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Two Creation Stories

This is one of RiceRay's contradictions, which has been debunked, along with all of the others. See the RiceRay section in Atheist Debate, and Documentary Hypothesis for more information on the root source of this kind of misinterpretation.

Some sources used by this article:

The Claim

The claim is that there are two creation stories because in Genesis 1:11-12 (A) and Genesis 2:4-5 (B) there appears to be a different order of events. Here is the claim:

  • B insinuates that man was created on the first day
  • A says plants grew on the third day; B says they did not grow yet until the sixth day.
  • 1:11 And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants[a] yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so.
  • 1:12 And 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.
  • 2:4 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.
  • 2:5 When no bush of the field[a] was yet in the land[b] 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,

The Resolution

It should be abundantly clear from a reading of the text that these stories are not incompatable. B is clearly a specific examination of the events of the sixth day. v.5 states:

  • At that time – when? When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up – Why? Because it had not yet rained –
  • At that time – when? Before the creation of Man,
  • At that time, (v.6) God created man.

However, this is not good enough for RiceRay. He insists that v.4 states this all occurred on the first day, and that therefore there are two creation stories.

Grammatical Analysis

The yo-wm of “day” in Genesis 1 which shows “second day, third day, fourth day…” is not the same meaning as “be-yo-wm” meaning “in the day…” which refers to any particular day, which must then be qualified (In this case, specifically after plants but before man). This is easily seen by local context of it's usage in 2:17:

  • For, in the day that you eat of it, dying you shall die.
  • kî, bə-yō-wm ’ă-ḵā-lə-ḵā mim-men-nū, mō-wṯ tā-mūṯ.

We see this very clearly at the start of 2:5 which begins “wə-ḵōl”, i.e. and any… which is a continuation of the context of the previous verse.


All existing commentary holds this view.


WAS NOT YET IN THE EARTH — Wherever טרם (ṭe-rem, “before” -ed) occurs in the Scriptures it means “not yet” and does not mean “before”. It cannot be made into a verbal form, saying הטרים as one says הקדים (verbal form of קדם) and this passage proves that this is the meaning and not “before” as well as another (Exodus 9:30), כי טרם תראון “that ye do not yet fear the Lord”. Therefore you must explain this verse also thus: “No plant of the field was yet in the earth” at the time when the creation of the world was completed on the sixth day before man was created, and וכל עשב השדה טרם יצמח means “and every herb of the field had not yet grown”. But as regards the third day of creation about which it is written “The earth brought forth etc.” this does not signify that they came forth above the ground but that they remained at the opening of the ground (i. e. just below the surface) until the sixth day (Chullin 60a).

See Haamek Davar for an exposition on Rashi's Chullin 60a here.

BECAUSE GOD HAD NOT CAUSED IT TO RAIN — And what is the reason that God had not caused it to rain? כי אדם אין לעבוד את האדמה BECAUSE THERE WAS NO MAN TO TILL THE GROUND, and there was, therefore, no one to recognize the utility of rain. When Adam came (was created), however, and he realised that it was necessary for the world, he prayed for it and it fell, so that trees and verdure sprang forth.

Thus Rashi brings the direct plain meaning of the text from it's context; this refers to the exact specific time when the plants were created, but had not sprung up yet, because there was no rain, because their was no man – the same order of statements in Genesis 2:5 (which perhaps now has been made more clear to certain readers).

Siftei Chakhamim

Siftei Chakhamimi concurrs with Rashi's simple gramatical analysis above by adding;

This verse proves this. Because if it means “before,” it would be connected to the words יהיה and יצמח written after it [thus forming an incomplete statement], and would not explain why Hashem had not brought rain. And if it is connected to the [implied but] omitted word “this,” as if it said: “Before this, all the plants were upon the earth, and before this, all the vegetation sprouted,” then it does not fit with: “For Adonoy Elohim had not brought rain.” (Re’m)

Ramban (Nachmanides)

What then of “brought forth” in 1:12? As it turns out, some rabbis do agree that plants may have sprung up. But the misunderstanding now becomes one of 2:5, which (as Rashi points out) has a specific meaning; Nachmanides expounds on this a little further than Rashi does, but again see below for the exposition on Chullin 60a:

AND EVERY SHRUB OF THE FIELD. In the opinion of our Rabbis in Bereshith Rabbah, (See Bereshith Rabbah 12:4 for a similar text. See also Rashi here.) [every herb of the field created] on the third day [did not come forth above the ground but] they remained just below the surface of the earth, and on the sixth day they grew after He caused rain to fall on them.

