Noah's ark had less than 280 animals
The popular myth of an ark containing tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, or millions of species is not supported by Genesis 7:2-3 which describes the herd as seven pairs (fourteen) of each clean animal (i.e. animals used for temple offerings and food), one pair of each unclean animal and bird and seven pairs of clean birds. How many kinds of clean animals were there? We don't have to guess. Deuteronomy 14:4-5 lists 10 species of clean animals, which implies 140 clean animals in Noah's barge. Assuming a minimum average of 12 square feet per animal (cramped but adequate), 1680 square feet of deck area would be needed. If Noah's workers loaded only the animals that happened to be in Noah's stockyard when the river started rising, the barge may have contained only a few dozen clean animals.
How much deck area was needed for the unclean animals and birds? Leviticus 11:4-19 and Deuteronomy 14:7-18 list about 30 species of unclean animals and birds. Thirty pairs would be 60 animals. These small animals would fit in 2 feet by 2 feet cages. In addition, seven pairs of each of the five species of clean birds is a total of 70 clean birds. Assuming 4 square feet for each caged small animal and bird, only 520 square feet were needed. Thus the total deck area required for the estimated 270 animals was only 2200 square feet, leaving plenty of deck area for walkways and baskets of grain piled several deep.
The broad words of Genesis 6:19: "And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark" and a similar phrase in Genesis 7:15 are clearly inconsistent with the sacrifices of Genesis 8:20 and the seven pairs mentioned in Genesis 7:2-3. Since the phrase "two of every kind" is an overgeneralization, the preceding phrase "every living thing" can also be treated as an overgeneralization and be interpreted narrowly to mean every living thing of importance that Noah owned or had custody of. If Noah was asked years later how many animals he took on the barge, Noah may have replied, "Every one; I took them all." In such a remark, the words "every" and "all" would mean only that he did not leave any of his animals behind, not that he took every species on the planet. As with the proverbial fish story, the scope of "every" grew with the retelling.
Noah's clean animals included cattle, sheep and goats. His unclean animals included raven, swine and eagles. They were his inventory, his stock in trade. But most of the world's animals were not included. Exotic zoo animals such as elephants, giraffes, hippos, lions, apes and kangaroos are not mentioned in Genesis or Deuteronomy and were not included in Noah's inventory. Since it would be impossible for Noah to attract millions of animals from all over the planet, he did not do so. The animals came to the ark because local herdsmen brought them to the ark. According to Gilgamesh XI,82 "All the living beings I had, I loaded aboard." Yes, all he had, and only those he had.
Would it be practical for 9 people (Noah, his 3 sons and their wives plus the boatman Puzur-Amurri) to feed and water 270 animals and haul out the manure each day? Assuming 10 hour work days (not including rest and dinner breaks) each person would have 20 minutes per animal each day. Entirely practical.
Would there be enough deck area for the hay, beer, and wine for the 382 days the barge was occupied? Assuming each clean animal consumed half of a cubic foot of hay per day, 140 animals would consume 70 cubic feet per day or 26,700 cubic feet in 382 days. In a hayloft 6 feet high about 4460 square feet of deck area would be required for the hay.
Assuming each person and large animal consumed three quarts of water (as beer or wine) per day, 152 large animals and people would consume about 44,000 gallons in 382 days. Four gallons in a clay jar occupy about one square foot. If the jars were stacked two deep, about 5500 square feet of deck area would be required to store the beer and wine, leaving enough deck area for structural members, walkways, and jars of other commodities. This is assuming three quarts of water/beer/wine per day. Small animals would require less than half of that amount. The adult people may have consumed eight quarts of beer per day. Only a small amount of well water would have been stowed in the barge for the animals during the expected few days of travel. Water would not have been hauled as cargo because nobody would want to buy well water, but jars of beer and wine would have provided the necessary drinking water on the barge. After the barge grounded in an estuary, Noah could have used brackish river water.
Since Noah loaded only the animals that he had, if he had fewer than ten species of clean animals, the total number of animals may have been much smaller than estimated here. This means the amount of beer, hay, and grain that were used to keep those animals alive would also have been smaller than estimated. What probably happened to Noah's animals is explained in Chapter 5 of the Noah's Ark book.
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