There are those who contend that you cannot take Genesis 1 at face value because there are supposed contradictions between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. Before we consider the arguments behind that contention, something we hope to do in subsequent teachings, it’s worth noting some of the common conclusions that arise from such a proposition: (a) the Scripture is contradictory and therefore not trustworthy, or (b) the inspired writer did not intend to have Genesis 1 read as historical narrative, only chapter two, which shows how God created through ‘natural processes’ as opposed to the six day creation depicted in chapter one. The former conclusion ought to be untenable for a Christian. And the latter is an unnecessary contortion of the intentions of both Genesis 1 and 2. There is no categorical conflict between both chapters and there is no reason to see both chapters as distinct creation accounts. They are not contradictory; rather, they are amazingly complementary.
Erroneous Assumption: Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are two distinct creation accounts
Granted the following question may be subjective but it is nonetheless worth asking: is the natural reading of the opening two chapters of Genesis as follows – Moses told one unmistakable creation account in chapter one that was intended to be figurative, illustrative, unhistorical, and frankly – a little misleading, and then, upon arriving at chapter two verse four, he decided to tell the reader what really happened? That’s exactly what happens if you say that both Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are two distinct creation accounts. Such an assumption creates contradictions where there aren’t any. Simply put, the second chapter of Genesis was never intended to be another creation account. As Michael Kruger notes, “All ancient near-Eastern creation accounts make substantial reference to the formation of the Sun, Moon, stars, oceans or seas, whereas these factors are entirely absent in Genesis 2.” Aside from the fact that competing ancient near-Eastern creation accounts bore specific characteristics, and perhaps there was, as some would argue, an apologetic aspect of Genesis 1 to confront those fallacious myths, to call Genesis 2 a distinct creation account would undoubtedly mean that it was missing some integral pieces of the creation puzzle that were revealed in chapter 1 – i.e. those mentioned in the previous quotation: the creation of the sun, moon, stars, oceans, etc.
But while Genesis 2 does not bear the comprehensive marks of a creation account like Genesis 1, it does accent, highlight, and expand upon certain aspects of the previous chapter. Whereas Genesis 1-2:3 provided a macro perspective of God’s creative work, Genesis 2:4-24 focuses in upon the creation of Adam, Eve, and the place where they were placed. You can see this rather clearly when seeing how Genesis 2 expands upon certain things mentioned in Genesis 1.
For example, in chapter one we read that God created man, and that male and female He created them (1:26-27), and then in chapter two we see how God created the male and female alluded to in the previous chapter: He formed man from the dust of the ground (2:7) and He formed woman from a rib taken from man (2:21-22). In chapter one, God said that man would exercise dominion over the creatures of the earth; and in chapter two we see an example of that – Adam naming the animals (2:19-20). In chapter one, God gave man, “every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed…for food (1:29)”; and in chapter two we see where man’s initial eating would take place: in the garden that God planted (2:8) with the freedom to eat from any tree except one (vs.16-17).
Hence, there are clear and present reasons to see Genesis 2 as purposely expanding upon the details of Genesis chapter one. The creation week reached its climax with the creation of man and chapter two expands upon that, detailing man’s creation, location, occupation, and relationship – to God, to animals, and to the woman that God created for him. These details not only intentionally complement chapter one, they are well placed to prepare the way for chapter three.