Genesis ii. 4-6.

June 25, 2010

[4-25. A partial, more detailed recapitulation of creation, concerned chiefly with the creation of man.]

These are the generations of the heaven and the earth, when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the heaven and the earth: and every plant of the field before it sprung up in the earth, and every herb of the ground before it grew: for the Lord God had not rained upon the earth; and there was not a man to till the earth.  But a spring rose out of the earth, watering all the surface of the earth.

4-6. The state of the earth before man was created.

St. Chrysostom: “Please consider with me again the wisdom of this wonderful prophet; nay, the teaching of the Holy Ghost.  For after Scripture described to us all creatures by parts, over the course of six days, and the creation of man, and the power given to him over all visible things, now it repeats everything again briefly, saying: These are the generations of the heaven and the earth, when they were created.  After Holy Scripture taught us the creation of all things one by one, now it does not mention everything.  For when it says the heaven and the earth, it includes all creatures together, both those in heaven and those on earth” (Homiliæ in Genesin, xii. 1-2.).

4. “in the day God made heaven and earth”

St. Thomas: “It seems that all these days are only one day.  [For according to ii. 4-5] in one day God made heaven and earth and every plant of the field.  But he made heaven and earth on the first day, or rather before any day; but he made the plants of the field on the third day.  Therefore the first and third day are the same, and, for the same reason, all the others … I reply … it is to be said that in the day that God made heaven and earth, he created every plant of the field, not in act, but before it sprung up on the earth, that is, potentially.  And Augustine ascribes this to the third day, but the others to the first institution of things” (ST. Ia q. lxxiv. a. ii. 1.).

St. Bede: “In this place Scripture has used the word day for that whole time in which the original creation was given form.  For it was not in any one of the six days that heaven was made, or illuminated with the sun and moon and stars, and the earth was separated from the waters, and sown with trees and plants; rather, according to its custom Scripture has placed the word day for a space of time, like the Apostle, when he says: Behold, now is the day of salvation:[1] this means, not one day in particular, but the whole space of time in which we work for our eternal salvation in this present life” (In Principium Genesis I col. 39.  Cf. Strabus, Glossa Ordinaria, col. 84).

5. Plants and trees were created fully formed.

St. Bede: “We can understand that Scripture wanted to explain more openly what it had said above, that the earth brings forth the green herb etc.  For at the beginning of time the earth did not produce plants in the same way as now, when, by God’s ministry, the earth brings forth fruit unaided where there is an irrigation of waters; instead, by an entirely more wondrous work of the Creator, at that time, before any fruit rose or grew thriving out of the earth, suddenly the fields and mountains and hills were covered with plants and trees, in their full stature, with an abundance of branches, dark with leaves, heavy with fruit; they appeared, not by rising or growing gradually from the earth in stages, but by at once appearing from it” (In Principium Genesis I col. 40).

St. Thomas: “The first institution of species pertains to the work of the six days, but the generation of like from like in species already belongs to the administration of things.  And this is what Scripture says, before it sprung up upon the earth, or before it grew; that is, before like was produced from like, as we see now naturally through the way of seeding.  Whence Scripture significantly says, Let the earth bring forth the green herb, and such as may seed,[2] showing that it was perfect species of plants that were produced, from which the seeds of others might arise” (ST. Ia q. lxix. a. ii.).

“There was not a man to till the earth”

St. Chrysostom: “And then Scripture shows that the earth had no need of the work of man, as if crying out to all posterity: Hear this, and learn how from the beginning how everything the earth gives forth was produced; and do not attribute everything to the diligence of the earth’s cultivators, and do not ascribe to them these plants, the offspring of the originals: no; rather, ascribe them to the word and command which was given to the earth by her Creator” (Homiliæ in Genesin, xii. 2.).

6. The fountain watering the surface of the earth.

St. Bede: “What this fountain might be is asked with good reason.  For if it watered only a certain flat area, how is it said to have watered the whole surface of the earth?  But if it watered the whole earth, it was simply a flood, and the earth was not yet divided from the water.  However it is probable that because it did not say, “one fountain,” but simply “a fountain” or “the fountain,” Scripture gives the singular for the plural number, that I may thus understand it to refer to fountains throughout the world watering their own particular regions; just as it was said the frog and the locust in the ten plagues of Egypt,[3] although there was an uncountable number of them.  In a different sense, however, the earth is the Virgin Mary – of whom it is written, Let the earth be opened, and bud forth a saviour[4] –  watered by the Holy Ghost, who is often denoted by the names fountain and water in the Gospel” (In Pentateuchum, col. 205; the literal reading is taken from St. Augustine, De Genesi ad litteram, V. x.;  the application to the Blessed Virgin is taken from St. Isidore, Quæstiones in Vetum Testamentum ii. 18.).


[1] 2 Cor. vi. 2.

[2] Gen. i. 11.

[3] Ex. x. 4. ff: Behold I will bring in tomorrow the locust into thy coasts.  See LXX, Ex. viii. 2. for the singular of frog: καὶ ἀνεβιβάσθη ὁ βάτραχος καὶ ἐκάλυψε τὴν γῆν Αἰγύπτου. The corresponding passage in the Vulgate/DR (Ex. viii. 6.) has the plural: and the frogs came up, and covered the land of Egypt.

[4] Is. xlv. 8.

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