Yes, it rained before the flood.

How should we understand Gen 2:4-3:24?

There are several indications in the text that the passage is not a literal historical account:

(1)    No shrub had grown up when Adam was formed (Gen 2:5). But in Gen 1:12-13 plants were described as been created on the third day, three days before man and woman.

(2)    On the very day that Adam and Eve were formed, God planted an orchard and the plants were made with fruit already growing, because Adam was commanded which fruit he might and might not eat (Gen 2:8,9).

(3)    The animals and birds are described as being created after Adam was formed, but before Eve was formed (Gen 2:19). But in Gen 1:22-23 the birds are described as been created on the fifth day, a day before man and woman.

(4)    After God created them on that day, Adam named all the animals and birds. A very busy day indeed! And this was before Eve was formed on that same day. And then they were married that same day.

(5)    In Gen 2:12 the gold is described as pure. Why was gold important if there were not yet any people other than Adam?

(6)    The snake of Gen 3 could speak and reason. But this is unlikely to be literal because snakes are unable to speak and to reason. An animal that speaks is not a snake.

Of course it is possible to force answers to all these objections to a literal reading. However the natural reading of the text is to interpret this passage other than literally.

God has left us two books. These are God’s word, the Bible. And God’s work, his creation. We have already seen that a natural reading of God’s word does not encourage a literal interpretation. If we also look at the witness of God’s work, then it is also clear that the passage cannot be correctly understood literally for several reasons:

(1)    The first flowering plants are known to have existed about 140 million years ago, not 6000 years ago.

(2)    Ancient fossilised impressions from raindrops have been found.

(3)    Mammals were first seen early in the Jurassic period which was 200–145 million years ago.

(4)    Fossils of anatomically modern humans have been found about 200,000 years ago.

That is what the passage does not mean. What then does it mean? It contains spiritual principles :

(1)    The responsibility of humankind to care for the world.

(2)    The importance of marriage.

(3)    The relative positions of men and women. This may not suit modern ideas; but it is nevertheless an explanation.

(4)    Human sin leads to the sentence of death.

(5)    An implied prediction of the coming of Jesus Christ (Gen 3:15).

This list and these ideas could no doubt be extended.

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16 Responses to Did it rain before the flood (Gen 2:5)?

  1.  The two accounts in Genesis are in all actuality one account, with the illusion of division. The only way we can interpret it is to acknowledge that the “second” presupposes the “first”, and therefore was never written to serve as a second day-by-day description. Genesis 1 focuses on the big picture; the wonderous. Chapter two narrows down to a man-sized scope. The order is different because the perspective/focus is different. I believe this would sufficiently answer the question. And I believe a “natural reading” would encourage this view.

    Now, let’s look at the meaning as you see it, Mr. Downs. Since it contains no historical truth, you shaved it down to:
    “It contains spiritual principles :

    (1) The responsibility of humankind to care for the world.
    [Where does that responsibility come from, then, if God never spoke those words? Gen 1:28]

    (2) The importance of marriage.

    [What makes it important if God never married them?]

    (3) The relative positions of men and women. This may not suit modern ideas; but it is nevertheless an explanation.

    [I agree with that much.]

    (4) Human sin leads to the sentence of death.

    [There is no way to assume this given your stance. Since life existed long before man and there was death, man’s sin could not be the cause for the sentence in a broad scope. And since man is the product of evolution, which involved death, sin cannot be the cause of death in a narrow scope. The question then, is when did God establish Himself as a Ruler and Judge? The Bible says at creation. But you say there really is no sure point in time when this occured (Moses’ testimony is faulty, afterall). So that leaves Moses with the burden. Through him came both the law AND sin. Contrary to both Old and New Testaments]

    (5) An implied prediction of the coming of Jesus Christ (Gen 3:15).”

    [Which according to your view, never happened.]

    So I assume you listed those points simply as meaning that could be taken from them, not as meaning you yourself hold to.

    God has left us two books. I agree. One is God’s book, the Bible. If we assume that this is a myth-laden and erring product, it cannot be here because of God. If it has no authority on natural issues then what authority can it be said to have?

