"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?

  • 1
    The first was general. The second was specific. The number of clean animals was probably very small.
    – Narnian
    Mar 26, 2014 at 19:44
  • 2
    What Genesis refers to as "kind" does not necessarily equate to what scientists refer to as "species" today.
    – Ben Miller
    Mar 26, 2014 at 19:47
  • 5
    I think the far more interesting question is "How did Noah know what animals were clean?"
    – wax eagle
    Mar 26, 2014 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, 2014 at 19:48
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    @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, 2014 at 6:13

3 Answers 3


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.


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.


Two pair of each unclean kind (cross-bred) Seven pair of each clean kind (purebred)

The answer to your question rests on the length of a cubit and the size/strength of Gopher wood. Neither of these items are known today. This leaves a path open for those who teach hatred of the Bible to deceive with intent.

So let go of any of their limited restricted irrational critical thinking garbage you may have because it hinders your ability to understand.

A common misunderstanding is that a cubit was about 20 inches and gopher wood was as small and weak as today's trees. But that is just an assumption that doesn't fit the Bible text.

In measurements before the flood the cubit was most likely significantly larger than 20 inches. A Gopher tree could have made a Redwood look like a toothpick. The strength of Gopher wood could have been much stronger than steel. Those characteristics would make Gopher wood highly desirable for all manners of construction. Without proper management a wood like that would be cut to extinction. Just like the Redwoods almost were.

Hopefully now the confusion is lifting and you can allow yourself to understand that the Ark was as large as needed to fit as many kinds clean and unclean (or specie variations) that existed. It had ample room for the people, the food, the animals, and maybe even a dance floor for entertainment after the days chores were complete.

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