Genesis 1:31 declares to us that at the end of the sixth day of creation, God inspected the entire project and declared it to be “very good.” The text goes on to state that the next day He entered a rest (a Sabbath) from His creating activity. It is difficult to not infer from the text that creation was finished. His last act of creating was the creation of the man (male and female, with the female somehow inside or within the man). Later, He was to bring the woman out of the man, but that was not creation. She had already been created, albeit in the man, on the sixth day. Her coming forth was a kind of “birth” rather than an additional act of creation. (Some Jewish traditions have it that the woman was brought forth on either the thirteenth or the fifteenth day. I prefer day fifteen.)
Genesis 3:17-18, in contrast, speaks of the coming into being of “cursed ground” and “thorns and thistles” due to the mischief of the man and the woman in the matter regarding the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. So, what caused thorns and thistles to appear in the “very good” creation? For that matter, did God originally create the ground in a “cursed” condition? Was the cursed condition of the ground a “very good” thing? Were thorns and thistles components of the original “very good” creation?
It appears that the coming forth (coming into being) of thorns and thistles was not a component of the period in which the acts of creation were taking place. They came along only after the man and woman failed in the matter of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The textual evidence is that thorns and thistles were not present at the end of the creation cycle. If they came along only after creation had ended, then we might conclude that thorns and thistles were not actually created. Their manner of coming into the creation was, in that view, not a matter of their being created. They came about in some other manner. If that is not the case, then God created more things after He finished with the work of the sixth day. Furthermore, we would have to conclude that God made bad stuff in the creation. Alternatively, we might argue that He only made bad stuff after we messed up, but that is to argue that He did that to punish us.
There is a conundrum that emerges in that line of reasoning though. Actually, there are two such puzzlements. One has to do with what it means that God rested from creation-related acts. Perhaps He was tired and just needed to take a few days off before continuing with creating things. In that case, we might argue that the Sabbath (plus some additional time) was inserted between two rounds of creation. The only evidence for the second round is thorns and thistles. Surely He could have done them along with other plant life on the third day, so why would He wait to create them later? The second conundrum has to do with the nature of the announced curse. The curse was actually on the ground; and thorns and thistles were only symptoms of that curse. What was to happen to the ground that manifested the curse on it was surely more than thorns and thistles. Other manifestations of the curse were surely to appear. We have, however, no additional specifications except for a general reluctance to be agriculturally productive (Genesis 3:17-19). We’ll concern ourselves with the ground at another time. For now, we’ll follow up a bit more with thorns and thistles and related biological matters.
Let’s examine the proposition that everything God created was either “good” or “very good” when He created it. I propose we can infer that very straightforwardly from the text itself, as well as what we know of the character of God. In that line of reasoning, no living thing, including any plant, was created
to be bad. However, the implication of the text and of life experience is that thorns and thistles are not good – they may be thought of as generally bad in their nature. If God created them, then, He created bad plants. That suggestion goes against His apparent nature. (Isn’t it interesting that at the focal point of human history, thorns were used to manufacture a crown for Jesus.) And, what about poisonous plants? There are many kinds of them today. Did God create all those poisonous plants during the six days of creation? Or, did He do that after He “created” thorns and thistles? Genesis 1:30 strongly suggests otherwise.
If God did not create all the various “bad” plants we find in creation, where did they come from? Is there another creator who interjected them into the creation after God was finished? Or, was there some sort of cosmic interloper who showed up after the fact with some bad seed plants that he sowed after the fact? If so, where did the cosmic interloper find or otherwise acquire those bad seeds? Where did the cosmic interloper even come from? These questions will take some of our time in a moment.
We’ll come back to the seed shortly, but let’s bring another phenomenon into the picture to broaden our perspective. Isaiah 11:6-7 (NIV) reads as follows: the wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. This passage speaks to a very peaceful state not yet realized, as far as we know. In this passage, the prophet speaks to a future day in which prey and predator will live together without instances of predation. In other words, in that state, predators will cease to be predators. Their natural enmity will cease.
