Animals of the Ark

By John Kesler, formatted and titled by Joseph Joson


This article was actually posted on Farrell Tillís II Errancy Discussion List. I have reformatted it for inclusion on my site. John Keslerís commentary will follow his name, the material to which he is responding from Turkel will follow Turkelís name.


How Many of Each Animal Went Ark-Aboard?

Gen. 7:2 Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the male and his female: and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female.

Gen. 7:8-9 Of clean beasts, and of beasts that are not clean, and of fowls, and of every thing that creepeth upon the earth, There went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as God had commanded Noah.

The question often asked: Were there seven of each clean beast, or two? The answer is, seven. The phrase "two by two" in 7:9 simply means the animals entered the ark in pairs. So the beasts with 7 representatives came in as 3 pairs and 1 oddball each, paired off male and female and one spare wheel. (Note the difference in phraseology: "by two" and "two and two".)

Notice what Turkel does in this article. He brings up a skeptical argument-that the Bible is contradictory about how many of each animal went on the ark-but then leaves out one of the main passages used by skeptics, instead setting up a straw man which Turkel can more easily knock down. Turkel leaves out Genesis 6:19-22 which is the original command to take
animals aboard the ark:

Genesis 6:9b Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation; Noah walked with God {Elohim}.


Genesis 6:19-22 And of every living thing, of all flesh, YOU SHALL BRING TWO OF 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 its kind, TWO OF EVERY KIND SHALL COME IN TO YOU, to keep them alive. Also take with you every kind of food that is eaten, and store it up; and it shall serve as food for you and for them." NOAH DID THIS; HE DID ALL THAT GOD {Elohim} COMMANDED HIM.

Now compare this command to the command in the very next verses, Genesis 7:1-5

Genesis 7:1-5 Then Yahweh said to Noah, "Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you alone are righteous before me in this generation. TAKE WITH YOU SEVEN PAIRS OF ALL CLEAN ANIMALS, the male and its mate; AND A PAIR OF THE ANIMALS THAT ARE NOT CLEAN, the male and its mate; AND SEVEN PAIRS OF THE BIRDS of the air also, male and female, to keep their kind alive on the face of all the earth. For in seven days I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights; and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground." AND NOAH DID ALL THAT YAHWEH COMMANDED HIM.

The first command was given by Elohim, and verse 22 says that Noah "DID ALL THAT GOD COMMANDED HIM." If Noah did all that God commanded him, which was to bring two pairs of "all flesh" onto the ark, how could Yahweh (not
Elohim) then command Noah to make a distinction between the number of clean and unclean animals taken aboard and to take aboard seven pairs of birds?

Turkel answered his own "argument." Too bad it didn't address the real issue.

On the II Errancy Discussion List, Farrell Till replied to Keslerís critique.--JJ


I'm surprised that someone who sees himself as the end of all wisdom in biblical apologetics could come up with this "one oddball" theory. Turkel disdains reliance on translations to determine the most likely meaning of texts, but if he had consulted some translations, he would have seen that the text in question was not saying that Noah took seven of each clean "kind" into the ark but seven PAIRS of each unclean "kind," THE MALE AND HIS FEMALE.

ASV: Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee seven and seven, the male and his female and of the beasts that are not clean clean two, the male and his female.

Just a bit of logical reasoning, which, of course, would put Turkel at a disadvantage, should enable readers to see that the writer was describing pairs. Of the unclean animals, there were to be two of each kind, the male and his female, and these two together would make one pair. If the clean animals were to be taken into the ark BY SEVENS or "seven and seven," the male and his female, that would mean that there were to be seven males, each with his own female. The "one oddball" theory would leave at least one male or one female without its mate, because if there were three males and four females or four males and three females, one female or one male would be without its mate.

The whole idea of taking a male and its female shows that Yahweh wasn't too informed in animal husbandry, because no farmer or rancher would buy an even number of males and females to go into the business of raising cattle or sheep or horses or whatever. One bull and 13 cows or one ram and 13 ewes would be a far sounder initial investment than seven of each sex,
since one male could easily "service" thirteen females. The way this story was written shows that the author had a poor conception of population growth. In the story of Pharaoh's plan to stop the population explosion of the Hebrews, Pharaoh ordered the midwives to kill every male child born to Hebrew women but to keep the females alive (Ex.1:22). It was no wonder that such a dumb plan as this didn't work, because population growth is dependent on the number of fertile females available, not the number of fertile males (assuming that there is at least one fertile male in the group). Pharaoh could have succeeded in killing every male child born at this time, and the population would still have grown, because as the females who were kept alive reached maturity, there would have been plenty of older males ready and willing to do their duty to ensure the growth of the nation. I assure you that the older males would not have walked about saying, "Isn't it a shame that these lovely ladies have no young mean available." If Pharaoh had had a lick of sense--or more probably if the one who wrote this little yarn had had a lick of sense--the story would have been written to have Pharaoh ordering the killing of all female babies
born to the Hebrews.

At any rate, a study of different translations of the Genesis yarn would have told Turkel that his "one oddball" theory was not the probable meaning of the text. Kesler has quoted the NRSV version, which makes the meaning of seven pairs of clean animals clear, but these versions also clarify the most likely meaning of the text.

RSV Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate....

NAB Of every clean animal, take with you seven pairs, a male and its mate....

GNB Take with you seven pairs of each kind of ritually clean animal....

YOUNG'S LITERAL Of all the clean beasts, thou dost take to thee seven pairs, a male and its female....

To support his "one oddball" theory, Turkel is going to have to explain how "the male and his female" would be compatible with his claim that only a total of seven in each clean "kind" was taken aboard the ark. Seven is an odd number, so there is no way that each male could have "his female" in a group of seven animals.