Problem: Two or fourteen of each species went into the ark
Verses: Genesis 6:19, 7:2, 7:8-9, 7:15; Status: Weak

In the story of Noah and his ark, we are told that God instructed Noah to preserve a male and a female of every species of animal, presumably so that their populations could recover later. This is Genesis 6:19:

And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female. (ESV)

However, we are also told that God told Noah to take seven pairs of every clean animal. This is Genesis 7:2:

Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate, and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate (ESV)

I can't really see this as a contradiction. The general idea is for there to be a male and a female of each species. However, more of the clean animals are needed, apparently so that Noah can sacrifice them, which he does at Genesis 8:20. I think it's reasonable that God can mention the general idea (two of each animal) and then later mention an exception (fourteen of each clean animal).

Things are made slightly tricky by Genesis 7:8-9:

Of clean animals, and of animals that are not clean, and of birds, and of everything that creeps on the ground, two and two, male and female, went into the ark with Noah, as God had commanded Noah. (ESV)

Genesis 7:15 is similar. These verses seem to suggest that there were precisely two of every species (with no exceptions). However, it's arguable that these verses do not rule out the presence of more animals, but merely tell us that the main plan - to get at least one pair of every species on board - went ahead smoothly. The extra animals aren't mentioned here, being irrelevant to the main plan.

Alternatively, Looking Unto Jesus suggests that these verses are merely describing how the animals entered in an orderly fashion.

Perhaps neither solution is 100% satisfactory. This problem arguably borders on being Minor. I should note that it's fairly standard in Biblical scholarship to see these two passages as having been written by different authors, and then folded together later.

Updated: 2008-08-08

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