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The Creation Discrepancy

 August 07, 2014

As people attempt to discredit the Bible, many apparent discrepancies come to light and we need to examine them.  However, these discrepancies are not always found by those who don’t believe, but sometimes by those who are simply studying and trying to learn the best they are able to.  Not too long ago I was speaking with my Dad about the Word and he brought up something he was attempting to figure out relating to creation in Genesis 1 and 2.

His quandary began in Genesis 2:5-7 where it states before there were any bushes in the field, or rain, the earth was watered by mists from the ground, and then man was created.  We know man was not created until the 6th day, but this appears to be saying there weren’t any plants when Adam was created.  So my Dad looked back to Genesis 1 and found that it was on the 3rd day that vegetation was created.  Are you beginning to see his problem?  He’s a staunch believer, has been for around 40 years or so; he believes the Word is true entirely but was having trouble reconciling this issue.

After the conversation with my Dad I began looking into the topic and even discussed it with my wife.  We found his understanding is easy to arrive at when taking the translation at face value, but when we dug deeper we found the Hebrew didn’t necessarily mean what we were understanding the English to mean.  With that in mind, let’s begin in Genesis 1.

Genesis 1:11-13 (ESVS)
And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so.  The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.  And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.

Verse 12 states that the earth brought forth vegetation, plants, and trees and verse 13 tells us when in creation we are, day 3.  The word used for “earth” is “aretz/eretz” meaning land or earth.  So, this is a broad, general term for the ground or earth, this is an important distinction to make and we’ll explain why later on.  The word for “vegetation” is “deshe” meaning a fresh, or new, green grass as in a pasture.  The word used for “plants” in the Hebrew is “’erev” which typically means an herb or green plant, and can include grass.  What we see here is that on day 3 YHWH created vegetation on the earth, things like grass, pastures, along with seed-bearing plants and fruit trees bearing fruit.  Let’s move on to chapter 2 and see what exists before man is created.

Genesis 2:4-7 (ESVS)
These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens. When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground,  and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground—  then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

We see in verse 5 how there were no bushes of field yet in the land, nor small plants of the field because there wasn’t rain and man wasn’t yet created to cultivate them.  The last part should give us a real clue relating to what’s being referred to, but let’s look into the Hebrew to find out more.  The word used for “bush” here is “siach” and literally means a shrub or bush.  The Scripture denotes what type of bush this is, it’s one from a “field”, in Hebrew “sadeh”, open land/pasture, or land outside of a walled city, it is usually cultivated.  This is different than the more general term used for “land” previously, “eretz”. 

Remember, eretz is a broad and general term for land.  The earth, in general, sprouted grass, seed bearing plants, and fruit trees in chapter 1.  Now here in chapter 2 we find other, more specific words being used for types of land, or eretz.  We have “adamah” as the word for ground which typically refers to tilled earth, or earth as in earthen vessels, the dust Adam was made from, etc.  Adamah is the word used at the end of verses 5 and 6 for “ground”, not eretz.  We also have “sadeh” which referred to another type of eretz, as it means open land or pasture, also usually used to mean cultivated land.  Contextually it appears adamah is a type of sadeh, open land used for cultivation both of which are types of eretz, or “land” in general. 

The plant mentioned is the same word as in Genesis 1, ‘erev meaning a grass or plant.  This is also a plant from the “field” just as the bush was, so it appears to be one for cultivation.  Shrubs and plants for cultivation, plants that may require a man to work the fields, these are what were not yet growing in fields before man was created.   It is also possible the field being referred to is the type of field that the Garden of Eden was planted in.  YHWH seems to have planted (this would be cultivation would it not?) the garden after He made man, caused it to grow, then placed the man in it.  There isn’t definitive proof of this, but it is another perspective that would line up with why there was not yet a bush or herb growing on land commonly used for cultivation; empty land with good soil devoid of other plants except potentially grass.

At first glance it appeared there was a discrepancy between the account of vegetation growing on day 3 in Genesis chapter 1 and the statement that there were no shrubs or plants found in chapter 2.  However, after reviewing the context and what is written in Hebrew we find there is no discrepancy, but rather a differentiation between the land in general, and specific types of land such as pastures and land for cultivation.  This is one more example of why it is important to test Scripture and not just take a translation at face value.  We need to always test everything.  Shalom