One of the many so-called contradictions that Bible antagonists love to point to is the fact that in one verse it says Noah took two of every creature, and in another that he took seven. So is this in fact a contradiction, or is it just a deliberate refusal to understand what is quite obvious in order to justify a rebellious attitude of rejecting God? I think the latter is more the case than the former. So let us take a look at how many animals Noah took. First let us consider all of the verses pertaining to this.
Genesis 6:19 “And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female. Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive.”
In this verse it says that Noah was to take two of every sort. But does it mean only two, or is there a qualifier that indicates how “two” is meant? What if he grabbed just any two? Would that have worked? Obviously not, since procreation was the objective. So comes the qualifier - male and female. So what is He saying when it says two of every sort? What is meant is that a pair, which we know to be two in number, is to be taken. A pair by definition being male and female. So this is supposed to be read with this understanding. From all the animal world, take them by pairs into the ark. This is the general direction given to Noah. When giving information to people, it is best to start in a general sense and move on to details. That is how journalism works. A reporter is taught to give a quick synopsis with the who, what, when, where, why, and how in the first paragraph, but not the details. Then in following paragraphs he slowly gives out more and more details, never knowing where the editor will chop it off due to space constraints. When one studies the Scriptures in totality, one finds that God likes to use journalistic techniques in His writing. That is why you find the creation story initially covering the main events of each day, but not the details of them. The details come in a later chapter. As do the details of God's instructions to Noah.
Genesis 7:2-3 “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. Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the female; to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth.”
Now we get a little more detailed information, just as mentioned before. God gave the message that Noah will have to take pairs of every animal in the ark. God was giving Noah a major cataclysmic piece of prophecy. It was a devastating piece of news that no doubt had Noah reeling. The only thing that was important at this juncture was to simply relate the message of building the ark, its dimensions, and its purpose. That was why he was told about the animals. He needed to understand the ark's purpose and how the building of it would have to accommodate the taking on of pairs of animals. So first Noah got the message that the world was going to be destroyed in 120 years, second that he had to build an ark, and last the reason for the size, which was that he would have to get at least a pair of every kind of species together to put on the ark. This was to let him know that all life on earth including the animals were going to be destroyed. Now comes 120 years later and God moves on to more details as Noah has to actually load the animals on the ark. Generalizations are no longer good enough and God has to get very specific. Noah is told that he has to take what are called “clean”beasts by sevens. Three pairs, and a spare. Birds also are to be taken by sevens. They are still two by two, as three pairs are three sets of two. This group goes in two by two by two. The spare is for another reason. The gender seems to be inconsequential, because of its purpose.
Genesis 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.”
Now we have a recap. There is no need for the same details, as you have already been given them. What is important now, is what occurs next with the animals, not how many of them there are. You already have that information. So they go in the ark by pairs. The unclean go in by one pair each, and the clean by three pairs each. One assumes the spares walk in on their own or with another animal.
Genesis 7:14-15 “They, and every beast after his kind, and all the cattle after their kind, and every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind, and every fowl after his kind, every bird of every sort. And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life.”
This is just another recap of the situation. Again, he specifies that they went in by pairs, male and female of all the animals. You are already supposed to remember that some are by three pairs each and some by one pair each. You are expected to have enough intelligence to keep up with the story.
Now we come down to what the spare was for.
Genesis 8:15-20 “And God spake unto Noah, saying, Go forth of the ark, thou, and thy wife, and thy sons, and thy sons' wives with thee. Bring forth with thee every living thing that is with thee, of all flesh, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth; that they may breed abundantly in the earth, and be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth. And Noah went forth, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons' wives with him. Every beast, every creeping thing, and every fowl, and whatsoever creepeth upon the earth, after their kinds, went forth out of the ark. And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.”
The purpose of the pairs is obvious, but God tells you anyhow. They are to breed abundantly in the earth, to be fruitful, and to multiply. Now comes the question, why three pairs of clean and why the spare? Well, the spare is easy. He made the journey just to be sacrificed in thanksgiving to God for sparing their lives. As for the three pairs of clean animals, clean animals were the ones who were 1) more timid and tended to be the dinner for other animals so there would need to be more of them to feed the animal kingdom and still not run out of those animals. 2) Not only were they to feed the animal kingdom, but in Moses time the Law would be given to only eat these animals, and Israel would grow large, and they had to be fed. So again, now these animals are doing double duty as meals on wheels for the animal kingdom, and meals for humans. 3) These animals were also the ones that would be acceptable to use for sacrifice, again according to the Law of Moses. So now these poor little creatures are doing triple duty as food for animals, food for man, and sacrifice for God. And look at the connection. This is the group that were taken by three pairs. God knew they would be needed for triple the duty of other animals, so He had Noah take three times the number on the ark compared to other animals.
There is no contradiction here at all. Just a lack of intelligent understanding of the situation and the writing style.
For the question of how did 2 (or 7) of every animal ever fit into the ark, there are two easy explanations. One is that the ark was much bigger than people realize, and second, they did not have to take one of every variation of every animal. Back then the gene pool was still quite intact and animals would have the variations within their DNA. Therefore far fewer animals than people think needed to be taken. The best place to answer all these scientific questions is found at Answers in Genesis. They are a creation ministry that has all the answers about creation and Noah's Flood. They can be found at