Genesis 2:5-6

Translation

וְכֹל שִׂיחַ הַשָּׂדֶה טֶרֶם יִֽהְיֶה בָאָרֶץ וְכָל־עֵשֶׂב הַשָּׂדֶה טֶרֶם יִצְמָ֑ח כִּי לֹא הִמְטִיר יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים עַל־הָאָרֶץ וְאָדָם אַיִן לַֽעֲבֹד אֶת־הָֽאֲדָמָֽה׃  וְאֵד יַֽעֲלֶה מִן־הָאָ֑רֶץ וְהִשְׁקָה אֶֽת־כָּל־פְּנֵֽי־הָֽאֲדָמָֽה׃

… all the wild plants were not yet present in the earth and the cultivated plants were not yet sprouted, for the LORD God had not yet caused the rain to fall upon the earth nor was there a man to cultivate the soil. So, rain clouds arose from the earth and all the surface of the ground was caused to drink.

Commentary

wild plants … cultivated plants: translated from שִׂיחַ  (seeach)1)Highlighted in red andעֵשֶׂב  (`eisev)2)Highlighted in red respectively, these two words (seeach and `eisev) are synonymous in that both can be translated as plants of one sort or another. However, seeach is usually used to describe plants that grow wild, only needing water and soil to flourish. By contrast, `eisev is used only when cultivated plants are in view. Because they are cultivated, `eisev are plants whose flourishing requires both water and man3)see, for example, Futato, Mark D., Because It Had Rained: A Study of Genesis 2:5-7 With Implications for Gen 2:4-25 and Gen 1:1-2:3, Westminster Theological Journal, 60 (1998) pp 3, 4. Futato’s paper is an expansion of an earlier paper by Meredith G. Kline published in 1958 titled Because It Had Not Rained and can be found here. Also, Westermann agrees (Westermann, 1974) p. 199.

With this understanding in mind, you can probably see the two-fold functional parallelism in verses 5-7. Specifically, these three verses express a problem statement, the cause of the problem, and how God solved these two problems.

Problem

Reason

Solution

No wild vegetation

No rain

Send rain

No cultivated crops

No cultivator

Create cultivator

These three verses, 5-7, illustrate a common narrative strategy called the synoptic-resumption-expansion technique. These three verses constitute the synopsis of what is to follow. Verse 8, as we shall see later, begins the resumption phase of the story. In the meantime, let’s turn to the specifics of the translation for these three verses.

rain clouds: translated fromאֵד  (‘eid), this is not without controversy. Almost always translated as ‘mist’ or ‘spring’, this translation has recently come to be better understood as “rain cloud(s)”. In 1981 Mitchell DaHood compared ‘eid with similar words in related languages and concluded that`eid is best understood as rain cloud(s)4)cited by David Toshio Tsumura, The Earth and the Waters in Genesis 1 and 2, pp 95-97. Prof. DaHood is described as translating `eid in verse 6 based on his examination of Eblaite cuniforms.. Esoteric as DaHood’s findings may be, there is also evidence in the Bible that `eid ought be translated as rain cloud(s). For example, here’s the NIV’s translation of Job 36:27:

He draws up the drops of water
which distill as rain to the streams (`eid).

However, the NIV translators offer an alternative translation in a footnote to this verse, namely

He draws up the drops of water
which distill from the mist (`eid) as rain.

While closer, the footnoted translation is unsatisfying since mist does not distill as rain, and especially as abundant rain (as described in the next verse, 28). The ancient Hebrews knew this as well as we do. Rain falls (distills) from from clouds, as Eccl 1:3 makes clear,

If clouds are full of water,
they pour rain upon the earth

As you might expect, DaHood translates Job 36:27,

(27)When He draws up drops from the sea,
They distill as rain from his rain cloud (DaHood)
(28)The clouds pour down their moisture
and abundant showers fall on mankind (NIV)

mist-risingThe translation of `eid to “rain cloud” in Job 36:27, is teleologically coherent. Rain, and especially abundant rain, come from rain clouds. Hence, the translation of `eid as rain cloud is not only plausible, but preferred. But there is yet another indication that rain cloud is a better translation of `eid: the English translations of the ancient Aramaic versions of the Bible (a.k.a. targums) consistently render ‘id (the Aramaic cognate of ‘eid) as [rain] cloud.

There still remains the matter of how clouds “did arise from the earth“. In other words, if using rain clouds as the translation of `eid, then the phrase “rain clouds rising from the earth” seems, on the surface at least, suspect. But, consider Psalm 135:7,

He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth
He sends lightning with the rain
and brings out the wind from His storehouses.

Clouds seemingly rising up from the sea.

Clouds seemingly rising up from the sea.

In other words, when clouds form we often see them forming on the horizon to give the appearance of rising in the distance from the horizon (i.e., land). This ought not strike us as strange: for example, in 1 Kings 18:44 Elijah’s servant sees a “cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea“. And finally in Jeremiah 10:13 we read:

When He thunders, the waters in the heavens roar;
He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth
He sends lightning with the rain
and brings out the wind from his storehouses.

Clouds rising from the ends of the earth

“He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth”

In light of all this, the justification for translating eid as rain clouds is arguably a more meaningful translation than ‘mists’.

Finally, we should ask, why didn’t the author simply use the word for cloud,  עָנָן(anan)?

They answer may lie in how biblical authors delighted in Hebrew word play. Analogous to rhyming in English, the ancient biblical authors delighted in choosing words and constructing phrases that emphasized a given sound. For example, one of the most frequent examples of this is the occurrence of adam and adamah (man and ground) in the same phrase(s). This particular verse exemplifies this technique by adding of `eid  (sounds like aid) to the sounds of adam and adamah.

Translation Notes

The translation conventions used in this document can be found here.

Mechanical

(5) And-all  the-wild-plants-of the-field not-yet present and-in-earth ; and-all the-crops-of the-field not-yet sprouted because not caused-to-rain the-LORD God on-the-earth and-man nought  to-work  the-ground. (6) And-rain-clouds did-rise from-the-earth and-cause-to-drink all-the-face-of-the-earth.

Literal

(5.1) And all wild plants of the field [were] not yet present in the earth; and all herbs of the field not yet did sprout because not caused to rain, the LORD God, upon the earth and mankind was not present5)nought = “was not present” to work the ground. (6) And rain clouds did rise from the earth and did cause to drink all the surface of the earth.

(5.1) And all the wild plants [were] not yet present in the earth and the crops did not yet sprout because not did the LORD God cause the rain to fall upon the earth and mankind was nought to cultivate the ground.

Commercial Bible Translations (Gen 2:5-7)

  • (nasNow no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the LORD God had not sent rain upon the earth; and there was no man to cultivate the ground. But a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground.
  • (kjv) And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground. But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.
  • (niv) And no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth and no plant of the field had yet sprung up, for the LORD God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no man to work the ground, but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground–  
  • (netNow no shrub of the field had yet grown on the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground. Springs would well up from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground.

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