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Time Tensions – Part 2

The 6th Day

The Dryness of the Land

The reason given in this verse for God not creating or planting the plants is that it was too dry. There was no rain. On the first day, God created light. On the second day he separated the waters below from the waters above. On the third day he gathered the water to produce the land. Our text in Gen 2:5 occurs early on day 6. By day 6 we read that the land is too dry to support plant life. How does land that was under water become too dry for life is only three days? The only way to make sense of this is to have God supernaturally dry the land. But then knowing that God intended to plant a garden less than three days later, why would he supernaturally dry the land so that it wouldn’t support his garden by day 6? He seems to be working cross grain to his own purposes. Also, since God created plants on day 3, does that mean that these plants died since it was now too dry to support plant life? Did God only supernaturally dry the land of a certain region? If so, why do it in the region that he specifically wanted a garden? These questions do not defy answers, but they are curiosities on a 24 hr day timescale.

The End of the Dry Season

When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, (Genesis 2:5, ESV)

The previous section pointed out the difficulties with reconciling this passage to a 24 hr view. This section, more positively, tries to set forth the correct interpretation. Once again, this verse is part of background information. It is before the main storyline gets underway. Mark Futato points out that:

The phrase, siah-hassadeh, refers to the wild vegetation that grows spontaneously after the onset of the rainy season, and ‘eseb-hassadeh refers to cultivated grains. At the end of the dry season, and after five months of drought, the hills of Israel are as dry as dust, and the vegetation is brown. The farmer’s field is as hard as iron, so plowing and planting are impossible. Then come the rains, resulting in the hills of the steppe being clothed with verdure (Job 38:25- 27). The rains also soften the soil and allow the farmer to plow and plant (see Ps 65:9-10). It is in this geographical context that we must understand siah-hassadeh and ‘eseb-hassddeh.

This would make perfect sense to someone who was living in the Syro-Palestinian Levant. There was a dry and a rainy season. Genesis was written to such people as an audience. The natural understanding of this passage would have been “at the end of the dry season, God started to send rain – then he created man from the dust of the earth.” Of course, as Futato later points out, the reason that the text was stated the way it was because, “By this point the author has created an expectation in the mind of the reader: the two-fold problem with its two-fold reason will be given a two- fold solution.”

Problem Reason Solution
No bush of the field No rain Rain cloud
No cultivated grains No cultivator (man) Creation of man

This seems to make the most sense of the passage. It recognizes how the recipients would have understood things and also recognizes the problem-reason-solution structure to the passage. But if this is an accurate understanding, then that creates a problem for the 24 hr day view. This was the beginning of the 6th day. But for the author to paint a picture of the end of the dry season very much gives the impression that there has been several years by which to establish a dry and rainy season.

13 Responses to “Time Tensions – Part 2”

  1. John Goodell says:

    Hey Bro, As a 24 hour calender day guy. I have a question: Why can’t vs. 5 be a reference back to 1:10? In 1:10 God calls the land “dry land” then on the third day in vs. 11 we have God creating vegetation; plants; and trees. Then in 2:6 “a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground – Then in 2:7 we have day 6 and the creation of man.

    It appears that your difficulty with: not having rain or a man to work the ground. Could be solved by understanding that God is making a point here: He, in His sovereignty has done it all by a mighty act of creation.

    Would this not eliminate all time tensions?

    • Brett says:

      I don’t think v 5 is talking about the third day. The main thought of 5-7 is this:
      “5 When [certain conditions prevailed] . . . 7 then the Lord God formed the man.”
      That is day 6.
      In context, the “dry land” is in distinction to the sea:
      Genesis 1:10 God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.
      This does not mean that the earth was so dry that no plant life could be supported. Very rich, fertile, well watered areas are included in “dry land.” For example:
      Genesis 7:22 Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died.
      Jonah 1:13 Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to get back to dry land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them.
      Haggai 2:6 For thus says the Lord of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land.

      None of these passages mean that the entire planet was a dessert where the soil had no moisture that could support life.
      God is all powerful, so of course he could do anything. The question is “What did he do?” So we read the passage in the most straightforward manner we come across some tensions. Yes, God could be supernaturally drying the land, but the text does not say that. It is just what a certain interpretation requires.

  2. John Goodell says:

    “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.” Psalm 33:6

    In day 3 we have God, by His Word, creating vegetation. He doesn’t need natural means. Just like in vs. 9 when He says, “let dry land appear”. If God says “dry land” we can be sure it will be dry. It appears that if we read 2:5 right on into vs. 6 we have the God causing a mist and providing water.

    If God doesn’t create plant life because he does not have a man to work the ground then we have serious problems with day 3.

