbs, and fruit trees) were created. (See below.)

Genesis 1:25, the phrases of which are closely copied in Genesis 7:14 in the Flood record, tells us that "God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind." It is not referring to how they are to continue re­producing, but to how God made them at the start, that is, by various species. This is clearer in the American Translation: "God made the various kinds of wild beasts of the earth, the various kinds of domestic animals, and all the various kinds of land reptiles." The new Jewish translation says "wild beasts of every kind and cattle of every kind, and all kinds of creeping things of the earth."

Thus it is evident that twenty-eight of the thirty-one occurrences of min refer to the varieties or subdivisions of larger or smaller groups of creatures ("fowls" on the one hand or "hawks" on the other), rather than to how that class or family is to perpetuate itself.

The First Three Occurrences

The three remaining occurrences hap­pen to be the first three that one meets as he begins to read the Bible, and it happens that the meaning in these three places is ambiguous, because in each of them there is a participle to which the min phrase may refer, or else it may refer farther back grammatically to the noun that is modi­fied by the participle and which precedes it. The person who has an idea of fixity of species will come to these first three in­stances of the phrase containing min, and will resolve the ambiguity by his precon­ceived idea that "after his kind" refers to the process of reproduction following Cre­ation. He may fail to notice, as he goes on reading, that the context changes with the next occurrences, and that this idea is no longer even possible in the occurrences in the rest of Genesis and in Leviticus, Deut­eronomy, and Ezekiel.

The three occurrences are found in Gen­esis 1:11, 12, which in the K.J.V. read: "Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself. . . And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in it­self, after his kind:" The ambiguity arises because the min phrase may be adverbial, modifying the participle and telling how the herb is yielding seed (literally "seeding seed") and how the fruit tree is yielding fruit (literally, "making fruit"); or, equally, it may be adjectival, modifying the nouns "herb" and "tree" in the sense of "all sorts of plants" or "the various trees," just like all the other twenty-eight occur­rences of min. The American Translation brings out this second and equally gram­matically possible meaning of the phrase as used in these three places by reading: "'Let the earth produce vegetation, seed-bearing plants and the various kinds of fruit-trees that bear fruit containing their seed!' . . . The earth brought forth vegetation, the various kinds of seed-bearing plants and the various kinds of trees that bear fruit containing their seed." The new Jewish version reads: "And God said, let the earth sprout vegetation: seed-bearing plants, fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.' And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation: seed-bearing plants of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw how good this was." Genesis 1:29 may well be compared with verses 11 and 12; in verse 29, plants and fruits de­scribed in the very same phrases are speci­fied as food for mankind—showing that the phrases are adjectival, descriptive and clas­sificatory rather than adverbial, telling how reproduction should proceed.


The references in Leviticus and Deuter­onomy concerning creatures that may or may not be eaten clearly mean all their var­ious species or varieties, not their reproduc­tion. The same is true of the Ezekiel occur­rence. In the Flood story, Genesis 6 and 7, the references clearly are to the various species of the different classes of animals that were taken into the ark, two by two or seven by seven, and not to their repro­duction. The same meaning again is seen in the usages in Genesis 1:21, 24, 25; in response to God's command, the earth and the waters brought forth all the various species of creatures; the expressions are exactly the same as in the Flood story.

Only in Genesis 1:11, 12 is it possible to see any idea of reproductive process in the expression, and here only because in these three occurrences (10 per cent of the total of thirty-one) there is a participle in­volved, with two possible references gram­matically, and therefore, ambiguity. In the light of the meaning of all the other occur­rences where there is no ambiguity, and in view of the fact that the same meaning also fits in these three places, it seems that the preponderant and overwhelming, clear us­age in the rest should determine which of the two possibilities in these three ambig­uous places is really the one to be taken. This does not contradict the fact that they were to continue reproducing others simi­lar to themselves. But nothing in the He­brew original of the Creation record ex­cludes the possibility that from the created species there could develop new forms—that is, what are called new species or genera—as the reproduction process contin­ues.

If Darwin had taken the trouble to find out what the Genesis account really says, when he saw evidences that new species had originated in nature, he would not have been forced by the facts he saw to conclude that the Bible is untrustworthy. We must not force our own ideas onto the inspired record, but let it speak to us.


1 Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner (eds.), Lexicon in Veteris Testamenti Libros (Grand Rapids, Michi­gan: Wm. B. Eerdrnans, 1951), p. 690.

2 Ibid., p. 812.

3 Francis Brown, S. 12. Driver. and Charles A. Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Ox­ford: At the Clarendon Press, 1907, 1955), p. 861.

4 Koehler and Baumgartner, op. cit., p. 203.

5 Ibid., p. 1011.

6 Ibid., p. 110.

7 Ibid., p. 293. 

8 Ibid., p. 291.

9 Ibid., p. 895.

10 Ibid., p. 220.

11 Ibid., p. 739.

12 Ibid., pp. 724-25.

13 The Englishman's Hebrew and Choldee Concordance of the Old Testament (London: Samuel Bagster and Sons, Ltd., 5th ed., n.d.), pp. 697-98.

14 Kittel, Rud. (ed.), Biblia Hebralca (Stuttgart: Privileg. Wiirtt. Bibelanstalt, 3c1 ed., 1937).

15 Koehler and Baumgartner, op. cit., p. .519.

16 Brown, Driver, and Briggs, op. cit., p. 568.

17 Ibid.

18 S. P. Tregelles, Gesenius' Hebrew and Chaidee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1957), p. 470.

19 J. Payne Smith, A Compendious Syriac Dictionary (Oxford: At the Clarendon Press, 1903, 1957), p. 269.

20 Koehler and Baumgartner, O. cit., pp. 463-465.

21, The Bible, An American Translation;"The Old Testament translated by a group of scholars under the editorship of J. M. Powis Smith; The New Testament translated by Edgar J. Goodspeed (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1931. 1945).

22 The Torah, The Five Books of Moses; a new translation of The Holy Scriptures according to the Masoretic text. First section (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1962).

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Associate Professor of Biblical Languages, Andrews University

September 1964

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