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According to Genesis chapter 1, it seems that the animals were created first. According to Genesis chapter 2, it seems that man was created first.

What are the different understandings that have been put forth to this question?

In Genesis chapter 1 we see:

Genesis 1:25:

כה וַיַּעַשׂ אֱלֹהִים אֶת-חַיַּת הָאָרֶץ לְמִינָהּ, וְאֶת-הַבְּהֵמָה לְמִינָהּ, וְאֵת כָּל-רֶמֶשׂ הָאֲדָמָה, לְמִינֵהוּ; וַיַּרְא אֱלֹהִים, כִּי-טוֹב. 25 And God made the beast of the earth after its kind, and the cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good.

Genesis 1:27:

כז וַיִּבְרָא אֱלֹהִים אֶת-הָאָדָם בְּצַלְמוֹ, בְּצֶלֶם אֱלֹהִים בָּרָא אֹתוֹ: זָכָר וּנְקֵבָה, בָּרָא אֹתָם. 27 And God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them.

In Genesis chapter 2 we see:

Genesis 2:7:

ז וַיִּיצֶר יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים אֶת-הָאָדָם, עָפָר מִן-הָאֲדָמָה, וַיִּפַּח בְּאַפָּיו, נִשְׁמַת חַיִּים; וַיְהִי הָאָדָם, לְנֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה. 7 Then 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.

Genesis 2:18-19:

יח וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים, לֹא-טוֹב הֱיוֹת הָאָדָם לְבַדּוֹ; אֶעֱשֶׂה-לּוֹ עֵזֶר, כְּנֶגְדּוֹ. 18 And the LORD God said: 'It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a help meet for him.' יט וַיִּצֶר יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים מִן-הָאֲדָמָה, כָּל-חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה וְאֵת כָּל-עוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם, וַיָּבֵא אֶל-הָאָדָם, לִרְאוֹת מַה-יִּקְרָא-לוֹ; וְכֹל אֲשֶׁר יִקְרָא-לוֹ הָאָדָם נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה, הוּא שְׁמוֹ. 19 And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto the man to see what he would call them; and whatsoever the man would call every living creature, that was to be the name thereof.

So according to Genesis chapter 1, animal is created before man, whereas according to Genesis chapter 2, man is created before the animals. Which is it?

One approach is to say that Chapters 1 and 2 are talking about the same events, but chapter 2 goes into more detail (as Rashi does). But if this is the case, there shouldn't be any contradictions between the order of events in each chapter.

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Actually, the whole question of time sequence in either description is questionable. Time itself was something created, and thus some rishonim (including the Rambam, Moreh Nevuchim 1:30) understand chapter 1 (at least, perhaps ch. 2 as well) as discussing a logical progression, not a chronological one. That the concept of time and chronological order only make sense after creation.

Rav Dessler writes (Michtav meiEliyahu vol II pp 150-154, “Yemei Bereishis veYemai Olam") that not only is time a creation, the whole idea of a flow of time, that it's a line running from past to present to future is an artifact of the human condition. And that before Eve and Adam ate from the Tree of Knowledge, people too related to time in a more complete way. Or, as our sages put it, the original Adam and similarly a baby prior to being born into a body "could see from one end of the universe to the other" -- which Rav Dessler presumes includes time as well. (I gave a paragraph by paragraph summary here http://www.aishdas.org/asp/rav-desslers-approach-to-creation .)

For example, see Rashi 1:1 s.v. "Bereishis Bara":

ואם באת לפרשו כפשוטו, כך פרשהו: "בראשית בריאת שמים וארץ, וְהָאָרֶץ הָיְתָה תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ וְחֹשֶׁךְ, וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים יְהִי אוֹר". ולא בא המקרא להורות סדר הבריאה, לומר שֶאֵלו קדמו; שאם בא להורות כך, היה לו לכתוב: "בראשונה ברא את השמים" וגו', שאין לך "ראשית" במקרא שאינו דבוק לתיבה של אחריו, כמו: (ירמיהו כו א) "בְּרֵאשִׁית מַמְלְכוּת יְהוֹיָקִים", (בראשית י י) "רֵאשִׁית מַמְלַכְתּוֹ", (דברים יח ד) "רֵאשִׁית דְּגָנְךָ". אף כאן אתה אומר: "בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים" וגו', כמו "בְּרֵאשִׁית ברוא". ודומה לו (הושע א ב) "תְּחִלַּת דִּבֶּר ה' בְּהוֹשֵׁעַ", כלומר: תחילת דיבורו של הקב"ה בהושע, "ויאמר ה' אל הושע" וגו'.

