"Adam" is both the proper name of the first human and a designation for humankind. God himself gave this appellation to Adam and Eve ( Gen 5:1-2 ). The color red lies behind the Hebrew root adam [; 'a]. This may reflect the red soil from which he was made.
Adam was formed from the ground ( Gen 2:7 ). Word play between "Adam" and "ground" (adama [h'm'd}a]) is unmistakable. It is important that Adam is identified with humankind rather than any particular nationality. The country from which the dust was taken is not specified. Rabbis believed it came from all over the earth so no one could say, "My father is greater than yours."
The word "formed" suggests the careful work of a potter making an exquisite art-piece. Into this earthen vessel God breathed the breath of life ( Gen 2:7 ). These words describe vivid intimacy between God and man not shared by animals.
Adam was made a little lower than "angels" (or "God") at his creation and "crowned with glory and honor" ( Psalm 8:5 ). (Rabbis speculated the glory of Adam's heel outshone the sun.) He was commissioned as a vassal king to rule over God's creation. The words "subdue, " "rule, " "under his feet" ( Gen 1:28 ; Psalm 8:6 ) suggest kingship over nature but not over his fellow man.
Many elements present in Mesopotamian creation stories like Enuma Elish are absent. There is nothing about autocratic king ship lowered from heaven. No brick mold is given. Adam is not laden with the task of building temples and cities. He was not created to relieve Gods of tedious labor but to reflect God's care of the world of nature. God did not appoint death for Adam and keep life exclusively for himself as in the Gilgameth epic.
No shrub or cultivated plant had yet grown where Adam was created. He awoke to a barren landscape ( Gen 2:5-7 ). His first sight may have been God planting a garden for him. He could clearly see that all good and perfect gifts come from the Lord God.
Man was placed into this beauty to "work it and take care of it" ( Gen 2:15 ). Unlike the Sumerian garden story of Enki and Ninhursag, there was no gardener working for Adam. Meaningful, productive activity was always part of paradise. Adam was not placed there to be a vegetable but to grow them. Man was not created to be waited on but to join God in preserving and propagating creation.
Man was furnished with every pleasant, nourishing experience God could provide. He was warned about the tree of knowledge of good and evil (2:17). The Hebrew word for "know" includes the idea of knowing by experience. The forbidden tree contained the option of experiencing the opposite of what comes from the hand of God. God wished to spare Adam from pain and death but at the same time left him freedom of choice for options beyond the sphere of his provision.
Adam was not only a laborer but a thinker. God brought him all the animals to see what he would call them. Included in ancient ideas of naming would also be sovereignty over the item named. (Note that Hebrews brought before the king are renamed in Dan 1:7 ).
The first lesson Adam learned was that his work was too big to do alone. His inspection of the animal kingdom revealed no suitable helper. The one who would make his life complete came from his own rib. They would become one flesh ( Gen 2:18-24 ). This is a far different scenario from the sexual escapades of Enki (= "lord of the earth") in the Sumerian garden story.
The most intelligent animal confronted humankind under whose feet he had been placed ( Gen 1:28 ; 3:1 ). Was Eve selected because she would in some way be easier to deceive? Or was the more difficult subject taken first? It is noteworthy that no special efforts to persuade Adam are recorded. He seems to eat what he is offered without objection ( 3:6 ). It is, however, important to observe that Adam was called first as the one whose position of leadership made him responsible for the act ( 3:9 ).
The anticipation of being like God never materialized. Adam and Eve's state of existence was not enhanced but filled with misery and death. They would have to leave the garden to experience what life would be outside God's perfect will.
See also Eve; Fall, the; Genesis, Theology of
Bibliography. W. Brueggemann, Genesis; J. Davis, Paradise to Prison; L. Harris, Man God's Eternal Creation; A Ross, Creation and Blessing.
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of
Baker Book House Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan USA.
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[N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
[E] indicates this entry was also found in Easton's Bible Dictionary
[H] indicates this entry was also found in Hitchcock's Bible Names
[S] indicates this entry was also found in Smith's Bible Dictionary
Bibliography InformationElwell, Walter A. "Entry for 'Adam'". "Evangelical Dictionary of Theology".