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?)


    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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