ואם תאמר: להורות בא שאלו תחילה נבראו, ופירושו: בראשית הכל ברא אלו, ויש לך מקראות שמקצרים לשונם וממעטים תיבה אחת, כמו: (איוב ג י) "כִּי לֹא סָגַר דַּלְתֵי בִטְנִי", ולא פירש מי הסוגר, וכמו (ישעיהו ח ד) "יִשָּׂא אֶת חֵיל דַּמֶּשֶׂק", ולא פירש מי ישאנו, וכמו (עמוס ו יב) "אִם יַחֲרוֹשׁ בַּבְּקָרִים", ולא פירש "אם יחרוש אדם בבקרים", וכמו (ישעיהו מו י) "מַגִּיד מֵרֵאשִׁית אַחֲרִית", ולא פירש "מַגִּיד מֵרֵאשִׁית דבר אַחֲרִית דבר". אם כן תמה על עצמך, שהרי המים קדמו, שהרי כתיב: "וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים מְרַחֶפֶת עַל פְּנֵי הַמָּיִם", ועדיין לא גילה המקרא בריית המים מתי היתה. הא למדת שקדמו המים לארץ. ועוד, שהשמים מאש ומים נבראו. על כרחך לא לימד המקרא בסדר המוקדמים והמאוחרים כלום.

Rashi says that in the straightforward explanation, "the scripture did not come to tell us the order of creation, to say that these came first." As Rashi notes, we could have asked a question related to yours about water. We are never told when water was created; its existence (as well as darkness, Hashem's "Spirit", shamayim and aretz [left untranslated intentionally]). "Perforce you must [conclude that] the scripture doesn't teach anything about the order of earlier and later."

On Ber' 2:4 s.v. "Soldos haShamayim veHaaretz beHibar'am beYom Asos Hashem", Rashi writes two comments. The second is homoletic (about how the world was created with the letter hei), but the first addresses the verse saying "These are the consequences of shamayim and eretz when they were created on the day The first is "למדך שכלם נבראו בראשון -- to teach you they were all created at the beginning.

Which would seem to mean that while the first Rashi just says the Torah doesn't tell us the order in which creation occurs, this Rashi is saying there was in fact no chronological order at all. Which would explain how chapter 1's week is all one day in chapter 2. Like the Rambam.

  • I think my answer and Yaakov Deene's are more useful as a unit. One says why there is reason to believe Torah couldn't be giving a chronologically ordered story. The other explains what it could be saying instead. – Micha Berger Oct 8 '15 at 16:05
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The "second creation story" is actually a repeat of the "first" but with the emphasis on the details of of the creation of man. Basically, the "story" is repeated a number of times with the emphasis changing to the details of the point that needs to be shown.

  1. Hashem created the Universe (Heaven and Earth)

  2. The details of each of the days of creation, ending with Adam at the end of the sixth day.

  3. Hashem created the Earth as specified before with the details of the creation of Adam specified. Thus, the animals were created first as specified in the details of the six days. Note that the creation of the animals is not mentioned at all in the "second story" because it just says that Hashem created the "garden" for Adam to live in and cultivate. The garden was not fully ready until Adam was created to work it.

Art Scroll translates 2:19 as had formed (before Adam's creation)

Rav Hirsch translates 2:19 as

Then Hashem drove all the animals ...

and the commentary starts

וַיִּצֶר According to the sages in Breishis Rabba, not to be taken as "formed", for the creation and formation of the animals took place before that of mankind but in the meaning of כבוש, mastering, forcing ...

This connects with Adam "completing" the creation by giving them names. Rav Hirsch goes into detail as to what this means and how Adam had to first realize that he was "alone" and could not be part of any other being. Then Hashem would be able to create his partner.

