Was there human or animal death before Adam and Eve sinned?
At creation, God specifically gave plants and the fruits of plants to man and animals as food. No mention is made of eating animal flesh. Genesis 1:26-31.
God's word to allow eating of animals came later. Two trees are mentioned specifically in this account: the "tree in the midst of the garden" (v.3) (tree of knowledge of good and evil) and the "tree of life" (v.22). They were forbidden to eat from ONE tree, which means they were allowed to eat from the tree of life before the fall. This would indicate that they were not subject to death.
Adam and Eve made coverings of leaves, indicating that they knew it was wrong to kill animals (v.7). God made garments of animal skins - the first blood sacrifice for sin, the beginning of physical death. Human beings are now subject to physical death (v.19). NOW man will be kept away from the tree of life (v.22).
Are we talking about physical death or spiritual death?
Answer: both. (Romans 5:10-12) God now expands the allowable foods to include animals. (Genesis 1:26-31)
Where death and dying are mentioned in this chapter, it is talking about physical death primarily and spiritual death secondarily. Notice that this chapter talks about Jesus' death. Since Jesus died physically but not spiritually, this clearly indicates that physical death is the subject. This confirms that Genesis 3 is talking primarily about physical death.
Is there a conflict between Genesis chapter one and Genesis chapter two?
The phrase "This is the account of" (NIV) or "These are the generations of" (KJV)is a
difinite division between two sections of the the book. This phrase is used 10 or 11 times
throughout Genesis to signify the end of the account of one person and the beginning of
the account of another person. Examples are Genesis 5:1; 6:9; 10:1; etc. This phrase is
used in Genesis 2:4 to signify a division between two accounts.
The most commonly accepted understanding of these two accounts is that Genesis 1:1
through 2:3 is a general description of the six days of creation and the seventh day of rest
and that Genesis 2:4-25 is a more detailed description of the sixth day of creation.
Everything in chapter two seems consistent with this explanation except for verses 5 and
6 which seem to say that no plants had appeared on the earth at this point in time. This
would seem to be inconsistent with chapter one which clearly says that plants were
created on the third day.
Here are two possible explanations for this problem.
1. Plants indeed were created on the third day and already existed by the beginning of the
sixth day. It is possible that the phrases "shrub of the field" and "plant of the field" refer
to "domesticated" plants and not to all wild plants of nature. The phrases "there was no
man to work the ground" and "The LORD God had planted a garden" would support this
explanation. Wild plants that did not need man's cultivation existed from the third day,
but plants that did need cultivation had not begun to grow yet. Note that this does not
necessarily mean that these plants had not been created yet, but only that they had not
begun to grow yet.
2. The New International Version uses the verb form "had planted" in verse 8, which
would indicate that the planting of the garden actually occurred in time before the
formation of the man. Therefore, it is possible that verses 5 and 6, and the beginning of
verse 8, actually describe events on the third day, while the rest of this section describes
events on the sixth day. There are many places in the Bible where events are not recorded
in chronological order. God's purpose in giving us the Bible is to reveal Himself to us so
that we can love and worship Him. His purpose is not to provide us with a chronological
record of history.