by Athol Walter
The opening chapters of Genesis are rich in seed truths that grow and blossom into glorious flower further along in the Scriptural garden. This is particularly true when we get to the New Testament, and read so often such statements as, “….so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled.”, or “…the Holy Ghost thus signifying…”
One feature of Genesis that instructs the earnest Bible student is the meaning of names given by God in many cases. Eve, the mother; Cain, the one gained; Seth, the one appointed or set; Jacob, the supplanter; Israel, prince with God, to name a few. There is one glaring omission, however, where it seems that no meaning for the name has been given. That is the name, ADAM.
Nowhere does the Bible say, “Adam, which means ‘. As usual, different expositors give differing explanations, the most common of which is probably the one that says the word Adam means “red earth” from the Hebrew word “Adamah” which does mean red earth. I must confess that I have never been very convinced about that idea, and I believe that the Scripture does tell us the meaning of the name, and it is very much in line with the Scriptural significance of Adam.
The word “Adam” occurs first in Gen.2:7 in the Authorised Version (A.V.), and this has mislead some. In the Hebrew, the first occurrence of “Adam” is in Gen.1:26, where we read in our Bibles: “And God said,
“Let us make MAN in our image, after our likeness;….” The word man in this verse is “Adam”.
Turning aside from our main topic for a moment, it is a problem of no small proportions that the ONE God says here, “Let US make man in OUR image….”. How can God who is ONE, use plural pronouns of Himself, Again we find various explanations. It has been suggested that God was discussing the matter with angels, but it seems to me that Isa.40:12 – 14 disposes of that.
I believe the answer lies in the plurality in unity concept. This means, briefly, that the one God, who is spirit and invisible, has chosen to reveal Himself in different ways to make it possible for man to have some knowledge of Him. In fact, the very nature of man as opposed to the nature of God makes it imperative that God do something like this, because we have no hope of knowing anything about God in His absolute form. So God has revealed Himself in various forms – or “persons” – to give us some knowledge of Himself. We must always remember that even if we understood everything the Bible said about God, we would still have a very limited understanding of Him. Some of the forms in which He has revealed Himself include: The Word, Jehovah, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and I am sure that list is nowhere near being complete. So I am suggesting that when God (Elohim – another form or person of the Godhead) uses plural pronouns, He is referring to this plurality of manifestations.
Back to our main topic. Read Gen. 1:26 again, and remember that this gives us the first occurrence of the word Adam. Notice that in the immediate context are the words “likeness” and “image”. Turn to Gen.5:1,2. Again we have the name Adam in very close connection with the word “likeness”, and I suggest that there is the meaning of the name. “Adam” means “Likeness”. It seems to me that it is much more in keeping with God’s purposes for Adam to mean likeness than red earth. Again a thought in passing. God not only uses the words LIKENESS and IMAGE in connection with Adam, but also the word DOMINION. I believe that an understanding of those three words takes us closer to the purpose of man’s creation than anything else.
The Hebrew word for IMAGE is tselem, which comes from the root word tsel – shadow. The Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, the Septuagint (LXX), uses the word skia for tselem, and we find this word used in verses such as Col.2:17, Heb.8:4,5 and 10:1. Please read these verses. Adam was “a shadow of things to come” He was not the “very image”, but a “likeness”. Rom.5:14 puts it another way. Adam is the figure (type) of Him that was to come. James 3:9 tells us that man is made in the similitude of God, and the word “similitude” suggests a figure of speech. I like that thought. Christ is a figure of speech used by God to help us understand. No wonder He is called the Word!
The Scriptures say that man in general (not only Christ) is made in the similitude of God, and if we keep this idea of a figure of speech in mind, it will guard us from falling into the trap of thinking it means physical likeness. It is in the mental and moral spheres that we have been made in the likeness of God. It cannot be physical.
The Lord Jesus Christ
The Gospels of Matthew and Luke are the only two which give details about the birth of Christ. And as we have given some thought again to the events in Bethlehem so long ago, and marvel and wonder and rejoice, it is so easy to forget that, when we look into the manger at the baby who was born in such lowly circumstances, we have here the Likeness and the Image of God. And unlike the first Adam, this One is the very or true Image.
Unfortunately, the world does not know this, and does not seem to want to know it. The baby in the manger is one thing, and seems to be acceptable, but the world rejects that further thought of the Word made flesh, tabernacling among us and overcoming the darkness. These thoughts seldom appear on popular Christmas cards.
The word “likeness” refers to the Lord in another way, which also does not get onto Christmas cards. Please read Romans 8:1 – 3. This is the aspect of the Likeness that man does not like because it condemns him and points to his need of a Saviour. The world gives some measure of acceptance and even adoration to the Baby in the manger, but it is going too far for the world to move on to the Christ hanging on the Cross in the ‘likeness of sinful flesh’, condemning sin and atoning for it. Read 2 Cor.4:4. But for those who believe, this is the Gospel of our Salvation.
The Lord Jesus Christ is the Image of God in a way that Adam could never have been, nor was intended to be. (Adam was the likeness of Christ). Without implying physical likeness, Christ could say, “He that hath seen Me, hath seen the Father.” And surely we have the climax of this revelation in Col.1:12 – 15.
To sum up then, Adam was created in the likeness and image of God. He was a shadow, but not the very image. (The basis meaning of “very” is “true”. Think of “verily” and “verity”.) The Lord Jesus is the very image of the invisible God, and if you have looked by faith into the face of Jesus Christ, then you have seen the Father.
But He was also in the likeness of sinful flesh, and in that likeness, took our sins to the Cross and there once and for all, paid the price for everyone of them. He who is the Image of God, hung on the cross in our image.
Please read, in conclusion, the following passages:
1 Corinthians 15:47-49 – “The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.”
Colossians 3:4-10 – “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.”
1 John 3:1,2 – “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”
THANKS BE TO GOD FOR HIS UNSPEAKABLE GIFT!