Tuesday, 31 July 2012


I sometimes meet people who are sure that the Bible contradicts itself. "Look around at all the evil in the world.", they say.  "Is that a sign of a 'good God'?" Or, "How can there are two contradictory accounts of creation in Genesis? It would be nice if the Christian reference books in my library held the answers but sometimes they cause the problems!

My Christian reference books endorse the idea that Genesis contains two versions of creation. The first version starts with "In the beginning".. and ends in Gen 2:4 and the second ends in Gen. 3:24. The reason for this is the opening statement in Gen 2:4b, "In the day that God made the earth and the heavens..."  This has been interpreted to mean that the story of creation is being retold. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Up until this point in the text the phrase in Genesis that represents creation has been the 'heavens and the earth'. Now the order is reversed. Why? Because the creation of the universe had been completed and a new emphasis was being introduced that was restricted to an earthly perspective. It would not have been appropriate to use the same phrase 'heavens and earth' when the creation of the universe was being described.

The second story is not about the creation but about the addition of something new to creation. It has been assumed that the end of God's creative work ended in the sixth day and on the seventh day He rested. And this is true. But it is not true that God ended His supernatural intervention into the natural order.

Gen 2:5 continues, "before any plant of the field had grown and before any herb of the field had grown." This is interpreted as the creation of the plants and herbs in Gen 1:29.  However, there is here one strange omission. In Gen 1:29 God created the seed-bearing trees. There is no mention of trees in Gen 2:5. If this is a creation account that would be a major omission. The second omission is the purpose of these plants. In Gen 1:29 the seed-bearing fruit is to be used for food. In Gen 2:5 no purpose is stated for the plants.

There is also a new assertion.  In Gen 2:5 it states it was the time before the plants and herbs had grown. This does not say before the time they were created. The second new  assertion is the reason they had not yet grown. God had not yet made it rain and man had not yet tilled the soil. What has this to do with the origin of these plants and herbs?

The word for plants here is 'siah' and the word for herb is 'esebh'. These two words also appear at the end of the story in Gen 3:17b-19, "Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat  of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles (siah) it will bring forth for you and you shall eat the herb (esebh) of the field. In the sweat of your face ye shall eat bread...".

It now becomes clear what the author is explaining. Verse 2:5 ought to read, "Before any thorns and thistles were in the earth and before the bread-making grains had grown up...". Or to make it even plainer; before Adam had sinned and the creation had been cursed by his sin so that thorns grew to thwart man's pleasure and before man was forced to wait for the rain and till the soil... The siah are different from the fruit-bearing trees and herbs in Genesis 1. They are not manifest before the creation of man. They are not yet grown until after God made it rain and man tilled the soil. This is not an In-the-beginning moment but a before-the-fall time.

The purpose of these chapters in Genesis is to explain an enigma to upcoming generations. Why did God declare that everything He made was good when He made it and yet there are thorns and thistles found in the earth.  This would appear to be a contradiction. As the story unfolds though it becomes clear that the sin problem has arisen. Adam must humbly admit that the flaws in creation are not God's doing but the supernatural outcome of the curse that falls on disobedience. This world's imperfections are the fault of man and not God.

We must all come into agreement with this truth. Many tragedies that happen in this age are avoidable if we believe and receive a lifting of the curse on the ground and the presence of the thorns through Jesus Christ. Jesus bore the thorns on His head on the cross so His people would not have to live out the curse. He sweated blood on Gethsemane so that His people would be set free from the sweating for bread. He is the bread you need.  God has provided it out of His grace and mercy.

Alan Montgomery

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