The divine author makes an important distinction in verse Genesis 2:5, i.e., between wild plants and cultivated ones. It’s important because it gives us insight into differences between the dwellers of Canaan and the people of Eastern and Western lowlands. This distinction is obvious in the Hebrew, but not so much in the English. The distinction is illustrated in the following chart:
שִׂיחַ הַשָּׂדֶה (siach hasadeh)
עֵשֶׂב הַשָּׂדֶה (eirev hasadeh)
Here, the divine author very deliberately draws a distinction between two types of plants; wild and cultivated. The distinction made between these two kinds of plants arises from what they require for flourishing. Wild plants are able to grow and flourish anywhere and only require rain. Cultivated plants, by contrast, require the presence and attention of mankind. Unlike wild plants, water, but not rain, is necessarily required (water can, for example, be supplied by irrigation). The requirement (or lack thereof) for rain is crucial for the complete understanding of this text.
So, let’s take a careful look at the text (which I’ve rewritten in a way that I hope emphasizes its parallel structure):
…In the time that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens –
5siach hasadeh was not yet in the earth
eirev hasedeh was not yet sprouted
– because the LORD God had not yet caused the rain [to fall] upon the earth, and there was not yet mankind to till the ground;
So, a rain came to the earth and watered the whole face of the ground and the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.
Why is this important? Come to Wednesday’s class and all will be revealed. It’s pretty cool, by the way.
The following references present and discuss the theological implications of the distinction between wild and cultivated plants discussed in this post.
Meridith G. Kline, “Because It Had Not Rained,” Westminster Theological Journal 20 (1958) pp 146-57
Mark D. Futato, “Because it Had Rained: A Study of Gen 2:5-7 with Implications for Gen 2:4-25 and Gen 1:1-2:3“, Westminster Theological Journal 60 (1998) pp 1-21
- Commonly translated as ‘mist’, more recent studies suggest that a better translation for the Hebrew word ad in this verse might be water-from-the-skies (i.e., rain from clouds). So, why not use the word for rain (geshem). It turns out this text exemplifies a typical Hebrew play on words – ad (mist, fog), adam (earth), adamah (ground) – a play on words that obviously delighted these ancient authors and seems to be very, very common in the Bible]↩