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“...and Yahweh Elohim formed the adam from the dust of the adamah...”
By: David Deschesne
In the creation story noted in the authorized King James Version of the Bible it says of man’s creation; “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground...”1
Similar passages render “dust of the earth”2 but the two do not have the same meaning.
The word for man in the original Hebrew is אדם, adam, and means “man,” “mankind,” “human” and has to do with man as a being in God’s image3 as opposed to אישׁ, ish, the generic term for man.4
Adam is not a proper name, unlike the modern day vernacular that has assigned it to the first man God created. The first man never had a name, adam was merely a designation, a type, not a personal name. As a designation, adam most always appears in the original Hebrew texts with the definite article “the” (ה) prefixed to it. Thus, האדם, the adam, or in English, the man is the proper translation. the KJV follows this accurately up until Genesis 3:19 where they arbitrarily assign the designation Adam as a proper name to the first man of creation. However, the original Hebrew texts make no such distinction and continue referring to “the man” throughout the Creation story with only a couple of exceptions.
It is important to understand the designation, adam when looking at what adam was created out of. The original texts say “the adam was formed out of the dust of the adamah.” The richness of the Hebrew language here is lost when converted into the English, “the man was formed from the dust of the ground.”
אדםה, adamah, is traditionally rendered ground, land or dirt; but when using those words in English, they closely resemble the translation of the Hebrew word ארץ, eretz, which is translated as the Earth, country, earth, field, ground, land, nation or wilderness.5
In the above cited verses on “dust of the Earth” (see footnote 2) it is the dust of the ארץ, eretz, that is being discussed, as opposed to the “dust of the ground,” or dust of the אדםה, adamah, which is where the adam (man) was derived.
There appears then to be a distinction between the two words, adamah and eretz, while both can be rendered as land, dirt, or soil, the adamah is what was used to create the adam (man), which makes it stand apart from the more generic eretz.
Although the usage of the word eretz refers to land primarily as a geographical, or occasionally as a political entity, adamah generally refers to farmland, or that which is able to bring forth life. Both adam and adamah have the root word, דם, dam, meaning blood, rosy, reddish or red. In this respect, the adam is both symbolically and literally the First Blood and the adamah is the reddish clay-like soil from which his body is physically derived.
Eretz, on the other hand, features no symbolic connection with the first man, but rather shares dual meanings that can be either rendered “Earth” in the cosmological sense, or “the land” in the sense of a specific territorial designation such as a country or a nation.6
The connection to the adam, or the First Blood/man is congruent with the adamah which is a fertile reddish type of soil that was used to construct him. The symbolism and imagery of the two Hebrew words for land are lost in the English translation, unfortunately.
Not all dirt on the ground is used in the creation of a human body, though. So, the adamah must have been referring to a select group of elements that when combined created a reddish color and with the Divine Architect’s direction, a living flesh and blood man.
“The truth of this statement has been demonstrated by science, which, by chemical analysis of the body of man, has found that its substance is composed of the very same elements as the soil which forms the crust of the earth and the limestone that lies imbedded in its bowels. Physiologists enumerate them as follows: - carbon, chlorine, phosphorus, fluorine, nitrogen, magnesium, silicum, aluminum, potassium, sodium, calcium, iron, manganese, titanium, oxygen and hydrogen.”7 There are trace amounts of Copper, Zinc, Selenium, Molybdenum, Fluorine, Chlorine, Iodine, Manganese, Sulfur and Cobalt found in the human body, as well.
When the colorless gasses such as oxygen, hydrogen, chlorine and nitrogen are eliminated, that leaves the “dust” of phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, sodium, iron, copper, manganese, iodine, and sulfur. Considering the color of each element which ranges from white to yellow to brown to dark red, mixed in the proper proportions, those elements would create a dusty, reddish brown compound that could be said to resemble the “adamah” that the adam is created out of.
There appear to be two types of adams in Genesis. One of Genesis 1 and the other in Genesis 2. According to Philo, the adam of Genesis 1 was the idea of man, and hence this ideal man never appeared on earth; it was the adam of Genesis 2, fashioned out of material dust and immaterial spirit, who was the ancestor of the race. Fashioned as he was of antithetical materials, he lived as all men live, under the tension in which the material aspect of him tugged in one direction, the immaterial aspect in the opposite.8
1. Genesis 2:7
2. See for example, Genesis 13:16, 28:14; Exodus 8:17; 2Ch 1:19, etc.
3. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, ©1980 Moody Bible Institute, Vol. 1, p. 10
4. NTC’s Hebrew and English Dictionary, ©2000 NTC Publishing Group, p. 271.
5. Strong’s #776
6. Theological Wordbook, p. 74
7. A Commentary, Critical, Experimental and Practical on the Old & New Testaments, Vol. 1, ©1945 WM. B. Eerdsmans Publishing Co., p. 34
8. Philo, summarized by Samuel Sandmel, Philo’s Place in Judaism (New York: Ktav, 1971), pp. xxi, 100