Genesis 8:17 ESV

Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh—birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth—that they may swarm on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.

The "may" here must imply that this is a possibility, not a certainty, correct? Obviously, there must have been dinosaurs on this ark and they did not swarm the earth and be fruitful and multiply so I'm assuming that this "may" is the way in which the inerrancy is upheld.

  • Given the size of fossil remains and the size of the Ark given in Genesis 6, the possibility of dinosaurs in the Ark is more than likely zero.
    – agarza
    Commented Oct 6, 2023 at 16:40
  • 1
    Unless of course, juveniles were taken aboard. They're so cute when they're little. ;-)
    – Dieter
    Commented Oct 6, 2023 at 16:57

2 Answers 2


The "may" translation in the ESV, as the OP has interpreted it, is misleading. The verb here is שָׁרַץ (sharats) = "to swarm/team". In Gen 8:17 it is a qal conjunctive perfect. A more helpful (and accurate) translation is provided by BSB:

... so that they can spread out over the earth and be fruitful and multiply upon it.

That is, the sense of the verb is simply to allow them to leave the Ark so that they can multiply, etc. Thus, the verb is saying, do this (let them out) to allow this (multiplication) to happen.

As we now know, some species were not ultimately successful and some have become extinct. The reasons for extinctions are multifaceted and complex; however, the available evidence suggests that most species were very successful but some later became extinct for reasons that are not entirely understood.

  • 1
    +1... small objection: I would challenge the idea that "most species were very successful." vox.com/energy-and-environment/2019/12/9/20993619/… Commented Oct 4, 2023 at 15:49
  • Note that Genesis uses the words, "after their kind," rather than "species." According to etymonline: "The English word [species] is attested from 1560s as 'a distinct class (of something) based on common characteristics.' The specific use in biological sciences in reference to groups of living things recognizably distinct from all others by their inherited characteristics is from c. 1600, but the exact definition never has been settled." To project the modern word, "species," on the Hebrew word for "kind" is an anachronism.
    – Dieter
    Commented Oct 6, 2023 at 17:06
  • @Dieter - I fully agree. The Genesis account does not define "kind" but it clearly meant something closer to the biological meaning of "genus" rather than "species". I also agree that a large number of species/kinds have become extinct since the original creation.
    – Dottard
    Commented Oct 6, 2023 at 19:04

Note the following commentaries:

  • "Is a Fiery End Really Near?" The Watchtower, November 1, 1972

    God showed he cared and purposed to have the earth continuously and permanently filled with animal and human creation when he preserved representatives of both human and animal kinds through the global flood of Noah’s day. Why would God do this if he did not care, or if he purposed someday to eliminate them all?​—Gen. 7:1-3; 8:1, 17.

  • Barnes' Notes on the Bible

    The command to leave the ark is given and obeyed. As Noah did not enter, so neither does he leave the ark, without divine direction. "The fowl, the cattle, and the creeper." Here, again, these three classes are specified under the general head of every living tiring. They are again to multiply on the earth. "Every living thing." This evidently takes the place of the cattle mentioned before. "After their families." This word denotes their tribes. It is usually applied to families or clans. [bold mine]

  • Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

    that they may breed abundantly in the earth, and be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth, for which end they were preserved in the ark. Jarchi observes, it is said "on the earth", not in the ark, which shows he thinks that birds and beasts were not allowed to couple, and that they did not breed there. It is a question with some, how the creatures, which were only in Asia at their coming out of the ark, could spread themselves all over the earth;

As animals are driven by instinct, they would naturally want to reproduce. Furthermore, if Jehovah God had not wanted them to reproduce, why would he have had Noah put them onto the Ark only to die off later on? Why have some animals reproduce but not others?

While Jehovah gave the command to Adam and Eve to "be fruitful and become many" (Genesis 1:29), we note that he also mentions in verse 30:

And to every wild animal of the earth and to every flying creature of the heavens and to everything moving on the earth in which there is life, I have given all green vegetation for food.” And it was so.

That would mean a lot of vegetation for just a small amount of animals on the global scale.

Consider also that after a few centuries, very few animals would have existed for which man would not have been able to 'have in subjection'. (Genesis 1:28) And if this was the case, what would the Israelites have used for sacrifices under the Law Covenant?

As our all-knowing Father, Jehovah knew what needed to happen and how it needed to happen for mankind to continue living on the earth.

[All scripture quotations from the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (Study Edition)]

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