Question

In Genesis 1, plants are created on day three, man on day six. Yet in Genesis 2, man seems to have been created before "any shrub of the field" or "plant of the field" had yet sprung up. I wonder if the phrase "of the field" is significant, especially since the writer partly attributes the lack of vegetation to the fact that there was no man to "work the ground." Does this indicate that plants of the field are agricultural vegetation? Is there any solid indication in the original language in terms of distinctions in Hebrew terms for "shrub of the field" or "plant of the field" as compared to the words used in Genesis 1 at day three for plants?

Also, Genesis 2:5 explains that there was no shrub or plant of the field because God had not yet caused rain. Then the text seems to contradict that explanation when it says that God caused water from the earth to "water the whole surface of the ground." Doesn't that negate the point of saying there were not yet any plants due to a lack of rainfall? After all, water is water in terms of watering plants.

Answer

Actually, we've got a two-part article on the site that addresses all these issues and provides one possible solution to all of them: Because It Had Rained (part 1 part 2) by Mark Futato.

Basically, Mark argues that "shrubs" are wild plants that spring up as a result of rain, and that "plants" are those that spring up as a result of cultivation. And yes, there is a parallel to Genesis 1 here. In answer to the "rain" issue, Mark translates Genesis 2:5-6 as teaching that there were no plants because it had not rained, so God began to send rain clouds to rain on the earth (not a mist from the ground). Basically, in Genesis 2:5-7 Mark sees two problems (no shrubs, no plants) with two causes (no rain, no cultivator) and two solutions (God sends rain, God sends a cultivator). He also reads both creation accounts as being topically arranged.

For those who don't buy Mark's interpretation (though I think it is quite meritorious), his translation of Genesis 2:5-7 still offers a solution to the dischronology of the creation of plants and then of man, though the animals later in the chapter may still be problematic if one thinks that both Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are chronological accounts. And even if one prefers "mist" over "rain cloud" in Genesis 2:6, Mark's structure still solves the problem of apparent contradiction (i.e. that mist negates the need for rain).

In any event, if either Genesis 1 or Genesis 2 is topically arranged, there is no chronological difficulty. Frequently, interpreters have taken Genesis 1 as chronological and Genesis 2 as topical. So, Mark has one way of getting rid of the apparent dischronology, and traditionalists have another. But even a third possible solution exists: Genesis 2 could be chronological, and Genesis 1 could be topical. This solution might find support in the fact that Genesis 1:1-2:3 is not introduced as a creation account, but Genesis 2:4ff. is, perhaps implying that Genesis 1:1-2:3 really is an ancient hymn, whereas Genesis 2:4ff. is the historical account.

I don't suppose we will ever find a solution that satisfies everyone -- literature is too vague to accomplish this. But we can at least offer a number of plausible explanations, any one of which is sufficient to defend against the charge of contradiction.

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.