Noah's Ark
And The Animals

The Elephants Went Marching Two by Two . . . Hurrah . . . Hurrah . . . Or Did They?

We have all heard of Noah’s Ark. Sunday schools teach it. Pastors refer to it. Stores even sell arks complete with two giraffes, elephants, lions, and monkeys for our children to play with and learn the story. Even most atheists can tell the basic story - Noah loads up the ark with his family and two of every kind of animal. But is that what the Bible actually says? Is the story we all know and love the true story? Or is that story like one of those movies that flashes, “Based on a true story” in which the director takes the liberty of changing to suit his cinematographic needs in order to produce a money making film? Let’s investigate what the Bible really says happened in the days of the worldwide flood that changed the entire earth and everything in it.

The True Story of Noah’s Ark

We begin in Genesis 6 with Yahweh’s initial directions to Noah:

Genesis 6:18 But with thee will I establish My covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons' wives with thee. 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. Genesis 6:20 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. Genesis 6:21 And take thou unto thee of all food that is eaten, and thou shalt gather it to thee; and it shall be for food for thee, and for them. Genesis 6:22 Thus did Noah; according to all that Elohim commanded him, so did he. (RNKJV)

So far, so good. Two of each, right? The Bible establishes that pairs of each kind of animal shall be brought into the ark (two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark) and that they will find their way to the ark in pairs (two of every sort shall come unto thee). At this point, two things are certain - the animals will come to Noah in male/female pairs and he should load them into the ark in male/female pairs. However, if we read on to Genesis 7, we find more specific instructions.

Genesis 7:1 And Yahweh said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before Me in this generation. Genesis 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. Genesis 7:3 Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the female; to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth.

This is the part most folks have never heard. The animals are separated into three categories - clean, unclean, and fowls of the air (birds). Time to revise our mental movie of Noah loading the animals! Verse 2 in Genesis 7 tells us that Noah was instructed to take clean animals by sevens, male and female. Use of the plural form of seven and followed by the male and the female, indicates that Noah was to take seven pairs of each clean animal. Why seven pairs of clean animals? Clean animals served two purposes - food and sacrifice. It makes sense that they would need more of the animals that they would be eating and sacrificing once they left the ark. Unclean animals on the other hand, would be important only from an ecological standpoint to maintain the food web system and keep populations in balance.

Only One Question Remains

It is unclear whether one or two pairs of unclean animals were included in the ark. Most Bible versions use the word two (Genesis 7:2 . . . and of beasts that are not clean by two, the male and his female) which suggests a literal two rather than two pair. Strong’s translation of the word two is as follows:

H8147 OT - Hebrew

Shnayim shen-ah'-yim

dual of 'sheniy' (8145); feminine shttayim {shet-tah'-yim}; two; also (as ordinal) twofold:--      

both, couple, double, second, twain, + twelfth, + twelve, + twenty (sixscore) thousand, twice, two.

This definition suggests two may be used as a literal two or twofold, as in a couple, making the interpretation difficult as to whether or not there are two or four unclean animals. There are a couple of translations that also suggest two pair rather than two. Biologically speaking, two pair would make more sense for proper reproduction of the species.

Implications of Proper Interpretation

The true story of Noah’s ark - the clean animals and birds of the air were in fact loaded two by two - but there were seven pairs of each, and the unclean animals were loaded two by two - either one or two pairs of each, is the whole story that we don’t typically hear. Why is this important? One important implication is that animals have been divided into clean and unclean since the time of Adam and Eve. Yahweh’s people have always known the difference between the two and have always only eaten and sacrificed the clean animals. Since there is no mention of this knowledge being imparted to Noah directly from Yahweh, it can be assumed that he learned it from his father, who could have quite easily have learned it from Adam, since Noah's father, Lamech, may have been about 55-years-old when Adam died! This tells us that Moses’ instructions on the difference between clean and unclean animals in Leviticus 11 was not new. Just like we see Genesis 6 gives some initial instructions on animals to be brought into the ark and is followed by more specific and detailed instructions in chapter 7, we see clean and unclean was known to Yahweh’s people from the beginning and Moses gave more specific and detailed instructions to make clear which animals were clean and unclean.

Another important implication of this true version of Noah’s ark is the importance of reading events of the Bible in their entirety. We live in a world where people quote passages from the Bible to support their opinions - I have even heard the same passage used by people to support opposite opinions! Without an understand of the event in it’s entirety, without knowing the context of the situation, we cannot assume the meaning of a passage or we are speaking in ignorance. This ignorance is obvious and evident in the common widespread version of Noah’s ark. Now the question remains, what other Biblical events or passages do we not know the real story of or have we misinterpreted?

We pray this study has been as much of a blessing to you as it has been for us!

Yahweh Bless!