And God said, "Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth." And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.
These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens. When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up - for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground - then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.
And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
The Claim: Genesis 1 claims that plants were created before man, and Genesis 2 says that man was created before the plants. That's a contradiction.
The Explanation: Genesis 1 does state that the plants were created on day 3, which is before man was created, which happened on day 6. Therefore, I need only to address the passage in Genesis 2.
Genesis 2 also supports that plants were created before man. Let's break down Genesis 2:4-9 and analyze it further, starting in verse 5, which says "...and there was no man to work the ground." So there's no man to tend a garden. Then in verse 6, God has a mist to water the whole ground.
Now if we stop here and think for a moment, the logical question that would arise would be, "why is God watering the ground if there is nothing to water?" There was no one to witness God watering the ground, so God wouldn't do that to show someone a miracle. Thinking that God had this mist water the ground just to see if God could do it also makes no sense, because an almighty God would not have a need to test His abilities just to see if he can do it, so that doesn't make sense. The most logical answer to the question is that there were already seeds in the ground. Verse 5 says there was no bush or plant that had sprung up yet, but verse 5 does not say that there were no seeds in the ground.
Therefore, given verse 5 and 6, we can still logically deduct that man was created after the plants. Verse 7 discusses the formation of man. Verse 8 gives us two more ways to support the idea that plants were created before man. Let's analyze some more.
Verse 8 starts out by saying, "And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden..." Clearly, God planted the garden, and man didn't. This continues to support that God created plants before man. Man can't plant the garden if the plants came before man. The last part of verse 8 is perhaps the strongest reason to conclude that man was created after the plants. The last part of verse 8 says "...and there he put the man whom he had formed." Man could not have been placed in the garden of Eden before the garden was there. The garden must have already been there in order for man to be placed there.
To recap, there are 3 major indicators that support plants being created before man in Genesis 2:4-9. They are:
1. God had a mist water the ground before there was man to tend the land. (verse 5)
2. God planted the garden of Eden. (verse 8)
3. God placed man in the garden, so the garden was there before man. (verse 8)
Therefore, we can conclude that Genesis 2:4-9 is consistent with Genesis 1:11-13, which states that plants were created before man. There is no contradiction here.