A few days ago, I posted the first of three segments about our meeting on July 13 where we discussed Genesis 2. I mentioned that there is often confusion about verses 5-9, where it appears that God created Adam before He created the plants. Here I will briefly address the common charge that Genesis 2 appears to say that God created Adam before He created the rest of the animals.
Before we go on, one thing to keep in mind is that Genesis 1 and 2 each have different purposes. They are both creation accounts, but they specifically focus on different parts of creation. You won't find a very detailed description about the physical creation in Genesis 2, because that's what Genesis 1 is there for. Genesis 2, on the other hand, is primarily about God's relationship to us, and our relationship to the rest of creation. Any information about the physical creation is only there in Genesis 2 to give background information. If you want more detail, simply turn a couple pages back to Genesis 1.
That being said, I will try to dispel this apparent contradiction. In verses 18-20, we learn that God did not want Adam to be alone, and thus He introduces Adam to all the animals (the livestock, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the air), in order that Adam might come to know each one well, and each species' characteristics. (In fact, the passage talks about Adam naming the animals, which would imply, from the Hebrew culture, that Adam must know the animals quite well at that point.)
But the problem here is verse 19. It says, right after God created Adam and the realized he was alone, "Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air...(NKJV)" This seems to imply chronological order. Did that really happen after God created Adam? The problem is the translations at times can be a little misleading. Recall from our discussion on Genesis 1 that verb tenses in Biblical Hebrew have several possible, literal meanings. In other words, the verb here (in the NJKV) translated as "formed" is, in the NIV, translated as "had formed". In light of this, verse 19 receives its proper place: as background information about what was taking place. Adam was about to be introduced to the animals, so we are reminded that God had, at some time in the past, formed these animals from the dust of the ground.
Now, how exactly did He do that? That, my friends, is a topic for another discussion. Perhaps I'll pick that up in the third and final post about this past meeting.
I'd be excited to hear someone's comments.