by Richard Peachey

“And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.” — Genesis 2:19, KJV

“Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.” — Genesis 2:19, ESV

Critics of the Bible have often pointed to an apparent contradiction between the first two chapters of Genesis. Genesis 2 presents God’s formation of animals and birds after the account of his formation of man. But Genesis 1 describes God’s creation of birds and his making of land animals before the account of his creation of man.

Some English versions, including the KJV, ASV, RSV, and NASB, translate the first verb in Genesis 2:19 as simply “formed,” leaving the reader with the impression that there is indeed a contradiction between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. Other translations, both pre-KJV and post-NASB (see Appendix A), render the verb as an English pluperfect, “had formed,” which would resolve the apparent contradiction. This article will argue that the latter approach, the translation of the verb as a pluperfect, is the right solution for the Genesis 2:19 “problem.”

I wish to thank my friend David A. Sterchi for stimulating email conversations that have contributed to the production of this article. (He will not necessarily agree with all of my argumentation!)

(1) There is an apparent contradiction between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 regarding the order of the creation of man, land animals, and birds.

(a) In Genesis 1, birds are created on Day 5 (1:20-23), land animals on Day 6 (1:24f.), and man as male and female later on Day 6 (1:26f.). The impression that man was created after birds and land animals is further reinforced, it seems to me, by the words God uses in blessing man (male and female) after creating them. God commands them to have dominion over the birds and land animals (as well as fish) in 1:28. God then gives plants as food not only to man, but also to the land animals and birds (1:29f.). Finally, God evaluates everything he has made (with man as the ultimate creation) and pronounces it all “very good” (1:31). Thus the sequence of creation events described in 1:20-27, plus God’s blessing, gift of food, and evaluation in 1:28-31 provide the reader with a consistent understanding of the creation order as birds, then land animals, then man as male and female.

(b) In Genesis 2, man (as male) is formed in 2:7, and subsequently the narrative describes the formation of “every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens” (2:19). Last of all, the woman is built (2:22). If the reader had only this chapter (in the original Hebrew) to inform him, he would have to see the creation order as man (male), then field beasts and birds, then woman.

(c) The apparent contradiction consists of this: In Genesis 1 man (male and female) was made/created AFTER birds and land animals; but in Genesis 2 man (male) was formed BEFORE field beasts and birds are (stated to have been) formed.

(2) Four ways of dealing with this apparent contradiction:

(a) Negative critics and skeptics of the Bible treat the two chapters as myths from different sources which actually do conflict with each other. This is not a position that can be a legitimate option for evangelicals to hold.

(b) A small number of commentators follow Cassuto’s suggestion: that God did create birds and animals before man as described in Genesis 1, but then, after forming man, God also created a few specimens of the various animal and bird species for man to name. These would have been sufficient to help man to understand that his need was for a helper corresponding to him, rather than a helper like one of the animals or birds.

This view is noted favourably by Hamilton (though he would also accept a pluperfect solution) and it is strongly supported by Sailhamer (see Appendix B for quotations and references). One possible difficulty with Cassuto’s proposal is that “every” bird was created both BEFORE man (“every winged bird according to its kind,” Genesis 1:21) and AFTER man (“every bird of the heavens,” Genesis 2:19). Since God “brought” the animals and birds to the man (2:19), why not simply bring the ones created earlier and avoid duplication of work? A single creation of birds and animals would be a simpler solution than a proposal of two distinct creations, one of which is omitted in chapter 1, and the other of which happens to be overlooked in chapter 2.

(c) Some commentators want to “dischronologize” either Genesis 1, or Genesis 2, or both. Their claim is that one or both of the authors of these chapters were unconcerned about chronology. I respond to this claim in major point #6 below.

(d) Some commentators argue that the first verb in Genesis 2:19 should be rendered as a pluperfect (past perfect), “had formed.” (For their reasons, see major point #3 below.) This, it seems to me, is the right solution for the Genesis 2:19 “problem.”

Commentators who view the pluperfect as an acceptable way of resolving the apparent contradiction between Genesis 1:20-31 and Genesis 2:19 include Aalders, Coleson, Collins, Hamilton, and Jordan (see Appendix B for quotations and references). Green suggests a participle (“having formed”), but this would have the same effect as the pluperfect. Sarna’s comment is likewise compatible with the use of the pluperfect in 2:19. English Bible translations using the pluperfect include not only recent ones (NIV, ESV) but also several pre-KJV versions: Tyndale Bible (1530), Coverdale Bible (1535), Matthew Bible (1537), and Bishops Bible (1568) (see Appendix A).

(3) It is legitimate to translate a Hebrew verb as a pluperfect in some contexts.

(a) The English and Greek languages have a specialized verb form for the pluperfect, but the Hebrew language does not. A typical Hebrew perfect verb (or waw-imperfect) in a narrative may be translated as an English simple past (e.g., “formed” in Genesis 2:19), or as a perfect (“has formed”), or as a pluperfect (“had formed”). The translator will select an English verb form based on his understanding of the context in which the Hebrew verb is found.

