The introduction to the creation of man in Genesis 2 has intriguing comments about the absence of plants. As is usual, this is not a problem but telling us more than we expected. This further develops comments in “The plant problem” section of Chapter 12, “Introducing day-8 man” but has a wider impact.
The creation story ends in Genesis 2:1-3, where “the heavens and earth were completed” and God rests. Then God introduces the creation of Adam in the garden with these words from Genesis 2:4-6:
Then I observed some funny things:
It again refers to the creation of the heavens and the earth but only talks about Adam.
It says “no shrubs” but plants were already created on day 3.
The Hebrew words for plants used here seem to refer to plants cultivated by man in the field, yet seed-bearing plants were created on day 3 in Genesis 1:11-12.
It implies these shrubs are for man to cultivate.
But in Genesis 1:29-30 on day 6, man gets the seed and fruit while the green plants, the shrubs, are allocated to the animals. (A slight hint that this is not day 6.)
It says “no rain” but the waters above were set in place on day 2.
Now it is not just that there was no rain, because you can imagine that the plants could survive from day 3 to day 6 without rain. However, God established an alternate mechanism by which streams or a mist watered the ground. Yet this alternate mechanism seemed inadequate for plants of the field to sprout.
Could this be a hint that something more than a simple 3x24-hour delay is involved?
Don’t panic! These are not mistakes but they have been used to try and discredit the Bible. First, let’s remind ourselves of the symbolic and prophetic impact of these verses.
In Chapter 12, Introducing day-8 man, I showed the symbolism in these verses is indicating that everything is waiting for a spiritual man to receive the word of God. This is then fulfilled in the next verse, when Adam is created and given the breath or spirit of life from God.
In the context of God’s timetable, described in Chapter 4, Mapping days 7-8, these verses now map to the introduction of the new heaven and earth. They are saying that during days 1 to 7, the first seven millennia since Adam, there has been no rain. That is, we have not seen the fullness of God’s blessing and grace. But day 8 is the new heaven and earth where man is with God in heaven. It’s there that we will see the fullness of His grace and blessing symbolised by the rain and the fullness of His provision symbolised by the plants.
Further, in the context of God’s timetable, we can also understand what the mist was that rose from the ground. This was the anointing of God coming on men (dust of the earth), to spread the Word of God (water the ground).
OK, I have just demonstrated that these verses have some wonderful symbolic and prophetic understandings, but what about the natural world. For sure the symbolic and prophetic understandings are derived from real events. All the steps in the creation days that map to the prophetic understandings were real physical events. Similarly, the description of no rain and no plants prior to the creation of Adam must be real.
Well, I am going to make one those statements that should be obvious but sometimes it is not. Are you ready?
At the end of creation, things were
different to what we see today.
Well, that was simple, wasn’t it? Surely you don’t need a revelation to tell you that? Perhaps you are faster than me. I understood that the flood would have caused major erosion and sedimentary build-up. Even massive tectonic plate movements were probable, and these could have created new mountains and more. But when it all settled down I assumed things regenerated much the same. I don’t know why, but all those things just seemed like conjecture inserted by man. It was very logical and I accepted it. But it seemed to me that my own understanding constrained my view.
I had seen the symbolic and prophetic understandings and then the obvious dawned on me. It really, really was quite different. It was probably different in other ways that God did not note. These things He did note, and indeed He ordained, that the symbolic and prophetic understandings could be recorded.
Please allow me to share some imagination. I was wondering what heaven will be like. I find this a very pleasant thing to share with God. I can be absolutely confident that I will be wrong because He assures me it will be better than anything I can imagine (1 Corinthians 2:9-15).
I imagined beautiful gardens with waterfalls and sparkling creeks and lush vegetation. But all that meant lots of rain which can be a bit of a dampener on your joy. So I wondered how He would have solved this. I wondered if the geology would have lots of aquifers allowing water to bubble and spring up all over the place, some even giving rise to fountains. I thought about sculpting the rocks under the outflows just to make something beautiful to share with others. I hoped to find a pool with warm water that overflowed because I love my shower in the morning. But what would feed these aquifers? Perhaps high mountains would receive snow that would melt to feed the cycle indefinitely.
