Plants Don't Die According to Young Earth Creationists
by Rich Deem

No Plant Death?

In their zeal to defend the young earth doctrine of no death before the fall of Adam and Eve, Answers in Genesis now claims that plants aren't alive nor do they die. Is this really what the Bible says?

Rich Deem


Recently, I went to a lecture by Terry Mortenson of Answers in Genesis (AIG). His talk was to cover the evidence for the young earth interpretation of creation. Much of the talk was devoted to the young earth doctrine of no death before the fall of Adam and Eve. A complete discussion of why this doctrine is not biblically sound can be found on the page No Death Before the Fall - A Young Earth Problem. The thing I found astounding in the talk was Mortenson's claim that "plants aren't alive" and "plants don't die in a biblical sense."1 Did the writers of the Bible really believe and claim that plants weren't alive?

No death before the fall?

AIG says that the doctrine that there was no death prior to the fall of Adam and Eve is foundational to Christianity. The claim is that God's creation could not be called "good" if death (even animal death) were a part of it. The claim comes from Romans 5:12:

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned— (Romans 5:12)

The verse nowhere talks about animal or plant death, which Mortenson readily admitted. However, he claimed that the rest of the Bible clearly suggested that the verse also applied to animal death. The problem is that such a claim would require equating the death of all creatures with sin. Animals are incapable of understanding the concept of sin. Neither can they understand the concepts of atonement and redemption. Romans 5:12 is clearly referring to human sin and human death. The Bible is clear that sin brought human death, since God told Adam that disobeying His instruction about eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would result in his death:

but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day [yôm] that you eat from it you will surely die." (Genesis 2:17)

It is interesting to note that the day [yôm] in which Adam died was over 900 years long,2 further suggesting that Genesis days were not 24 hours, but long periods of time.

Is all death evil?

Holman QuickSource Guide to Understanding CreationThe young earth claim that all death is evil is not found in the Bible. In fact, the Bible says that God provides food for the carnivores (animals that eat other animals):

Obviously, if killing animals were evil, then God would be guilty of sin, something that the Bible vehemently denies.3 In fact, the verses from Job 38 were spoken directly by God to Job. Since God had no problem with animal death, then it is clear He thinks it to be part of His good creation.

Even human death is not always evil, since it ushers a believer into the presence of God:

Plants are alive!

Young earth creationists tend to look at English translations of Genesis 1 that describe some of God's creations as "living creatures." The word translated  "living" is the Hebrew word chay, which has a primary meaning of "living" or "alive."4 However, the word is also used in association with water (e.g., "living water"), in which it refers to water that is not stagnant, but moving. Young earth creationists assume that since the term is not applied to plants in Genesis 1 that they must not be living. However, the term chay can apply to vegetation, in which it is usually translated as "green,"4 referring to living plants, as opposed to brown or dead plants. So, the term chay can refer to living plants.

Plants don't die?

Some young earth creationists claim that plants don't die, but just "wither" or "fade."5 However, the Bible does actually say that plants die. For example, Ezekiel 31:2-18 compares Pharaoh king of Egypt to the cedars of Lebanon, including, in part, "No other trees so well-watered are ever to reach such a height; they are all destined for death..."6 In addition, Isaiah 15:6 says that the grass "died out."

For the waters of Nimrim are desolate. Surely the grass is withered, the tender grass died out [kâlâh], There is no green thing. (Isaiah 15:6)

The Hebrew word kâlâh translated "died out" has the meaning of "put to an end" and even "to destroy, exterminate,"7 and is often used to describe the death and destruction of human beings, including judgment by God.8

In addition, the Bible specifically compares the deaths of humans to those of plants:

Therefore, the idea that the Bible claims plants don't die is not at all supported.

Conclusion Top of page

The young earth creationist claim that plants aren't alive according to the Bible is shown to be false. The only reason why young earth organizations feel a need to defend such a preposterous doctrine is because of their paradigm of no death at all before the fall of Adam and Eve. AIG and ICR fall into the same trap as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), who also must claim that plants aren't alive,9 in order to maintain their dogma of not eating living things. However, scientifically and biblically, plants are alive and they do die. Plants did die before the fall of Adam and Eve and continue to die to this day. Plant and animal death is non-spiritual and is not a result of Adam and Eve's sin. As God told Adam in Genesis 2:17, his sin would result in his death, which he passed on to all human beings, since all have sinned (Romans 5:12).

