corner graphic

Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature

Adam

Resource Toolbox
Additional Links

Adam, 1

Ad´am, the word by which the Bible designates the first human being.

It is evident that, in the earliest use of language, the vocal sound employed to designate the first perceived object, of any kind, would be an appellative, and would be formed from something known or apprehended to be a characteristic property of that object. The word would, therefore, be at once the appellative and the proper name. But when other objects of the same kind were discovered, or subsequently came into existence, difficulty would be felt; it would become necessary to guard against confusion, and the inventive faculty would be called upon to obtain a discriminative term for each and singular individual, while some equally appropriate term would be fixed upon for the whole kind. Different methods of effecting these two purposes might be resorted to, but the most natural would be to retain the original term in its simple state, for the first individual: and to make some modification of it by prefixing another sound, or by subjoining one, or by altering the vowel or vowels in the body of the word, in order to have a term for the kind, and for the separate individuals of the kind.

This reasoning is exemplified in the first applications of the word before us: (Genesis 1:26), 'Let us make man [Adam] in our image;' (Genesis 1:27), 'And God created the man [the Adam] in his own image.' The next instance (Genesis 2:7) expresses the source of derivation, a character or property; namely, the material of which the human body was formed: 'And the Lord God [Jehovah Elohim] formed the man [the Adam] dust from the ground [the adamah]'. The meaning of the primary word is, most probably, any kind of reddish tint, as a beautiful human complexion (Lamentations 4:7); but its various derivatives are applied to different objects of a red or brown hue, or approaching to such. The word Adam, therefore, is an appellative noun made into a proper one. It is further remarkable that, in all the other instances in Genesis 2-3, which are nineteen, it is put with the article, the man, or the Adam.

The question arises, Was the uttered sound, originally employed for this purpose, the very phonetic Adam, or was it some other sound of correspondent signification? This is equivalent to asking, what was the primitive language of men?

That language originated in the instinctive cries of human beings herding together in a condition like that of common animals, is an hypothesis which, apart from all testimony of revelation, must appear unreasonable to a man of serious reflection. There are other animals, besides man, whose organs are capable of producing articulate sounds, through a considerable range of variety, and distinctly pronounced. How, then, is it that parrots, jays, and starlings have not among themselves developed an articulate language, transmitted it to their successive generations, and improved it, both in the life-time of the individual and in the series of many generations? Those birds never attempt to speak till they are compelled by a difficult process on the part of their trainers, and they never train each other.

Upon the mere ground of reasoning from the necessity of the case, it seems an inevitable conclusion that not the capacity merely, but the actual use of speech, with the corresponding faculty of promptly understanding it, was given to the first human beings by a superior power: and it would be a gratuitous absurdity to suppose that power to be any other than the Almighty Creator. In what manner such communication or infusion of what would be equivalent to a habit took place, it is in vain to inquire; the subject lies beyond the range of human investigation: but, from the evident exigency, it must have been instantaneous, or nearly so. It is not necessary to suppose that a copious language was thus bestowed upon the human creatures in the first stage of their existence. We need to suppose only so much as would be requisite for the notation of the ideas of natural wants and the most important mental conceptions; and from these, as germs, the powers of the mind and the faculty of vocal designation would educe new words and combinations as occasion demanded.

That the language thus formed continued to be the universal speech of mankind till after the deluge, and till the great cause of diversity took place, is in itself the most probable supposition [TONGUES, CONFUSION OF]. If there were any families of men which were not involved in the crime of the Babel-builders, they would almost certainly retain the primeval language. The longevity of the men of that period would be a powerful conservative of that language against the slow changes of time. That there were such exceptions seems to be almost an indubitable inference from the fact that Noah long survived the unholy attempt. His faithful piety would not have suffered him to fall into the snare; and it is difficult to suppose that none of his children and descendants would listen to his admonitions, and hold fast their integrity by adhering to him: on the contrary, it is reasonable to suppose that the habit and character of piety were established in many of them.

The confusion of tongues, therefore, whatever was the nature of that judicial visitation, would not fall upon that portion of men which was the most orderly, thoughtful, and pious, among whom the second father of mankind dwelt as their acknowledged and revered head.

If this supposition be admitted, we can have no difficulty in regarding as the mother of languages, not indeed the Hebrew, absolutely speaking, but that which was the stock whence branched the Hebrew, and its sister tongues, usually called the Shemitic, but more properly, by Dr. Prichard, the Syro-Arabian. It may then be maintained that the actually spoken names of Adam and all the others mentioned in the antediluvian history were those which we have in the Hebrew Bible, very slightly and not at all essentially varied.