Seriously, I planned all this out and more for heaven. Then it dawned on me – this might be something like the initial created state, at least in the region of the Garden of Eden. Now I could see that God had withheld rain because it was not needed until Adam and his descendants started to plant seed in large fields. Then the rain would save Adam and his sons from having to water it. It all made sense!
Similarly, the cultivated plants were kept ready, perhaps already created, for when His children needed them. Suddenly, the things I saw earlier as strange were now simply the hand of a loving Father releasing His blessing as required. I was sad when I realised how much we had lost during the flood, because of our rebellion. But then I was happy because I could see how beautifully He had created things for Adam. It was even closer to heaven than we can imagine from the world we see now.
I continued to toy with the consequences of my new picture of the earth, as Adam saw it. These underground aquifers percolated up to water all the surface of the ground. The spring that flowed from the Garden of Eden may have simply been one of the more significant springs. So they were massive and numerous. They could not have been too deep and the ground could not have been too hard or impervious or it would have blocked the springs rising up. Later still, I wondered if the mist or streams that rose up were not simply the result of tidal movements in this underground water caused by the moon, just the same as ocean tides.
Wow, though exquisitely beautiful, this low-lying landscape was more prone to be flooded and with water above and below this porous geology, the consequences of a flood would have been even more rapid and dramatic than what we might imagine today. I could now see how vulnerable the land was when all these deep springs burst forth in Genesis 7:11.
But in the beautiful ways of God, I also saw His goodness. God promised in Genesis 9:11 never again to flood the earth. This was not just a promise not to do it again, but God actually ensured that it would never happen again by raising up a strong, more robust landscape and geology, and lowering the sea level. So when our secular scientists look at the way things are today and say that the earth could not be flooded by the available water, they are testifying to God’s declaration that it would not again happen. But they cannot see how different things were before the flood.
Again, I had read plenty of creationist literature suggesting that the mountains might be lower and that new higher mountains were raised up during the flood. Praise God for men who have logically deduced these things. But it was different now. I had a picture of the pre-flood landscape and geology that made sense of it all. But more importantly, I saw the goodness of God. The funny things in Genesis 2:4-6, described earlier, were not an indicator that the created state was deficient in any way. No, it was fully complete and beautiful. The world I see today, after the flood, is quite different, but by the goodness of God, it is not prone to global flooding.
When I inserted my picture of heaven into the pre-flood landscape, I did not solve all the technical issues that creation scientists struggle with, as they attempt to build a physical understanding of how things happened. What I did was to see the goodness of God. All too often we lose trust in God because things are beyond our understanding or seem wrong and that feeds doubt into our hearts. God made it very good. After the flood He restored it and what I see is still good. And when, by His goodness revealed in Jesus, He brings me into the new heaven and earth it will be perfect.
Do you want to know something really funny? I started this whole adventure about 5 years ago with these same verses in Genesis 2. I saw the symbolic meaning and became convinced that the garden account was not more detail of day 6. But during all these years, I simply could not make sense of these funny things in Genesis 2:4-6. Only as I started a rewrite in preparation for this book did the obvious dawn on me. I felt a sense of completion. God has a sense of humour.
This appendix was not focused on establishing the Day-8 view but it does establish some context for this point. If you are strongly opposed to this view I imagine you would probably still acknowledge the following:
It’s funny that my assertion about day-8 man is that:
I am not trying to defend God’s word to people who do not believe in God (Psalm 14:1, Proverbs 23:9). If you want to try and discredit the Bible you will see irregularities in Genesis 2:4-6. But I found my own understanding was limiting what I could see in His Word. Now I see the hand of my provider. I see His initial creation as more beautiful than I can imagine. I see His awesome ability to communicate way more than we can grasp in just a few verses.
When we focus on the plain reading of Genesis 2:5 it makes us think that God needed a gardener to till the soil. Yet in the next verse, it is God that plants the garden for Adam. Sure, by the time you get to verse 15 you see a direction to “till the garden” but this is also putting Adam in charge. Adam was to be the son of God – not a servant gardener – but in the garden was the Tree of Life and it was the place of close fellowship with God. Wow, what a place to be in charge of!
By the way, who was Jesus mistaken for when he was raised?
... The gardener! (John 20:15)