Many have noted that there is an apparent discrepancy in the two creation accounts of Genesis 1 and 2. In Genesis 1, humanity is God’s final creation, whereas in Genesis 2, humanity is created (2:7) both before plants (2:5, 9) and before the animals (2:19).
A solution to the plants issue is to note that Genesis 2 refers to the “plants of the field”. The word “field” (sadeh) here is usually used to refer to a flat place suitable for agriculture, as opposed to the word used in 1:11, “earth”, which is ‘erets — a word which has much broader geographic connotations.
See for example the contrasts between the two words in the following passages:
Gen 23:12-13- “Then Abraham bowed down before the people of the land. And he said to Ephron in the hearing of the people of the land, “But if you will, hear me: I give the price of the field. Accept it from me, that I may bury my dead there.”
Ex 9:22- “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, so that there may be hail in all the land of Egypt, on man and beast and every plant of the field, in the land of Egypt.”
Lev 25:2-3- “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall keep a Sabbath to the Lord. 3 For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits”
This fits well with the latter part of 2:5- ‘there was not yet man to till the ground’. Thus the passage is not saying that there were no plants created yet at all, but that a special place (Eden) was set aside for the foundation of agriculture and for plants “of the field” to be developed.
The second problem of the animals can be solved simply by realising that the word “formed” of 2:19 can be translated as “had formed”. The context would imply that this indeed is a better rendering.