In my opinion, in accordance with the plain meaning of Scripture, on the third day the earth did bring forth the grass and the fruit trees in their full-grown stature and quality as He commanded concerning them. And now Scripture tells that there was no one to plant and sow them for future purposes, and the earth would not produce until a mist would come up from it and water it, and man was formed who would work it — to seed, to plant, and to guard. This is the meaning of the shrub of the field… had not yet grown. It does not say “the shrub of the ground” for only a place which is cultivated is called “field,” as in Which thou hast sown in the field (Exodus 23:16) and We will not pass through field or through vineyard. (Numbers 20:17). This is the course of the world that was to be following the six days of creation and forever after, that due to the mist the heavens will bring down rain, and due to the rains the earth will make the seeds that are sown in it to spring up.

So even if we see 1:11-12 as “the earth brought forth,” there is no controversy because of the specific wording of 2:5.

Tur HaAroch

Here Tur HaAroch meticulously elucidates the meaning of the words and confirms Nachmanides' grammatical principle above.

כל שיח השדה, “and all the greenery of the field, etc.” The vegetation which had begun to sprout forth on the third day had actually not broken through the surface of the soil until the sixth day when Adam prayed for rain to materialize. When the rain materialized all these plants surfaced above the earth. Nachmandes, explaining the literal meaning of our verse, the פשט, says that whereas on the third day all the plants mentioned materialized in their mature form, they did not develop as there was no one to tend them. The reason why the vegetation here is not described as שיח האדמה, the vegetation of the earth, but as שיח השדה, is that the word שדה is indicative of something subject to agriculture, ground that is being worked. This had not started until after the first rainfall.

Chullin 60a

(Emphasis and quote added)

Rav Assi in the gemara (Chulin 60) cited by Rashi, resolves the contradiction between this verse and Bereshit 1:12 “And the earth gave forth vegetation” by saying that the vegetation was created on the third day but waited below the surface of the earth until man was created and prayed for rain. He learns from this that God yearns for the prayers of the righteous. The gemara continues with the story of Rabbi Hanina Bar-Papa who planted his garden with all kinds of seeds but nothing grew. Then he prayed for mercy and the rains came and the seeds grew, proving the statement of Rav Assi. According to this gemara, vegetation and fruits appeared on the earth only on the sixth day, after man sinned, was banished from Gan Eden, began to work the land and prayed for rain. Rav Assi's statement, attributing special qualities to the prayers of the righteous for sustenance, seems to be disputed by Medrash Rabbah (Vayikra 31) which says the prayers of all men are accepted by God equally in matters of livelihood and only in other cases of misfortune, God forbid, are the prayers of the righteous more effective. The medrash cites the examples of Sarah, Rivka, and Rachel whom God made barren so that their righteous husbands would pray for them. The answer is that Rav Assi's statement relates to a special case of livelihood, one in which sustenance is provided by a miraculous change in nature. The story of Rabbi Hanina Bar-Papa must be understood to refer to a situation in which all the other gardens grew normally and only Rabbi Hanina's did not, against the laws of nature, until he prayed (See 2:8 The LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and placed there the man whom He had formed.“ -ed). Rav Assi applied this lesson to our verse as well, since God Himself created the vegetation so it certainly should have grown. God changed nature so the vegetation would not grow because He yearned to hear the prayers of the righteous. All this is the opinion of Rav Assi, but that is not the plain meaning of the verse. The Ramban writes that all the vegetation appeared on the earth on the third day, but did not begin to produce new plants until man was created and began to pray. One may add also that the vegetation was created on the third day in its full height and beauty, and only after man prayed did it begin to grow gradually larger.Haamek Davar