(b) Aalders notes the importance of context in making a decision as to what sort of past tense to use for the Hebrew verb in Genesis 2:19. “As far as the creation of the animal world is concerned, the whole question of when this took place depends on how 2:19 is translated. It is possible to translate it either as ‘when the LORD God had formed’ or as ‘then the LORD God formed.’ The Hebrew permits either translation. How it must be translated in this specific instance depends entirely on the context.”

(c) Coleson similarly points to context as determinative for translation of the Hebrew verb in Genesis 2:19. “The NIV rendering, however is, Now the LORD God had formed. [Coleson’s emphasis.] Translating the verb as a past perfect implies that this account refers to God’s previous creation of animal life (1:20-22, 24-25). The fact that biblical Hebrew does not have a separate form to indicate the past perfect supports this translation. When associated grammar and syntax allow, and when context calls for it, Hebraists do not hesitate to translate the Hebrew ‘perfect’ (perfective) as a past perfect in English. When options exist, context should be the determining factor in translation.”

(d) Likewise, Collins has written: “It has been argued above (section V) that literary environment (‘co-text’) can establish the ‘logic of the referents’, i.e., it can tell us what the author thought was the ‘actual’ sequence of events. If we take Genesis 1:3-2:3 as conveying the broad-stroke story line, which seems to be the simplest way to read it, we are entitled, by the second criterion of section V, to read wayyier in 2:19 as a pluperfect.”

(4) It is reasonable to view Genesis 1 as providing context for Genesis 2.

(a) Genesis 1 precedes Genesis 2, and as far as we really know, it has always done so.

Jason DeRouchie (personal communication, Apr. 18, 2019) writes: “Gen 1:1–2:3 informs all the book, including the toledot unit in 2:4–4:26. The introduction colors our reading of all that follows, which means (in my view) that we must read chapter 2 in light of chapter 1. . . . Because God’s inspired word includes a preface at the front-end (i.e., Gen 1:1–2:3), I think we must first read what follows in the light of it and only thereafter read the Preface in light of what follows. As such, I do think that the placement of the animals before humans in Gen 1 supplies justified grounds for reading the wayyiqtol verb in 2:19 as a pluperfect.”

(b) Genesis 2 should be understood as supplementary to Genesis 1, rather than as a separate and contradictory creation account.

(i) Genesis 2:4-25 is not a full “creation account,” since it omits any mention of the creation of light, day, night, the expanse, waters above the expanse, seas, sun, moon, stars, great sea creatures, fish, other marine organisms, or land-based creeping things — all of which are found in Genesis 1. Nor is there any mention of God’s finishing of his work of creating, or resting from that work. In 2:4-25 mention is made only of:

• man;
• fruit trees in the garden, planted for man;
• water and minerals in and around the garden, which was planted for man;
• field animals and birds, as potential helpers of man;
• woman, built from man, for man.

(ii) Nahum M. Sarna, The JPS Torah Commentary: Genesis (Philadelphia, PA: The Jewish Publication Society, 1989), p. 16: “Chapter 2 is not another creation story. As such it would be singularly incomplete. In fact, it presupposes a knowledge of much of the preceding account of Creation. Many of the leading ideas in the earlier account are here reiterated, though the mode of presentation is different. Thus, in both narratives God is the sovereign Creator, and the world is the purposeful product of His will. To human beings, the crown of His Creation, God grants mastery over the animal kingdom. In chapter 1, this idea is formulated explicitly; in the present section it is inferred from the power of naming invested in man. Both accounts view man as a social creature. Both project the concept of a common ancestry for all humanity. The notion that the human race was originally vegetarian is implied in 2:16-17, as in 1:29.”

(iii) Gerhard Charles Aalders, Bible Student’s Commentary: Genesis, Vol. 1 (trans. William Heynen) (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), p. 79: “In the first place, it is certainly incorrect to call Genesis 2:4b–3:24 a second creation narrative. The contents of this section clearly belie such a designation. It is granted that chapter 2 includes a few matters that relate to creation, and that the creation of woman is given a broader treatment than it received in chapter 1. Even so, it cannot be denied that the major purpose of chapter 2 is to prepare the way for what is revealed in chapter 3, namely, the Fall into sin. This explains the contents of chapter 2. This explains the extensive description of the Garden of Eden (vv. 4-18), in which the persons who were created by God were placed. This also explains why the commandment, which was transgressed in chapter 3, is spelled out in the words of God (vv. 16-17). This even explains the detailed account of the creation of woman (vv. 18-24), since she was destined to play such a significant role in the tragic event of the Fall.”

