Questions From Readers
● A number of readers have written in proposing a question like this: How can we harmonize Genesis 1:11-13 where it mentions the earth’s bringing forth vegetation on the third creative day with Genesis 2:5, 6, which the New World Translation renders as follows: “Now there was as yet no shrub of the field found in the earth and no vegetation of the field was as yet sprouting, because Jehovah God had not made it rain upon the earth and there was no man to cultivate the ground. But a vapor went up continually from the earth and it watered the entire surface of the ground”?
The New World Translation words this in harmony with the New Commentary on Genesis, by F. Delitzsch, D.D., which reads: “And no plant of the field was yet upon the earth, and no herb of the field had as yet sprung up: for Jahveh Elohim had not yet caused it to rain upon the earth, and men there were not to till the ground. And a mist went up from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.” (Pages 115, 117) Also The Holy Scriptures of the Old Testament, in German, by the Hebrew grammarian E. Kautzsch, translated into English, reads: “But there was not as yet upon earth any shrub upon the plains, and as yet no plants sprouted upon the plains; for Jahwe God had not yet made it rain upon the earth, and men were [as yet] not there, to cultivate the ground; but a mist kept rising from the earth and watering the whole surface of the earth’s ground.” (Brackets his)
The Book of Genesis, by Thomas J. Conant, also reads: “Now there was yet no plant of the field in the earth, and no herb of the field had yet sprung up; for Jehovah God had not yet caused it to rain on the earth, and there was no man to till the ground. And there went up mist from the earth; and it watered all the face of the ground.” Also the Notes Critical and Practical on the Book of Genesis, by George Bush, page 53 of Volume I, says in the footnote with reference to the word “before” appearing in the King James Version Bible: “The Hebrew particle (טרם terem) rendered ‘before’ may mean ‘not yet,’ namely, ‘and every plant of the field was not yet in the earth, and every herb of the field had not yet sprung up,’ which substantially agrees with the former” rendering of the King James Version. An American Translation reads similarly; so does Moffatt’s A New Translation of the Bible.
The above verses are not out of harmony with Genesis 1:11-13; they could not be. Jesus Christ quoted from both chapter one and chapter two of Genesis, and the apostle Paul did likewise, and thus two witnesses established that both accounts are true and hence in agreement with each other.—Matt. 19:4-6; Mark 10:3-9; 1 Cor. 15:45, 47; 6:16; 2 Cor. 4:6; Eph. 5:31; Col. 3:10; Heb. 4:4, 10.
Accordingly Genesis 2:5, 6 quoted above must apply to the third day of creation described in Genesis 1:9-13. But first it describes the earth’s condition just after Jehovah God had made the dry land appear and before he had commanded the earth to bring forth grass and seed-bearing vegetation and fruit-bearing trees. Persons who take the King James Version or a similar version’s rendering to be correct interpret its rendering to mean that God started off such plant life perfect, that is, full-grown, without its germinating from the seed. But this does not necessarily have to be so, not according to the reading of the New World Translation and of other versions. At any rate, for a time the earth was lifeless, without plant life and without animal and human life. The earth was also rainless. To provide for the coming plant life, Jehovah God duly provided an irrigation system, not by rain but by a vapor for all the earth, aside from such rivers as Genesis 2:10-14 indicates there were. So when God caused vegetation to cover the dry land, that did not alter the general conditions with reference to the great water canopy revolving away out in space far above the earth.
Rain was not necessary to cause the vegetation to grow or to keep growing, any more than man was needed to cultivate the earth and make the vegetation grow or keep growing. Genesis 2:5 does not say that the vegetation could not grow because God had not made it rain and had not created man to cultivate the ground. God started off the vegetation without rain and without man, because God produced the necessary moisture that made rain and man unnecessary. Hence the very next Ge 2 verse (6) starts off with the conjunction “But,” and goes on to say that a vapor regularly went up from the earth and irrigated the entire surface of the ground all around the globe. This, of course, was under the great water canopy far out in space that was to fall much later on in Noah’s day and be followed by rains and the rainbow. How dense the rising vapor or mist was we are not informed, but it provided more than a mere dew. It was still enough to water the surface of the ground inside and outside the garden of Eden when man was created and put there toward the close of the sixth creative day; and the vapor did not make the general atmosphere uncomfortable for man.
So this vapor aside from what rivers there were was able to keep the plants in a continually flourishing condition until the flood and to do so without rain. The issue of The Watchtower of September 15, 1954, pointed out, on page 573, paragraph 38, how even a mere dew was more potent in reviving certain plants than when the ground itself was watered and how from dew such plants were able to store up water around their roots even to the weight of the plant or more. How much more would this be true from the third creative day forward in the case of a vapor that regularly ascended over all the earth and which indicated that the earth’s surface held moisture. Instead of the water’s coming down from clouds in the sky to irrigate the earth, God’s Word says the vapor went up, and this state of affairs continued on until after sinner Adam was driven out of the garden of Eden to cultivate the ground as a farmer, yes, even until the flood of Noah’s day and the first rainbow.
The next verse, Genesis 2:7, skips all the in-between history of Genesis 1:14-25 concerning the breaking through of light upon the earth’s surface and the producing of creature life in the sea, bird life in the air and the subhuman creature life on earth. It goes into detail about the creation of man, more so than Genesis 1:27 does. But with man’s creation and being put in the garden of Eden it is not to be reasoned from Genesis 2:5 that now it began to rain upon the earth and man began working like a farmer, plowing the ground and scattering seed and harvesting the yield. His cultivating of the earth like that came after he was run out of the garden of Eden, and Cain imitated Adam and “became a cultivator of the ground.” (Gen. 4:1-3, NW) Thus man and rain did not precede God’s creation of the vegetation on earth, and Genesis 1:9-13 and Genesis 2:5, 6 are found to be in agreement.