Now In The Meantime
One of the counters to the position of the Unity of Genesis as set forth in The Unity of Genesis and the Unity of the Pentateuch, is the KJV reading of Genesis 2:19, “And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air….” A presumptive reading of this verse gives the impression that all the events of Genesis 2:19 chronologically follow all of the events of Genesis 2:18. And you are left wondering whether there is a contradiction between Genesis 1, where the beasts and the fowl were created a day before the creation of man, and Genesis 2, where there is an illusion that the beasts and the fowl were created after the creation of man.
But just as words sometimes shift meaning over time, syntax also shifts. Opening the verse with “and” might have provided a good English understanding of the Hebrew in the 17th century. But the modern reader reflexively reads “and then” - even though KJV does not say “and then.” NKJV deletes the conjunction altogether, but leaves the reader with no instruction on how to connect the two verses.
NIV “Now” – or perhaps “In the meantime" or “Now in the meantime” – is the best way to introduce Genesis 2:19 That way, we are not tempted to impute sequence on the events. “Now,” a conjunction and not an adverb, makes the time relationship between 2:18 and 2:19 indefinite. Genesis 1 records the beasts and the birds as created before man; Genesis 2 makes no statement of the order, and the result is we can be confident that day 5 occurred before day 6.
The time relationship between 2:18 and 2:19 is clarified as NIV continues “Now the LORD God had formed….” NIV, by using the pluperfect "had formed" actually backshifts the creation of the beasts and the fowl into a time prior to the events of 2:18. “Now the LORD had [already] formed the beasts and the fowl.” NIV better expresses the context to the modern reader.
The fact that God had already formed the beasts and the fowl is mere background material for the real message in Genesis 2:19. In Genesis 2:18, we were left with God observing it is not good for man to be alone. He begins a search for a help meet for Adam. In Genesis 2:19b, we see Adam and God cooperatively involved in that help meet.
Times have changed since the sixth day of creation. Man (Adam alone) was still living in a sinless state. There was no temptation toward bestiality or zoophilia or whatever they call it today. And there was definitely no civil rights movement striving to make bestiality legal. (The movement might not be strong in 2013, but I expect bestiality rights to be the next great moral conflict we face once the debate over the rights of those who practice homosexuality settles down.) Executing the search for a help meet involved God placing every species of life in front of Adam.
The clause “to see what he would call them" is interesting. This does not identify the time when the bear became known as a “bear,” or a fox became known as a “fox.” They already had names, as Adam and Eve seem to have been created with a fully functioning vocabulary. And it would be silly to have a fully functioning vocabulary yet have no words to describe the various species of beasts.
"To see what he would call them" uses "call" in the sense of “to designate as something specified1,” or to catalogue. When Genesis 2:19 says “to see what he would call them,” the verse means “to see how he would declare them, in the sense of to see how he would catalogue them.” God was placing various beasts and fowl before Adam so that Adam would declare about every species of life that the one placed before him not to be an acceptable help meet for him.
Genesis 2:20, reinforces this understanding with slightly different words, but with the same force. Adam gave “names” does not contradict what I said about Genesis 2:19 because “names” means “designations2,” or catalogue titles. Adam’s choices are to give every species the designation of “yes” and “no.” And for every specimen placed before him, Adam catalogued it as a “No.” We know this because the driving theme of the context returned to Adam’s search for a help meet. God had just given him a choice of every form of life on earth, and though Adam was created in desperate need of female companionship, Adam said No to every one God offered him. “But for Adam, there was not found an help meet for him.” As badly as he craved a woman, he rejected every female available on earth and was not tempted with an animal. And in order to give meaning to the context, it was necessary to remind the reader first that God had already created the beasts and the fowl. If that point was forgotten from Genesis 1, then 2:19b-20 couldn’t be understood properly.
God gave Adam the choices among beasts for several reasons (among other reasons):
It placed Adam on record as having no prurient interest in an intimate experience with anything other than a human woman.
It placed Adam on record of the intensity of his desire for a woman.
It provided evidence of God's subtle message of The God of Science and the Appearance of Age. The same day he was created, Adam was already displaying the cravings of a mature adult.
It placed on record that man in sinless condition prefers no relationship at all to random relationships with various Saturday night pickups.
It placed God on record that there was no human woman available at the time.
It placed on eternal record that God alone is the one who can satisfy our needs. The more we act with impatience and find our own solutions, the more frequently we will fall into disaster.
When you read the words, “And the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air…,” Comprehend the NIV, “Now the Lord God had [already] formed ....”