Saturday, July 13, 2013

"Because it hadn't rained"

I'm going to briefly evaluate a supporting argument for the framework hypothesis:

"Because It Had Not Rained" (Gen. 2:5)Although the above considerations make the framework interpretation a plausible understanding of the days of creation, we recognize that we have not yet demonstrated the impossibility of a sequential understanding of the creation days. One might still argue that day four need not be taken as a recapitulation of day one, proposing instead that God could have sustained day and night for the first three days by supernatural means prior to the creation of the sun, moon and stars. But Gen. 2:5 rules out such an explanation and further strengthens the link between days one and four in a figurative framework.Gen. 2:5a states that "no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted," and verse 5b provides a very logical and natural explanation for this situation: "for the LORD God had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground" (NASB). Then, in verses 6-7, we are told how God dealt with these exigencies. In verse 6, the absence of rain is overcome by the divine provision of a rain cloud ("a rain cloud began to arise from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground"); and in verse 7, the absence of a cultivator is overcome by the creation of man. [7]Notice that Moses offers his audience (ca. 1400 BC, long after the creation period) a perfectly natural explanation for the absence of vegetation. The Israelites would have been familiar with the idea that some form of water supply is necessary for plant growth - whether God-sent rain or man-made irrigation. So when Moses states that God didn't create vegetation until He had established the natural means of sustaining that vegetation, i.e., the rain cloud (verse 6), he is assuming that the Israelites would recognize the logic of this situation based on their own experience. The very fact that Moses would venture to give such an explanation indicates the presence of an unargued presupposition, namely, that the mode of providence in operation during the creation period and that is currently in operation (and which Moses' audience would have recognized) are the same. Since the mere giving of a natural explanation presupposes providential continuity between the creation period and the post-creation world, we may infer a general principle, applicable beyond the case of vegetation, that "God ordered the sequence of creation acts so that the continuance and development of the earth and its creatures could proceed by natural means." [8] In other words, during the creation period, God did not rely on supernatural means to preserve and sustain His creatures once they were created.With this principle in hand, we now return to the problem of daylight, and evenings and mornings, prior to the sun. Although the sequential view attempts to explain this problem by hypothesizing that God sustained these natural phenomena by some non-ordinary means for the first three days, this speculation of human reason is contradicted by the disclosure of divine revelation that God employed ordinary means during the creation period to sustain His creatures. Thus, we are cast back upon our original suggestion that the fourth day is an instance of temporal recapitulation, narrating the creation of the normal physical mechanism God established to sustain the daylight/night phenomenon throughout the creation period and beyond. Gen. 2:5 necessitates a non-sequential interpretation of the creation account, and non-sequentialism in turn demonstrates that the week of days comprises a figurative framework.  

i) This posits a false dichotomy between fiat creation and ordinary providence. Assuming for the sake of argument that the calendar-day interpretation is correct, it would still be the case that after each subsequent day of the creation week, God must conserve the creative results of the previous day. Day 2 will build on day 1. Day 3 will build on day 2. And so on. A chronological sequence of divine fiats is entirely consistent with the operation of providence.

ii) I don't think Gen 2 is conterminous with day 6 of Gen 1. Gen 2 isn't describing the "earth" in general, but the "land" of Eden in particular. Keep in mind that eretz can either mean "earth" or "land." Context determines which sense fits. This interpretation is complemented by the term adama (ground, soil, arable land). 

iii) Gen 2 isn't reiterating the general creation of flora in Gen 1, on day 3. Rather, it refers to two specific types of flora. As one scholar explains:

The word for "shrub" in the expression "shrub of the field" occurs only a few times elsewhere; specifically, in Gen 21:15 and Job 30:4,7. In all its occurrences it refers to plants that grow in desolate wastelands (e.g. the bush under which Hagar placed Ishmael in Gen 21:15). The term "plant of the field" in the next clause is the same as that used in Gen 3:18 for the crops people would have to cultivate by the sweat of the brow because of the fall into sin. 
The remainder of vv5 and 6 expands on this by explaining the conditions under which the earth was functioning at the time. First, "the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth [or land," and second, "there was no man to cultivate the ground" (v5b). How could these particular categories of plants exist if there was no rain, and especially if there was no man to cultivate the crops that would require cultivation (cf. Gen 2:15-17 with 3:17-19)? The point is this: There were already plants and trees on the earth with all the day 3 varieties (Gen 1:11-13), but no wilderness or weed versus cultivated crop conditions existed. That is what Gen 2:5-6 is telling us.
The terms for plants here are not the same as those used for the plants on day 3 (Gen 1:11-12; eseb ["plant"] occurs there, but not eseb hassadeh [lit., "plant/crop of the  field"]). The terms for vegetation in v 5 refer to desert wilderness shrubs (siah hassadeh [lit., "shrub of the field"); see only elsewhere in Gen 21:15; Job 30:4,7) and cultivated crops (see, e.g. Gen 3:18; the plants man will need to cultivate for food in order to survive), respectively.

Richard Averbeck in Reading Genesis 1-2 (Hendrickson 2013), 28-29,94.

iv) Given the Mesopotamian setting of the Garden (2:10-14), I assume the naturally available source of irrigation would be river water. River valleys can exist in otherwise arid regions (e.g. the Rio Grande) They may have lush growth along the river banks, but vegetation dries up beyond the green line, during the dry season–absent rainfall, flash-flooding, or farming. 

In sum, even if we take both Gen 1 and Gen 2 to be internally sequential, there's no chronological conflict between the two narratives. 

v) Although this consideration is secondary to the immediate issue at hand, I think it would probably be more accurate to render the Gen 1 refrain as "dusk and dawn" rather than "evening and morning." In context, I think the refrain refers to what demarcates night and day rather than periods of the day or night. 


  1. 'I don't think Gen 2 is conterminous with day 6 of Gen 1. Gen 2 isn't describing the "earth" in general, but the "land" of Eden in particular. Keep in mind that eretz can either mean "earth" or "land." Context determines which sense fits.'

    What do you make of Sailhamer's position on Genesis 1-2?

    1. He thinks the "land" refers to Eretz Israel. I think that runs contrary to the geographical markers in Gen 2, as well as the geographical orientation of Genesis generally.