In part of Genesis we see something 3 times over just 18 verses. I'm wondering why the author might go beyond repeating just once.

Gen 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. (KJV)
Gen 7:5-7 And Noah did according unto all that the LORD commanded him. And Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters was upon the earth. And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons' wives with him, into the ark, because of the waters of the flood. (KJV)
Gen 7:13 In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah's wife, and the three wives of his sons with them, into the ark; (KJV)

Q: Why might the author have us read the same thing 3 times over just 18 verses?

  • 1
    Just to reinforce who the author is talking about I would assume. That's what repetition often means!
    – curiousdannii
    Dec 6, 2013 at 10:16
  • I would really like to see this answered on Mi Yodeya Dec 9, 2013 at 17:10

1 Answer 1


If I were you, I would not fret about such repetitiveness. Even the Psalms are filled with repetition, albeit in a poetic way. In one verse, the author says the same thing twice but with slightly different words. In the Psalms, I guess one purpose of doing this was for ease in memorization. Couplets can be easier to memorize than straight text.

I remember asking a teacher of mine once about the passage in 1 Samuel where David drops Goliath dead in his tracks--at least that's what I thought. In 17:50, however, the author says that David struck Goliath with a stone and killed him, but in 17:51 the author says David took Goliath's sword and killed him!!

How can someone be killed twice? Is the Bible in error? No, not necessarily. The important point is that David killed Goliath. Maybe the "killing" with the sword was a coup de grâce because the giant was in his death throes. I don't know.

My point is: what does it matter? Not much, I suggest. I do know this: we would be much the poorer had God not included a good deal of repetition in His word. If you're the parent of a child, ask yourself, "How many times do I have to ask my child to take out the garbage? Once? Twice? Three times?" See Romans 15:15, where Paul was compelled by the Holy Spirit to remind the Romans of some things. In other words, they needed a little repetition. Why? "So that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit" (v.16). Repetition is sometimes good pedagogy!

  • The additional repetition occurs several times, regarding several different parts, of the Great Flood story. Besides seeing 3 times who got on the ark, it shows 3 times who got off the ark. It also shows 3 different ways in which we can note that flood took at least 1 year. This seems to be a blocking of anyone questioning those points. If they somehow disagree, then they have 2 additional things to explain. Dec 6, 2013 at 22:31
  • @JohnMartin: If you thought I was "blocking" your question, rest assured that was not my intention. If we take the Flood narrative seriously, and we should, it's because it describes the most cataclysmic event ever to have occurred in human history. Think of it: only eight people out of who knows how many millions of people survived, not to mention the only animals which survived were on the ark! Given the scope of the catastrophe, I am not surprised, therefore, that the author was so punctilious in the way he narrated his account. Think of it, all civilization perished, save eight people! Dec 7, 2013 at 0:04
  • No. I don't think you were blocking my question. I'm saying that the Genesis author is making it unquestionable that there were anything other than 8 adults who got on the ark, the same 8 who got off, and no others. Also, the author is making it unquestionable that the flood lasted at least 1 year. Dec 7, 2013 at 1:16
  • One thing the author is accomplishing is helping us answer certain questions that are otherwise very difficult to answer. One, for example, is hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/q/7422/2873 Dec 7, 2013 at 2:13

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