It is among the clearest deductions of reason, that men and all dependent beings have been created, that is, produced or brought into their first existence by an intelligent and adequately powerful being. A question, however, arises of great interest and importance. Did the Almighty Creator produce only one man and one woman, from whom all other human beings have descended?—or did he create several parental pairs, from whom distinct stocks of men have been derived? The affirmative of the latter position has been maintained by some, and, it must be confessed, not without apparent reason. The manifest and great differences in complexion and figure, which distinguish several races of mankind, are supposed to be such as entirely to forbid the conclusion that they have all descended from one father and one mother. The question is usually regarded as equivalent to this: whether there is only one species of men, or there are several. But we cannot, in strict fairness, admit that the questions are identical. It is hypothetically conceivable that the Adorable God might give existence to any number of creatures, which should all possess the properties that characterize identity of species, even without such differences as constitute varieties, or with any degree of those differences.

But the admission of the possibility is not a concession of the reality. So great is the evidence in favor of the derivation of the entire mass of human beings from one pair of ancestors, that it has obtained the suffrage of the men most competent to judge upon a question of comparative anatomy and physiology.

The animals which render eminent services to man, and peculiarly depend upon his protection, are widely diffused—the horse, the dog, the hog, and the domestic fowl. Now of these, the varieties in each species are numerous and different, to a degree so great, that an observer ignorant of physiological history would scarcely believe them to be of the same species. But man is the most widely diffused of any animal. In the progress of ages and generations, he has naturalized himself to every climate, and to modes of life which would prove fatal to an individual man suddenly transferred from a remote point of the field. The alterations produced affect every part of the body, internal and external, without extinguishing the marks of the specific identity. A further and striking evidence is, that when persons of different varieties are conjugally united, the offspring, especially in two or three generations, becomes more prolific, and acquires a higher perfection in physical and mental qualities than was found in either of the parental races. From the deepest African black to the finest Caucasian white, the change runs through imperceptible gradations; and, if a middle hue be assumed, suppose some tint of brown, all the varieties of complexion may be explained upon the principle of divergence influenced by outward circumstances. The conclusion may be fairly drawn, in the words of the able translators and illustrators of Baron Cuvier's great work—'We are fully warranted in concluding, both from the comparison of man with inferior animals, so far as the inferiority will allow of such comparison, and, beyond that, by comparing him with himself, that the great family of mankind loudly proclaim a descent, at some period or other, from one common origin.'

Thus, by an investigation totally independent of historical authority, we are brought to the conclusion of the inspired writings, that the Creator hath made of one blood all nations of men, for to dwell on all the face of the earth' (Acts 17:26).

We shall now follow the course of those sacred documents in tracing the history of the first man, persuaded that their right interpretation is a sure basis of truth. At the same time we shall not reject illustrations from natural history and the reason of particular facts.

It is evident upon a little reflection, and the closest investigation confirms the conclusion, that the first human pair must have been created in a state equivalent to that which all subsequent human beings have had to reach by slow degrees, in growth, experience, observation, imitation, and the instruction of others: that is, a state of prime maturity, and with an infusion, concreation, or whatever we may call it, of knowledge and habits, both physical and intellectual, suitable to the place which man had to occupy in the system of creation, and adequate to his necessities in that place. Had it been otherwise, the new beings could not have preserved their animal existence, nor have held rational converse with each other, nor have paid to their Creator the homage of knowledge and love, adoration, and obedience; and reason clearly tells us that the last was the noblest end of existence. Those whom unhappy prejudices lead to reject revelation must either admit this, or must resort to suppositions of palpable absurdity and impossibility. If they will not admit a direct action of Divine power in creation and adaptation to the designed mode of existence, they must admit something far beyond the miraculous, an infinite succession of finite beings, or a spontaneous production of order, organization, and systematic action, from some unintelligent origin. The Bible coincides with this dictate of honest reason, expressing these facts in simple and artless language, suited to the circumstances of the men to whom revelation was first granted. That this production in a mature state was the fact with regard to the vegetable part of the creation, is declared in Genesis 2:4-5 : 'In the day of Jehovah God's making the earth and the heavens, and every shrub of the field before it should be in the earth, and every herb of the field before it should bud.' The two terms, shrubs and herbage, are put to designate the whole vegetable kingdom. The reason of the case comprehends the other division of organized nature; and this is applied to man and all other animals, in the words, 'Out of the ground—dust out of the ground—Jehovah God formed them.'

