Why does it say God created man before anything else in chapter 2 of Genesis when chapter 1 says He created man in the sixth day?
This 'apparent' conflict occurs when we first read about the proof of Creation in Genesis. It is one of many examples where there needs to be prayer for more understanding, simply because of misinterpretation and the problems associated with Language translation. For the sake of the reader, I believe it will be best to show both accounts of the scriptures here. First the account of the creation of man in Genesis chapter one;
"26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." Gen. 1:26-27
"Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the
morning were the sixth day." Gen. 1:31
Now lets look at Genesis Chapter two;
"4 This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, 5 before any plant of the field was in the earth and before any herb of the field had grown. For the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the earth, and there was no man to till the ground; 6 but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground. 7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being." Gen. 2:4-7 (Emphasis added)
See the conflict? Genesis chapter one says that man was created on the sixth day, yet chapter two 'appears' to say he was created BEFORE anything else?
After much prayer for understanding and review of various theological sources, this is what I have come to understand. There are two things to understand in these verses. First, Genesis chapter two is NOT referring to any actual, chronological order of creation. It is however referring to the creation of man's representation or 'essence' if you will, and that it occurred before anything else. What is man's representation? What is it that truly make you and me.... "you" and "me"............. The answer, is our SOUL. In Genesis chapter two, in verse 7, where it says;
"....and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life......;
the Hebrew word for "breath" is spirit. The verses here are saying ( to paraphrase a bit) God was " infusing" the soul or spirit into the physical body. Secondly, which is where the debate comes from is that in verse 5, it says;
"....before any plant of the field was in the earth and before any herb of the field had grown. ....."
It is the word BEFORE that causes so much confusion. We can't dismiss it. It is in God's word. So what does it mean? Scholars and theological teachings concur that the verses here in chapter two of Genesis is stating that God created the very essence, or idea, or SOUL of man before anything else, and Genesis chapter one gives us the chronological order of all of His creation.
To see this, as mentioned above, there is a problem with language interpretation that is here. In our English language, most words have one meaning. Hot means Hot, clod means cold. In the original languages of the Bible (Hebrew in this instance) the word in verse 7 of chapter 2 (formed) must be interpreted correctly from the original language. The word "FORMED" is Tatar (yatsar) ) , and is used here to express God's planning or preordaining to His divine purpose. (As defined in Strong's Exhausted concordance). So again, in Verse 7 of chapter 2, God breaths the spirit of life into His creation;
".....and man became a living being."
There are those that believe we lived as disembodied souls long before the creation of the earth and man himself. It is this belief that causes so much confusion. So how long was the 'before' in the above verses? We just don't know. However there is no evidence that we lived as disembodied spirits in another life before Genesis 1:1.
To know that God determines things in advance, including who we are and who we are to be long before we were created, consider the verse in the book of Jeremiah. God ordained Jeremiah to be a prophet....... before he was born;
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet
to the nations.” Jer. 1:5
So to summarize, there is no 'conflict' of two creation accounts. The book of Genesis gives us insight of both the creation and purpose of man, and the relationship of man to God;
“Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; Gen. 1:26