In Genesis 1, we read that God created the heavens and the earth. Some Christians read this as a literal description of what happened in six days. Other Christians believe that a more poetic interpretation is possible, which squares more with what most scientists say about the age of the earth. In both cases the important part message in Genesis 1 is that God is the creator of heaven and earth. That He is sovereign and almighty. That He gives a special responsibility to man to be His representative on earth. And that He has the right to receive our worship.
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Gift from God
In Genesis 2, we read that God created man and woman and placed them in a garden, while telling them to obey Him. Some Christians read this as a literal description of what happened on day six of creation, with the story going back to explain more precisely what happened on day six. Other Christians again see scope for a more poetic understanding of the chapter. For both groups, the message that we get from the passage is the same. Our life is a gift from God; the earth and how we can use it to make a living is a gift from God; love between a husband and a wife is a gift from God; God wants us to trust and obey Him; and God wants to give us eternal life.
So however we understand Genesis 1 and 2 in relation to scientific questions about the age of the earth, it is clear that there is no contradiction between chapter 1 and 2. An apparent contradiction is that in Genesis 2:5 it says that when man was created “no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up”, while in chapter 1 vegetation is created before man. But in the two chapters different words are used, and in chapter 2 the reference is to plants that grow through agriculture.
Another apparent contradiction is that in Genesis 2:19 it seems that the animals were created after man, while in chapter one man is created last. But in chapter 2 we are just reminded that “the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens”, before the Lord brings them to Adam. So again there is no contradiction.
Genesis 1 and 2 build upon each other. They highlight different truths about creation and about our relationship to the Creator. To be created in the image of God gives us a special responsibility!