The Creation of Man

“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.” —Genesis 2:7

THE SECOND CHAPTER of Genesis contains a detailed account of man’s creation. The man whose creation is described in detail in this chapter is the same man mentioned in the first chapter, and who is said to have been created “in the image of God.” It is not true that the first chapter of Genesis describes the creation of a ‘spiritual’ man, whereas the man of the second chapter, is earthly, carnal, and sinful, as is claimed by some. The best authority we have on this point is the Apostle Paul, and he informs us that the “first” man was of the “earth, earthy.” (I Cor. 15:47) Paul also informs us that the “first man Adam was made a living soul.”—I Cor. 15:45

Obviously, there could have been no man prior to the ‘first’ man, so the harmony of the two accounts in Genesis is not in the unscriptural theory of a pre-Adamic human race, but in the fact that the opening chapter of Genesis is a brief, general account of the entire Creative work of God which reached its climax in the Creation, and the second chapter is a detailed record of God’s creation of man, his relationship to, and his dealings with him, Including the manner in which he was made.

As we study the detailed record of the manner in which man was created, we marvel at its simplicity, and at the same time, its scientific accuracy. We are told that man was formed “of the dust of the ground.” (Gen. 2:7) We are not obliged to literalize this to a point that it becomes an absurdity, as though water was mixed with dust and a body was formed with resulting mud. It is simply God’s way of explaining that man’s organism, his body, was made up of various chemical elements found in the earth. Those for whom this record was first designed would not have understood technical and scientific terms, but God has the ability to state himself in simple terms, and has done so in this wonderful text.

The human organism was created, but it had no life. It had eyes, but they saw nothing; a nose, but it did not sense the fragrant odors of the Edenic Garden in which this marvelous piece of workmanship was lying. It had a tongue, but it tasted not; and ears to which all sounds were as silence. It had hands which had no sense of touch. The perfect heart, with its coordinating valves, and its connections with the arteries and veins of that perfect body, was motionless. Its lungs were immobile. It was a perfect organism, with all its intricate parts correctly assembled, as only a master workman, the Creator, could do it. But it was a dead, lifeless body.

If man was to live, something more than just a perfect body was needed, and this God supplied. He ‘breathed into his nostrils the breath of life’, and instantly that lifeless organism became alive. The ‘breath of life’ carried oxygen to the lungs, and they began to function. This induced the heart to start pumping blood through the arteries, returning it through the veins. This brought life pulsations to the nerves, causing the ears to hear, the eyes to see, the nose to smell, the tongue to taste, and the hands to feel. The first man was now alive; he had become a ‘living soul’.

What was this magic power which God breathed into the nostrils of Adam? Some have mistakenly supposed that it was an indestructible, living entity, which had life apart from the organism into which it was breathed—an ‘immortal soul’ which escaped when Adam’s body died.

The proper, Scriptural answer to this question is essential if, in tracing the threads of truth through the Bible which pertain to the hope of eternal life, we are not to lose our way and go astray. The Hebrew word which is translated “breath” in the expression, ‘breath of life’, is n’shamah. This Hebrew word is translated “breath in Genesis 7:21,22. Describing the destruction wrought by the Deluge, the record reads, “All flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man: all in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died.”

This inspired use of the Hebrew word n’shamah reveals that the lower animals have the same ‘breath of life’ as that which was breathed into the nostrils of man. We doubt if many will contend that God gave immortal souls to the lower animals. To be consistent we will have to conclude that what the Lord breathed into Adam’s nostrils was not, therefore, an immortal soul, but was, as the record states, the ‘breath of life’, the breath by which all breathing creatures are made to live.

In Ecclesiastes 3:18-21 there is a wonderful exposition of truth on this subject. Here the word breath is a translation of a different Hebrew word, ruwach—a word, nevertheless, which from its various uses in the Bible is seen to have essentially the same meaning as n’shamah, used in Genesis 2:7 and 7:21,22. In this passage in Ecclesiastes, the Hebrew word ruwach is also translated “spirit.” The passage reads, “I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts. For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea they have all one breath [ruwach]; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. Who knoweth [or who can prove] the spirit [ruwach, breath] of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?”

The Marginal Translation of the closing question in this passage is clearer. Using this, the text might be paraphrased, “Who knoweth that the spirit of man is ascending, and the spirit of the beast is descending?” The prophet had already answered the question. Having sought in his heart to know God’s answer to this question he had learned, he says, that man has no preeminence above a beast, that they have all one breath, and all go to the same place at death, which, of course is into death.

In Ecclesiastes 12:7, we have another very interesting use of the Hebrew word ruwach, so frequently translated “breath” in the Old Testament—the ‘breath’ which is common both to man and beast. Here the prophet described the experience of death, and what it means. He wrote: “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” As we have seen, in the third chapter of Ecclesiastes we are informed that the spirit, or breath, of beasts goes to the same place when they die, as does the spirit, or breath, of man. Are we to conclude, then, that beasts have immortal souls which go to heaven when they die?

The Scriptures do not bear out any such rash conclusion. The Hebrew word ruwach, sometimes translated “spirit,” and sometimes “breath,” simply denotes invisible power. When associated with the works of God, it describes the power of God. It is this word that is translated “Spirit” in Genesis 1:2, where we are told that the “Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” When preaching on Mars’ Hill the Apostle Paul explained that in God “we live, and move, and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) The power of God by which we live is transmitted to our organisms by means of the ‘breath of life’. The same is true with respect to the lower animals. At death this invisible power of life reverts to its Giver, even as the body returns to the dust from which it was taken.

