A Closer Look At the Creation Story
(Genesis 1 and 2)
Introduction: Years ago, I regularly represented employees in religious freedom cases in Indiana. My litigation opponents, represented by the same lawyers, always agreed to settle and accommodate my client's religious beliefs. However, before they would settle, they would insist that the lawyers ask my clients, in an informal deposition, questions about their religious beliefs. One of the opposing lawyers knew something about the Bible. I remember on more than one occasion, this lawyer asking a client about "which creation" account he believed.
This week we examine a criticism of the six-day Creation account based on the "two creation" claim. Before we jump in, let me apologize in advance. Because the criticism and some suggested answers are somewhat technical, this lesson is more complex than normal!
- TWO CREATIONS?
- When was man created? (The sixth day of creation according to Genesis 1:27-31.)
- Think back two weeks ago. Were plants created before or after man? (Before. Genesis 1:11-13 tells us they were created on the third day.)
- Now I am going to create some trouble for you. Read Genesis 2:1-5. How can verse 5 say that no shrub or plant had appeared when this is after the Creation week?
- Is this a conflicting account of the Creation?
- Is this a different version of the Creation?
- Does this indicate that creation continued after the first week?
- It gets worse. Read Genesis 2:7. Is this a different version of the creation of man? A conflicting account?
- Now move down in this chapter and read Genesis 2:18-23. Is this a third version of the creation of man (woman)?
- (Did you notice in this third version, that Eve missed the meeting about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? ( Genesis 2:16-17) If this is a third version of creation, instead of blaming the serpent for her sin in eating the fruit, Genesis 3:13, Eve should simply have said, "I missed that meeting!)
- Do we have two creation stories for the plants and three creation stories for man?
- When you were studying your lesson this week, were you happy with the explanation of this contained in the lesson?
- Did you understand the lesson's explanation?
- Tell me what you understand the lesson to say about these multiple creation stories.
- If you did not study the lesson this week, it suggests a complex answer to the question about the two creation accounts of the plants. It says (Wednesday & Friday) that the Hebrew words for shrub and plant ( Genesis 2:5) refer to spiny and thorny plants that are not part of the original "good creation." Instead, they are part of the "thorns and thistles" ( Genesis 3:18) that came as a result of sin. Therefore this "second" plant creation is merely a reference to what happened to the plants after sin.
- Now that you have heard the explanation, what do you think of it?
- What would you say about this explanation if I told you the Hebrew word translated "plant" in Genesis 2:5 ("eeseb")is the same word translated "plant" in Genesis 1:11? (The lesson says they are different words. While I am no expert, three standard reference tools (Interlinear Bible, Stong's Concordance and Englishmen's Concordance) indicate these are the same words.)
- When in doubt, look at the context, right? Let's look at the context by reading Genesis 2:5-8. By reading this additional context, does this make the lesson's explanation seem more or less reasonable? Are we talking about a time after the fall of man?
- How can Genesis 2:5 refer to a period after the fall of man when the text and context indicate man had not yet been created? (Our lesson says (Thursday) that the man referred to in Genesis 2:5 was sinful man, because the text says that man would "work the ground" and man did not have to work the ground until after sin.)
- Did man work the ground only after he sinned?
- Is gardening a post-sin event?
- Read Genesis 2:15. What does that reveal man was doing in the garden of Eden before the fall? (Working the ground!)
- What if I told you that the Hebrew word used in Genesis 2:5 for working the ground is the same Hebrew word used in Genesis 2:15? Would that suggest that we are talking about the hard work that came after sin? (Once again, the standard reference works I mentioned above indicate the lesson's approach is flawed. The reference in Genesis 2:5 to working the ground is not simply a reference to post-sin work. The Hebrew word used to describe working the ground ("abad" -- Stong's number 5647)in Genesis 2:5 is the same Hebrew word used in Genesis 2:15. It is true that this same Hebrew term is later used for post-sin work. (For example in Genesis 3:15.) But it is not necessarily a reference to post-sin work.)
- TELL ME AGAIN, MORE SLOWLY
- If our lesson is giving us some doubtful answers to the two or three creation question, what is the right answer? How do you explain two accounts about creating the plants and three accounts about creating man?
- When you tell a story, do you tell all the details at once?
- What do you do with the details? When do you give them?
- Have you ever had someone tell you the general outlines of a story and then later fill in some of the details?
- Is that what God is doing here in describing His creation?
- What problems do you see, if any, with the idea that the Genesis 2:4-8 account of the creation of plants merely provides more details about the Genesis 1:11-12 account?
- Is there anything in Genesis 2:4-8 that contradicts the account in Genesis chapter 1?
- What additional details do you find in Genesis 2:5-6 about the plants? (Genesis 1:11-12 simply indicates the creation of plants and trees. Genesis 2:5-6 tells us how God prepared the ground by setting up a watering system for the plants.)
- Assume someone told you that they just planted a tree in their front yard last weekend. A few minutes later they tell you how they dug the hole, how they amended the soil and put in a drip irrigation system for the tree. Would you assume they planted two different trees?
- Does the Genesis 2:7 account of the creation of man contain more detail than the Genesis 1:27 account?
- Does the Genesis 2:21-23 account contain more detail than the Genesis 2:7 account?
- Does any one of these accounts contradict any of the others?
- In Genesis 1 do we find God speaking His creation into existence?
- Doesn't this create a conflict with God using dirt and a rib in the Genesis 2 accounts? If God spoke man into existence in Genesis 1, how is this consistent with the "construction approach" of Genesis 2? (Be careful! Although we read that God spoke the creation into existence, we are not told that He spoke man into existence. Genesis 1:27 says God "created man." This is consistent with the "construction approach of Genesis 2.)
- When we get to heaven, do you think God will give us an even more detailed account about how He created the earth? Will there be charts and graphs?
- Are you someone who would love to know "How He did it?"
(Friends, I do not think we need to depend on a complex and questionable answer. The Bible seems clear that the subsequent references to the creation of plants and man are simply providing us with more detail about the original creation. They are not an account of multiple creations. If you do not like my explanation and you don't like the explanation in the lesson, consider another explanation. The Chumash (Stone Ed.), a Jewish commentary, has a very simple and quaint approach to the origin of plants and Genesis 2:5-6. It says that when God created the plants in Genesis 1 they were waiting under the surface of the earth. They were waiting for man. When Adam came and prayed for food, and was ready to work the ground, God sent water and the plants sprung up.)
- NEXT WEEK: PARADISE LOST: THE FALL'S IMPACT ON CREATION.