Question: Genesis states that all vegetation was created on day three and Adam on day six (Gen. 1:11-12; 1:26-27). Yet Gen. 2:5-7 seems to contradict this by teaching that vegetation was created after man. Why the apparent discrepancy?
The confusion stems largely from difficulties in translating some generalizations from Hebrew to English. Below, my translation aims at reducing the confusion.
Gen. 2:5 [So there was a time] before any shrubs appeared on the earth and before any grass of the fields began to grow (because the Lord God had not sent rain upon the earth and there was no man to work the ground, (6) but a mist came up from the earth that irrigated the entire surface). (7) So the Lord God formed the man from the earth and breathed life into his nostrils and the man became a living soul.
Genesis 2:1-4 provides a conclusion for the order of creation events in chapter one.
Verses 5-7 introduce a shift in focus away from the order of creation in general to the creation of Adam and Eve in particular. They set the scene for Adam and Eve’s role as caretakers of earth, beginning in the Valley of Eden (2:8-17). The scene is also set for how destructive Adam and Eve’s disobedience will prove to be to God’s creation. The “shrubs” and grain fields (“grass of the fields,” v. 5) God freely provided for their pleasure and their food, irrigated by a perpetual mist, would shrivel up, grow weeds and thorns and require constant effort against hostile elements as a result of their sin:
Gen. 3:17-19 …“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”
Even the lack of rain in those early days is noted, because rain was not yet a necessity. Later, rain would become a much-needed blessing:
Ps. 147:8 He covers the sky with clouds; he supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills.
It would also become a source of devastation:
Gen. 7:17, 24 For forty days the flood kept coming on the earth, and as the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the earth. The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days.
Genesis 2:5-7provides a segue from the “why” and “how” of creation (chapter 1) to the tragic impact of Adam and Eve’s sin (chapter 2). Together, they reveal God’s total sovereignty over His created universe as He provides both judgment for sin and salvation from what would otherwise be eternal consequences of that judgment.
Rom. 6:22-23 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.