Genesis 1:11
And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.
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(11) Let the earth bring forth grass.—This is the second creative act. The first was the calling of matter into existence, which, by the operation of mechanical and chemical laws, imposed upon it by the Creator, was arranged and digested into a cosmos, that is, an orderly and harmonious whole. These laws are now and ever in perpetual activity, but no secondary or derived agency can either add one atom to the world-mass or diminish aught from it. The second creative act was the introduction of life, first vegetable, and then animal; and for this nothing less than an Almighty power would suffice. Three stages of it are enumerated. The first is deshe, not “grass,” but a mere greenness, without visible seed or stalk, such as to this day may be seen upon the surface of rocks, and which, when examined by the microscope, is found to consist of a growth of plants of a minute and mean type. But all endogenous plants belong to this class, and are but the development of this primary greenness. Far higher in the scale are the seed-bearing plants which follow, among which the most important are the cerealia; while in the third class, vegetation reaches its highest development in the tree with woody stem, and the seed enclosed in an edible covering. Geologists inform us that cryptogamous plants, which were the higher forms of the first class, prevailed almost exclusively till the end of the carbonaceous period; but even independently of this evidence we could scarcely suppose that fruit-trees came into existence before the sun shone upon the earth; while the cerealia are found only in surface deposits in connection with vestiges of man. Vegetation, therefore, did not reach its perfection until the sixth day, when animals were created which needed these seeds and fruits for their food. But so far from there being anything in the creative record to require us to believe that the development of vegetation was not gradual, it is absolutely described as being so; and with that first streak of green God gave also the law of vegetation, and under His fostering hand all in due time came to pass which that first bestowal of vegetable life contained. It is the constant rule of Holy Scripture to include in a narrative the ultimate as well as the immediate results of an act; and moreover, in the record of these creative days we are told what on each day was new, while the continuance of all that preceded is understood. The dry land called into existence on the third day was not dry enough to be the abode of terrestrial animals till the sixth day, and not till then would it bear such vegetation as requires a dry soil; and the evidence of geology shows that the atmosphere, created on the second day. was not sufficiently free from carbonic acid and other vapours to be fit for animals to breathe, until long ages of rank vegetation had changed these gases into coal. When, then, on the third day, “God said, Let the earth bring forth grass . . . herb yielding seed . . . tree.” He gave the perfect command, but the complete fulfilment of that command would be gradual, as the state of the earth and the necessities of the living creatures brought forth upon it required. For in God’s work there is always a fitness, and nothing with Him is hurried or premature.

Genesis 1:11-12. Let the earth bring forth grass — Here we rise to organized and vegetative bodies. Thus, before God formed any living creature to abide upon the earth, he wisely provided for its sustenance. The herb yielding, seed, whose seed is in itself; that is, in some part of itself: either in the root, or branch, or bud, or fruit; which is sufficient in itself for the propagation of its kind, from generation to generation, as long as the world shall endure, without any new creation. How astonishing the wisdom and power that could effect this! O God! how wonderful art thou in counsel, and how excellent in working! God saw that it was good — “This clause is so often added,” says Pool, “to show that all the disorders, evil, and hurtful qualities that are now in the creatures, are not to be imputed to God, who made all of them good, but to man’s sin, which hath corrupted their nature and perverted their use.”

1:6-13 The earth was emptiness, but by a word spoken, it became full of God's riches, and his they are still. Though the use of them is allowed to man, they are from God, and to his service and honour they must be used. The earth, at his command, brings forth grass, herbs, and fruits. God must have the glory of all the benefit we receive from the produce of the earth. If we have, through grace, an interest in Him who is the Fountain, we may rejoice in him when the streams of temporal mercies are dried up.Let the land grow. - The plants are said to be products of the land, because they spring from the dry ground, and a margin round it where the water is so shallow as to permit the light and heat to reach the bottom. The land is said to grow or bring forth plants; not because it is endowed with any inherent power to generate plants, but because it is the element in which they are to take root, and from which they are to spring forth.

Grass, herb yielding seed, fruit tree bearing fruit. - The plants now created are divided into three classes - grass, herb, and tree. In the first, the seed is not noticed, as not obvious to the eye; in the second, the seed is the striking characteristic; in the third, the fruit, "in which is its seed," in which the seed is enclosed, forms the distinguishing mark. This division is simple and natural. It proceeds upon two concurrent marks - the structure and the seed. In the first, the green leaf or blade is prominent; in the second, the stalk; in the third, the woody texture. In the first, the seed is not conspicuous; in the second, it is conspicuous; in the third, it is enclosed in a fruit which is conspicuous. This division corresponds with certain classes in our present systems of botany. But it is much less complex than any of them, and is founded upon obvious characteristics. The plants that are on the margin of these great divisions may be arranged conveniently enough under one or another of them, according to their several orders or species.

