On the third creative “day,” God caused the earth to bring forth “vegetation bearing seed according to its kind,” thus able to reproduce. (Gen. 1:11-13) Genesis 2:5, 6 apparently describes conditions on that “day” just after God made dry land appear but before the production of grass, seed-bearing vegetation and fruit-bearing trees. To supply needed moisture for coming plant life, Jehovah provided that mist should regularly rise from the earth to water the ground. It kept vegetation flourishing earth wide even though there was then no rain.
It was not until the fourth creative “day,” however, that the sun, moon and stars were “made” to be visible from within the earth’s atmosphere, “to shine upon the earth.” (Gen. 1:15) And, on the fifth creative day, flying creatures, evidently including insects, were brought into existence. (Gen. 1:20-23) Consequently questions arise as to how vegetation could have survived without light from the sun and without the aid of insect pollination. In this regard the operation of God’s spirit cannot be overlooked. (Gen. 1:2) Also, there is no way of knowing just what conditions existed on the earth during the third creative “day” and what effect these conditions would have had on plant life. Experiments conducted in relatively recent years suggest the possibility that light is not an absolute necessity for photosynthesis to take place in plants. (Science News Letter, August 25, 1962, article on “Lightless Photosynthesis”) Noteworthy, too, is the fact that the process of photosynthesis is still only vaguely understood. As to pollination, even today this is not accomplished by insects alone. Many plants are self-fertilized or are pollinated by the wind. At times water serves as an agent in pollination. And, again, we must recognize our lack of knowledge as to the exact conditions prevailing on earth during the third creative “day” and the propagation of vegetation in that period.—See the book Is the Bible Really the Word of God?, pages 23-25.
God gave green vegetation to man and the animals as part of their original food supply, later expanding mankind’s diet to include meat from which the blood had been drained. (Gen. 1:29, 30; 9:3, 4) Sinful man was compelled to toil for the vegetation he ate (Gen. 3:18, 19), but Jehovah remained the Provider of it for man and beast alike, for He is the Provider of the sunshine and rain essential to its growth.—Ps. 104:14; 106:20; Mic. 5:7; Zech. 10:1; Heb. 6:7; compare Deuteronomy 32:2.
Growth of vegetation can be controlled by God according to his purpose. He assured the Israelites that their obedience would be rewarded with rain and vegetation for their domestic animals. (Deut. 11:13-15) However, if they abandoned their covenant with God, he would make their land devoid of vegetation. (Deut. 29:22-25; compare Isaiah 42:15; Jeremiah 12:4; 14:6.) One blow from Jehovah against ancient Egypt consisted of hail that struck all sorts of vegetation. In another God-sent blow, locusts devoured all the vegetation the hail had left.—Ex. 9:22, 25; 10:12, 15; Ps. 105:34, 35; compare Amos 7:1-3.
During the Palestinian dry season, vegetation, when subjected to the scorching heat of the sun or a parching east wind, quickly dries up. Accordingly, people about to be subjugated by military conquest are likened to “vegetation of the field and green tender grass, grass of the roofs, when there is a scorching before the east wind.” (2 Ki. 19:25, 26; Isa. 37:26, 27) Similarly, when severely afflicted, the psalmist exclaimed: “My heart has been struck just like vegetation and is dried up.” “I myself am dried up like mere vegetation.”—Ps. 102:4, 11.
Under favorable conditions vegetation sprouts in great profusion, making it an appropriate figure to represent numerous descendants. (Job 5:25) During Solomon’s reign, for example, “Judah and Israel were many” and flourished, “eating and drinking and rejoicing.” (1 Ki. 4:20) This is evidently alluded to in a psalm regarding Solomon: “Those who are from the city will blossom like the vegetation of the earth.” (Ps. 72:16) On the other hand, though the wicked for a time may sprout like vegetation, they are not flourishing because of God’s blessing but are in line to be “annihilated forever.”—Ps. 92:7.
In the Scriptures, trees at times represent those who are prominent and lofty (compare Ezekiel 31:2-14), whereas the lowly vegetation, like the bramble, grass or rushes, can represent people generally. (Compare Judges 9:8-15; 2 Kings 14:8-10; Isaiah 19:15; 40:6, 7.) This aids in understanding the significance of Revelation 8:7, which speaks of the burning up of a “third of the trees” and “all the green vegetation.”