(iv) Genesis 2:4-25 serves to amplify some of the events of Day Six (1:26-29), focusing on the local region and on specifically human concerns. The local, human-focused nature of chapter 2 is seen in:

• the use of the localizing term “field” in 2:5 (twice; not used previously in Genesis);
• God’s action in forming one man from the ground (2:7);
• God’s action in planting a garden in Eden, a specific locality (2:8);
• God’s action in placing the man in the garden to work it and keep it (2:8,15);
• the description of the garden including the names of four rivers, with locations detailed for three of them, and a listing of three natural resources found in the local area (2:9-14);
• God’s action in forbidding the man to eat from one specific tree in the garden (2:16f.);
• God’s action in bringing a variety of wild animals and birds to the man for consideration as potential helpers, and for naming (2:19f.);
• God’s actions in operating on the man, building the woman, and bringing the woman to the man (2:21f.).

All of these specific actions and other features of Genesis 2:4-25 point to a local, human focus rather than a general, global focus as seen in chapter 1. (One feature to note is the introduction of God’s personal covenant name “Yahveh” or “the LORD” in 2:5, which alerts the reader to a focus on the Creator’s special interest in human beings.)

(v) Derek Kidner, Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1977), p. 58: “It is misleading to call this a second creation account, for it hastens to localize the scene, passing straight from the world at large to ‘a garden . . . in the east’; all that follows is played out on this narrow stage.” [Ellipsis his.]

(vi) According to Collins, “It is hard to escape the conclusion that the final editor wanted his readers to read the two accounts as complementary, not contradictory; the traditional approach that sees 2:4-25 as an elaboration of the sixth ‘day’ is how an audience would co-operate with this intention of the author/editor.”

(vii) Regarding Genesis 2, Sarna writes, “As noted above, the dominant theme of this section, to which all else is subordinated, is man and the human condition. The narrative now focuses on humankind’s mastery over the animals. Mention of their creation is therefore made incidentally, not for its own sake, and is no indication of sequential order in regard to the creation of man.”

(viii) From my viewpoint, the key question is this: Can a reasonable reader be expected to recognize that Genesis 2 is a more focused narrative nested within the broader account of Genesis 1? If so, and if biblical inerrancy is accepted, then the English pluperfect rendering for the first Hebrew verb in Genesis 2:19 is a reasonable solution to the apparent contradiction in the sequence of creation events for man, animals, and birds.

With this question in mind, it is possible to develop a detailed textual analysis on the innertextuality of Genesis 1 and 2 regarding creation of the animals and birds. The texts to be considered are Genesis 1:20-31 and 2:18-25, both of which treat divinely created man in his relationship to divinely created animals and birds. Conceptual connections between the two chapters include the following: (a) God made/formed the animals; (b) the earth/ground was involved in their production; (c) man rules over the animals, which are not his equals (therefore he names them); (d) this rulership is ordained by God, who gave man dominion over the animals, and brought him the animals to name.

In chapter 1, God makes “living creatures” including “beasts of the earth,” which are produced out of “the earth.”

And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. (1:24f.)

In chapter 2, the LORD God’s formation of field beasts is from “the ground.” These beasts, together with the birds, are called “living creatures” (cf. 1:24). The adjective “every” perhaps corresponds to the phrase “according to their kinds” in chapter 1. (Note that the synonymy of “earth” and “ground” in chapter 2 is set up in 2:5f.)

Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. (2:19)

In chapter 1, God creates birds (later called “the birds of the heavens,” 1:26,28,30). Their ongoing reproduction is connected to “the earth.”

And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” (1:20-22)

In chapter 2, the LORD God’s formation of “the birds of the heavens” is (possibly) from “the ground” (the use of the Hebrew direct object marker here is unusual — see Bandstra, p. 149, first paragraph). The adjective “every” perhaps corresponds to the phrase “according to their kinds” in chapter 1 (note that in 1:21 “every” and “according to its kind” both modify “bird”).

Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. (2:19)

In chapter 1, man is explicitly given rulership over animals and birds:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” . . . And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (1:26,28)

In chapter 2, man instantiates his (implicit) God-given rulership by naming the animals and birds the LORD God brings to him. He also apparently recognizes that they are not his equals:

Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. (2:19f.)

In chapter 1, God evaluates his created order, including man (male and female) as ruler over animals and birds, as “very good.”

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. (1:31)

In chapter 2, the LORD God evaluated man (male) alone as “not good,” but by the end of chapter everything appears to the reader as highly satisfactory. No equal partner for man was found among the animals and birds, but now he has the woman, who as “helper fit for him” can be expected to help him in exercising dominion over the animals and birds.

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” . . . Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” . . . And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. (2:18,23,25)

Note also the connections between the end of the creation account (2:1-3) and the beginning of the first toledot (2:4). In 2:1 the phrase “the heavens and the earth” harks back to 1:1 while the phrase “and all their army” refers to the inhabitants of “the heavens and the earth,” including man, animals, and birds. God has completed his work of populating the now-organized “heavens and earth.” In 2:4 those inhabitants are called toledot (generations), referring to that which has been produced from “the heavens and the earth” (especially man, formed from dust/clay + the breath of the LORD God). In 2:3 (at the very end of the creation account) the verbs “create” and “make” appear, as both do again in the next verse (2:4), which introduces the first toledot section. (The verb “make” also appears twice in 2:2.)

