Plants in Hebrew

Understanding Creation in Hebrew Part 1: The Plants

by / November 27, 2015

How did the Creator make the Heavens, the Earth, and the life that is within them? Although theology and science are unable to tell us everything about the creation process, studying the Creation account in the original Hebrew language yields amazing clarity on many topics. Part 1 of this series explores the characteristics of plants and their designed purpose to support life.

During the Creation Week, our wonderful Creator made plants, animals, and man. As one explores each of these categories, it becomes obvious and clear that plants are more basic than animals and man and that they serve a different purpose. When the plants were formed on day three, He was designing something unique that would be useful for man on many levels including producing food, oxygen, building materials, and even stored energy.

The Creation of Plants

It is often surprising how different a scriptural perspective is from that which secular science has produced. One of the chief among these is concept or definition of life. Within Scripture, it becomes quite evident that plants are not considered alive. First and foremost, life, חי (chay), is associated with the soul which is given to animals and man, but not to plants. Second, within Scripture, plants are never described as being born. Similarly they are never described as dying but instead only as wilting. Third, plants were given to animals and man as food. Since there was no death prior to sin entering the world, eating plants could not have been considered the killing or death of something. Finally, life is sometimes described as creatures that have ‘the breath of life’ which implies breathing oxygen. Plants take in carbon dioxide (which is harmful to life) and they release oxygen (which is beneficial to life).

All of Creation, including plants, was spoken into being. However, in the Hebrew language, there are different verbs used to describe talking. Here, as in much of the Creation account, “God said” uses the verb אמר (amar) in the imperative tense ‘to declare’ something. This is the verb used when the Creator declares that things should exist. This can be compared with the verb דבר ‘deber’ which means ‘to instruct’ or ‘to command’ and is used when giving instructions and laws to the Nation of Israel. This special ability to speak things into existence helps to demonstrate that no type of evolutionary means was involved in making plants nor did they have any common ancestry.

Within Genesis, the phrase ‘after their kind’ is used many times. It refers to reproduction (having offspring) and producing seed. The Hebrew word for Kinds is מין (meen). It literally means to portion or sort out and suggests the likeness or form of the parent involved. Once again, the limits of change and variation are implied as the offspring will continue to have the same form as the parents even if small variations like color do change. This fact also produces the easiest way to understand or define a kind; if two plants are able to reproduce, then they are of one kind. Evolutionary taxonomy has approximately 360 Families of flowering plants. Initial research suggests the number of flowering Plant Kinds will be a little higher.

Grasses, Herbs, and Trees

There are many ways than man can classify or group plants together. However, within the Creation account, there are three major types of plants given: grasses, herbs, and trees. At first glance, this may not seem significant, but each of these types of plants have unique characteristics which demonstrate the great planning of our Creator.

The Hebrew word for grass is דשא (deshe) from the root word meaning ‘to sprout’. This name aptly fits as grasses are constantly sprouting and are among the most abundant plants on earth. Grasses are unique because the portion that grows is not located at the tip, but rather at the base of the plant just below ground level. This makes it resilient against cutting, grazing, and even fire. Immediately after being cut, eaten, or burned down to ground level, it begins sprouting again. Because of this unique features, it is able feed the huge numbers of animals including cattle, insects, and birds as well as produce grain for man. It includes the grass in our lawns, cereal and bread grains, and even building materials like bamboo (the largest of the grasses). Also, in comparison to other plants, they have segmented and hollow compartments in the stem which makes them lightweight but strong.

The Hebrew word for herb is עשב (eseb). Herbs include all the plants with a soft stem, or more technically, those with the xylem and phloem (the tubes that carry nutrients up and down from the roots) spread throughout the stem rather than limited to the outside edge. These plants can be small vegetables, ferns, ornamental flowers, bigger plants like bananas, and even the tough coconut palms. Their food can be abundant, especially in warmer climates where these plants grow all year and can become large in size. In colder climates, the food becomes more limited as they often wilt down to the root each autumn and only sometimes grow again the following year.

The Hebrew word for tree is עץ (etz). The trees are the largest of the plants and can also provide abundant food and building material. Trees are designed with the xylem and phloem tubes located just under the bark and produce a new layer each year. This not only allows the tree to grow large in diameter and height, but also enables the tree to withstand cold weather by going dormant each winter season. It is the great forests circling the earth, from the equator to almost near the poles, that produce abundant oxygen for the entire planet.

Other Aspects of Plants

And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. Gen 1:29 KJV

In the early chapters of Genesis, our Creator gave plants as food for both animals and man. Throughout Scripture, the general implication is that food plants would be green (have chlorophyll) and that they would produce seed זרע (zera) within itself. This strongly implies that other types of plants such as moss, lichen, fungus, fern, and seaweed should not be eaten as they either lack chlorophyll, reproduce with spores, or both. Later, when man is given permission to consume meat, the clean animals that may be eaten are the herbivores (feeding off of plants) while the unclean animals tend to be carnivores or omnivores.

In an effort to understand creation, scientific studies have uncovered many fascinating things about plants. Some of the more striking differences between plants an animals were unknown until the time of the microscope. Although plants are generally multi-cellular organisms containing a nucleus for the DNA, they lack any type of nerve cells or brain tissue. Furthermore, the cells contain a cell wall which means the plant structures are separated and do not form true organs. Finally, plants contain an amazing molecule called Chlorophyll which allows them to do something almost nothing else on earth can do – take the energy from sunlight and turn it into useful energy (in the form of carbohydrates / sugar) and then store it for later use.

Life is precious … there is no accident or random chance involved in what was created and all of creation shows the majesty of our Creator. This article can only begin to explore the fascinating world of plants. However, it is obvious that plants were designed to help man and their many unique properties show the intent and planning involved to produce a world rich with life.

For Further Information:

  1. Plant Kinds at Baraminology – the Study of Created Kinds
  2. Plant Page at CreationWiki – the Encyclopedia of Creation Science
  3. Planting Confusion-Were plants created on Day Three or Day Six? at Answers in Genesis
  4. Sensational Seeds—compact packages attest to God’s handiwork at Creation Ministries International
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Todd Elder
Todd Elder has a deep desire to understand and experience Creation. As a Baraminologist, his current research includes developing the Katagenos Species Concept, the Natanzera Classification System, and the Floral Formula Method of determining Plant Kinds. As a Believer, he is also active as the owner of Scripture Advocate Publishing, founder of the Encouraging Life Children’s Mission, and director of the Creation Science League. As author and speaker, his books and seminar materials are designed to encourage a growing relationship with the Creator.

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