Why Genesis 1 is not the same as Genesis 2

Historically many have understood Gen 2 to be an expansion on the detail of Gen 1 – specifically the details of Day 6.  This view sees the creation of Adam & Eve as expanding the brief description in Gen1:26 of the call to make man in the image and likeness of God.  On closer reading there are contrasts worth considering:

Genesis 1 Genesis 2
Man created to have dominion over all the earth v25 Man created in Eden and works exclusively there until the Fall v8
Trees were created on day Three v11 There was no vegetation till after Adam v5, 8-9
Birds were created on day Five v20 Animals were created on day Six prior to humans v24 Both birds and animals were formed after Adam v19
Humans commanded to reproduce v28 Adam seemingly only knew Eve after the Fall in Gen4:1.  Note this failure to procreate is not mentioned as a sin (given the sheep had time to produce a lamb, some 5 odd months had passed since Adam & Eve’s creation presumably).

The tense of the formation of animals in Gen2:19 is sometimes disputed.  The NET notes provide the following comments:

To harmonize the order of events with the chronology of chapter one, some translate the prefixed verb form with vav consecutive as a past perfect (“had formed,” cf. NIV) here. (In chapter one the creation of the animals preceded the creation of man; here the animals are created after the man.)  However, it is unlikely that the Hebrew construction can be translated in this way in the middle of this pericope, for the criteria for unmarked temporal overlay are not present here. See S. R. Driver, A Treatise on the Use of the Tenses in Hebrew , 84-88, and especially R. Buth, “Methodological Collision between Source Criticism and Discourse Analysis,” Biblical Hebrew and Discourse Linguistics , 138-54. For a contrary viewpoint see IBHS 552-53 §33.2.3 and C. J. Collins, “The Wayyiqtol as ‘Pluperfect’: When and Why,” TynBul 46 (1995): 117-40.”

This analysis of the Hebrew as pointing to the wording being sequential is strongly supported by Hebrew scholars like M Heiser [1]

To quote another scholar on the Hebrew

The combination of the Hebrew prefixed conjugation (the ‘imperfect’ or yiqtōl) preceded by an attached strong waw (ו). (The strong [a.k.a. ‘consecutive’, ‘conversive’] waw is distinguished from the normal copulative waw by a lengthening of the vowel under the waw from a šᵊwa וְ to a pataḥ וַ or qāmeṣ וָ and a doubling [with the dāgēš ּ] of the following consonant [except gutturals].) This construction commonly conveys past tense / time. It is frequently referred to by grammarians as the “waw-consecutive” form, the ‘preterite’ form, or the wayyiqtōl / vayyiqtōl form. Tense-based approaches to the Hebrew verb use other labels as well, such as “inverted future”. See IBHS §33, GKC §49a-g, §111; BHRG §21.2; J.-M. §47, §118.”[3]

There seems little doubt that when there is no pressure to have a motivated reading, the form of the Hebrew means the animals in Eden were formed after Adam.

The natural reading of Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 is two separate creative events, one global and one localised.


[1] Eg Heiser, M. S., & Setterholm, V. M. (2013; 2013). In Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database Terminology. Lexham Press.  Also Concise HALOT,

[2] Logos 6 exegetical guide to Gen2v19

[3] Michael S. Heiser and Vincent M. Setterholm, Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database Terminology (Lexham Press, 2013; 2013).

11 thoughts on “Why Genesis 1 is not the same as Genesis 2

  1. Mark Taunton

    Assertions about tense in the Bible original text need to be supported by scriptural evidence. Just because the verbs in Gen 2:19 are in the waw-consecutive form doesn’t prove that they are strictly in order with events recorded previously, i.e. that the order of creation of animals and man is different from Genesis 1. This can readily be demonstrated from another passage in the narrative of Genesis.

    In Gen 12:1, the KJV uses pluperfect (“had said”), and the holy spirit speaking in Stephen (Acts 7:2-4) confirms that this translation is correct: God had said those words to Abraham before the events described in the preceding text, Gen 11:31-32. Yet in the Hebrew of Gen 11:30-12:1, every verb is in the vav-consecutive form, although we know that the events are not in chronological order.

    So to translate the first verb in Gen 2:19 as “had formed” is perfectly within the bounds of scripturally-evidenced Hebrew usage and meaning. It is not wrong, because other scriptural evidence confirms that Genesis 2 speaks of the same events as recorded for the sixth day in Genesis 1.


    1. COD Post author

      You agree that the verbs in Gen 2:19 are waw-consecutive form. You would also be aware that Hebrew has a perfect verb form (qatal). This is not used here.

      The imperfect with wāw consecutive (§ 49 a–g) serves to express actions, events, or states, which are to be regarded as the temporal or logical sequel of actions, events, or states mentioned immediately before. The imperfect consecutive is used in this way most frequently as the narrative tense, corresponding to the Greek aorist or the Latin historic perfect. As a rule the narrative is introduced by a perfect, and then continued by means of imperfects with wāw consecutive (on this interchange of tenses cf. § 49 a, and especially § 112 a), e. g. Gn 3:1 now the serpent was (הָיָה) more subtil … and he said (וַיֹּאמֶר) unto the woman; 4:1, 6:9ff., 10:9f., 15:19, 11:12ff. 27ff., 14:5f., 15:1f., 16:1f., 21:1ff., 24:1f., 25:19ff., 36:2ff., 37:2
      Gesenius, F. W. (1910). Gesenius’ Hebrew grammar. (E. Kautzsch & S. A. E. Cowley, Eds.) (2d English ed., p. 326). Oxford: Clarendon Press.