It is to be observed that there are two narratives at the beginning of the Mosaic records, different in style and manner, distinct and independent; at first sight somewhat discrepant, but when strictly examined, perfectly compatible, and each one illustrating and completing the other. The first is contained in Genesis 1:1 to Genesis 2:3; and the other, Genesis 2:4 to Genesis 4:26. As is the case with the Scripture history generally, they consist of a few principal facts, detached anecdotes, leaving much of necessary implication which the good sense of the reader is called upon to supply; and passing over large spaces of the history of life, upon which all conjecture would be fruitless.

In the second of these narratives we read, 'And Jehovah God formed the man [Heb. the Adam], dust from the ground [ha-adamah], and blew into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living animal' (Genesis 2:7). Here are two objects of attention, the organic mechanism of the human body, and the vitality with which it was endowed.

The mechanical material, formed (molded, or arranged, as an artificer models clay or wax) into the human and all other animal bodies, is called 'dust from the ground.' This would be a natural and easy expression to men in the early ages, before chemistry was known or minute philosophical distinctions were thought of, to convey, in a general form, the idea of earthy matter, the constituent substance of the ground on which we tread. To say, that of this the human and every other animal body was formed, is a position which would be at once the most easily apprehensible to an uncultivated mind, and which yet is the most exactly true upon the highest philosophical grounds. We now know, from chemical analysis, that the animal body is composed, in the inscrutable manner called organization, of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, lime, iron, sulfur, and phosphorus. Now all these are mineral substances, which in their various combinations form a very large part of the solid ground.

The expression which we have rendered 'living animal' sets before us the organic life of the animal frame, that mysterious something which man cannot create nor restore, which baffles the most acute philosophers to search out its nature, and which reason combines with Scripture to refer to the immediate agency of the Almighty—'in him we live, and move, and have our being.'

The other narrative is contained in these words, 'God created man in his own image: in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them' (Genesis 1:27). The image (resemblance, such as a shadow bears to the object which casts it) of God is an expression which breathes at once archaic simplicity and the most recondite wisdom; for what term could the most cultivated and copious language bring forth more suitable to the purpose? It presents to us man as made in a resemblance to the author of his being, a true resemblance, but faint and shadowy; an outline, faithful according to its capacity, yet infinitely remote from the reality: a distant form of the intelligence, wisdom, power, rectitude, goodness, and dominion of the Adorable Supreme. To the inferior sentient beings with which he is connected man stands in the place of God. We have every reason to think that none of them are capable of conceiving a being higher than man. All, in their different ways, look up to him as their superior; the ferocious generally flee before him, afraid to encounter his power, and the gentle court his protection and show their highest joy to consist in serving and pleasing him. Even in our degenerate state it is manifest that if we treat the domesticated animals with wisdom and kindness, their attachment is most ardent and faithful.

Thus had man the shadow of the divine dominion and authority over the inferior creation. The attribute of power was also given to him, in his being made able to convert the inanimate objects and those possessing only the vegetable life, into the instruments and the materials for supplying his wants, and continually enlarging his sphere of command.

In such a state of things knowledge and wisdom are implied: the one quality, an acquaintance with those substances and their changeful actions which were necessary for a creature like man to understand, in order to his safety and comfort; the other, such sagacity as would direct him in selecting the best objects of desire and pursuit, and the right means for attaining them.

Above all, moral excellence must have been comprised in this 'image of God;' and not only forming a part of it, but being its crown of beauty and glory. The Christian inspiration, than which no more perfect disclosure of God is to take place on this side eternity, casts its light upon this subject: for this apostle Paul, in urging the obligations of Christians to perfect holiness, evidently alludes to the endowments of the first man in two parallel and mutually illustrative epistles; '—the new man, renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him; the new man which, after [according to] God, is created in righteousness and true holiness' (Colossians 3:10; Ephesians 4:24).

In this perfection of faculties, and with these high prerogatives of moral existence, did human nature, in its first subject, rise up from the creating hand. The whole Scripture-narrative implies that this state of existence was one of correspondent activity and enjoyment. It plainly represents the Deity himself as condescending to assume a human form and to employ human speech, in order to instruct and exercise the happy creatures whom (to borrow the just and beautiful language of the Apocryphal 'Wisdom') 'God created for incorruptibility, and made him an image of his own nature' (Wisdom of Solomon 2:23).

