Over at Spectrum Magazine, there’s a debate about how Genesis 1 and 2 can be harmonized– with the going assumption being that it is impossible.
Maybe. Here’s my take on it from several years ago.
Genesis 1 and 2 do indeed record two different processes, but are actually part of one overall event.
Genesis 1 begins with total chaos, which is systematically organized into cosmos.
Light and dark;day and night; atmosphere and ocean;land and water; vegetation–which requires seasons; fish and fowl; finally land animals and humans.
Part of this ordering separates the sea–the realm of leviathan, from land, the realm of man. At the end of the first account, however, the land is still not fully ordered. As 2:1 states “the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.” The heavens and the earth had been sorted out, but there was still work to do in ordering the land itself.
The text informs us that when the dry land was created, “and no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth and no plant of the field had yet sprung up, for the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no man to work the ground.”
So, until there was ‘a man to work the ground,’ the land realm would not be completed.
Genesis 2 then, outlines the the transformation of the land from chaos to cosmos. That ordering begins with the creation of the man to work the ground in v. 7 “the LORD God formed the man [e] from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”
Immediately (v.8) the work of separating/ordering, parallel to the ch. 1 account, commences: “Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed.”
This garden is separated from the rest of the land. And immediately the water within the land realm is separated, mirroring the first account :”A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters.”
It is no accident that it is in this land-ordering account that the animals come to Adam to be named. The first account says he was given ‘dominion.’ In naming all the other animals Adam exercises that dominion, for in the ancient world, to name something was to control it (hint: that’s why God’s name was not to be uttered).
The final act of ordering the land realm is in providing a helpmate for Adam. Together, they can be fruitful and multiply. And working with the land, Adam/Eve and the garden will now be able to multiply.
At the end of Gen 2, the Creation has been completed: the land/sea have been ordered, and the land realm is now ordered. It is quite reasonable that in the author’s mind, these two processes took place at the same time, but had to be explained separately.
This is not uncommon. A history book might well tell the political history of a period in one chapter, then backtrack and describe the technological history in the next.
This is diagrammed below:
Parallel Creation Accounts
copyright 2002, by Ed Dickerson
|Genesis 1:2 And the earth was formless
|Declaration of Chaos||Declaration of Chaos||5 … no shrub … no plant . . . God had not
sent rain upon the earth . . . no man to
cultivate the ground.
|Gen 1:3-5||Creation of Light out of
|Creation of Life out of Dust||7 Then the LORD God formed man of
dust from the ground
|4 And God saw that the light was good;
and God separated the light from the
darkness. 5 And God called the light day,
and the darkness He called night. . . ..
|Distinguishes between ‘Good’
light, and (potential evil)
|Distinguishes between ‘Good’
tree of life, and (potential evil)
“tree of the knowledge of good
| And out of the ground the LORD God
caused to grow every tree that is pleasing
to the sight and good for food; the tree of
life . . . and the tree of the knowledge of
good and evil.
|6 Then God said, “Let there be an expanse
in the midst of the waters, and let it
separate the waters from the waters.”
|Waters Divided||Waters Divided||10 Now a river flowed out of Eden to
water the garden; and from there it divided
and became four rivers.
|9 Then God said, “Let the waters below
the heavens be gathered into one place,
and let the dry land appear”
|Waters Bound the ‘Land’||Waters Bound the ‘Ordered
|11 The name of the first is Pishon; . . .. .13
And the name of the second river is
Gihon; . . .. 14 And the name of the third
river is Tigris; . . .And the fourth river is
|11 Then God said, “Let the earth sprout
vegetation . . .” 12 And the earth brought
forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after
their kind, and trees bearing fruit, with
seed in them, after their kind; and God
saw that it was good.
|God brings vegetation||Man to Order vegetation||15 Then the LORD God took the man and
put him into the garden of Eden to
cultivate it and keep it.
|14 Then God said, “Let there be lights in
… the heavens … for signs, seasons, days
and years” 16 And God made the two
great lights, the greater light to govern the
day, and the lesser light to govern the
night; He made the stars also.
|God appoints “rulers” for
|Man rules earth alone; not
|18 Then the LORD God said, “It is not
good for the man to be alone; I will make
him a helper suitable for him.”
|20 Then God said, “Let the waters teem
with swarms of living creatures, and let
birds fly above the earth . . .” 21 And God
created the great sea monsters, and every
living creature that moves, with which the
waters swarmed after their kind, and every
winged bird after its kind; and God saw
that it was good.
|God rules over even the chaos
|Adam rules over the land
|19 And out of the ground the LORD God
formed every beast of the field and every
bird of the sky, and brought them to the
man to see what he would call them; and
whatever the man called a living creature,
that was its name.
|24 Then God said, “Let the earth bring
forth living creatures after their kind:
cattle and creeping things and beasts of
the earth after their kind”; and it was so.
|God gives life to animals; they
|Adam gives identity to
animals; still alone
|20 And the man gave names to all the
cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to
every beast of the field, but for Adam
there was not found a helper suitable for
|26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in
Our image, according to Our likeness; and
let them rule . . ..” 27 And God created
man in His own image, in the image of
God He created him; male and female He
created them.28 And God blessed them;
and God said to them, “Be fruitful and
multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it;
and rule over the fish of the sea and over
the birds of the sky, and over every living
thing that moves on the earth.”
|God makes Male and Female;
they are to fill and order the
|Male is joined by Female; now
they can fulfill commission.
|24 For this cause a man shall leave his
father and his mother, and shall cleave to
his wife; and they shall become one flesh.
25 And the man and his wife were both
naked and were not ashamed.