Also, very interestingly, note that God gives names to various physical features of the heavens and the earth in chapter 1 (light and darkness, 1:5; the expanse, 1:8; dry land and gathered waters, 1:10), but there is no mention of God giving names to any of the kinds of animals or birds. This leaves room for the chapter 2 naming of animals and birds by man, to whom God gave dominion over them in chapter 1 — thus evincing a subtle but significant compatibility between the two chapters.

As the reader begins chapter 3, he is introduced to the serpent, one of the “beasts of the field” (ch. 2) whom the LORD God has “made” (3:1, cf. “formed,” 2:19), over whom man (male and female) ought to be exercising dominion (ch. 1), who tempts the woman regarding food graciously given by God to man (male and female), beasts and birds (ch. 1), in particular the fruit of one tree planted by the LORD God in the garden of Eden (ch. 2).

In light of the foregoing discussion, I argue that a reasonable reader would easily understand the narrative of Genesis 2 to be an elaboration of certain aspects of chapter 1, would note the variety of lexical and conceptual connections between the chapters, would spot the apparent discrepancy, and would realize that Genesis 2:19 must be referring back to earlier creation events detailed in chapter 1 (thus justifying the use of the pluperfect when translating the Hebrew into English or any other language that has a pluperfect form available).

(5) Commentators who reject the pluperfect as a solution to the apparent contradiction sometimes do so without substantive argument.

(a) Cassuto states, without explanation, “The harmonistic interpretation that explains the verb וַיִּצֶר wayyīer to mean, now He had already created before, cannot be considered seriously.”

(b) Longman inserts a brief parenthetical sneer into his discussion of Genesis 2:19, “. . . he either earlier created (as the NIV would have us believe, “had formed”) or. . . .”

(c) Provan writes dismissively, without explanation, of “the ill-advised pluperfect of some English translations – ‘the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field’ “.

(d) Skinner objects that the pluperfect rendering “misses the point of the passage,” which Sailhamer amplifies into “it misses the very point of the narrative, namely, that the animals were created in response to God’s declaration that it was not good that man should be alone.” But this objection assumes a particular answer to the question under discussion, which is: When were the field animals and birds of Genesis 2:19 actually created? To postulate that God created animals and birds “in response to” his finding that it was not good for the man to be alone, involves God in unworthy trial-and-error experimentation as he clumsily attempts to meet man’s need. Those who hold that the pluperfect is a valid solution to the apparent contradiction would instead see it this way: In followup to his declaration that it was not good for the man to be alone, God brought animals and birds (created earlier) to man for consideration and naming, so that man could recognize their unsuitability for him; then God built the woman as the divinely appointed helper corresponding to the man.

(6) Some writers claim that Genesis 1, or 2, or both, are unconcerned about chronology.

(a) Contra such writers, the fact that Genesis 1:3–2:3 “is saturated with chronological terminology” evidences the author’s intense concern for chronology. See my article “Time is the Hero of the Plot” — in Genesis!

(b) Besides the use of specific terminology in Genesis 1:1–2:3, the logical arrangement of events also speaks of the author’s concern for chronology. For example:

• water must exist (day 1) before it can be separated (day 2) and gathered (day 3)
• habitats (days 2, 3) must exist before their inhabitants can occupy them (days 4–6)
• food (day 3) must be in place for those that eat it (days 5–6)
• subjects (days 5–6) must exist for those commanded to rule over them (day 6)
• God’s work of creation (days 1–6) must take place prior to his cessation/rest from that work (day 7)

(c) Aside from the difficulty raised by 2:19, the events of 2:7f.,15-23 are readily understood as occurring in an orderly chronological sequence. Later events are narrated after (obviously) earlier ones, and the sequence of events (powered by waw-imperfect verbs with their typical function of advancing the narrative) makes good sense. Consider:

• the LORD God forms man from dust (2:7a), after which
• the LORD God breathes the breath of life into the man’s nostrils (2:7b), and as a result
• the man becomes a living creature (2:7c), after which
• the LORD God plants a garden in Eden (2:8a), and then
• the LORD God puts the man in the garden (2:8b,15; the narrative is resumed in 2:15 following the detailed description of Eden in 2:9-14), and then
• the LORD God gives the man a command about eating from the garden’s trees (2:16f.), and then
• the LORD God assesses the man’s solitude as “not good” (2:18a), and then to address this
• the LORD God states that he will make the man a helper (2:18b), after which
• [the creation of field animals and birds being mentioned (2:19a)] the LORD God brings animals and birds to the man (2:19b), and then
• the man names the animals, but finds no suitable “helper” among them (2:19c,20), and then
• the LORD God causes a deep sleep to fall upon the man (2:21a), and then
• as the man sleeps, the LORD God takes one of his ribs (2:21b), and then
• the LORD God closes up the place with flesh (2:21c), and then
• the LORD God builds the rib into a woman (2:22a), and then
• the LORD God brings the woman to the man (2:22b), and then
• the man makes a statement about the woman (2:23)