The noble and sublime idea that man thus had his Maker for his teacher and guide, precludes a thousand difficulties. It shows us the simple, direct, and effectual method by which the newly formed creature would have communicated to him all the intellectual knowledge, and all the practical arts and manipulations, which were needful and beneficial for him.

Religious knowledge and its appropriate habits also required an immediate infusion: and these are pre-eminently comprehended in the 'image of God.' On the one hand, it is not to be supposed that the newly created man and his female companion were inspired with a very ample share of the doctrinal knowledge which was communicated to their posterity by the successive and accumulating revolutions of more than four thousand years: and, on the other, we cannot imagine that they were left in gross ignorance upon the existence and excellencies of the Being who had made them, their obligations to him, and the way in which they might continue to receive the greatest blessings from him. It is self-evident that, to have attained such a kind and degree of knowledge, by spontaneous effort, under even the favorable circumstances of a state of negative innocence, would have been a long and arduous work. But the sacred narrative leaves no room for doubt upon this head. In the primitive style it tells of God as speaking to them, commanding, instructing, assigning their work, pointing out their danger, and showing how to avoid it. All this, reduced to the dry simplicity of detail, is equivalent to saying that the Creator, infinitely kind and condescending, by the use of forms and modes adapted to their capacity, fed their minds with truth, gave them a ready understanding of it and that delight in it which constituted holiness, taught them to hold intercourse with himself by direct addresses in both praise and prayer, and gave some disclosures of a future state of blessedness when they should have fulfilled the condition of their probation.

An especial instance of this instruction and infusion of practical habits is given to us in the narrative: 'Out of the ground Jehovah God formed every beast of the field and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto the man, to see what he would call them' (Genesis 2:19). This, taken out of the style of condescending, anthropomorphism, amounts to such a statement as the following: the Creator had not only formed man with organs of speech, but he taught him the use of them, by an immediate communication of the practical faculty and its accompanying intelligence; and he guided the man, as yet the solitary one of his species, to this among the first applications of speech, the designating of the animals with which he was connected, by appellative words which would both be the help of his memory and assist his mental operations, and thus would be introductory and facilitating to more enlarged applications of thought and language. We are further warranted, by the recognized fact of the anecdotal and fragmentary structure of the Scripture history, to regard this as the selected instance for exhibiting a whole kind or class of operations or processes; implying that, in the same or similar manner, the first man was led to understand something of the qualities and relations of vegetables, earthy matters, the visible heavens, and the other external objects to which he had a relation.

The next important article in this primeval history is the creation of the human female. The narrative is given in the more summary manner in the former of the two documents:—'Male and female created he them' (Genesis 1:27). It stands a little more at length in a third document, which begins the fifth chapter, and has the characteristic heading or title by which the Hebrews designated a separate work. 'This, the book of the generations of Adam. In the day God created Adam; he made him in the likeness of God, male and female he created them; and he blessed them, and he called their name Adam, in the day of their being created' (Genesis 5:1-2).

The second of the narratives is more circumstantial: 'And Jehovah God said, it is not good the man's being alone: I will make for him a help suitable for him,' Genesis 2:18. Then follows the passage concerning the review and the naming of the inferior animals; and it continues—'but for Adam he found not a help suitable for him. And Jehovah God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man [the Adam], and he slept: and he took one out of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place: and Jehovah God built up the rib which he had taken from the man into a woman, and he brought her to the man,' Genesis 2:20-22.

The next particular into which the sacred history leads us, is one which we cannot approach without a painful sense of its difficulty and delicacy. It stands thus in the Authorized Version: 'And they were both naked, the man and his wife; and were not ashamed' (Genesis 2:25). The common interpretation is, that, in this respect, the two human beings, the first and only existing ones, were precisely in the condition of the youngest infants, incapable of perceiving any incongruity in the total destitution of artificial clothing. But a little reflection will tell us, and the more carefully that reflection is pursued the more it will appear just, that this supposition is inconsistent with what we have established on solid grounds, the supernatural infusion into the minds of our first parents and into their nervous and muscular faculties, of the knowledge and practical habits which their descendants have had to acquire by the long process of instruction and example. We have seen the necessity that there must have been communicated to them, directly by the Creator, no inconsiderable measure of natural knowledge and the methods of applying it, or their lives could not have been secured; and of moral and spiritual 'knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness,' such a measure as would belong to the sinless state, and would enable them to render an intelligent and perfect worship to the Glorious Deity. It seems impossible for that state of mind and habits to exist without a correct sensibility to proprieties and decencies which infant children cannot understand or feel; and the capacities and duties of their conjugal state are implied in the narrative. Further, it cannot be overlooked that, though we are entitled to ascribe to the locality of Eden the most bland atmosphere and delightful soil, yet the action of the sun's rays upon the naked skin, the range of temperature through the day and the night, the alternations of dryness and moisture, the various labor among trees and bushes, and exposure to insects, would render some protective clothing quite indispensable.