    The other book is God’s Work. We have seen that you say the first has no authority to discern the second. What is left other than “science” and a troubled faith without a cause?

    The only possible Christian view must be that God gave us the Bible in order to discern His work. That would mean holding that it is truthful and factual, no matter what the “world” claims is contrary. I find it easier to debate the so-called “evidences” you state from naturalism than debate what the Bible records. I would encourage you to analyze the conservative arguments that use the Bible as the basis for interpreting the evidences in order to not only pursue truth, but a stronger faith and relationship with the Lord.

    In Christ.

    • Russell Downs says:

      I understand your perspective, Tyler, since I once shared many of the opinions you have expressed. I will say three things:
      (1) You have not really addressed the issues I raised as to why a literal reading is not the natural reading. I agree that the passage can be viewed as a zooming in on day 6; but in that case it is very difficult to maintain both Gen 1 and Gen 2 because of the tensions between the two records if viewed literally. Those tensions evaporate when seen as non-literal. Gen 2 (and Gen 1 for that matter) are in deliberate contrast to the obscene pagan views of the time on the creation.
      (2) You have not addressed the overwhelming scientific evidence that I have briefly alluded to. This cannot lightly be dismissed.
      (3) A non-literal account can be used to teach spiritual lessons. For example Jesus’s parables. Or even Daniel’s prophecies that teach of the subjugation of human pride to God.

      • Mr. Downs, thank you for replying.
        These “tensions” do not appear to be inherent in the text from my perspective. Again, it seems to me that you are reading it as a separate account and not one that presupposes the first.

        (1) Your first “tension” is between Genesis 2:5 and 1:12-13. The problem with that is that 2:5 does not say that there was no shrubs by the time of Adam. It says that there was no shrub because God “had not caused it to rain on the land” and there was no man to work the ground. Verse 6 can be read two ways. Either the mist was part of the “problem” or it was the “solution”. If it’s part of the problem, then we’re saying God needed rain, not mist, to water the earth. But if the mist is the solution in the place of rain, then it occured before verse 7, when God creates Adam. I like to entertain the Water-Canopy theory to explain this “mist” and lack of rain. But, regardless, there is no contradiction.

        (2) Next, since the Bible cannot be said to contradict in the last point, I see not problem in reading about the orchard.

        (3) 2:19 does not say the animals were created after Adam. It says the Lord brought to Adam what He “had formed”. This was the day of their naming, not their creation.

        (4) Since this is based on the former I don’t count it as separate.

        (5) Gold was described as pure. Remember who was writing this. From Moses’ persepective, he could describe it as pure. Adam never said he felt that way.

        (6) Because the snake could speak and reason, it was not really a snake. Should we also say, “Because a dead person cannot live again, Jesus never rose and there is no atonement.” Of course not. But Jesus is different, right? He was God incarnate. Yet the snake was Satan incarnate. Just because miracles aren’t always seen as the probable explanation, it doesn’t mean they don’t occur.

        If by a natural reading you mean a loose, look-over type of reading then you’re absolutely right. But God’s Word wasn’t meant to be skimmed through. You said objections would be “forced” into the reading. I don’t see how any of the above were forced. I read the same passages you did.

        Next you correctly say I didn’t address the “scientific evidence”. You did not list evidences, you listed speculations. Let me explain. An evidence supports a conclusion, a speculation supports a speculation. Those points can only be said to support an old earth theory if we adopt an old-earth perspective. That’s the presupposition, not the conclusion. We must presume the earth was created millions of years ago in order to accept that those findings endorse it. Note: these claims do not verify an old earth.

        Lastly, you’re right. Non-literal stories can be a wonderful means of communicating spiritual truths. But consider Christ’s audience. These people knew He was telling parables and they knew (to some degree) His purpose for doing so. Daniel acknowledged his visions were visions. They represented what was to come and his audience understood that. But Moses had no disclaimer on this story. In fact, consider what he penned in Duet. 13:1-5 and 18:20-22. Israel was given criteria for distinquishing God’s message and messenger from false prophecies and prophets. Would he consider himself exempt since his prophecies were not 100% true? And if he was not 100% truthful, what does that say about God’s character (Num 23:19; 1 Sam 15:29; Titus 1:2; Heb 6:18)?