(d) Since chronology is an evident concern in both chapters, Genesis 1 and 2, the idea that a pronouncement of “dischronologization” or lack of interest in chronology can alleviate the apparent contradiction between 1:20-31 and 2:19 does not work. This leaves the pluperfect translation of the first Hebrew verb in 2:19 as the sole remaining viable solution of the apparent contradiction. (Refer to major point #2 above.)


Appendix A: English translations of Genesis 2:19 that use the pluperfect


New International Version (NIV, 1978): “Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.”


English Standard Version (ESV, 2001): “Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed [margin: “Or And out of the ground the LORD God formed“] every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.”


Tyndale Bible (1530): “And after yt the LORde God had make [note: in his 1534 revision Tyndale changed this tohad made“] of the erth all maner beastes of the felde, and all maner foules of the ayre, he brought them vnto Adam to see what he wold call them. And as Adā called all maner livynge beastes: evē so are their names.”


Coverdale Bible (1535): “And whan God the LORDE had made of the earth all maner beastes of the felde, & all maner foules vnder the heauē, he brought them vnto man, to se what he wolde call thē: For as mā called all maner of liuinge soules, so are their names.”


Matthew Bible (1537): “And after that the Lorde God had made of erth all maner beastes of the felde, & all maner foules of the ayre, he brought them vnto Adam to se what he wolde call them. And as Adam called all maner lyuyng beastes, euen so are their names.”


Bishops Bible (1568): “And so out of the grounde the Lorde God had shapen euery beast of the field, and euery foule of the ayre, and brought it vnto man, that he myght see howe he woulde call it. For lykewyse as man hym selfe named euery lyuyng thyng, euen so was the name therof.”


Appendix B: Commentators’ views on the Genesis 2:19 “problem”
(In alphabetical order. Bold print indicates emphasis added, except where indicated.)


Gerhard Charles Aalders, Bible Student’s Commentary: Genesis. Vol. 1 (trans. William Heynen) (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1981), pp. 80f.

Moving now to the material argument, its main contention is that Genesis 2:4–3:24 gives a presentation of creation that is essentially different from that given in Genesis 1:1–2:3. The former account, it is argued, gives the order of creation as first plants, then animals, and finally humanity. The latter account, it is claimed, gives a different order with man first, then plants, then animals, and finally woman. Now it is true that Genesis 2:9 refers to the formation of various kinds of plants after the creation of human beings. But when we consult the context, it immediately becomes clear that 2:9 is not referring to the formation of plants in general, but only to the plants which were used to adorn the Garden of Eden (v. 8). . . . As far as the creation of the animal world is concerned, the whole question of when this took place depends on how 2:19 is translated. It is possible to translate it either as “when the LORD God had formed” or as “then the LORD God formed.” The Hebrew permits either translation. How it must be translated in this specific instance depends entirely on the context. Maybe we should say that it depends on what presupposition we make before we approach the text. Our translation will be determined by whether we consider Genesis 1:1–2:3 and Genesis 2:4–3:24 to be in agreement with each other or in conflict with each other. There is then no substance to the claim that the latter passage clearly presents a different order of creation and therefore disagrees with chapter 1.

Let us assume for a moment that we accept the theory of source splitting and then assume also that two creation narratives, which originally gave conflicting accounts of the order of creation, were combined by a later redactor. This redactor certainly would have spared no effort to make these two accounts agree. In order to accomplish this harmony of the two accounts, he certainly must have intended to say in 2:19, “when the LORD God had formed.” Thus, even assuming the validity of the source-splitting theory, the translation of 2:19 we have adopted must be considered the more acceptable one. As a result the alleged conflict with chapter 1 is a fantasy.


Umberto Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Genesis, Part 1: From Adam to Noah, Genesis I — VI 8 (trans. Israel Abrahams). (Jerusalem: The Magnes Press [Hebrew University], 1961), pp. 128f.

