Genesis 2:5, 6: Wet Or Dry? -- By: Derek Kidner

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 17:1 (NA 1966)
Article: Genesis 2:5, 6: Wet Or Dry?
Author: Derek Kidner


Genesis 2:5, 6: Wet Or Dry?

Derek Kidner

Since there are some words of debatable meaning in these two verses, it will be convenient to discuss these first. Then I will state the problem implied in the title, together with some of the solutions that have been proposed; finally I will suggest an alternative answer.

I. In verse 5 the words שׁיח and עשׂב denote (if we may judge from other Old Testament passages) bush and herb respectively. The two other occurrences of שׂיח, suggest wild growth of the waste land: Hagar left Ishmael under a שׂיח, to die in the wilderness of Beersheba (Gn. 21:15), and Job depicted homeless wanderers in such a setting ( Jb.30:7). עשׂב is a common word, sometimes used of green growth in general (e.g. Am. 7:2), sometimes of the crops which are edible by man (e.g. Gn. 3:18). The distinction therefore may be between the wild and the cultivated,1 or the perennial and the annual, or simply the large and the small; in any case the phrase evidently expresses the totality of growing things. Cassuto2 however dissents from this, arguing that since 3:18 mentions the herb of the field, the other terms in that verse (thorns and thistles) will correspond to the שׂיח in our present verse and determine its meaning. To him, 2:5 is stating that the only growths not found in Eden were שׂיח, and עשׂב, the former because it needed rain, the latter because it needed cultivating; and both rain and arable farming were, in his view, consequent on the Fall. Since this rests however on the gratuitous equation of 2:5 with 3:18 and on the still more precarious assertion that thorns and thistles fail to grow on

land that is watered by inundation, it hardly carries conviction. The meaning of אד in verse 6 has to be gathered partly from its predicate, that it ‘watered the whole face of the ground’, partly from Job 36:27 (`he draweth up the drops of water which dis...

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