Plants and trees (Genesis chap. 1, vers. 11-12)

The second work of this day is the world of plants as the lowest level of organic life. Here one can ask if a Hebrew would also rank the plants in this way. They obviously do not have nefesh (“life”) like the animals.

This creature too is called into existence by God’s creative word, but here an expression unused until now attracts attention. The addressed subject is the earth, summoned and empowered to maternal participation in this creative act.

Here ancient thoughts about the Mother Earth may in fact be prominent. And yet the concern is certainly not with ideas that were unassimilated and rather unwillingly handed down by tradition, but rather with something carefully considered: the mediate relation existing between God and the plant world is not to be overlooked. The life of plants as such has its immediacy to the earth and her creative power; it springs from her and returns to her.

The “greenness” is here divided into two chief kinds: herbs, which yield seed directly, and trees, which yield fruit in which their seed is contained. Here too in briefest terms a broad area of creation is conceptually outlined: the vital seed, which is thrown off the plant; the fruitfulness of the maternal earth; and behind and beyond everything, God’s creative word of command. One is reminded unmistakably of the term “natura”; the term, however, is bounded by the term “creatura” (From G. Von Rad, Genesis. A Commentary, pp. 54-55)

Simone Venturini


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