This might remind us of the passage in Romans 8:19-21 (NIV) which declares to us the following: The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. Did God create a creation that was in “bondage to decay”? It must be true that the bondage to decay came about after the creation was finished, else the creation would not be “very good” to use God’s pronouncement. That’s an important question, but the thing that matters now is that some conditions caused the “very good” creation to become “subjected . . . (to) bondage to decay.”
Two passages in Job that appear to be quite similar provide us some interesting insights. The two passages provide the (perhaps hypothetical) content of a related pair of dialogues between God and Satan. These two dialogues have to do with the disposition of a fellow named Job, about whom God made certain assertions to Satan. Satan offered counter-assertions that together set the stage for the story that follows. In the first instance (Job 1:8-12), at the end of that dialogue, God provided to Satan a very limited power to afflict the possessions of Job. In the second dialogue (Job 2:3-8), Satan was granted yet another very specific opportunity to afflict the very health of Job. In both cases, it was Satan who exercised his limited opportunity to cause harm to Job. God did not afflict Job, as Job was to later assert to his friends. Nor was the fault to be ascribed to Job, as his friends later asserted. The affliction of Job was carried out by Satan as a result of a restricted grant of power.
If we consider the passages in Isaiah, Romans and Job as being complimentary passages (let’s do that for a moment), there are things that might be gleaned. By implication, Satan will take every opportunity to afflict the potential sons of God in order to frustrate the purposes of God – or just to be spiteful. In certain circumstances, God may grant Satan a limited capacity to carry out malicious schemes against humans. Certainly, humans often permit Satan to hurt them, but that is another matter.
For example, after Adam and Eve had eaten the forbidden fruit, God announced a group of judgments. Could it be that He provided to Satan the grant of power to bring those judgments into some sort of manifestation? Suppose it went something like the following. God had said to the man that thorns and thistles would come into the picture to partially frustrate the labors of the man. In the proposed scenario, God did not create thorns and thistles, but He allowed Satan to affect existing plant-life and cause some of it to “become” thorns and thistles. Once that had occurred, the laws of genetics would cause those plants to reproduce just as all the created plants did (Genesis 1:11). From that time there would be good plants and bad plants, and the judgment of God in this matter would be manifest. In some sense, then, Satan modified the DNA of existing good plants to cause noxious plants to come into being. There were then two strains of DNA where there had been one. One plant (the good one) would reproduce as God had created it. The other (the bad one) would now reproduce as Satan had perverted it. This condition will remain until the sons of God are revealed, in this scenario. At that time, all the perverted works of Satan will be undone and that plant which is now harmful will no longer be so.
Isaiah may be read to imply this will extend to animals. At that future time (arguably when the sons of God will be revealed), animals which have had their DNA perverted by the works of Satan will be returned to their original state and none of them will be predators any longer. Please understand this is a very simplified overview of what is implied in scripture concerning these matters.
In Genesis 4:10-15, God announced judgment on the murderer Cain. Upon Cain’s protestation of the severity of the judgment, God “put a mark on Cain.” People have speculated endlessly concerning the “mark of Cain.” That is not our point here. Our point here is that it might well be that the “mark of Cain” was actually implemented by Satan out of his natural enmity towards all men, with the permission of God. If the mark was, in some sense biological, it would affect Cain’s DNA, and that of all his descendants. For example, if the mark was a change in the physical appearance of Cain, there would be a change in Cain’s DNA.
The last three paragraphs imply that DNA is arguably to have been affected by the judgments of God. After those changes were implemented, original DNA that God (by implication) declared to be “very good” would be accompanied in the world by DNA that was perverted by permitted actions of Satan. From these changes, many new species of plants and animals would eventually come forth which would not be included under the designation of “very good.” Subsequently, further changes in DNA through natural processes would go on until that effect be stopped (Romans 8:18-21). These subsequent processes are what I am calling herein “genetic drift.” They will continue as long as natural laws prevail. As each generation of some biological entity comes along, the drift will worsen. When the time of the revealing of the sons of God comes, one of the accompanying phenomena will be an end to genetic drift and a return to a creation that God can call “very good” in its actual manifestation.