Randy Younker replies:
A recurrent issue is the challenge that Genesis 2 offers a contradictory account of the Creation from that of Genesis 1 and further assumes that both chapters were written by two different people, neither of whom was Moses. This challenge directly contradicts key statements in the Bible about the divinely inspired authorship of this book by Moses.
Bible scholars have long noted that in the Hebrew language, God is addressed differently in chapters 1 and 2. In chapter 1 God is called Elohim (God) while in chapter 2 He is called Yahweh (Lord) or Yahweh-Elohim (Lord God). Moreover, in chapter 1 God is portrayed as very powerful, orderly, and transcendent-He merely speaks, and things come into existence! In chapter 2, on the other hand, we see God down on His hands and knees, so to speak, gently forming man out of clay with His own hands and breathing into the lifeless nostrils the breath of life.
An earlier generation of biblical critics thought that the use of two different Hebrew names for God in chapters 1 and 2 was evidence that different authors wrote these two chapters and that the chapters were indeed two different, and in places, contradictory accounts of Creation. However, more recent scholars such as Egyptologist Kenneth Kitchen have noted that the use of different names for the same God in the same text was actually a common practice in Egyptian and Mesopotamian texts.
Why, then, would different names have been used in the Genesis account of Creation? Hebrew scholar Umberto Cassuto suggests that the use of the two Hebrew names for God simply points out two different aspects of God's character--Yahweh is the covenant name for God, and Elohim emphasizes His universality as God of all the earth. To put it another way, Yahweh describes who God is, and Elohim describes what He is. Biblical scholar M. H. Segal argues that the different names were used merely for the sake of variety. Whatever the purpose for the different names, there is no question that a more detailed, personal, and intimate picture of God is given in the second chapter.
Jesus implies that Moses wrote the book of Genesis (Matt. 19:4, 5; Mark 10:2-9). Also Mosaic authorship of Genesis was repeatedly endorsed by most New Testament writers (Rom. 4:17; Gal. 3:8; 4:30; Heb. 4:4; James 2:23).
Some wonder as to why Genesis 1 indicates that plants and man were created during the first week of Creation (Gen. 1:11, 12, 26, 27), while a cursory reading of chapter 2 seems to suggest that God did not get around to making these until later (Gen. 2:4-6). According to Genesis 2:4-6 there are four things that God had not yet made: (1) the shrub of the field;(2) the plant of the field; (3) a man to till the soil; (4) and rain to water the earth.
Upon reading the text in English, one might think that the writer of chapter 2 ignores the fact that these four things were already created during the first week of Creation. However, in the Hebrew text it is clear that the four things mentioned in chapter 2, as having "not yet" been created, have nothing to do with the things created during the first six days of Creation. The Hebrew words for the first two items, the shrub of the field and the plant of the field, are not the same names for the plants created on day three of Creation-vegetation, seed-bearing plants, and seed-bearing fruit trees (Gen. 1:11, 12). Actually, the Hebrew word translated "shrub" in Genesis 2:5 (siah) is quite rare in the Bible, occurring only in two other texts--in Genesis 21:15 and Job 30:4, 7. The contexts of these latter two texts have persuaded botanists who have studied the biblical flora that the siah is a desert plant; that is, a spiny or thorny plant. The full expression siah hassadheh ("shrub of the field," or better, "field thistle") occurs only in Genesis 2:5! Significantly, the first time thorns and thistles are explicitly mentioned in the Bible is in the next chapter, in Genesis 3:18, where they are introduced as a direct consequence of the Fall! What the writer of Genesis 2 is actually doing is setting up the question "Where did thorny plants come from?" They were not part of the "very good" Creation that was completed after the six days of Creation; rather, they came as a result of the Fall!
In Hebrew the adjectives that modify a word are very important. "A man to till the ground" in Genesis 2:5 is not man who was created on day six (Gen. 1:26, 27). Rather, it is a description of man that applies only after the Fall when Adam would have to contend with the ground (by tilling and irrigation) for his food (see Gen. 3:17). This new kind of man is in harmony with the "shrub of the field" and "plant of the field," which likewise make their appearance only after the Fall. Thus, again, "a man to till the ground" did "not yet" exist in chapter 2, because he would not become such a man until chapter 3, after the Fall.
It is interesting to note that in the Mesopotamian creation stories, one of the blessings of the gods to the earthly kings was to provide humans "who would work like cattle" and who would "irrigate" the fields. The God of the Bible, however, did not create humans to provide slave labor. Rather, He lovingly and thoughtfully planted the garden Himself and provided for its irrigation! He then gave it to Adam and Eve as a gift. A number of scholars have noted this important difference between the Bible's account of Creation and the nonbiblical accounts. They have concluded that the author of Genesis was clearly offering a "polemic" of Creation; that is, an account that was deliberately designed to challenge the erroneous views about Creation that were then in circulation, with a correct account.
The work God gave our first parents to do in the garden of Eden was to "tend and keep it' (Gen. :15, NKJV). This is not the same kind of work that Adam would have to endure after the Fall "by the sweat of... [his] brow" (Gen. 3:19, NIV).
There is a more specific recapitulation of the Creation account in chapter 2, but it begins with verse 7 instead of verse 4. The picture given in these verses is indeed one of a loving God providing everything Adam would need in his new existence, including a place to live, plenty to eat and drink, dominion over his dwelling, and a loving companion and wife, Eve.
Like the "shrub of the field," the Hebrew expression translated as "plant of the field," 'esev hassadhe, is very rare in Scripture. Indeed, it appears only twice--in Genesis 2:5 and 3:18. The key to understanding the nature of this plant is found in Genesis 3:17, 18 (NIV), where we are told that the 'esev hassadhe is the very plant that Adam will have to eat as a result of his Fall! "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field" ['esev hassadhe]. These plants are not the fruit-bearing trees that God provided for man's food on day three. Rather, they are the plants humans will have to cultivate after the Fall.
Genesis 1 and 2 thus provide us with a unified and complementary account of God's Creation activity, showing especially His love in the way He provided for humankind.
Hope this helps.
2010 Arthur V. Chadwick, Ph.D.