The record states that when God breathed ‘the breath of life’ into the nostrils of the perfect human organism which he had created, “Man became a living soul.” The essential fact here related is easily discerned—man ‘became’ a living soul. He was not given a soul, but became a living soul, or a living being, when the breath of life animated his perfect organism. This is the meaning of the word ‘soul’ throughout the entire Bible. The Bible nowhere speaks of an immortal soul. This expression is not even contained in the Bible. It originated with heathen religions, and was introduced into the church after the death of the apostles. In Numbers 31:28 various animals are referred to as souls, and in the same sense that men are souls. We quote: “Levy a tribute unto the Lord of the men of war which went out to battle: one soul of five hundred, both of the persons, and of the beeves, and of the asses, and of the sheep.”

The obvious and inescapable conclusion which must be drawn from the complete Scriptural testimony on this point, is that man was created a mortal being. Man, if he were to live forever, would have to be sustained by food and other provisions divinely provided, and blessed through the continuous sunshine of his Creator’s favor.

In creating man, God adapted him in every way to live on the earth. In his wisdom, the Creator brought a portion of the earth to a more advanced state of preparation than the land surface in general, so that the newly created and inexperienced humans would have a suitable home. The record states, “The Lord planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the garden made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.”—Gen. 2:8,9

In this wonderful provision for man’s happiness, and for sustaining his life, it seems significant that the first reference should be to that which ‘is pleasant to the sight’. Man would know that the gorgeous ‘natural’ scenery with which he was surrounded was the creation of his God, and to live daily amidst such surroundings would be a continual cause for thanksgiving and praise. It would be difficult to forget God when, in every direction the eye turned, the enrapturing beauty of the Creator’s handiwork would fall in the path of vision.

But feasting on the beauty of God’s Creation would not alone keep man alive. The garden also provided food, and in such perfection that it could have kept man well and youthful indefinitely, especially since the ‘tree of life’ was included in the garden. The Hebrew word here translated “tree” could just as properly have been translated “trees,” and it is quite likely that the ‘tree of life’ was a grove of trees which afforded food in such balanced proportions, and in such nutritional perfection, that had God’s favor continued upon man, and he had been permitted to have continuous access to these trees, he would never have died.

Genesis 2:19 reads, “Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air: and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.” As we have noted, the second chapter account of Creation is merely a recapitulation, but in more detail, of some of the facts stated in the first chapter. The thought of this text is that the animals which God had created were brought before Adam to be named. And they, like Adam, were created ‘out of the ground’.

God’s description of the animals as ‘living creatures’ is a translation from the same Hebrew words translated “living soul” in the description of man. (Gen. 2:7) They were living creatures, living beings, or living souls, because they had organisms made alive by the ‘breath of life’.

Verse 20 reads, “Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.” The fact that Adam was able to come into close enough contact with the animals, especially the ‘beasts of the field’, to study their characteristics and give them appropriate names, emphasizes the fact that God had given him dominion over them. Seemingly they were not afraid of him, nor he of them.

It must have required some time to accomplish the task of naming all the animals. That some study of their characteristics was made is suggested in the statement that ‘there was not found an help meet’ for Adam. God, in his wisdom, had allowed Adam to come to a realization of his need, before supplying it. All of God’s dealings with those whom he has created in his own image are designed to awaken in them a genuine, free will desire for the blessings which he has designed for them. God does not coerce the human mind or will.

“The Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; and the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”—Gen. 2:21-24

Many have treated this sacred passage of Scripture lightly, regarding it as absurd. The wise of this world seem to think that this was a very crude way for the Lord to create woman. Why, they ask, did he not create Eve in the same way as he did Adam? We may not understand the biological reasons why the Lord adopted this method, but who are we to question the wisdom of one so wise and so powerful as to be able to create the entire universe out of nothing?

God’s method meant that the woman became almost literally a part of man. How much of ineffable joy has resulted from this divinely arranged oneness of the two, we will probably never fully understand. God’s explanation is that because woman was made from man, when the two are united in marriage, they become ‘one flesh’. This is what God designed, and his wisdom arranged the method of creation so it would be this way.

Having now received a suitable help meet from the Lord, Adam’s joy in his garden home must have been unbounded. All his surroundings were beautiful and inspiring. There was at his disposal an abundant supply of life-sustaining food; and now he had a companion with whom he could share his joys. Among the few instructions given to him was the command to “dress and to keep” the garden which the Lord had provided for him. (Gen. 2:15) Considering Adam’s ideal surroundings, and the perfection in which he was created, the ‘keeping’ of the garden would not be laborious, but a joy.

Another command, if such it could be called, was that these godlike creatures to whom had been given an earthly dominion, were to multiply and fill the earth, and subdue it. The carrying out of this command was designed not only to populate the earth, but to ‘subdue it’. Evidently that beautiful garden home which God prepared for man ‘eastward in Eden’ was intended merely as an example of what the whole earth was created to be, God leaving the final finishing work of his Creation to be accomplished by man, and for his good.—Gen. 1:28; 2:8

Our imagination almost goes out of bounds when we contemplate what this earth would have been like had this plan of God proceeded without interruption. The earth would have been filled with a perfect and happy human family, knowing nothing of sin, sickness, pain, wars, and the thousand-and-one other things which now plague a suffering and dying world; and with it, all enjoying sweet communion with the Creator, the God of heaven and earth.

But let us dream on, for although darkness covers the earth, and the plague of sin and death blights so much of the happiness of the people, this nighttime of darkness and fear and pain will end, and as so beautifully stated by the Prophet David, joy will come in the morning. (Ps. 30:5) Then men’s fondest dreams of a golden age will come true; for, as we shall later see, God who in the beginning, by his wisdom and power, created the heavens and the earth, assures us that divine power will again be used to restore paradise, and give to all the opportunity of enjoying its blessings forever.

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