        I don’t see any way to resolve your stance biblically, Brother Downs. And as the site itself states: it serves to provide biblical answers.

        In Christ,


        • Where is the evidence that Moses wrote Genesis? Russell did not list speculations, he stated demonstrable facts.

          “Those points can only be said to support an old earth theory if we adopt
          an old-earth perspective. That’s the presupposition, not the
          conclusion. We must presume the earth was created millions of years ago
          in order to accept that those findings endorse it. Note: these claims do
          not verify an old earth.”

          This simply isn’t true; the points Russell raised actually prove that the earth is very old. Multiple independent lines of evidence demonstrate this; it was accepted by mainstream Christianity centuries ago.

          • There are severeal answers to your first question, Jonathan. To me, biblical witness is very important. Jesus attributed the Torah to Moses in John 5:45-47 and Mark 12:26. There are more examples of this, of course. The disciples also had this understanding which I’d be happy to share those passages as well if you requested. In addition, Ecclesiasitcus (an apocryphal book), the Talmud, the Mishnah, Philo, Josephus, and early church fathers also held to Mosaic authorship.

            Jonathan, what makes these facts demonstratable? This is a question either you or Russell can answer for me. I anticipate an answer along the lines of a “testing element” such as C-14. If so, I would provide my reasons to say that such a method is demonstratably fallacious. But any case is welcome here.

            I also disagree with the statement that an old earth theory was adopted by the mainstream church “centuries” ago. Evidence appears to support an old earth when other theories demand it to. For example. There is no stand-alone evidence for an old-earth. But it is embraced because it is the most plausible explanation of other theories, namely evolution. That is something to keep in mind. We look for the most plausible explanation. Evolution demanded an old-earth in order for it to be rational. Darwin’s studies convinced many of his theory’s genuine possibility. Consequently, supporting beliefs have also been widely adopted even though they are independently debatable. So, the greatest evidence for an old-earth, for instance, is closely linked with the assumption of evolution. In other words, “ancient fossils” are not “ancient” because our testing methods prove them so. They are ancient because that description makes them fit the greater philosophy.

            Since the church as I know it has only began embracing evolution in the Modernist age, I think “centuries” is a stretch. But you’re welcome to offer your take.

            In Christ


        • Russell Downs says:

          The section starting at Gen 2:5 is a description of a
          development of agriculture and responsible use of God’s garden. The passage describes
          a sequence:

          (a)    (a) There was no shrub or plant of the field; no
          agricultural plant had sprouted.

          (b)   (b) God did cause it to rain yet.

          (c)    (c) There was no man to till the ground; that is
          there was no farmer.

          (d)  ((d)  Mists (or springs), depending on the translation,
          watered the (farm)land

          (e)   (e) God formed man (the farmer) from the earth.

          (f)    ((f) God planted an orchard (agricultural focus
          again) and placed the farmer.

          (g)    (g) There is a strong focus on the farmer’s role in
          stewardship of the land (v15).

          (h)  ((h) God’s intention is stated (v18) of giving the
          farmer a special companion.

          (i)      (i) God created farm animals and birds.

          (j)    ((j)  And brought them to the farmer to name them.

          (k)    (k) However God’s intention of creating a helper to
          really allow humans to take control was not yet fulfilled, so God formed a
          woman out of the man.

          To translate Gen 2:7 as “The LORD God had formed the man…”
          is technically possible but is not following the natural sequence. Simpler and
          better is “The LORD God formed…”.

          Similarly Gen 2:19 technically can be translated as “The
          LORD God had formed … every living animal of the field and every bird…”. But
          simpler, and following the sequence of the passage a better translation is “The
          LORD God had formed … every living animal of the field and every bird …”.

          There seems to be no intention in this passage of synchronising
          with the other, also non-literal account of Gen 1. Rather God is telling a
          slightly different story. To force a literal meaning does violence to the flow
          of the passage.

          What I have done here tonight (I am in Australia so it is
          almost midnight as I type this sentence) is to just read and understand the
          passage, obviously based on things I have read and ideas I have absorbed. But I
          am making a genuine attempt to actually read what God is saying; not to try to
          support a particular point of view.