So [the Lord God.] formed etc.] ….This presents a difficulty, for according to the preceding section all the creatures were formed before man. The harmonistic interpretation that explains the verb וַיִּצֶר wayyīer to mean, now He had already created before, cannot be considered seriously. But the usual explanation given in modern commentaries, to wit, that we have here two contradictory accounts — according to the one the creatures were created before man, and according to the other they were formed only after man — is not as simple as it appears at first glance. Not only must the redactor have noticed so glaring a contradiction, but there is also another problem, namely, that here in v. 19 only the beasts of the field and the flying creatures of the air are referred to, and no mention whatsoever is made of the cattle. If the term beasts only had been used here, or beasts of the earth, one might have assumed that it included the cattle as well; but the expression beasts of the field is actually an antonym of cattle. And another point: it is just the cattle, as we have noted earlier, that would in particular have had a claim to consideration. Had the meaning, therefore, been that the Lord God created them then, they should have been referred to in unmistakable terms. Now in v. 20, the first category of creatures to be named by man is precisely the cattle. From this it may be inferred that the cattle were already to be found with man in the garden of Eden, and there was no need to create them and bring them before him. This was not the case, however, with the beasts of the field and the flying creatures of the air; undoubtedly, they were not staying with man. Also in Lev. xvii 13, the kinds known as beasts and flying creatures are mentioned, in contradistinction to cattle, as two classes of creatures that man can catch only by hunting. Hence it seems that in the passage before us (in the ancient epic poem the position may have been different) we must understand the creation of the beasts and the flying creatures in a similar sense to that of the growing of the trees in v. 9, to wit, that of all the species of beasts and flying creatures that had already been created and had spread over the face of the earth and the firmament of the heavens, the Lord God now formed particular specimens for the purpose of presenting them all before man in the midst of the Garden. If we approach the text without preconceived ideas concerning the existence of two cosmogonic accounts, this exposition will appear simple and clear; and thus it seems to me the Torah intended the words to be understood.


Joseph Coleson, Genesis 1 – 11: A Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition (Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 2012), p. 103.

A few commentators have viewed v 19 as evidence of editorial carelessness in bringing together the two originally separate accounts of Gen 1 and Gen 2. They find the narrative of v 19 contradictory to the account of God’s work on the sixth day, where the sequence is animals first, then humans (1:24-27). Others view the apparent change in the sequence of God’s creative work as original to this narrative tradition (ch 2), which has its own origin and transmission history.

Cassuto speculated that God performed a second special creation of animals for this specific purpose (1961, 128-30; see also Hamilton for a similar view; 1990, 176). Many commentators, and most English translations—many without comment—render the first verb as a perfect; an example is NRSV, “So . . . the LORD God formed.”

The NIV rendering, however is, Now the LORD God had formed. [Coleson’s emphasis.] Translating the verb as a past perfect implies that this account refers to God’s previous creation of animal life (1:20-22, 24-25). The fact that biblical Hebrew does not have a separate form to indicate the past perfect supports this translation. When associated grammar and syntax allow, and when context calls for it, Hebraists do not hesitate to translate the Hebrew “perfect” (perfective) as a past perfect in English. When options exist, context should be the determining factor in translation. This commentator regards the past perfect rendering as the most appropriate option for this verb in this context.


C. John Collins, “The Wayyiqtol as ‘Pluperfect’: When and Why.” (Tyndale Bulletin, Vol. 46 No. 1 [1995], pp. 117-140), pp. 138-140. [can be downloaded from internet]

This in turn leads us to the question of whether it is legitimate to harmonise the two accounts of [Genesis] 1:1-2:3 and 2:4-25 (i.e., taking the second account as describing in more detail the sixth ‘day’). Are they not from separate sources?

Since we do not physically have the putative sources, this last question is diminished in relevance. What we do have is evidence that the author or editor of Genesis 1–2 as we have it, intended for us to read them together, namely Genesis 2:4. The chiastic structure of this verse has received comment elsewhere:
……These are the generations of
…………a: the heavens
…………….b: and the earth
………………..c: when they were created
………………..c’: when the Lord God made
…………….b’: earth
…………a’: and heavens

Such an elaborate chiasmus is evidence of art, not coincidence. Further, by this means the author has tied the two accounts together: note how the word order ‘the heavens and the earth’ (a and b), as well as the verb bārā’, ‘create’ (c), point us back to 1:1 (as well as 1:21, 27 for the verb); whereas the change in divine name from ’ĕlōhîm, ‘God’ (ch. 1) to yhwh ’ĕlōhîm, ‘the Lord God’ (chs. 2-3) is reflected in the c’ element. It is hard to escape the conclusion that the final editor wanted his readers to read the two accounts as complementary, not contradictory; the traditional approach that sees 2:4-25 as an elaboration of the sixth ‘day’ is how an audience would co-operate with this intention of the author/editor.

It has been argued above (section V) that literary environment (‘co-text’) can establish the ‘logic of the referents’, i.e., it can tell us what the author thought was the ‘actual’ sequence of events. If we take Genesis 1:3-2:3 as conveying the broad-stroke story line, which seems to be the simplest way to read it, we are entitled, by the second criterion of section V, to read wayyīer in 2:19 as a pluperfect. It remains to ask why the author narrated events this way, instead of what Driver correctly considered the easy and unambiguous method of a perfect verb with preposed element (e.g., wyhwh ’ĕlōhîm yāar). Perhaps the simplest explanation comes from the fact that both accounts are strongly anthropocentric: they see man as the pinnacle of God’s creative work, the one for whom the earth and its animals exist. Putting the animals’ formation in 2:19 directly after 2:18, where God sets about making a helper suitable for the man, reinforces this point: even though physically the animals were made before man, yet conceptually their creation was in anticipation of their subservience to his governance, and therefore in God’s mind the animals were a logical consequence of the making of man. Since Genesis 1 had established the physical order so that the audience would not mistake it, the author/editor was free to use this literary device to make this theological point.

