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"The animals went in two-by-two, hurrah, hurrah!" - we're taught this nursery rhyme from a young age, and go throughout life believing that one male, and one female of each species was present on the Ark in order to re-populate the world after the flood.

Genesis 6:19 - "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."


Genesis 7:2 -"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."

I find the verses above somewhat confusing with regards to how many of each species would have been present on the Ark. How do people who take the Ark narrative literally interpret this?

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The first was general. The second was specific. The number of clean animals was probably very small. – Narnian Mar 26 '14 at 19:44
What Genesis refers to as "kind" does not necessarily equate to what scientists refer to as "species" today. – Ben Miller Mar 26 '14 at 19:47
I think the far more interesting question is "How did Noah know what animals were clean?" – wax eagle Mar 26 '14 at 19:47
I've added a bit of scope clarification in the last sentence. The scope here is "flood literalism" – wax eagle Mar 26 '14 at 19:48
@waxeagle Not sure why that would be a very interesting question. Perhaps God gave Noah additional information that is not recorded in the Bible. Perhaps the classification was invented by people and was common knowledge at the time. We don't know how Noah knew, but there are obvious possibilities, it's not a baffling mystery. – Jay Mar 27 '14 at 6:13
up vote 6 down vote accepted

In the KJV it might be hard to understand, but in the translation you used above I think its very clear.

There was "one pair" of each unclean animal, i.e. 2 of each of those species.

There were "seven pairs" of every clean animal and bird, i.e. 14 of each of those species.

So they did essentially go in "two-by-two" but for some species there was only one pair, and for others there were seven pairs.

If the problem is that Genesis 6:19 does not mention the seven pairs like Genesis 7:2 does, that is easily overcome by assuming that God would give Noah more specific instructions closer to the event than the general overview he gave earlier. After all, notice that Noah is not tasked with rounding up the animals, but Genesis 6:19 says all these animals "will come to you." So God may have initially made it sound like to Noah that only 2 of each animal would come, but for whatever reason later sent 14 of certain species, and explained it to Noah again when the animals arrived.

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I generally agree with David Brainerd's answer. But I'd add: Genesis doesn't say two of each "species", it says two of each "kind". All creationist scientists whom I have heard discuss the subject conclude that a "kind" is a broader category than a "species". For example they will generally conclude that dogs and wolves are both members of the "canine kind", even though they are considered different species.

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