Hebrew – Man [and] Adam (1)




What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals!” So wrote William Shakespeare. That is true, however, only because God alone did it all. We had nothing to do with it, regardless of the ramblings of the humanist.


A Greek word that perfectly illustrates this is poiēma (G4161, English “poem”), which Paul uses to refer to us as God’s “workmanship, created in Christ Jesus” (Eph_2:10). Another form of the word, poiētēs, refers to one who makes something or to a work of art. In ancient Greek this referred to an author or poet. So we are God’s work of art, masterpiece, or poem.


The Hebrew ’āḏām (H120) appears more than 550 times in the OT, 408 of which are translated man (“men” H121) and thirteen as Adam (AV). While its origin is unsure, it seems to be linked to ’āḏōm or ’āḏēm (H119), “to be red, ruddy, or dyed red.” A related word is used, for example, of David’s ruddy appearance (1Sa_16:12; 1Sa_17:42). Another clue is the Akkadian adamātu, “dark red soil,” which takes us immediately to Gen_2:7 : “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul,” picturing that man was created out of the very elements of the earth and is connected to it.


The word “formed” (yāsar, H3335) refers to fashioning or shaping something, as a potter fashions a vessel from the clay. The power of God then gave man a life that is unique over all Creation, making man in His image and likeness (Gen_1:26); while man is finite, he is still the reflection of such qualities as God’s personality, truth, wisdom, love, holiness, and justice. Once dead “Adamites,” we are now alive in Christ (1Co_15:22).


Another Creation occurs when Christ enters our life. We become the “new man” (Eph_2:15; Eph_4:24). The Greek kainos (G2537) anthropos (G444) speaks of man (as a species) becoming new in the sense of quality and having never existed before. We have truly been created new in Christ (2Co_5:17), with transformed character and habits. Indeed, “What a piece of work is a [spiritual] man!”


Scriptures for Study: Read Genesis 2. What observations can you note about man (Adam)? (Note: Man in Gen_2:23 is a different word, which we will examine tomorrow.)




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