How Many of Each Kind of Animal Were on the Ark?

It is com­mon for skep­tics to lev­el crit­i­cism against the Bible for seem­ing­ly con­tra­dic­to­ry num­bers giv­en in dif­fer­ent vers­es. For instance, some skep­tics will point out that Noah is told in Gen­e­sis 7:2–3 to take sev­en pairs of cer­tain crea­tures while in vers­es 8 and 9 of the same chap­ter refer only to two of each kind of animals. 

  • “You shall take with you sev­en each of every clean ani­mal, a male and his female; two each of ani­mals that are unclean, a male and his female; also sev­en each of birds of the air, male and female, to keep the species alive on the face of all the earth.” Gen­e­sis 7:2,3, NKJV
  • Of clean ani­mals, of ani­mals that are unclean, of birds, and of every thing that creeps on the earth, two by two they went into the ark to Noah, male and female, as God had com­mand­ed Noah. Gen­e­sis 7:8,9, NKJV

This is one of the eas­i­est so-called con­tra­dic­tions to resolve.

Vers­es 2 and 3 give us the num­ber of the ani­mals which were to be tak­en upon the ark. Sev­en male and female pairs of clean ani­mals and birds were to be tak­en, while one pair (a male and a female) of unclean ani­mals were to come.

Vers­es 8 and 9, on the oth­er hand, do not tell us how many of each kind of ani­mal were to come. Rather, these vers­es tell us the man­ner in which they entered the ark, that is, as pairs (or, “two by two”).

It does not take a wild stretch of the imag­i­na­tion at all to envi­sion sev­en pairs of birds, for instance, enter­ing the ark “two by two,” or one pair at a time.

These num­bers are in no way con­tra­dic­to­ry, and it is a sad tes­ti­mo­ny to the amount of doubt toward the word of God by skep­tics that some would con­tin­ue to use these dif­fi­cul­ties against the Bible.

2 thoughts on “How Many of Each Kind of Animal Were on the Ark?”

  1. Emi­ly, thanks for writ­ing, and may God bless you in your studies.

    I am dis­ap­point­ed that I didn’t cov­er the clos­ing vers­es of Gen­e­sis 6 in my orig­i­nal post; it is an over­sight I can’t eas­i­ly explain!

    How­ev­er, look­ing at the text, I think verse 20 of that chap­ter holds a key. It says that two of every ani­mal were to be brought “to keep them alive.â€?

    How­ev­er, we know that even at this point in time, ani­mals were used in sac­ri­fices of thanks­giv­ing and oth­er forms of wor­ship. It would make sense that while two of every clean ani­mal would be brought, there should be brought more of theme for sake of sacrifice.

    If this is not the case, then it should be not­ed that Gen­e­sis 6 does not spec­i­fy only two, leav­ing room for the sev­en of Gen­e­sis 7.

    God in His fore­sight would have known that humans would begin eat­ing meat short­ly after the flood. Hav­ing an abun­dance of clean ani­mals avail­able would have been vital. Hav­ing only two of each in addi­tion to what off­spring, if any, they had dur­ing their time on the Ark would mean almost instant extinc­tion for many species once humans became omnivorous.

    If Gen­e­sis 6 is tru­ly con­tra­dic­to­ry with Gen­e­sis 7, it must be asked how such would have occurred, for it would cer­tain­ly deny the ver­bal inspi­ra­tion of the Bible.

  2. But in chap­ter 6, vers­es 19–20 say “And of every liv­ing thing, of all flesh, you shall bring two fo every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. Of the birds, accord­ing to their kinds, and of the ani­mals accord­ing to their kinds, of every creep­ing thing of the ground accord­ing to it’s kind, two of every kind shall come in to you, to keep them aliveâ€?. The num­ber than chances to 7 clean and 1 unclean in chap­ter 7(which is also odd, con­sid­er­ing that human­i­ty at this point hasn’t yet recieved the laws about clean and unclean animals…how would Noah know the difference?)

    Emi­ly

    P.S. A reply would be great­ly appreciated…I am a Chris­t­ian Min­istry stu­dent and we just fin­ished a unit in Gen­e­sis, and this is one of the tex­tu­al con­tra­dic­tions we covered.

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Rick Beckman