There is, therefore, good reason, both from Hebrew grammar and from the structure of the first two chapters of Genesis, to support the pluperfect interpretation in 2:19.


William Henry Green, The Unity of the Book of Genesis (New York: Chas. Scribner’s Sons, 1895), pp. 25f.

Furthermore, ch. ii does not contradict ch. i in respect to the order of the creation of man and of the lower animals. The allegation that it does rests upon the assumption that the Hebrew tense here used necessarily implies a sequence in the order of time, which is not correct. The record is (ver. 19), “And out of the ground Jehovah God formed all the beasts of the field, and all the fowls of heaven, and brought them to Adam.” According to Hebrew usage this need not mean that the formation of the birds and the beasts was subsequent to all that is previously recorded in the chapter, or that they were then first formed with the view of providing a suitable companion for Adam. And when the scope of the passage is duly considered it will be seen that this cannot be its meaning. . . .

The English rendering which best suggests the relation of the clauses is, “Jehovah God having formed out of the ground every beast of the field, and every fowl of heaven, brought them unto the man.” The Hebrew phrase suggests that forming the animals preceded their being brought to the man, but need not suggest anything whatever as to the relation of time between their formation and what had been mentioned just before in the narrative.


Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1–17 (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990), p. 176.

Many commentators have maintained that in this verse one finds a classic illustration of a major conflict between the sequence of creation in [Genesis] 1:1–2:4a and that in 2:4bff. In one (1:24–25) animals precede man. In the other (2:19) animals come after man. It is possible to translate formed as “had formed” (so NIV). One can, however, retain the traditional translation and still avoid a contradiction. This verse does not imply that this was God’s first creation of animals. Rather, it refers to the creation of a special group of animals brought before Adam for naming. [Footnote: “Of all the species of beasts and flying creatures that had already been created and had spread over the face of the earth and the firmament of the heavens, the Lord God now formed particular specimens for the purpose of presenting them all before man in the midst of the Garden” (Cassuto, Genesis, 1:129).]


John E. Hartley, New International Biblical Commentary: Genesis (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2000), p. 62.

. . . the NIV understands that the animals already existed by translating the verb as a past perfect, had formed. [Hartley’s emphasis.] Usually this type of Hebrew verb describes consecutive action in a narrative. Then the sense is that, after making this assessment about the man, God proceeded to form the animals.


James B. Jordan, Creation in Six Days: A Defense of the Traditional Reading of Genesis One (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 1999), pp. 46f.

The verb does not necessarily mean that God made the birds and beasts on this occasion, or even that He made a few extra ones for Adam to name. Rather, He “formed” them, pressed them together, in the sense of bringing them together in one place. [Footnote: The verb yatsar appears first in Genesis 2:7–8, where God pressed dust into the shape of the first man. It is the verb regularly used for the work of a potter, which is pressing clay into shape. For a defense of this understanding, see Samson Raphael Hirsch, The Pentateuch: Genesis, trans. Isaac Levy (Gateshead: Judaica Press, [1963] 1989), p. 66.] He collected them. They needed to be collected because they were wild, not domestic, animals. It is normally assumed that God did the same thing when the animals were gathered for the ark in the days of Noah. I regard this as the best way of reading the statement that God formed the animals on this occasion. But it is also perfectly possible to go with the more familiar sense of “formed” and read it as a pluperfect: that God had formed the animals and then brought them to the man. That is, God had formed them earlier on the fifth and sixth days.


Tremper Longman III, The Story of God Bible Commentary: Genesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016), p. 50.

But before we get to the creation of Adam’s partner, God tries out some creatures that he either earlier created (as the NIV would have us believe, “had formed”) or perhaps he creates now (translating “Now the LORD God formed out of ground . . .”). In either case, none of the “wild animals” or “birds in the sky” sufficed as a partner to the man.


Kenneth A. Mathews, The New American Commentary, Volume 1A: Genesis 1—11:26 (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), p. 215.

