Time Tensions – Part 4

Tsamach – “grow” (Gen 2:5, 9)

Chapter 2 is describing the 6th day of creation. One of the textual indicators that this day is longer than 24 hrs is the kind of things that are here described. Verse 5 is in the perfect which, at the beginning of a pericope, typically indicates background material. In that verse we are told that the circumstance before the creation of man were that there were no plants for the Lord had not cause it to rain.

When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, (Genesis 2:5, ESV)

The conditions were described by way of negation, nothing had grown for there was not yet rain. Later, in verse 8-9, we read that God planted a garden.

And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. 8And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:8-9, ESV)

For a tree or other plant to grow would be more than a day. There are terms like `alah and Gadal and Hayah which are broad in their uses and were used to describe the growth of the plant for Jonah in a day. However, even those when used of plants normally describe a normal growth. Yet, the word for “spring up” in both verse 5 and 9 is the Hebrew word tsamach which simply means “grow.” When we look at other places that we see this verse, it is clear that this is a normal growing process.
Gen 3:18 “Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you will eat the plants of the field ;
Ex 10:15 They shall cover the surface of the land, so that no one will be able to see the land. They will also eat the rest of what has escaped -what is left to you from the hail -and they will eat every tree which sprouts for you out of the field.
Lev 13:37 “If in his sight the scale has remained, however, and black hair has grown in it, the scale has healed, he is clean ; and the priest shall pronounce him clean.
Deut 29:23 ‘All its land is brimstone and salt, a burning waste, unsown and unproductive , and no grass grows in it, like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim, which the LORD overthrew in His anger and in His wrath.’
Jud 16:22 However, the hair of his head began to grow again after it was shaved off.
2 samuel 10:5 When it was told David, he sent to meet them, for the men were greatly ashamed. And the king said, “Remain at Jericho until your beards have grown and then return.”
Job 38:27 To satisfy the waste and desolate land And to make the seeds of grass to sprout ?
Ps 104:14 He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, And vegetation for the labor of man, So that he may bring forth food from the earth,
Ps 147:8 Who covers the heavens with clouds, Who provides rain for the earth, Who makes grass to grow on the mountains.
Ecc 2:6 I made ponds of water for myself from which to irrigate a forest of growing trees.
Isa 44:4 And they will spring up among the grass Like poplars by streams of water.’
Isa 55:10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater
Isa 61:11 For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, And as a garden causes the things sown in it to spring up, So the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise To spring up before all the nations.
Eze 16:7 “I made you numerous like plants of the field. Then you grew up, became tall and reached the age for fine ornaments ; your breasts were formed and your hair had grown. Yet you were naked and bare.
Eze 17:6 Then it sprouted and became a low, spreading vine with its branches turned toward him, but its roots remained under it. So it became a vine and yielded shoots and sent out branches.

Whether it is used of the growth of grass, or trees, or hair, or even of humans (as a metaphor for national growth) it always has a normal growing process in mind. For God to plant, water, and grow these plants and trees would take far longer than 24 hrs. This is the normal, straightforward reading of the text. In order to make this work for a 24 hr period, one has to posit a superfast growth like one can see in time-lapse videos that cover weeks, months, or years. In order to make the 24 hr day view work, one has to ditch the standard definition of tsamach.

This is just how we harmonize a passage. We assume that God wrote in a coherent way. The normal definition of day would be 12-24 hrs. The normal definition of grow (especially for trees) takes much longer than 24 hrs.