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Jehovah told Noah after he had completed the ark: “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation. You shall take with you of every clean animal by sevens, a male and his female; and of the animals that are not clean two, the male and its mate.” (Genesis 7:1-2) Some translations, such as English Standard Version, Lexham English Bible, Christian Standard Bible, New American Standard Bible, The New Jerusalem Bible, and Tanakh—The Holy Scriptures, render the original Hebrew “seven pairs.”
In the original Hebrew, the expression “sevens” literally reads “seven seven.” (Genesis 7:2, fn. UASV) However, the repeating of a number in Hebrew does not in and of itself mean that the numbers should be added. For example, 2 Samuel 21:20 describes “a man of great stature” as having “six fingers on each hand, and six toes on each foot.” The number “six” in Hebrew is repeated, “six six.” The above translations do not take this to mean that the giant had six pairs of fingers (or 12) on each hand and six pairs of toes on each foot. The repeating of the number relates only to the distribution of six fingers on a hand and of six toes on a foot.
Concerning Genesis 7:2, 9, William R. Harper’s Introductory Hebrew Method and Manual states: “Words are often repeated in order to express the distributive relation.” Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar (Second English Edition) says: “Distributives are expressed either by repetition of the cardinal number, e. g. Gn 7:9, 15 שְׁנַ֫יִם שְׁנַ֫יִם two and two; 2 S 21:20 שֵׁשׁ וָשֵׁשׁ six each; with the numbered object also repeated, e. g. Jos 3:12 אִישׁ אֶחָד אִישׁ אֶחָד לַשָּֽׁבֶט for every tribe a man; Nu 13:2, 34:18 (אֶחָד מִן, as in Neh 11:1, one out of every ten); cf. § 123 d; or a periphrasis with אֶחָד לְ is used, Nu 17:18, Dt 1:23, cf. Is 6:2 לְאֶחָד after six wings twice repeated; the simple distributive לְ is, however, sufficient (as in לַבְּקָרִים, § 123 c), e.g., לְמֵאוֹת וְלַֽאֲלָפִים by hundreds and by thousands.” As we can see, it gives Genesis 7:9, 15 and 2 Samuel 21:20 as examples, where the repeated numbers are “two” and “six” respectively.
Therefore, “seven seven” in Genesis 7:2 should not be rendered “seven pairs,” or 14, just as the repeating of “two” should not be rendered “two pairs,” or four, in Genesis 7:9, 15. The repeating of a number in each verse simply means a distribution, not that adding of the numbers. Therefore, the clean animals were taken into the ark “by sevens,” and of the unclean ones, “just two.”
How can we understand the expression “a male and his female” right after the word “sevens” in Genesis 7:2? This is what has led some to think that Noah was ordered to take seven pairs of every kind of clean animal. However, we must remember that the clean animals were preserved not strictly for procreation. Genesis 8:20 tells us that after coming out of the ark, “Noah built an altar to Jehovah and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar.” The seventh animal from each clean kind on hand gave Noah an animal for sacrifice, which would have left three mated pairs for reproducing their kind on the earth.
 Friedrich Wilhelm Gesenius, Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar, ed. E. Kautzsch and Sir Arthur Ernest Cowley, 2d English ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1910), 436.