Genesis 1:11–12: The Birth of Flora

In our (slow) progression through Genesis, we have seen the creation of the heaven and the earth, of light, and the atmosphere. We have seen the formation of dry land, of Pangaea and the first, primordial sea.

We come now to the third creative day, wherein we read:

And God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. 12The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 13And there was evening and there was morning, the third day. The Book of Genesis 1:11–12

After having separated dry land from the seas on the previous day, God now calls for plant life to sprout, and Earth obeys as all manner of vegetation springs forth into life. It was good, and the day ends.

Pretty simple, right? Perhaps, but there are a number of things to take away from this verse.

First, you should note that this verse refutes the idea that the “days” of Genesis are symbolic of long periods of time, corresponding in some way to the “millions of years” demanded by the foolish conclusions of geologists. In what way does the earth sprouting plants show that? It does so in the fact that if the days are in actuality untold eons, all of the plants mentioned would be long dead by the time the sun is created on day four!.

In other words, if you want to believe that the Scriptures are compatible with evolution of “old-earth” geology, you must not only redefine what the word “day” means, but you must also cut and paste verses into the proper order. Either God created the sun first as the “old-earth” geologist would tell us or He created plants first as the Scriptures tell us. One cannot have it both ways without doing great damage to the integrity of the Scriptures.

Second, you should note that this verse precludes the idea of evolution being responsible for Earth’s plant life. The plants which God caused to sprout reproduce via seed “according to their own kinds.” Millions and millions of years of a pine tree reproducing into a pine tree will never yield a fir tree. I don’t doubt that there have been mutations along the way. Sin absolutely wrecked the integrity of every gene pool. That’s why we have sickness — and sicknesses which are still mutating today, rendering medicines ineffective — and deformities and so on.

But “according to its own kind” is straightforward. It’s either true or it isn’t, and it’s an incredible leap of faith to redefine the words in that phrase to mean that the plants reproduce “in a manner which reflects the cumulative result of survival of the fittest and natural selection so that after millions of years, the resulting tree may not resemble the original kind at all.”

Third, you should take away from this verse the supremacy of God. Science and a myriad of pagan religions point to the sun — or a sun god of some sort — as the sustainer of life on Earth. Yet we see here God bringing forth life — plant life, of all things! — without the aid of Apollo or the sun. The natural order would be set in motion later, but on this one day, plants worldwide flourished by the sheer will of God. No photosynthesis. No exhaled carbon dioxide — there was no human or animal life, yet. There was only God.

In your life, there is only God. He is the only constant refuge, hope, and comforter. Apart from His sustaining will, those plants wouldn’t have done a thing on the third day of creation, and apart from His redeeming grace, you will never truly live.

Apart from Him, you are spiritually dead, your spirit bound by the guilt of sin. But through faith in Jesus Christ, there is salvation freely given by a gracious God. The plants obeyed God when He called them forth to life; will you?

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. The Gospel according to John 3:16

4 thoughts on “Genesis 1:11–12: The Birth of Flora”

  1. First, you should note that this verse refutes the idea that the “days” of Genesis are symbolic of long periods of time…

    While this is a very interesting point about the order of creation and the possible whens and hows of it, I’m not convinced. I currently think the days are periods of time and that the account of creation is poetic, not literal. I don’t feel strongly about it and am always ready to hear discussion about it… Thankfully my view still holds the excellent things you said about God being the life-giver to be true.

    If it were the case that the days are literal and that the earth sprouted and brought forth vegetation on the third day. What does it mean in Genesis 2 when it says

    These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created… When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up… then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life

    In Genesis 1 the earth has sprouted vegetation long before man is made, but in Genesis 2 it hasn’t sprouted yet because it hasn’t rained yet and then God makes man.

    Regardless of science, the whole account does not track for me as a literal account.

  2. The account of Genesis 2 is focused not on the world but on Eden — or rather the garden in Eden. I’ve written on that in the past, if you’re interested (though I note that just about every link is pointing to a past project of mine which no longer exists). Also, I really hope I’ve grown a bit in the past two years — my comments in reply to people on that article are coming off as rather snippy, even to me.

  3. Hey Rick,

    That’s an interesting post and discussion (although I didn’t read the last third of the comments, it seemed like the convo was starting to repeat itself).

    Actually, when you read only the KJV version the reasoning in the post is right on; I wouldn’t think there is any contradiction either. I think the ESV presents chapter 2 quite differently.

    4These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, 5And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground. 6But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground. 7And 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 soul.


    4These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.5When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, 6and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— 7then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

    The ESV sounds more like the whole section about the reason plants hadn’t sprouted yet is an interjection and therefore the timing of the mist is quite unclear. Use of em-dashes in that way would mean that the sentence has pretty much the same meaning if you exclude the contents of the dashes altogether (I know the original didn’t have punctuation like that).

    So, I’m led to a bunch of questions such as:

    Are the versions culturally coloured?

    Was it taken for granted at the writing of the KJV that Genesis was 100% literal, or did they have a different way of writing that didn’t include interjectory statements and so Genesis 2 was translated the way it was?
    Or is the ESV translated in light of our current age and beliefs (e.g., what science has to say)?
    Or is there a difference between the textus receptus and the compiled Hebrew sources that the ESV is translated from that could cause a difference?

    How much are we coloured by our previous teaching and culture?

    I know you want to find out what the bible says and not be influenced by human stuff, but I wonder if it’s even possible… I get the impression that 7 day creationism is more widely accepted in the US (a gross generalisation I know, but it is just an impression, and I don’t have much else to go on). Where as I’ve only met two people here that have said they believe in a literal ‘day’ creation. There are probably more people around me that do believe that, but I’ve never heard them talk about it.
    Also, I studied science and live in a culture where that kind of knowledge is highly regarded, so I can’t call scientists fools for seeking explanations to the evidence they find.
    Of course, I want to seek God’s truth through his Word and the Holy Spirit without presupposition. That is what I tried to do when reading Genesis recently and I came out thinking that Gen 1 is not literal. However, maybe we can’t separate external teaching from our reading of the bible and it’s one of things we have to agree to disagree (when it doesn’t affect how we are justified before God). I don’t know.

    Well, that was a long ramble that I wasn’t expecting to have. ;)

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