      Driver while allowing some limited exceptions says:

      I find it difficult to believe that in the midst of a continuous piece of narrative, such as Gen. 2,19, or even Ex. 11,1, it is legitimate to abandon the normal and natural sense of [the wayyiqtol form] in favour of one which, at best, rests upon precarious and unsatisfactory instances, and which, had it been designed by the author, could have been easily and unambiguously expressed by a slight change of order.
      S.R. Driver, A Treatise on the Use of the Tenses in Hebrew3 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1892).

      Buth’s unmarked temporal overlays with were expanded by Collins to include three criteria where such unmarked overlays can be identified:
      (1) Some anaphoric reference explicitly points back to a previous event. This is Buth’s first condition, and in addition to the verses explained by Buth, this would explain 1 Kings 21:8-9; 2 Kings 7:18-19; and possibly 2 Samuel 13:34 as discussed below.
      (2) The logic of the referent described requires that an event presented by a wayyiqtol verb form actually took place prior to the event presented by a previous verb. This would explain. e.g., Joshua 18:8, as well as those passages explained in Buth’s second condition.
      (3) The verb begins a section or paragraph. This was the sole instance allowed by Driver, in which he agreed that ‘the chronological principle’ of the wayyiqtol might be ‘in abeyance’. Note that this also helps explain 2 Samuel 13:34.
      Collins, C. J. (n.d.). The Wayyiqtol as “Pluperfect”: When and Why .

      So you are taking an unusual case and applying it here because it fits your conclusion rather than it being evidenced in the pericope. The pericope has a logical structure which works with the waw consecutive. God saw Adam was alone without an appropriate companion. God created the animals and birds. God brought them to Adam who then comes to the same realisation God already had. God then creates a soulmate. Consistent with Driver’s observation, if God wanted to communicate past tense qatal was there ready.


  2. Mark Taunton

    You call Gen 11:31-12:1 “an unusual case”, and suggest it is wrong or inappropriate of me to cite it as evidence. Yet the scholars you quote, in those quotes, do that same thing, referring to context(s) other than the one under study to determine a pattern of Hebrew grammar and semantics from it/them, then applying the understanding gained in relation to the passage being considered.
    Why then do you claim Gen 12:1 is “off-limits” to me, in following the same approach of inter-textual comparison and analysis? Just because the evidence it yields provides validation for my general conclusion about Gen 1 relative to Gen 2? (Though I already had that view for other reasons – I noticed the detail in Gen 11:31-12:1 only relatively recently.)


    1. COD Post author

      No not suggesting it was wrong or inappropriate to explore the question. I believe we both agree the text is not the usual form of a perfect verb. Hence we are dealing with a possible exception/unusual case if Gen 2:19 was a perfect verb despite technically being consecutive. The scholars noted this consecutive form on rare occasions being perfect is possible. They derive grammatical rules which surround these exceptions – which I detailed. The rules don’t fit Gen 2:19 (which some of them note explicitly). I stated why the exceptions don’t apply. I think you may have misread the thrust of my comment a tad. Hopefully clearer now.


  3. Mark Taunton

    If those grammatical rules devised by scholars exclude the meaning “had formed” as possible in Gen 2:19, then they are either faulty or incomplete, because they would equally exclude the meaning “had said” from Gen 12:1 despite what we know, from the testimony of other scriptures, that that is indeed the true sense of it.

    Moreover, Gen 12:1 is not the only comparable context in respect of the grammatical pattern in question. Several other passages display the same pattern in the Hebrew:
    Gen 31:19 and Rachel had stolen the images …
    Ex 19:2 and Israel had departed … and had pitched
    Ex 32:29 and Moses had said
    Ex 33:5 and Yahweh had said to Moses … 6 and Israel (had) stripped themselves
    Num 1:47-49 48: for (Heb: and) Yahweh had said …
    Jdg 1:8 and the children of Judah had fought … and had taken … and had smitten
    1 Sa 14:24 for (Heb: and) Saul had adjured the people
    1 Ki 13:12 for (Heb: and) his sons had seen
    2 Ch 30:1-2 and the king had taken counsel …
    Isa 38:21-22 and Isaiah had said … and Hezekiah had said
    (There may be yet others also; I do not claim my search to have been exhaustive.)


    1. COD Post author

      Thusfar while I haven’t agreed with your comments they have been stimulating and I’ve learnt stuff from exploring them. I think if you review the rules they do not exclude Gen 12, quite the contrary. The fact that they identified such exceptions and the basis of them demonstrates an awareness of exceptions. Not only did they identify the exceptions, they applied them yet did not find Gen 2:19 fitted the framework.


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