From these considerations we feel ourselves obliged to understand the word arom in that which is its most usual signification in the Hebrew language, as importing not an absolute, but a partial or comparative nudity, a stripping off of the upper garment, or of some other usual article of dress, when all the habiliments were not laid aside; and this is a more frequent signification than that of entire destitution. If it be asked, Whence did Adam and Eve derive this clothing? we reply, that, as a part of the divine instruction which we have established, they were taught to take off the inner bark of some trees, which would answer extremely well for this purpose. If an objection be drawn from Genesis 3:7; Genesis 3:10-11, we reply, that, in consequence of the transgression, the clothing was disgracefully injured.

Another inquiry presents itself. How long did the state of paradisiac innocence and happiness continue? Some have regarded the period as very brief, not more even than a single day; but this manifestly falls very short of the time which a reasonable probability requires. The first man was brought into existence in the region called Eden; then he was introduced into a particular part of it, the garden, replenished with the richest productions of the Creator's bounty for the delight of the eye and the other senses; the most agreeable labor was required 'to dress and to keep it,' implying some arts of culture, preservation from injury, training flowers and fruits, and knowing the various uses and enjoyments of the produce; making observation upon the works of God, of which an investigation and designating of animals is expressly specified; nor can we suppose that there was no contemplation of the magnificent sky and the heavenly bodies: above all, the wondrous communion with the condescending Deity, and probably with created spirits of superior orders, by which the mind would be excited, its capacity enlarged, and its holy felicity continually increased. It is also to be remarked, that the narrative (Genesis 2:19-20) conveys the implication that some time was allowed to elapse, that Adam might discover and feel his want of a companion of his own species, 'a help correspondent to him.'

These considerations impress us with a sense of probability, amounting to a conviction, that a period not very short was requisite for the exercise of man's faculties, the disclosures of his happiness, and the service of adoration which he could pay to his Creator. But all these considerations are strengthened by the recollection that they attach to man's solitary state; and that they all require new and enlarged application when the addition of conjugal life is brought into the account. The conclusion appears irresistible that a duration of many days, or rather weeks or months, would be requisite for so many and important purposes.

Thus divinely honored and happy were the progenitors of mankind in the state of their creation.

The next scene which the sacred history brings before us is a dark reverse. Another agent comes into the field and successfully employs his arts for seducing Eve, and by her means Adam, from their original state of rectitude, dignity, and happiness.

Among the provisions of divine wisdom and goodness were two vegetable productions of wondrous qualities and mysterious significancy; 'the tree of life in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil' (Genesis 2:9). It would add to the precision of the terms, and perhaps aid our understanding of them, if we were to adhere strictly to the Hebrew by retaining the definite prefix: and then we have 'the tree of the life' and 'the tree of the knowledge.' Thus would be indicated the particular life of which the one was a symbol and instrument, and the fatal knowledge springing from the abuse of the other. At the same time, we do not maintain that these appellations were given to them at the beginning. We rather suppose that they were applied afterwards, suggested by the events and connection, and so became the historical names.

We see no sufficient reason to understand, as some do, 'the tree of life,' collectively, as implying a species, and that there were many trees of that species. The figurative use of the expression in Revelation 22:2, where a plurality is plainly intended, involves no evidence of such a design in this literal narrative. The phraseology of the text best agrees with the idea of a single tree, designed for a special purpose, and not intended to perpetuate its kind. Though in the state of innocence, Adam and Eve might be liable to some corporal suffering from the changes of the season and the weather, or accidental circumstances; in any case of which occurring, this tree had been endowed by the bountiful Creator with a medicinal and restorative property, probably in the way of instantaneous miracle. We think also that it was designed for a sacramental or symbolical purpose, a representation and pledge of 'the life,' emphatically so called, heavenly immortality when the term of probation should be happily completed. Yet we by no means suppose that this 'tree of the life' possessed any intrinsic property of communicating immortality. In the latter view, it was a sign and seal of the divine promise. But, with regard to the former intention, we see nothing to forbid the idea that it had most efficacious medicinal properties in its fruit, leaves, and other parts. Such were called trees of life by the Hebrews (Proverbs 3:18; Proverbs 11:30; Proverbs 13:12; Proverbs 15:4).

