Why is the order of creation different in the first 2 chapters of Genesis?
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(All quotations from the New King James translation unless stated otherwise).
The Bible stands or falls by its internal integrity.
2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,
2 Peter 1:21... holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
John 10:35... the Scripture cannot be broken,
The only errors we expect to see are those of transcription (copying out) or translation.All seeming contradictions must be capable of reconciliation. If otherwise then the scriptures are the work of men and not God. We can pick and choose what we want to believe but it will serve no purpose.
I believe that chapter 2 does not give a different account to chapter 1 but rather a more detailed account of the creation of Man and woman. I believe that the accounts must be capable of reconciliation.
Verses 1-3 are a continuation of the order of events in Chapter 1.
Verse 4 is the beginning of the History of the earth in relation to Man.
Genesis 2:4 This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens,
‘The day’ here is not to be understood as a literal 24 hour day - the Hebrew word has an alternate meaning of an unspecified ‘period of time’ often used elsewhere.
Verses 5 and 6 are not easy to understand unless we take it to mean that the vegetation that God had created full grown, fruiting and bearing seed, had not yet begun the process of seeding and reproducing in the earth. Man had not yet been made and the irrigation of the earth in preparation for the process of seeding new growth was not by rain but by a form of dew. If this is a correct way of understanding it the verse 5 begins on day 3.
Verse 7 takes us to day 6 and begins a more detailed account of the events of that day. The account of the creation of Adam and Eve is given in more detail.
Genesis 1:27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
Genesis 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul....21 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. 22 Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.
In between verses 7 and 21 God planted a garden in Eden as a place for Adam to live; brought the animals to Adam to be named and in the process determined that none of them is a suitable companion.
19 Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name.
Here it may appear to say that the animals and birds were formed after Adam, but it can also be understood to mean that God simply brought the animals and birds that he had previously created to Adam. Without some other textual support it does not of itself prove a change in the order of creation.
Another way of reconciling the account is if the animals and birds made and brought to Adam were a special creation of those that would populate Eden as opposed to the rest of the earth.
The planting of Eden was itself a special work.
Jesus quotes from both chapters:
Matthew 19:4 And He answered and said to them, "Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female (Genesis 1:27),’ 5 "and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh (Genesis 2:24)...
He also confirms that Moses’ writings should be believed.
John 5:46 "For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. 47 "But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?"
Both chapters of Genesis were in the scriptures as part of Moses writings in Christ’s day and he says nothing about a contradiction in the accounts. From this I conclude that Jesus did not regard the accounts as contradictory.
Paul uses chapter 2.
1 Corinthians 11:9 Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man (Genesis 2:18).
James uses chapter 1.
James 3:9 With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God (Genesis 1:27).
Christ emphasises the importance of believing the whole of scripture.
Luke 24:25 Then He said to them, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!
Everything written in the scriptures was written for our learning.
Romans 15:4 For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.
It is by believing them to be the truth that we can be made wise unto salvation.
2 Timothy 3:15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
If we decide that the scriptures are unreliable we are lost.
If you want to come to grips with what the Bible really teaches, why not take the free online Bible study course available on our website, www.thisisyourbible.com? This course will give you a background in the major themes of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. As with everything we offer, there is no cost to you other than your time and effort... You will also have a personal tutor to whom you may pose questions either from the course itself or those questions which come to you as you read the Bible.
I hope this helps.