After its kind. - This phrase intimates that like produces like, and therefore that the "kinds" or species are fixed, and do not run into one another. In this little phrase the theory of one species being developed from another is denied.

11. let the earth bring forth—The bare soil was clothed with verdure, and it is noticeable that the trees, plants, and grasses—the three great divisions of the vegetable kingdom here mentioned—were not called into existence in the same way as the light and the air; they were made to grow, and they grew as they do still out of the ground—not, however, by the slow process of vegetation, but through the divine power, without rain, dew, or any process of labor—sprouting up and flourishing in a single day. Let the earth bring forth; the sense is: For the present let it afford matter, out of which I will make grass (as man’s rib afforded matter, out of which God made woman); and for the future let it receive virtue or power of producing it out of that matter which I have made, and suited to that end.

Grass; that which groweth of itself without seed or manuring, and is the food of beasts.

The herb yielding seed, for the propagation of their several kinds, to wit, mature and perfect herbs, which alone yield seed. So afterwards God made man, not in the state of children, but of grown and perfect age.

After his kind, i.e. according to the several kinds of fruits.

Whose seed is in itself; now is by my constitution, and shall be for the future. In some part of itself, either in the root, or branch, or leaf, or bud, or fruit. The sense is, which is sufficient of itself for the propagation of its kind, without any conjunction of male and female.

And God said, let the earth bring forth grass,.... Which had been impregnated by the Spirit of God that moved upon it when a fluid; and though now become dry land, it retained sufficient moisture in it, and was juicy and fit to produce vegetables; and especially as it had the advantage of the expanded air about it, and the warmth of the primordial light or fire; though all this would have been insufficient to produce plants and trees at full growth, with their seed in them, and fruit on them, without the interposition of almighty power: this seems to intend the germination or budding out of the tender grass, and the numerous spires of it which cover the earth, and by their verdure and greenness give it a delightful aspect, as well as afford food for the creatures:

the herb yielding seed; this is distinct from the former; that denotes herbage in general, which grows up of itself without being sown or manured, and is the food of beasts; this in particular, herbs and plants for the use of man, which yield a seed which either falling from it sows itself again, or is taken from it and sown on purpose to reproduce it, being useful or delightful:

and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind; as apples, pears, plums, apricots, nectars, peaches, oranges, lemons, &c,

whose seed is in itself upon the earth; each of which produce a seed according to the nature of them, which being sown produce the like, and so there is a continuance of them upon the earth:

and it was so; as God commanded it should, as appears from the following verse.

And God said, {h} Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.

(h) So that we see it is the only the power of God's word that makes the earth fruitful, which naturally is barren.

11. Let the earth … grass] The creation of the vegetable world follows naturally and logically upon the emergence of the earth out of the waters. The most common and beautiful thing in nature, in the East, is the instantaneous appearance of fresh green blade and shoot, after the rain has fallen upon some parched and apparently lifeless soil. This phenomenon suitably marks the commencement of organic life in the Hebrew cosmogony.

It is doubtful whether we should distinguish in this verse three, or two, types of vegetation. Assuming that the former is to be preferred, we may distinguish (1) the grasses, (2) the herbs, (3) the trees. According to another view, the main class of vegetation (“grass”) is described under two heads, (1) the herbs, (2) the fruit-trees.

This classification of the vegetable world into three (or two) orders marks the beginnings of what we call botany. The “herb” and the “fruit-tree” are described in popular language, according to the mode of their propagation by seed or fruit.

after its kind] The word is collective, and the phrase means according to their various species. Cf. Genesis 1:21; Genesis 1:25; Genesis 6:20 (P).

We should notice the emphasis that is here laid upon the fact that both the main orders of the vegetable kingdom and their subdivisions have their origin in the Divine command. The food of the Oriental is almost entirely vegetable.

Verse 11. - And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. Three terms are employed to describe the vegetation here summoned into existence. Kalisch regards the first as a generic term, including the second and the third; but they are better understood as distinct classes: -

(1) grass, deshe, first sprouts of the earth, tender herb, in which the seed is not noticed, as not being obvious to the eye; "tenera herha sine semine saltem conspicuo" (Rosenmüller); probably the various kinds of grasses that supply food for the lower animals (cf. Psalm 23:2);

(2) "the herb (eseb) yielding seed," the more mature herbage, in which the seed is the most striking characteristic; the larger description of plants and vegetables (cf. Genesis 9:3); and