Radak's answer seems to be a clearer exposition than found on Or HaChaim, so I will include it here (but not or hachaim's)

Now the Torah fills in details of the report of G’d’s creative activity during the preceding days which had been omitted, including how man had spent the hours remaining on the sixth “day” after his creation. It refers to some aspects of the plants created already on the third “day,” as well as to the animals which had been created on the sixth “day” which share the same habitat as man, i.e. they live on dry land.

Seeing that the Torah would shortly have to refer to the vegetation in Gan Eden, including references to the trees of knowledge and the tree of life which are part of the vegetation on earth, the Torah first describes the fact that the shrubs, etc., had not yet been able to grow to their full maturity due to an absence of rain on earth. The fact that even shrubs are significant plants, is demonstrated in Genesis 21,15 where Hagar is described as abandoning her son Ishmael under one such shrub. At this point the Torah informs us that although in response to G’d’s directive on the third “day” that earth produce herbs, etc., and that in response to this directive the earth did indeed produce not only herbs but fruit-bearing trees, G’d had not yet decreed that rain fall on earth, seeing that man the beneficiary of such rain, had not been created as yet. Rain, by itself, without man working the soil does not accomplish a great deal.

This raises the question how the vegetation described as coming into existence on the third “day” managed to do so? The Torah answers this by describing vapours which rose from the surface of the waters at that time, and through whose influence all these plants were enabled to develop temporarily. There are numerous plants, shrubs included, which do not depend on man’s labour for their continued existence. The only plants which do require man’s input first and foremost, are the plants which serve as his food. David already referred to this in Psalms 104,14 where he describes that bread is produced from the earth and that rain is required to ensure that this will materialise. If the Torah, at the beginning of this verse, mentions that G’d had not let it rain, prior to mentioning that the vapour had risen (by itself, without G’d’s input, apparently) and had irrigated the earth, this was to inform us that rain is produced as a result of the vapours rising, forming clouds, etc, but that all of this needs to be initiated by G’d’s goodwill in the first place.

The gaon Rav Saadyah, in his commentary on this verse, writes that the letter ו in the word ואד means, that there had not been a vapour rising from the face of the earth which could have irrigated the plants either; in other words that this is a continuation of the statement that there had not been any rain as yet, neither had there been dew or vapour, or any of the types of moisture which we know promote growth. Up until that point G’d Himself had seen to it that these plants developed, until the laws of nature had become activated as they were needed for the sake of man. If the Torah bothered to tell us that just as G’d had not yet initiated rainfall, neither had He caused vapours to rise from the earth to form clouds, (which would have been all that we needed to know) this is a lesson in why no rain had fallen. Seeing that no vapours had risen from the earth, no clouds had formed which could discharge their water at the appropriate time.

In Bereshit Rabbah 13,1 the author addresses the apparent contradiction between our verse in which we are told that due to the absence of rain even grass had not yet grown properly, and verse 9 where G’d is described as having made every desirable tree grow in Gan Eden. Rabbi Chaninah there solves the problem by saying that the conditions that prevailed at that time in Gan Eden were different from those prevailing in the rest of the earth, hence trees could grow there. Rabbi Chiyah disagrees, saying that no growth had taken place at that time in either region. How then does he resolve the apparent contradiction? He finds no contradiction, seeing that man’s creation had also been reported already in chapter 1,27, and here it is reported again. At this point, the Torah simply fills in details it had omitted in its earlier report. Whereas the various creatures and phenomena created during the first six “days” had been fully developed, man, as distinct from the other living creatures, had not received its life-force, נפש, from the part of nature producing it, as had the fish or the mammals. Hence this point had to be described graphically, i.e. G’d blowing the soul into Adam’s nostrils.

two_creation_stories.txt · Last modified: 2021/05/31 03:35 by appledog