[Footnote:] The NIV renders “had formed” (v. 19) to indicate that the animals were created prior to the man (as in chap. 1). . . . C. J. Collins on syntactic grounds defends the possibility of a pluperfect use of the wayyiqtōl verb form; he argues since chaps. 1 and 2 were meant to be read together, logic requires that 2:19 have the pluperfect (“The Wayyiqtol as ‘Pluperfect’: When and Why,” TynBul 46 [1995]:117-40). Cassuto denies the possibility of reading the pluperfect and accommodates v. 19 to chap. 1 by arguing that the animals of v. 19 were “particular specimens” of the general creation (Genesis, 129). Lev 17:13 distinguishes two kinds of animals, “beasts of the field” and “birds of the air,” from a third, “the livestock,” since the former must be hunted. This distinction occurs in vv. 19–20: the “livestock” presumably was already available with the man in Eden, but the wild beasts and birds required God to bring them to the man for naming. We explained earlier, however, that chap. 2 has a topical order; the intent of the passage is to highlight the man’s dominion and the uniqueness of the woman’s creation, as opposed to the animals.


Iain Provan, Discovering Genesis: Content, Interpretation, Reception (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2016), p. 61.

One aspect of Genesis 1—2 that becomes clear at this point is that, although we are meant to read Genesis 2.4–25 in the light of Genesis 1.1—2.3, within each section chronology is evidently not an important concern of the author. The major concern is to emphasize the importance of human beings in relation to non-human creation, which is both ‘there’ for humanity, and yet non-functioning unless humanity is there. The order of ‘events’ in creation is not an important concern. This is why shrubs and plants ‘precede’ humanity in Genesis 1.11–12 (cf. 1.29–30), whereas in Genesis 2.4–7 there must be a gardener before there can be shrubs and plants. This is also why the animals in Genesis 2.19 are created after humanity (notwithstanding the ill-advised pluperfect of some English translations – ‘the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field’), whereas in Genesis 1 they appear beforehand (1.24–25). Origen already noted long ago the difficulty of reading Genesis 1 in particular in strictly chronological terms: ‘Who that has understanding’, he asked, ‘will suppose that the first, and second, and third day, and the evening and the morning, existed without a sun, and moon, and stars? And that the first day was, as it were, also without a sky?’ [Footnote: Origen, On First Principles 4.1.16 (ANF 10:325).] Neither Genesis 1 nor Genesis 2 is best read as if this kind of ordering of events were important.


John H. Sailhamer, “Genesis.” In Frank E. Gaebelein (ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 2 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1990), p. 48.

A straightforward reading of וַיִּצֶר יהוה אֱלׂהִים (wayyier yhwh ’.elōhim, “And the LORD God formed”) suggests that in chapter 2 the creation of the animals follows that of the creation of man. In chapter 1, however, the animals are created first and then man (vv.24–26). This has long been pointed to as evidence of an internal contradiction within the Genesis account of Creation. The NIV has offered an untenable solution in its rendering the waw consecutive in wayyier by a pluperfect: “Now the LORD God had formed.” Not only is such a translation for the waw consecutive hardly possible (see the Hebrew grammars, Joüon, Grammaire, par. 118d; König, Syntax, par. 142; Driver, Tenses in Hebrew, pp. 84ff.), but it misses the very point of the narrative, namely, that the animals were created in response to God’s declaration that it was not good that man should be alone (2:18).

Cassuto has shown (p. 129), however, that the difficulty posed by the lack of coherence between the two accounts of the creation of man has a simple solution: only two kinds of animals are said to be created in 2:19, “the beasts of the field” (חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה, ayya haśśāeh) and “all the birds of the air” (כָּל־עוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם, kol-’ôp haššāmayim); yet in 2:20 Adam names three kinds of animals: “the livestock [הַבְּהֵמָה, habbehēmāh], the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.” Elsewhere in the Torah (Lev 17:13), the “beasts of the field and the birds of the air” are distinguished from “the livestock” by the fact that they can be caught only by hunting them. Thus “of all the species of beasts and flying creatures that had already been created and had spread over the face of the earth and the firmament of the heavens, the Lord God now formed particular specimens for the purpose of presenting them all before man in the midst of the Garden” (Cassuto, p. 129). Such a reading of the text not only resolves the apparent difficulty between the two accounts of man’s creation, but it also points out how carefully the Genesis narratives have been worked into the narratives of the Pentateuch as a whole. Both the LXX (ἔτι [eti] = ‘ô, “yet,” “still”) and the Samaritan Pentateuch (‘ô) show that Cassuto’s explanation was sensed very early in the history of interpretation.


Nahum M. Sarna, The JPS Torah Commentary: Genesis (Philadelphia, PA: The Jewish Publication Society, 1989), p. 21.

As noted above, the dominant theme of this section, to which all else is subordinated, is man and the human condition. The narrative now focuses on humankind’s mastery over the animals. Mention of their creation is therefore made incidentally, not for its own sake, and is no indication of sequential order in regard to the creation of man.


John Skinner, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Genesis (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1910), p. 67.

The meaning cannot be that the animals had already been created, and are now brought to be named (Calv. al. and recently De. Str.): such a sense is excluded by grammar (see Dri. T. § 76, Obs.), and misses the point of the passage.