          I might have another closer look at your comments, Tyler,
          tomorrow evening. I will note however that although this site is primarily a
          Bible site, nevertheless the Bible has to make sense; any interpretation that
          contradicts known facts cannot be correct. You have lightly dismissed the
          scientific evidence. You refer to what I have listed as “speculations”. Nothing
          could be further from the truth. The evidence for dating that is very much
          older than 6000 years is very solid. Perhaps I could give an overview of the
          evidence another day. A Christian does not need scientific knowledge to
          understand the gospel. However if he or she bases faith on something that is demonstrably
          false then shipwreck will result. I could say much more, but I’ll leave it for
          another day. 

          • I agree with your timeline except where you seem to close the door on certain ideas where the text makes no demand for it. Again, you are saying that there is no problem interpreting this as another chronological account. Between points (d) and (e) you allow no room for interpretation in light of Chapter 1. The two chapters logically support one another and haven’t need to be divorced. In point (i) you make a clear assumption that this was the day for creation of these animals, not just their naming. The text does not say this. I can see why it might be read that way. Though, I believe a natural reading would understand the description provided in chapter 1 and wouldn’t find warrant for introducing a new concept. Even if you read the verse as “God formed”, it does not imply a necessity in rendering this as a same-day occurence.

            I have made my reply to the “evidences” in another comment to Brother Burke. I would be willing to discuss the claims in depth. I agree that if something doesn’t make sense, we should seek to resolve it. Though I hold that Scripture provides the most reliable means of discernment as Inspired and Inerrant, and able to be trusted in a literal context.

            I do appreciate your sincerity, Mr. Downs. I am currently a Religion major and have enjoyed talking to those who have studied years beyond me. I hope my comments never appear as overly aggressive. It is a genuine pursuit of truth with love and respect for those I disagree with. Old earth or young earth, Christ unites us.

            In Him,


        • Russell Downs says:

          There is a very simple way, Tyler, of deciding between the two alternative hypotheses. I perceive the “sequential order” hypothesis of Gen 2 and 3 as being the more natural reading. You prefer an interpretation that allows a literal reading but assumes that the passage jumps around in time. However a literal reading contradicts known facts, so it cannot be correct. For example fossils of flowering plants have been found in the Cretaceous period which finished sometime between 65.2 and 65.8 million years ago. The end of the Cretaceous was the time of the extinction of the dinosaurs. How can we know this? It has been known since the early 19th century that flowering plants are in the Cretaceous layer because even then there were many examples of such fossils, and many more have been discovered since. The early geologists were not able to put a date on the period; they only realised that the rocks were “old (Miller, 1874). Actually Miller’s book is a very precious one to me. It was given to me when I was in my twenties by my grandfather in the 1970s, who in turn was given it by an old man in the early 20th century. Miller was a Christian geologist; his book was written just before he died. At that time the Christians (in my church at least) did not just listen to the science of the time; they were passionate about it. In the mid-20th century reliable methods of dating rocks were devised. These rely on the decay rate of some radioactive minerals. There is nothing startlingly new or controversial about this. The science has been very robust for a long time. I am aware that there has been some very naïve criticism of radiometric dating. The basic idea of radiometric dating is that if you know the original amount of radioactive material, the rate of decay, and the current amount of both “mother” and “daughter” material then it is fairly straightforward matter of calculating the age. The naïve criticisms challenge the assumptions that we know the original amounts of “mother” and “daughter” material, that we cannot be sure that there has not been pollution from external material, or that the rate of decay has changed over time. Without looking closely at the science these criticisms may sound persuading. However do we really think that highly intelligent people who have devoted their lives to the subject would not have thought of these things? In fact not only have they thought of them, but the methods they use test the assumptions of the initial amount of “mother” and “daughter” material, and in some cases are actually able to calculate what those amounts are. The methods used check for pollution from other materials; in many cases they find evidence that the mineral material has been corrupted and they therefore abandon that mineral sample. There is no evidence that the rate of decay can change by any more than a miniscule amount. However if the decay rate has previously been higher than it now is, then how much faster must it be to allow for a date
          of ~10,000 years? The answer is that if the decay rate was that high then the
          entire globe of the earth would have been completely obliterated, so high would
          the temperature be. Several different radiometric methods have been used with different radioactive material. They all reach very similar conclusions (Dalrymple, 1991). The Cretaceous period, and therefore flowering plants, is much older than 65 million years. Actually it is more like 130 or 140 million years. The Bible does not teach things that
          contradict known facts. The creation by God of flowering plants described in Gen 1 and 2 was over a long period of time. I could have looked at animals but I deliberately focussed on flowering plants in this discussion because it is the area that I am most familiar with; I have been studying this subject at Master’s level  in recent years. I can assure you that none of the scientists I have dealt with, including some Christian scientists, have any doubt at all that plants are very ancient. You might as well tell a fisherman that fish are mythical creatures as tell a botanist that plants are only 6,000 years old.