The 'tree of the knowledge of good and evil' might be any tree whatever; it might be of any species even yet remaining, though, if it were so, we could not determine its species, for the plain reason, that no name, description, or information whatever is given that could possibly lead to the ascertainment. Yet we cannot but think the more reasonable probability to be, that it was a tree having poisonous properties, stimulating, and intoxicating, such as are found in some existing species, especially in hot climates. On this ground, the prohibition to eat or even touch the tree was a beneficent provision against the danger of pain and death. But the revealed object of this 'tree of the knowledge of good and evil' was that which would require no particular properties beyond some degree of external beauty and fruit of an immediately pleasant taste. That object was to be a test of obedience. For such a purpose, it is evident that to select an indifferent act, to be the object prohibited, was necessary; as the obligation to refrain should be only that which arises simply, so far as the subject of the law can know, from the sacred will of the law-giver. This does not, however, nullify what we have said upon the possibility, or even probability, that the tree in question had noxious qualities: for upon either the affirmative or the negative of the supposition, the subjects of this positive law, having upon all antecedent grounds the fullest conviction of the perfect rectitude and benevolence of their Creator, would see in it the simple character of a test, a means of proof, whether they would or would not implicitly confide in him. For so doing they had every possible reason; and against any thought or mental feeling tending to the violation of the precept, they were in possession of the most powerful motives. There was no difficulty in the observance. They were surrounded with a paradise of delights, and they had no reason to imagine that any good whatever would accrue to them from their seizing upon anything prohibited. If perplexity or doubt arose, they had ready access to their divine benefactor for obtaining information and direction. But they allowed the thought of disobedience to form itself into a disposition, and then a purpose.

Thus was the seal broken, the integrity of the heart was gone, the sin was generated, and the outward act was the consummation of the dire process. Eve, less informed, less cautious, less endowed with strength of mind, became the more ready victim. 'The woman, being deceived, was in the transgression;' but 'Adam was not deceived' (1 Timothy 2:14). He rushed knowingly and deliberately to ruin. The offence had grievous aggravations. It was the preference of a trifling gratification to the approbation of the Supreme Lord of the universe; it implied a denial of the wisdom, holiness, goodness, veracity, and power of God; it was marked with extreme ingratitude; and it involved a contemptuous disregard of consequences, awfully impious as it referred to their immediate connection with the moral government of God and cruelly selfish as it respected their posterity

The instrument of the temptation was a serpent; whether any one of the existing kinds it is evidently impossible for us to know. Of that numerous order many species are of brilliant colors and playful in their attitudes and manners, so that one may well conceive of such an object attracting and fascinating the first woman. Whether it spoke in an articulate voice, like the human, or expressed the sentiments attributed to it by a succession of remarkable and significant actions, may be a subject of reasonable question. The latter is possible, and it seems the preferable hypothesis, as, without a miraculous intervention, the mouth and throat of no serpent could form a vocal utterance of words; and we cannot attribute to any wicked spirit the power of working miracles.

This part of the narrative begins with the words, 'And the serpent was crafty above every animal of the field' (Genesis 3:1). It is to be observed that this is not said of the order of serpents, as if it were a general property of them, but of that particular serpent. Indeed, this 'cunning craftiness, lying in wait to deceive' (Ephesians 4:14), is the very character of that malignant creature of whose wily stratagems the reptile was a mere instrument. The existence of spirits, superior to man, and of whom some have become depraved, and are laboring to spread wickedness and misery to the utmost of their power, has been found to be the belief of all nations, ancient and modern, of whom we possess information. It has also been the general doctrine of both Jews and Christians, that one of those fallen spirits was the real agent in this first and successful temptation; and this doctrine receives strong confirmation from the declarations of our Lord and his apostles. See 2 Corinthians 2:11; 2 Corinthians 11:3; 2 Corinthians 11:14; Revelation 12:9; Revelation 20:2; John 8:44. The summary of these passages presents almost a history of the Fall—the tempter, his manifold arts, his serpentine disguises, his falsehood, his restless activity, his bloodthirsty cruelty, and his early success in that career of deception and destruction.