    • Brett says:

      “He doesn’t need natural means.”
      That’s true, but verse 5 has an explanatory clause. God explains why there were no plants. He gives two reasons. 1) lack of rain, 2) lack of a cultivator. A straightforward reading says that God was (at least in this part) utilizing normal providence.
      “If God doesn’t create plant life because he does not have a man to work the ground then we have serious problems with day 3.”
      Only if you take eres to mean “the whole earth,” but I think that it is more restrictive. I think it is only referring to a localized portion of the land (which is one of the normal definitions of eres).

  3. John says:


    It seems upon closer inspection that the plant life he is talking about is different than day 3. Different plants with, like you said, a local region being view.

    Also, my two cents would be: that the people Moses was addressing, having never lived in Palestine, would have been much more familiar with the plant life being watered from the Nile (having come from Egypt). Which would support what the scholarly consensus that verse 6 teaches about watering the ground from water out of the ground.

    • Brett says:

      There is no scholarly consensus on this passage. Either rain cloud or river flooding would have been understood (in fact you can’t have the flooding without the rain). However, “rain cloud” has much more in favor of it. As far as “going up” that need not mean anything more than clouds rising from the horizon:

      And at the seventh time he said, “Behold, a little cloud like a man’s hand is rising from the sea.” And he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot and go down, lest the rain stop you.’” (1 Kings 18:44, ESV)

      (see also Psalm 135:7; Jeremiah 10:13; 51:16)
      For a more detailed look, see my analysis here.

  4. John says:

    “He (Futato) admits that the scholarly consensus is in favor of ground water, but submits that the argument behind this consensus are trumped by the Palestinian context of the passage.”. (James Jordan)

    Of course neither Moses or the recipients were ever in Palestine so this doesn’t make any sense.

    Here is Futato’s own words “Scholars have proposed
    numerous meanings for e-d,11 but “stream” seems to have won the day.” (from his paper: Because it Had Rained). He seems to even admit to scholarly consensus.

    God is certainly able to take ground water up from the ground and water the ground with a mist. This is what the English Bibles say.

    We may just have to disagree here, bro.

  5. Brett says:

    Exegesis trumps appeals to authority.
    Besides of the 27 translations that checked, the majority went with mist rather than stream. I could easily quote half a dozen scholars each holding to half a dozed different opinions. A consensus does not exist.

  6. John says:

    I agree, exegesis trumps.

    The way I am using consensus here is: a judgement by most of those concerned. Surely, there is a view that has the most adherents!


  7. Brett says:

    “Surely, there is a view that has the most adherents!
    Yes, it seems to be “mist” and not “river.” However, the way people normally use consensus is to refer to a position where the vast majority agree on. Typically, a simple majority does not represent a consensus. If 20% support theory A and 17% support theory B and 31% hold to theory C and 25% hold to D and the final 7% hold to E, then theere is no consensus even though theory B has the most adherents.
    I also responded to ‘ed “rising from the land” here

  8. John says:

    Consensus – 1. An opinion held by all or most. ( Websters New World Dictionary: Third College Edition)

    I obviously did not mean all, after all we are in a debate.

    Maybe your right, I am leaning on the opinions of Futato and Jordan. They disagree on the meaning but both scholars believe most hold to the view of ground water.

  9. Brett says:

    “Consensus – 1. An opinion held by all or most.”
    It is certainly not held by all. It is not even held by most as far as I can tell (see the above example where the largest percentage was 31% which means that 69% would disagree). Every now and then there are studies that really advance the conversation. I think Futato’s was one of them (so also Kline before him). It is also interesting to note the scholars since Futato have been convinced by his work or have at least had to wrestle with it.
    Rogland, writing in 2010 says, “the plain fact of the matter is that a scholarly consensus has yet to emerge concerning the comparative philological evidence bearing upon Hebrew ‘ed

  10. John says:

    Yea, both Futato and Jordan (1999) are slightly dated. It seems in the last few years (very recently) a lot of scholars are jumping over to an old earth view. So the landscape of defining ‘ed, like you said, may have changed.

    I personally hold that God is making a point. It is not the rain or man but God caused a mist (supernatural) and made man. Calvin says, “But, at that time, the method was different: God clothed the earth, not in the same manner as now, (for there was no seed, no root, no plant, which might germinate,) but each suddenly sprung into existence at the command of God, and by the power of his word. They possessed durable vigour, so that they might
    stand by the force of their own nature, and not by that quickening
    influence which is now perceived, not by the help of rain, not by the
    irrigation or culture of man; but by the vapour with which God watered the earth. For he excludes these two things, the rain whence the earth derives moisture, that it may retain its native sap; and human culture, which is the assistant of nature.”