Genesis 2:19 Question

“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.”
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭2:19‬ ‭

When it says “Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground”, is there any way to interpret this other than — “God miraculously created all the animals out of the ground and brought them to the man. . .”?

I don’t remember John Walton dealing with this verse in The Lost World of Adam and Eve and I can’t really find anything else anywhere that talks about it. I assume he may take the same interpretation along the lines as how he takes with God forming Adam, “[who is] dust of the ground.” The reference to dust is pointing out their mortality, not material composition. Although there isn’t a reference to dust in Gen 2:19, so I’m not sure what he would say.

But I’m not really sure if anyone could help clarify anything I may be missing. Thanks!

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Well, I don’t know how the Hebrew grammar words it, but my first impression is that since it says “had formed,” it’s referring to something that has already happened in the past. But it doesn’t say how far in the past, so I’d think there’s a fair amount of leeway as to how the time is interpreted. But I could be missing something.

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Maybe this image will help:

Enkidu in the Gilgamesh Epic clearly has parallels with Adam though the furniture has been certainly rearranged to make a theological point. Notice he is created from dust/clay/ground. Atrahasis also has humans being created from clay/dust/ground and a god’s blood. Genesis has dust/clay.ground but breath instead of blood (God isn’t deceased like the Atrahasis god whose blood was used along with saliva from living gods). I think believing humans (and probably also animals) coming from the ground is a natural thing for people of this time period. Ancient people were farmers. Life and things grew from the ground:

"The second creation account is more entuned with the Atrahasis myth and appeals to the motif of a barren dessert that God transforms and cultivates into a lush and fertile garden. In fact, in Genesis the humans were meant to tend to God’s garden just as in the story of Atrahasis they were servants, expected to work the land for the gods. The second creation account is embedded in an agricultural time period. People lived off of what they grew. The ground is what sustained them and where humans come from. Once kicked from Eden, Adam’s problem is partly with the ground (“cursed is the ground because of you”) as he turns from a gardener into a farmer. The story behind the creation of Eve herself might reflect the humor of ancient agricultural perspective as well. After failing to find a suitable mate for Adam in attempt after attempt with new creations, “God’s Yahweh then tries a second way, the way of the gardener, and performs the world’s first clone. If you really want a second plant in every way comparable to the first, the best way is to use part of the one you have, It works the same with humans: like from like!”

Hope this helps.


The pluperfect is not the most natural reading of the Hebrew (the motivation to use a pluperfect is to conform the order or creation in Gen 2 with the order in Gen 1). Jack Collins (who translated the ESV here) makes the most rigorous defense of the pluperfect, but most scholars reject it, in favor of a simple sequential reading.

To avoid a “miraculous reading” one could (a) argue a functional view a la Walton; (b) argue for an unspecified time even at this point; or (c) take a non-concordist, non-literalistic view of the whole account.


You mean why didn’t it talk about evolution and biochemical processes? Maybe it is because there were no words for such things and the result would have been less intelligible than Chinese. So yeah! Given the changes in language and the audience since this was written, there is DEFINITELY another way of understanding the meaning of this text. God formed them from the stuff of the Earth according to the nature of the Earth. In FACT, notice the contrast with Genesis 2:7, where in the case of man there is the addition of the the divine breath. This implies to me quite clearly that the the divine breath has nothing whatsoever to do giving life to a figure of clay or it would have said the same thing about the animals. What is different about human beings is that we have a mind and thus it implies that it is the human mind which God gave us with this divine breath – which by the way is the very etymology of the word “inspiration.”

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One way that I look at a lot of stuff is like this.

“ I’m so hungry I could eat a horse. “

If you use a dictionary and learn the literal meanings of those words it won’t really help you.

But if we understand the culture around that phrase and what message it’s teaching, versus a literal understanding of the sentence, then we know that what it means is that they are very hungry. But they could not even eat the lower part of one leg most likely. Definitely can’t eat hundreds of pounds of it.