(3) "the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon (or above) the earth." The first clause describes its specific nature - "fruit-bearing;" the second, its peculiar characteristic - enclosing the seed in its fruit; the third, its external appearance - rising above the ground. "This division is simple and natural. It proceeds upon two concurrent marks, the structure and the seed. In the first the green blade is prominent; in the second, the stalk; in the third, the woody texture. In the first the seed is not conspicuous; in the second it is conspicuous; in the third it is enclosed in a fruit which is conspicuous" (Murphy). The phrase "after his kind, appended to the second and third, seems to indicate that the different species of plants were already fixed. The modern dogma of the origin of species by development would thus be declared to be un-biblical, as it has not yet been proved to be scientific. The utmost that can be claimed as established is that "species," qua species, have the power of variation along the line of certain characteristics belonging to themselves, but not that any absolutely new species has ever been developed with power indefinitely to multiply its kind. Genesis 1:11The Third Day. - The work of this day was twofold, yet closely connected. At first the waters beneath the heavens, i.e., those upon the surface of the earth, were gathered together, so that the dry (היּבּשׁה, the solid ground) appeared. In what way the gathering of the earthly waters in the sea and the appearance of the dry land were effected, whether by the sinking or deepening of places in the body of the globe, into which the water was drawn off, or by the elevation of the solid ground, the record does not inform us, since it never describes the process by which effects are produced. It is probable, however, that the separation was caused both by depression and elevation. With the dry land the mountains naturally arose as the headlands of the mainland. But of this we have no physical explanations, either in the account before us, or in the poetical description of the creation in Psalm 54:1-7. Even if we render Psalm 54:8, "the mountains arise, and they (the waters) descend into the valleys, to the place which Thou (Jehovah) hast founded for them," we have no proof, in this poetical account, of the elevation-theory of geology, since the psalmist is not speaking as a naturalist, but as a sacred poet describing the creation on the basis of Genesis 1. "The dry" God called Earth, and "the gathering of the waters," i.e., the place into which the waters were collected, He called Sea. ימּים, an intensive rather than a numerical plural, is the great ocean, which surrounds the mainland on all sides, so that the earth appears to be founded upon seas (Psalm 24:2). Earth and sea are the two constituents of the globe, by the separation of which its formation was completed. The "seas" include the rivers which flow into the ocean, and the lakes which are as it were "detached fragments" of the ocean, though they are not specially mentioned here. By the divine act of naming the two constituents of the globe, and the divine approval which follows, this work is stamped with permanency; and the second act of the third day, the clothing of the earth with vegetation, is immediately connected with it. At the command of God "the earth brought forth green (דּשׁא), seed yielding herb (עשׂב( breh ), and fruit-bearing fruit-trees (פּרי עץ)." These three classes embrace all the productions of the vegetable kingdom. דּשׁא, lit., the young, tender green, which shoots up after rain and covers the meadows and downs (2 Samuel 23:4; Job 38:27; Joel 2:22; Psalm 23:2), is a generic name for all grasses and cryptogamous plants. עשׂב, with the epithet זרע מזריע, yielding or forming seed, is used as a generic term for all herbaceous plants, corn, vegetables, and other plants by which seed-pods are formed. פרי עץ: not only fruit-trees, but all trees and shrubs, bearing fruit in which there is a seed according to its kind, i.e., fruit with kernels. הארץ על (upon the earth) is not to be joined to "fruit-tree," as though indicating the superior size of the trees which bear seed above the earth, in distinction from vegetables which propagate their species upon or in the ground; for even the latter bear their seed above the earth. It is appended to תּדשׁא, as a more minute explanation: the earth is to bring forth grass, herb, and trees, upon or above the ground, as an ornament or covering for it. למיגו (after its kind), from מין species, which is not only repeated in Genesis 1:12 in its old form למיגהוּ in the case of the fruit-tree, but is also appended to the herb. It indicates that the herbs and trees sprang out of the earth according to their kinds, and received, together with power to bear seed and fruit, the capacity to propagate and multiply their own kind. In the case of the grass there is no reference either to different kinds, or to the production of seed, inasmuch as in the young green grass neither the one nor the other is apparent to the eye. Moreover, we must not picture the work of creation as consisting of the production of the first tender germs which were gradually developed into herbs, shrubs, and trees; on the contrary, we must regard it as one element in the miracle of creation itself, that at the word of God not only tender grasses, but herbs, shrubs, and trees, sprang out of the earth, each ripe for the formation of blossom and the bearing of seed and fruit, without the necessity of waiting for years before the vegetation created was ready to blossom and bear fruit. Even if the earth was employed as a medium in the creation of the plants, since it was God who caused it to bring them forth, they were not the product of the powers of nature, generatio aequivoca in the ordinary sense of the word, but a work of divine omnipotence, by which the trees came into existence before their seed, and their fruit was produced in full development, without expanding gradually under the influence of sunshine and rain.
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