For more information see the book Peril in Paradise: Theology, Science, and the Age of the EarthPeril in Paradise: Theology, Science, and the Age of the Earth by Mark S. Whorton, Ph.D., a scientist from the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. Dr. Whorton's book goes beyond the superficial doctrines espoused by the young earth "perfect paradise" paradigm to examine underlying assumptions and extra-biblical teachings of the movement. Peril in Paradise examines verses cited as support for the perfect paradise paradigm in context to determine their actual meaning. In addition, the book compares the perfect paradise paradigm to the perfect purpose paradigm proposed by old earth creationists. Since the book sticks to the scriptures almost exclusively, it cannot be claimed that old earth creationists ignore the scriptures in preference to "fallible science."

References Top of page

  1. Are Plants Alive? by John D. Morris, Ph.D. (Institute for Creation Research)
    Biblically, Could Death Have Existed before Sin? by Bodie Hodge (Answers in Genesis)
  2. So all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years, and he died. (Genesis 5:5)
  3. "Since the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp to deliver you and to defeat your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy; and He must not see anything indecent among you lest He turn away from you." (Deuteronomy 23:14)
    And the men of Beth-shemesh said, "Who is able to stand before the Lord, this holy God? And to whom shall He go up from us?" (1 Samuel 6:20)
    He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
    in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago, (Titus 1:2)
    This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5)
    You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. (1 John 3:5)
  4. Hebrew word chay:
    • Strong's Hebrew Dictionary:
      H2416 חי chay khah'ee From H2421; alive; hence raw (flesh); fresh (plant, water, year), strong; also (as noun, especially in the feminine singular and masculine plural) life (or living thing), whether literally or figuratively: - + age, alive, appetite, (wild) beast, company, congregation, life (-time), live (-ly), living (creature, thing), maintenance, + merry, multitude, + (be) old, quick, raw, running, springing, troop.
    • Brown-Driver Brigg's Hebrew Definitions:
      chay חי (Strong's H2416)
      1. living, alive (adjective)
        1. green (of vegetation)
        2. flowing, fresh (of water)
        3. lively, active (of man)
        4. reviving (of the springtime)
      2. relatives (noun masculine)
      3. life (abstract emphatic) (noun masculine)
        1. life
        2. sustenance, maintenance
      4. living thing, animal (noun feminine)
        1. animal
        2. life
        3. appetite
        4. revival, renewal
      5. community (noun feminine)
      Part of Speech: see above in Definition
      A Related Word by BDB/Strong’s Number: from H2421
      Same Word by TWOT Number: 644a
    • New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance:
      H2416a חי chay (311d); from H2421a; alive, living: - alive (38), flowing (2), fresh (1), green (1), life (7), live (44), lives (54), living (63), living one (4), living thing (6), man living (1), next (2), next year (2), raw (6), renewed (1), running (6), next year (1), vigorous (1), who lives (1).
  5. Plants whither or fade:
    • While still growing and uncut, they wither more quickly than grass. (Job 8:12)
    • He will not escape the darkness; a flame will wither his shoots, and the breath of God's mouth will carry him away. (Job 15:30)
    • His roots dry up below and his branches wither above. (Job 18:16)
    • He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. (Psalms 1:3)
    • for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. (Psalms 37:2)
    • My days are like the evening shadow; I wither away like grass. (Psalms 102:11)
    • The fields of Heshbon wither, the vines of Sibmah also. The rulers of the nations have trampled down the choicest vines, which once reached Jazer and spread toward the desert. Their shoots spread out and went as far as the sea. (Isaiah 16:8)
    • The canals will stink; the streams of Egypt will dwindle and dry up. The reeds and rushes will wither, (Isaiah 19:6)
    • No sooner are they planted, no sooner are they sown, no sooner do they take root in the ground, than he blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff. (Isaiah 40:24)
    • "'I will take away their harvest, declares the LORD. There will be no grapes on the vine. There will be no figs on the tree, and their leaves will wither. What I have given them will be taken from them.'" (Jeremiah 8:13)
    • "Say to them, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Will it thrive? Will it not be uprooted and stripped of its fruit so that it withers? All its new growth will wither. It will not take a strong arm or many people to pull it up by the roots. (Ezekiel 17:9)
    • Even if it is transplanted, will it thrive? Will it not wither completely when the east wind strikes it--wither away in the plot where it grew?'" (Ezekiel 17:10)
    • Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing." (Ezekiel 47:12)
    • He rebukes the sea and dries it up; he makes all the rivers run dry. Bashan and Carmel wither and the blossoms of Lebanon fade. (Nahum 1:4)
    • When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. "How did the fig tree wither so quickly?" they asked. (Matthew 21:20)
    • For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business. (James 1:11)