Or a scene where someone is in their room crying and clearly miserable and then they leave and go for a walk and some stranger and then makes eye contact and the stranger says , “ hey how are you” and the depressed person says “‘hi I’m fine you” and continues walking. We know that the person is no fine. We know they are sad. We don’t really classify what they are saying as lying rather just a typical response out of what we believe is being polite and not a burden.

My point is that when you read that verse maybe what needs to be considered is the context of it within the story which fits inside certain types of genre and so on and not be so caught up on other possible meanings. Sometimes absentee within a story is just filled and not necessarily something with deep meaning. We can still find plenty of contexts and so on but ultimately the story in genesis 2 is not a literal recording of an actual event or conversation.

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Thanks for the reply. That’s helpful.
What do you mean by: “(b) argue for an unspecified time even at this point”?

If one does not see the events of Gen 2 as taking placing within a set time frame (e.g., one day), then how long it took God to make the animals is open. However, the “out of the ground” would need to be interpreted…which brings in the question of literalism. So maybe this option gets tied in with my point (c).

Something that may be worth pointing out is that Gen 2:19 says that God brought the man beasts and birds… but then the next verse it includes livestock as one of the three animal groups that the man names. This would indicate the livestock were already there. I’m sure this is significant in some way, I just don’t know why. I’ll keep reading and researching!

And yet in Genesis 1:24, God commands the ground to produce animals.


It was the only way the people understood power and getting things done was by the command of a ruler. In a later age, knowing that rulers are mostly a waste of space, the telling of the story would have told it in images comparing God to an entrepreneur, engineer, doctor, or scientist.

“Had formed” is an incorrect translation.

See the NET Bible notes.

I will post the notes of the five Hebrew experts who translated the Torah for this translation:

Most translations don’t perpetuate that error.

In the second creation story, the animals were not formed until after man had been created.

Some people are reticent to recognize that the first two chapters of Genesis have two creation stories that differ in method and order of creation, but the text is clear that there are two creation stories which literally disagree with each other.

The whole story has multiple fantastical elements like talking snakes and forbidden fruit and angels guarding a garden with flashing swords. I think the way to interpret it is that it isn’t a historical account. It’s a narrative meant to communicate theological truth. The theological truth of the passage you quoted is that God created all life and gave humanity a stewardship/dominion role in his creation as his image bearer. I don’t think it’s trying to explain the mechanics of creation. You only have to “deal with verses” like this when your hermeneutical approach is dependent on concordist assumptions or some kind of strict literal inerrancy. That isn’t how most Bible scholars approach the text.

I think the theological truth of the first creation story is that man is the steward of creation and must care for it.

Genesis 1 28 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 air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”

And I think the theological truth of the second creation is that man must care for his family.

Genesis 2 24 Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Those are the two actionable items from the text.

Jesus went one better: care for your neighbors, and everyone is your neighbor.

just consider that the books were written to allow its readers/listeners to get a worldview that allowed them to have a meaningful interaction with reality, children and adults, illiterates and intellectuals alike. To look at the text in a way to reduce it to the lowest level of comprehension is an insult to ones own intelligence of rooted in the arrogance towards our ancestors to declare them primitive as in not getting it because they did not have iPhones. They had something that gets lost in the modern age and that is imagination because it is seen as unscientific whilst it is its foundation

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Any way you like, but that’s not what was meant. It’s a just-so story, a very, child simple allegory. There is no divine intelligence behind it, no occult awareness of science.

Sure, but there’s a difference between God actively forming things (or “creating by fiat”) and empowering/designating that ability and responsibility to someone (or something) else. Either way, I think part of the point is that taking both the Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 narratives absolutely literally according to post-Enlightenment criteria of science and history is problematic at best.

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If one reads Genesis insisting that it describes a yoda like figure sitting by the riverbank making mudpie humans with his hands it reflects on ones reality horizon. If one suffers from star wars overexposure one should not yet contemplate a philosophical debate but cancel ones cinema/netflix subscription and grow up in non virtual reality :slight_smile:

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Nothing wrong with Star Wars over-exposure (at least, the originals). They just need to be kept in the right hermeneutical space.


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