The condescending Deity, who had held gracious and instructive communion with the parents of mankind, assuming a human form and adapting all his proceedings to their capacity, visibly stood before them; by a searching interrogatory drew from them the confession of their guilt, which yet they aggravated by evasions and insinuations against God himself; and pronounced on them and their seducer the sentence due. On the woman he inflicted the pains of child-bearing, and a deeper and more humiliating dependence upon her husband. He doomed the man to hard and often fruitless toil, instead of easy and pleasant labor. On both, or rather on human nature universally, he pronounced the awful sentence of death. The denunciation of the serpent partakes more of a symbolical character, and so seems to carry a strong implication of the nature and the wickedness of the concealed agent. The human sufferings threatened are all, excepting the last, which will require a separate consideration, of a remedial and corrective kind.

Of a quite different character are the penal denunciations upon the serpent. If they be understood literally, and of course applied to the whole order of Ophidia, they will be found to be so flagrantly at variance with the most demonstrated facts in their physiology and economy, as to lead to inferences unfavorable to belief in revelation. Let us examine the particulars:—

'Because thou hast done this, cursed art thou above all cattle,' Genesis 3:14; literally, 'above every behemah.'But the serpent tribe cannot be classed with that of the behemoth. The word is of very frequent occurrence in the Old Testament; and though, in a few instances, it seems to be put for brevity so as to be inclusive of the flocks as well as the herds, and in poetical diction it sometimes stands metonymically for animals generally (as Job 18:3; Psalms 73:22; Ecclesiastes 3:18-19; Ecclesiastes 3:21); yet its proper and universal application is to the large animals (pachyderms and ruminants), such as the elephant, camel, deer, horse, ox, rhinoceros, hippopotamus, etc. [BEHEMOTH].

As little will the declaration, 'cursed—,' agree with natural truth. It may, indeed, be supposed to be verified in the shuddering which persons generally feel at the aspect of any one of the order of serpents; but this takes place also in many other cases. It springs from fear of the formidable weapons with which some species are armed, as few persons know beforehand which are venomous and which are harmless; and, after all, this is rather an advantage than a curse to the animal. It is an effectual defense without effort. Indeed, we may say that no tribe of animals is so secure from danger, or is so able to obtain its sustenance and all the enjoyments which its capacity and habits require, as the whole order of serpents. If, then, we decline to urge the objection from the word behemah, it is difficult to conceive that serpents have more causes of suffering than any other great division of animals, or even so much.

Further, 'going upon the belly' is to none of them a punishment. With some differences of mode, their progression is produced by the pushing of scales, shields, or rings against the ground, by muscular contractions and dilatations, by elastic springings, by vertical undulations, or by horizontal wrigglings; but, in every variety, the entire organization—skeleton, muscles, nerves, integuments—is adapted to the mode of progression belonging to each species. That mode, in every variety of it, is sufficiently easy and rapid (often very rapid) for all the purposes of the animal's life and the amplitude of its enjoyments. To imagine this mode of motion to be, in any sense, a change from a prior attitude and habit of the erect kind, or being furnished with wings, indicates a perfect ignorance of the anatomy of serpents. Yet it has been said by learned and eminent theological interpreters, that, before this crime was committed, the serpent probably did 'not go upon his belly, but moved upon the hinder part of his body, with his head, breast, and belly upright' (Clarke's Bible, p. 1690). This notion may have obtained credence from the fact that some of the numerous serpent species, when excited, raise the neck pretty high; but the posture is to strike, and they cannot maintain it in creeping except for a very short distance.

Neither do they 'eat dust.' All serpents are carnivorous; their food, according to the size and power of the species, is taken from the tribes of insects, worms, frogs, and toads, and newts, birds, mice, and other small quadrupeds, till the scale ascends to the pythons and boas, which can master and swallow very large animals. The excellent writer just cited, in his anxiety to do honor, as he deemed it, to the accuracy of Scripture allusions, has said of the serpent, 'Now that he creeps with his very mouth upon the earth, he must necessarily take his food out of the dust, and so lick in some of the dust with it.' But this is not the fact. Serpents habitually obtain their food among herbage or in water; they seize their prey with the mouth, often elevate the head, and are no more exposed to the necessity of swallowing adherent earth than are carnivorous birds or quadrupeds. At the same time, it may be understood figuratively. 'Eating the dust is but another term for groveling in the dust; and this is equivalent to being reduced to a condition of meanness, shame, and contempt—See Micah 7:17.'