  6. "Son of man, say to Pharaoh king of Egypt and to his hordes: "'Who can be compared with you in majesty? Consider Assyria, once a cedar in Lebanon, with beautiful branches overshadowing the forest; it towered on high, its top above the thick foliage. The waters nourished it, deep springs made it grow tall; their streams flowed all around its base and sent their channels to all the trees of the field. So it towered higher than all the trees of the field; its boughs increased and its branches grew long, spreading because of abundant waters. All the birds of the air nested in its boughs, all the beasts of the field gave birth under its branches; all the great nations lived in its shade. It was majestic in beauty, with its spreading boughs, for its roots went down to abundant waters. The cedars in the garden of God could not rival it, nor could the pine trees equal its boughs, nor could the plane trees compare with its branches-- no tree in the garden of God could match its beauty. I made it beautiful with abundant branches, the envy of all the trees of Eden in the garden of God. "'Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: Because it towered on high, lifting its top above the thick foliage, and because it was proud of its height, I handed it over to the ruler of the nations, for him to deal with according to its wickedness. I cast it aside, and the most ruthless of foreign nations cut it down and left it. Its boughs fell on the mountains and in all the valleys; its branches lay broken in all the ravines of the land. All the nations of the earth came out from under its shade and left it. All the birds of the air settled on the fallen tree, and all the beasts of the field were among its branches. Therefore no other trees by the waters are ever to tower proudly on high, lifting their tops above the thick foliage. No other trees so well-watered are ever to reach such a height; they are all destined for death, for the earth below, among mortal men, with those who go down to the pit. "'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: On the day it was brought down to the grave I covered the deep springs with mourning for it; I held back its streams, and its abundant waters were restrained. Because of it I clothed Lebanon with gloom, and all the trees of the field withered away. I made the nations tremble at the sound of its fall when I brought it down to the grave with those who go down to the pit. Then all the trees of Eden, the choicest and best of Lebanon, all the trees that were well-watered, were consoled in the earth below. Those who lived in its shade, its allies among the nations, had also gone down to the grave with it, joining those killed by the sword. "'Which of the trees of Eden can be compared with you in splendor and majesty? Yet you, too, will be brought down with the trees of Eden to the earth below; you will lie among the uncircumcised, with those killed by the sword. "'This is Pharaoh and all his hordes, declares the Sovereign LORD.'" (Ezekiel 31:2-18)
  7. Brown-Driver-Briggs' Hebrew Definitions:
    kâlâh כּלה (Strong's H3615)
    1. to accomplish, cease, consume, determine, end, fail, finish, be complete, be accomplished, be ended, be at an end, be finished, be spent
      1. (Qal)
        1. to be complete, be at an end
        2. to be completed, be finished
        3. to be accomplished, be fulfilled
        4. to be determined, be plotted (bad sense)
        5. to be spent, be used up
        6. to waste away, be exhausted, fail
        7. to come to an end, vanish, perish, be destroyed
      2. (Piel)
        1. to complete, bring to an end, finish
        2. to complete (a period of time)
        3. to finish (doing a thing)
        4. to make an end, end
        5. to accomplish, fulfil, bring to pass
        6. to accomplish, determine (in thought)
        7. to put an end to, cause to cease
        8. to cause to fail, exhaust, use up, spend
        9. to destroy, exterminate
      3. (Pual) to be finished, be ended, be completed
    Part of Speech: verb
    A Related Word by BDB/Strong’s Number: a primitive root
    Same Word by TWOT Number: 982, 983, 984
  8. kâlâh refers to human death:
    • "Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy [kâlâh] them; and I will make of you a great nation." (Exodus 32:10)
    • and the LORD sent you on a mission, and said, 'Go and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are exterminated [kâlâh].' (1 Samuel 15:18)
    • "I pursued my enemies and destroyed them, And I did not turn back until they were consumed [kâlâh]. (2 Samuel 22:38)
    • shall we again break Your commandments and intermarry with the peoples who commit these abominations? Would You not be angry with us to the point of destruction [kâlâh], until there is no remnant nor any who escape? (Ezra 9:14)
    • "I will scatter them among the nations, whom neither they nor their fathers have known; and I will send the sword after them until I have annihilated [kâlâh] them." (Jeremiah 9:16)
    • You called as in the day of an appointed feast My terrors on every side; And there was no one who escaped or survived In the day of the LORD'S anger. Those whom I bore and reared, My enemy annihilated [kâlâh] them. (Lamentations 2:22)
    • "But the house of Israel rebelled against Me in the wilderness. They did not walk in My statutes and they rejected My ordinances, by which, if a man observes them, he will live; and My sabbaths they greatly profaned. Then I resolved to pour out My wrath on them in the wilderness, to annihilate [kâlâh] them. (Ezekiel 20:13)
    • The sword will whirl against their cities, And will demolish [kâlâh] their gate bars And consume [kâlâh] them because of their counsels. (Hosea 11:6)
  9. Plants Are not Alive, Says PETA by Laurence A. Moran
Last updated September 5, 2012


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