          Dalrymple, G. B. (1991). The Age of the Earth. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.

          Miller, H. (1874). The Testimony of the Rocks. Edinburgh: William P. Nimmo.

    • * ‘Since it contains no historical truth’
      * ‘if God never spoke those words?’
      * ‘if God never married them?’
      * ‘Which according to your view, never happened’
      * ‘One is God’s book, the Bible. If we assume that this is a myth-laden and erring product’
      * ‘We have seen that you say the first has no authority to discern the second’

      Russell didn’t say any of those things. Scripture is clear on the fact that death comes as a natural result of mortality, and that eternal death comes as the punishment of sin. This does not contradict in any way what Russell wrote.

      • From Russell’s point of view, the creation account is a story to teach spiritual truths. While I agree spiritual truths are present, there is also a story of God’s creative process which he denies as factual. Therefore,
        1. It is not historically accurate.
        2. God cannot be said to have spoke those words.
        3. God cannot be said to have married them.
        4. We cannot say there was an actual speaking serpent; therefore, no prophecy.
        5. If the creation account is a myth, it is not true.
        6. Since it is not true, it has no authority to discern truth.

        You’re right Jonathan, Scripture is clear that death is the result of mortality. But mortality is the result of sin. Gen 3:3. 

        In Christ,


        • Russell did not say that the creation account is a story to teach spiritual truths to the exclusion of historical facts. The conclusions you attributed to him are not his.

          Mortality was the result of sin for Adam and Eve, and any who were born after them. That death already existed is clear from the fact that the environment created by God could not have operated without death, and the fact that Adam and Eve already understood what death was.

          • The conclusions are valid given the stance. One doesn’t need to say that such a view excludes historical fact if the very idea is that the details of Genesis 1 and 2 aren’t accurate.

            The idea that death was already present is not clear from Scripture. All that we see mentioned thus far is life and life abundant. Eve did seem to understand what the serpent was telling her, but what death did she understand? You said that sin led to the eternal death, not mere mortality. Do you think this is how she viewed it? Can we then say that Eve experienced eternal death for her action? The Bible doesn’t say, but we know physical death occured.

            I think the best way to understand this is to look at the dialogue following the transgression. To Eve, God said He would multiply her pain in child-bearing. And to Adam, God said the ground would bring forth thorns, he would eat the plants of the field, he would have to work for his bread, and he would return to dust.

            If we assume a more naturalistic explanation of Genesis, then most of these realities would have already been present. Adam would have already eaten plants, he would have already had to sweat for bread, and he would have known he would return to dust.

            One point to make though. You appear to acknowledge Adam and Eve were present. This would be hard to reconcile with Brother Downs’ view. Since it is not to be taken literally, we couldn’t say this ever occured.

            In Christ,


          • Previous Convictions says:

            How do you know Adam and Eve understood what death was?

  2. Ben Harper says:

     “Evidence appears to support an old earth when other theories demand it to”

    Tyler you seem to believe that scientists believe the earth is old because of evolution. I would recommend that you double check the facts and look at the reasons why the earth is universally considered to be ancient amongst scientists.

