In Genesis 2:4, 5, we read in the Authorized Version, "These are the generations of every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew." The Mormons take this passage to prove that there was a spiritual creation before what they refer to as natural creation. What does the original Hebrew of this passage mean?
In chapters 1 and 2 of Genesis we have two accounts of creation. The first and general account extends from the first verse of chapter 1 to the third verse of chapter 2. Beginning with the fourth verse of chapter 2, we have the detailed description of the creation of the garden of Eden for man to live in, and the creation of Eve as a help meet for man. The second verse of the first chapter shows the condition of the earth at the beginning of creation week, and the fifth verse of the second chapter portrays the condition before vegetation appeared on the earth. This fifth verse, translated rather literally from the original Hebrew, would read, "And every plant of the field, not yet was it in the earth; and every herb of the field, not yet was it grown because the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth; and man there was none to till the ground."
There is no indication whatsoever that God made any plant or herb before it was in the earth or before it grew. It is simply that in the creation week there was a time when no plant was yet in the field and no herb had yet grown. There was also a time when there was no man yet to till the ground. In the sixth verse we read of a mist rising up from the earth and watering the ground, so that it was possible for vegetation to grow.
In the seventh verse we read of the formation of man, whom God was making that he might till the ground. In verses 8-15 we read of a beautiful spot made by God: "a garden eastward in Eden," where God placed man to dress and keep it: Then-ht verses 21 and 22 we read of God's creation of a help meet for man.
Thus we see that in the second chapter there is not a chronicling of each step of creation, but only those things that pertained to two steps: the creation of the beautiful vegetation that made possible the garden of Eden, and the creation of man, especially the information with regard to Eve's creation. In order to know at just what time each of these took place, we have to refer back to the first chapter, where the process of creation is divided into the work done each day. The argument of the Mormons falls completely when we see there is no idea in the Hebrew that God made any plant or herb before it was in the earth or before it grew.