  1. What happened to Adam after they were expelled from Gan Aiden.

I went into more details at Differences between Genesis 1 and 2

  • This doesn't answer the question. Was man created before or after the animals? This isn't a question of emphasis. Which event happened first? – Eliezer Steinbock Oct 7 '15 at 12:08
  • @EliezerSteinbock I added to statements 2 and 3 saying that the animals were created first in the six days while the "second story" does not deal with the animal as it assumes that the details of the six days were already given. – sabbahillel Oct 7 '15 at 14:34
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    Point 3 is now inaccurate. Animals are created in Genesis 2. See the verses I quoted in my edited question. Specifically Genesis 2:19 – Eliezer Steinbock Oct 7 '15 at 14:38
  • @EliezerSteinbock I added the explanation from Rav Hirsch as well as from Art Scroll ("had formed" before Adam's creation) – sabbahillel Oct 7 '15 at 16:32
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    Bit of a forced translation of ויצר, but it is one attempted explanation – Eliezer Steinbock Oct 7 '15 at 16:48
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First, it's important to remember that any particular section within the Torah is not necessarily communicating chronological order. It may be the emphasis but it may be emphasizing something else.

The first quotations (Bereshit 1:25-27) are relating to creation before it manifests into physicality. Everything was only on a spiritual level of existence. This is also why it only uses the name Elokim. Man was created last in order and is the "crown" of creation.

The second set of quotations,(Bereshit 2:7, 18-19) are referring to how the spiritual then is manifested in physicality. That is also why the name change to HaShem Elokim, as opposed to just Elokim. But it is also shifting the focus as indicated in Bereshit 2:4 which says "These are the 'toldot' of the Heavens and the Earth in regard to their creation." Reading 'toldot', think "consequences of" or "effects of". In other words, the text is no longer dealing with simple chronology but the idea of cause and effect and how things are to relate to each other. In other words, what takes priority in this physical/material system.

The focus of all of creation as it manifests physically is in relation to man. As the text says, even the trees and plants before they sprouted were intended for the use of man.

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There is another view that does not entail mind-bending or performing verbal gymnastics to get around the plain indications of the text as it is worded.

Simply put, Bereshith 1:1-2:3 is a reference to the macrocosm of everything in the world, and the human species was created last. The operative word in Hebrew is bara which means either to create something from nothing (Rambam, Rashi, et al) or to make order out of disordered [or, un-ordered] material (Ramban, Ralbag, et al). The creation of mankind was general and not specific, as man was more or less a sophisticated animal at this point (Sforno) and it DOES NOT refer to Adham and Hawwa.

Bereshith 2:4-2:25 is the microcosm of the "garden" specifically, as is evident by the specific geographical information specifying the site of gan eden as in Mesopotamia/Sumeria. The operative word here is not bara, but rather yassar which means to "form" a new type of something from a similar previous type (Ramban). So, man was "formed" first (i.e. changed from primitive man into an enlightened spiritual man - Ramban, Sforno) and then the animals were "formed" (i.e. domestic animals were "formed" from wild ones). Further indication is the repeated appelation "of the field", which also indicates its agrarian-specific context. The plants "of the field" (read "cultivated crops") did not yet come into being because civilized man had not yet cultivated them.

There are not two creation accounts, but one cohesive narrative. Read in English, it appears to contradict, but in Hebrew the wording and order is extremely precise.

If Rashi's comments are read throughout, it can be seen that he almost arrived at this same conclusion, but ultimately felt constrained by the views of the Gemara and the Midrash (in accordance with his usual methodology everywhere in his comments on the Torah) to state his views in a more fragmented form - something that other rishonim did not feel compelled to do.

There are many more details that could be discussed and many other mefarshim that could be referenced here, but he that knows will understand.

Hope this helps. Kol tuv.

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Here are 3 other approaches to this question that I recently came across:

1) The Torah isn't giving a scientific account of the development of the world. Rather it is presenting different aspects of the spiritual nature of man.

Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, in his renowned work The Lonely Man of Faith, explains that the two sequences represent two different but complementary views of man's role in the world. The first sequence describes "majestic man," who appears as the pinnacle of nature and conquers it. The second sequence describes "lonely man" who does not subdue nature but interacts with it to achieve a personal relationship with God. According to this understanding, neither sequence is intended to be a scientific account of the development of the world; both are presenting true aspects of man's spiritual existence.

(From page 235, The Challenge of Creation, Natan Slifkin)

2) Genesis 2:19 should be understood as "God had formed every beast." (Rather than God formed every beast.) Natan Slifkin attributes this opinion to Rashi, but I'm not sure this is accurate. You can see the Rashi in question here. According to this approach, both Genesis 1 and 2 explain that animals were created before man.

3) There were two ancient Israelite texts with differing views on creation that were combined into a single text, which is the Torah we have today. The contradictions are different views on creation that were left in by whoever put the Torah together. This is how the Documentary Hypothesis would explain this contradiction.

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