    Geologists – long before Darwin –  and through studying the evidence, not embraced to explain other theories that were still yet to be developed, came to the conclusion that the earth was ancient. In fact modern radiometric dates agree with studies of the age of the sun, which the earth would form shortly after according to the models of planetary formation.

    Two reliable dating techniques give the same date for the age of the earth. It would be of a ‘miracle’ if these two seperate dating methods were useless and inaccurate yet came to same date for the age of the earth! Also to consider are five seperate radiometric dating methods all agree – This site makes the point as to seeing the same time on five different
    clocks and then feeling free to ignore it!

    I’ve personally always understood the focus of the “earth” in second chapter to be referring to a specific area of land. The Hebrew can be translated either earth or land and in the first chapter both instances are used. I don’t accept that the account is non-literal.

    Thanks for the article Russell  and you make the point here are many non-literal accounts but in those instances it is very clear it is so. ‘Visions of Daniel’ or ‘parables of Christ’ are quite obviously not historical events. Adam and Eve are by New Testament writers clearly identified as real people, in no place that I am aware of in Scripture is any indication that this chapter is non-literal. Any contradiction can be resolved by understanding Genesis 1 referring to the heavens and earth and Genesis to a specific land instead of the whole earth.

    • Russell Downs says:

      I agree, Ben, that the focus is local rather that global in chapter 2. i.e. the land rather than the whole earth. After all it does talk about a garden. But I don’t see why it needs to be interpreted literally. I ask what would be the relevance of the formation of animals, birds and plants as local sudden miracles within a limited area, and the formation of Adam out of the ground, and then Eve out of Adam, if people and plants and animals already existed outside of the garden, as the evidence shows that they did. But yes, it is possible I suppose; I don’t see any way that scientific knowledge could contradict that idea. However instead I see it as serious movie cartoon in words. I don’t see it being intended to be taken literally any more than coyote chasing roadrunner; the difference is that instead intending to amuse, it is designed to instruct.

  3. Beka says:

    I don’t know what version of the Bible you are using, but in my King James version, everything makes sense and is pretty clear and there aren’t discrepancies. Firstly, Gen. 2:5 says nothing about shrubs, so I don’t get what your point is there. Secondly, Gen. 2:6 clearly says that there was a mist that went up from the ground, to water the earth. It didn’t rain, before the flood, and there was no need.
    As far as the creation of humankind and the animals, the account in Gen 2:19 is obviously not precisely sequential, like Gen 1: first God created birds and animals (days five and six), then he created Man (day six)–then he presented the animals to Man, they were found inadequate as helpers, then Woman was created out of Man (also day six). It seems quite clear to me.
    The gold being pure–God wrote the Bible, and dictated it to man. God obviously had a reason for mentioning the gold.
    The ‘talking snake’–firstly, I refer you to the donkey that spoke to the prophet Balaam (Num. 22); secondly, it appears that Satan was inhabiting an animal, (I refer you to Matt. 8; not the same, but close), and speaking through the animal himself to deceive Eve.
    Finally, in response to all of the ‘old Earth’ ideas, which are not in-line with the Bible, and cannot be, unless you choose to call God a liar and say that His Word is all made-up, or that some man came up with it all; much of the scientific evidence is based on shaky methods (I.e carbon dating), and is dubious at best (atheist scientists try to say otherwise, of course.
    It used to be ‘scientific fact’ that the Earth was flat, and that maggots spontaneously generated from carcasses. We’ve learned a lot since then, but we are still very fallible, and so is science.
    The fact is that science, even when conducted properly, which it isn’t always, is not absolute truth, and is founded on human knowledge and human thinking power. As humans, we think we know it all, but we have a long way to go. Human knowledge is nothing compared to God’s infinite divine wisdom.
    When you start to believe that, for instance, the creation account in Genesis ‘wasn’t literal’, then it becomes easy to write off everything else as ‘symbolic’ and ‘not literal’; you then start to tell yourself that none of it really happened at all, that it’s all a fairy tale: the virgin birth of Jesus, his death, resurrection, all of his healing acts, and in fact salvation itself. Then you are left with nothing at all, but what your eyes (fallible human eyes)can see right now, and that is pretty depressing.

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