But these and other inconsistencies and difficulties (insuperable they do indeed appear to us) are swept away when we consider the fact before stated, that the Hebrew, literally rendered, is the serpent was, etc., and that it refers specifically and personally to a rational and accountable being, the spirit of lying and cruelty, the devil, the Satan, the old serpent. That God, the infinitely holy, good, and wise, should have permitted any one or more celestial spirits to apostatize from purity, and to be the successful seducers of mankind, is indeed an awful and overwhelming mystery. But it is not more so than the permitted existence of many among mankind, whose rare talents and extraordinary command of power and opportunity, combined with extreme depravity, have rendered them the plague and curse of the earth; and the whole merges into the awful and insolvable problem, Why has the All-perfect Deity permitted evil at all? We are firmly assured that He will bring forth, at last, the most triumphant evidence that 'He is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works,' Psalms 145:17. In the mean time, our happiness lies in the implicit confidence which we cannot but feel to be due to the Being of Infinite Perfection.

The remaining part of the denunciation upon the false and cruel seducer sent a beam of light into the agonized hearts of our guilty first parents: 'And enmity will I put between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: he will attack thee [on] the head, and thou wilt attack him [at] the heel,' Genesis 3:15. Christian interpreters generally regard this as the first gospel-promise, and we think with good reason. It was a manifestation of mercy: it revealed a Deliverer, who 'should be a human being, in a peculiar sense the offspring of the female, who should also, in some way not yet made known, counteract and remedy the injury inflicted, and who, though partially suffering from the malignant power, should, in the end, completely conquer it, and convert its very success into its own punishment' (J. Pye Smith, Scripture Testimony to the Messiah, vol. 1, p. 226).

The awful threatening to man was, 'In the day that thou eatest of it, thou wilt die the death,' Genesis 2:17. The infliction is Death in the most comprehensive sense, that which stands opposed to Life, the life of not only animal enjoyment, but holy happiness, the life which comported with the image of God. This was lost by the fall; and the sentence of physical death was pronounced, to be executed in due time. Divine mercy gave a long respite.

The same mercy was displayed in still more tempering the terrors of justice. The garden of delights was not to be the abode of rebellious creatures. But before they were turned out into a bleak and dreary wilderness, God was pleased to direct them to make clothing suitable to their new and degraded condition, of the skins of animals. That those animals had been offered in sacrifice is a conjecture supported by so much probable evidence, that we may regard it as a well-established truth. Any attempt to force back the way, to gain anew the tree of life, and take violent or fraudulent possession, would have been equally impious and nugatory. The sacrifice (which all approximative argument obliges us to admit), united with the promise of a deliverer, and the promise of substantial clothing, contained much hope of pardon and grace. The terrible debarring by lightning flashes and their consequent thunder, and by visible supernatural agency (Genesis 3:22-24), from a return to the bowers of bliss, are expressed in the characteristic patriarchal style of anthropopathy; but the meaning evidently is, that the fallen creature is unable by any efforts of his own to reinstate himself in the favor of God, and that whatever hope of restoration he may be allowed to cherish must spring solely from free benevolence. Thus, in laying the first stone of the temple, which shall be an immortal habitation of the Divine glory, it was manifested that 'Salvation is of the Lord,' and that 'grace reigneth through righteousness unto eternal life.'

From this time we have little recorded of the lives of Adam and Eve. Their three sons are mentioned with important circumstances in connection with each of them. See the articles Cain Abel and Seth. Cain was probably born in the year after the fall; Abel, possibly some years later; Seth, certainly one hundred and thirty years from the creation of his parents. After that, Adam lived eight hundred years, and had sons and daughters, doubtless by Eve, and then he died, nine hundred and thirty years old. In that prodigious period many events, and those of great importance, must have occurred; but the wise providence of God has not seen fit to preserve to us any memorial of them, and scarcely any vestiges or hints are afforded of the occupations and mode of life of men through the antediluvian period [ANTEDILUVIANS].

Adam, 2

Adam, a city at some distance east from the Jordan, to which, or beyond which, the overflow of the waters of that river extended when the course of the stream to the Dead Sea was stayed to afford the Israelites a passage across its channel.

 

 

 

 


Copyright Statement
Public Domain.

Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Adam'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature". https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/kbe/a/adam.html.

Search for…
Enter query in the box:
 or 
Choose a letter to browse:
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M 
N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  Y  Z 

 
Prev Entry
Adah
Next Entry
Adamah
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology