Genesis 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.
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(7) And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground.—Literally, formed the man (adam) dust from the ground. In this section the prominent idea is not that of producing out of nothing, but of forming, that is, shaping and moulding. So in Genesis 2:19 Jehovah forms the animals, and in Genesis 2:8 He plants a garden. As Elohim is almighty power, so Jehovah is wisdom and skill, and His works are full of contrivance and design. As regards man’s body, Jehovah forms it dust from the ground: the adâmâh, or fruitful arable soil, so called from Adam, for whose use it was specially fitted, and by whom it was first tilled. But the main intention of the words is to point out man’s feebleness. He is made not from the rocks, nor from ores of metal, but from the light, shifting particles of the surface, blown about by every wind. Yet, frail as is man’s body, God—

. . . breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.—The life came not as the result of man’s bodily organisation, nor as derived by evolution from any other animal, but as a gift direct from God.

And man became a living soul.—The word translated “soul” contains no idea of a spiritual existence. For in Genesis 1:20, “creature that hath life,” and in Genesis 1:24, “the living creature,” are literally, living soul. Really the word refers to the natural life of animals and men, maintained by breathing, or in some way extracting oxygen from the atmospheric air. And whatever superiority over other animals may be possessed by man comes from the manner in which this living breath was bestowed upon him, and not from his being “a living soul;” for that is common to all alike.

The whole of this second narrative is pre-eminently anthropomorphic. In the previous history Elohim commands, and it is done. Here He forms, and builds, and plants, and breathes into His work, and is the companion and friend of the creature He has made. It thus sets before us the love and tenderness of Jehovah, who provides for man a home, fashions for him a wife to be his partner and helpmate, rejoices in his intellect, and brings the lower world to him to see what he will call them, and even after the fall provides the poor outcasts with clothing. It is a picture fitted for the infancy of mankind, and speaking the language of primæval simplicity. But its lesson is for all times. For it proclaims the love of God to man, his special pre-eminence in the scale of being, and that Elohim, the Almighty Creator, is Jehovah-Elohim, the friend and counsellor of the creature whom He has endowed with reason and free-will.

Genesis 2:7. The Lord God formed man — Man being the chief of God’s works in this lower world, and being intended to be the lord of all other creatures, we have here a more full account of his creation. The word ייצר, jitzer, here rendered he formed, is not used concerning any other creature, and implies a gradual process in the work, with great accuracy and exactness. It is properly used of potters forming vessels on the wheel; and Rabbi D. Kimchi says, that, when used concerning the creation of man, it signifies the formation of his members. Of the dust of the ground — The Hebrew is, he formed man dust from the ground. We should remember that, however curiously our bodies, with their various members and senses, are wrought, we are but dust taken from the ground. He breathed into his nostrils — And thereby into his head and whole man; the breath of life — Hebrew, the soul of lives, that is, both natural and spiritual, both temporal and eternal life. It is sufficiently implied here that the soul of man is of a quite different nature and higher origin than the souls of beasts, which, together with their bodies, are said to be brought forth by the earth and waters, Genesis 1:24.2:4-7 Here is a name given to the Creator, Jehovah. Where the word LORD is printed in capital letters in our English Bibles, in the original it is Jehovah. Jehovah is that name of God, which denotes that he alone has his being of himself, and that he gives being to all creatures and things. Further notice is taken of plants and herbs, because they were made and appointed to be food for man. The earth did not bring forth its fruits of itself: this was done by Almighty power. Thus grace in the soul grows not of itself in nature's soil, but is the work of God. Rain also is the gift of God; it came not till the Lord God caused it. Though God works by means, yet when he pleases he can do his own work without them; and though we must not tempt God in the neglect of means, we must trust God, both in the use and in the want of means. Some way or other, God will water the plants of his own planting. Divine grace comes down like the dew, and waters the church without noise. Man was made of the small dust, such as is on the surface of the earth. The soul was not made of the earth, as the body: pity then that it should cleave to the earth, and mind earthly things. To God we must shortly give an account, how we have employed these souls; and if it be found that we have lost them, though it were to gain the world, we are undone for ever! Fools despise their own souls, by caring for their bodies before their souls.The second obstacle to the favorable progress of the vegetable kingdom is now removed. "And the Lord God formed the man of dust from the soil." This account of the origin of man differs from the former on account of the different end the author has in view. There his creation as an integral whole is recorded with special reference to his higher nature by which he was suited to hold communion with his Maker, and exercise dominion over the inferior creation. Here his constitution is described with marked regard to his adaptation to be the cultivator of the soil. He is a compound of matter and mind. His material part is dust from the soil, out of which he is formed as the potter moulds the vessel out of the clay. He is אדם 'ādām "Adam," the man of the soil, ארמה 'ădāmâh "adamah." His mission in this respect is to draw out the capabilities of the soil to support by its produce the myriads of his race.

His mental part is from another source. "And breathed into his nostrils the breath of life." The word נשׁמה neshāmâh is invariably applied to God or man, never to any irrational creature. The "breath of life" is special to this passage. It expresses the spiritual and principal element in man, which is not formed, but breathed by the Creator into the physical form of man. This rational part is that in which he bears the image of God, and is suited to be his vicegerent on earth. As the earth was prepared to be the dwelling, so was the body to be the organ of that breath of life which is his essence, himself.

And the man became a living soul. - This term "living soul" is also applied to the water and land animals Genesis 1:20-21, Genesis 1:24. As by his body he is allied to earth and by his soul to heaven, so by the vital union of these he is associated with the whole animal kingdom, of which he is the constituted sovereign. This passage, therefore, aptly describes him as he is suited to dwell and rule on this earth. The height of his glory is yet to come out in his relation to the future and to God.

The line of narrative here reaches a point of repose. The second lack of the teeming soil is here supplied. The man to till the ground is presented in that form which exhibits his fitness for this appropriate and needful task. We are therefore at liberty to go back for another train of events which is essential to the progress of our narrative.

7. Here the sacred writer supplies a few more particulars about the first pair.

formed—had FORMED MAN OUT OF THE DUST OF THE GROUND. Science has proved that the substance of his flesh, sinews, and bones, consists of the very same elements as the soil which forms the crust of the earth and the limestone that lies embedded in its bowels. But from that mean material what an admirable structure has been reared in the human body (Ps 139:14).

the breath of life—literally, of lives, not only animal but spiritual life. If the body is so admirable, how much more the soul with all its varied faculties.

breathed into his nostrils the breath of life—not that the Creator literally performed this act, but respiration being the medium and sign of life, this phrase is used to show that man's life originated in a different way from his body—being implanted directly by God (Ec 12:7), and hence in the new creation of the soul Christ breathed on His disciples (Joh 20:22).

Into his nostrils, and by that door into the head and whole man. This is an emphatical phrase, sufficiently implying that the soul of man was of a quite differing nature and higher extraction and original than the souls of beasts, which together with their bodies are said to be brought forth by the earth, Genesis 1:24.

The breath of life, Heb. of lives; either to show the continuance of this breath or soul, both in this life and in the life to come; or to note the various degrees or kinds of life which this one breath worketh in us; the life of plants, in growth and nourishment; the life of beasts, in sense and motion; and the life of a man, in reason and understanding.

Man, who before this was but a dull lump of clay, or a comely statue,

became a living soul, i.e. a living man: the soul being oft put for the whole man, as Genesis 12:5, Genesis 12:13, Genesis 46:15 Genesis 46:18, 1 Peter 3:20, &c. And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground,.... Not of dry dust, but, as Josephus (h) says, of red earth macerated, or mixed with water; the like notion Hesiod (i) has; or out of clay, as in Job 33:6 hence a word is made use of, translated "formed", which is used of the potter that forms his clay into what shape he pleases: the original matter of which man was made was clay; hence the clay of Prometheus (k) with the Heathens; and God is the Potter that formed him, and gave him the shape he has, see Isaiah 64:8, there are two "jods", it is observed, in the word, which is not usual; respecting, as Jarchi thinks, the formation of man for this world, and for the resurrection of the dead; but rather the two fold formation of body and soul, the one is expressed here, and the other in the following clause: and this, as it shows the mighty power of God in producing such a creature out of the dust of the earth, so it serves to humble the pride of man, when he considers he is of the earth, earthy, dust, and ashes, is dust, and to dust he must return.

And breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; which in that way entered into his body, and quickened it, which before was a lifeless lump of clay, though beautifully shapen: it is in the plural number, the "breath of lives" (l), including the vegetative, sensitive, and rational life of man. And this was produced not with his body, as the souls of brutes were, and was produced by the breath of God, as theirs were not; nor theirs out of the earth, as his body was: and these two different productions show the different nature of the soul and body of man, the one is material and mortal, the other immaterial and immortal:

and man became a living soul; or a living man, not only capable of performing the functions of the animal life, of eating, drinking, walking, &c. but of thinking, reasoning, and discoursing as a rational creature.

(h) Antiqu. l. 1. c. 1.((i) Opera & dies, ver. 60. (k) Martial. l. 10. Epigram. 38. (l) Heb. "spiraculum vitarum", Pareus.

And the LORD God formed man {e} of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

(e) He shows what man's body was created from, to the intent that man should not glory in the excellency of his own nature.

7. formed] A different word from that used in Genesis 1:1; Genesis 1:27, “created,” or in Genesis 1:26, “made.” The metaphor is that of the potter shaping and moulding the clay, LXX ἔπλασεν, Lat. formavit. As applied to the Creator, the metaphor is a favourite one; cf. Isaiah 45:9, Jeremiah 18:1-5, Wis 15:7, Romans 9:20-24.

See Browning’s Rabbi Ben Ezra, “Aye, note that Potter’s wheel, That metaphor, &c.”

man] Heb. âdâm. Man was popularly thought to be so called because taken from the adâmah, “the cultivated ground,” to which he is to return at death (Genesis 3:19), and which he is to cultivate during life (Genesis 3:23). It is impossible in English to give any equivalent to this play upon the names for “man” and “ground.”

In this verse and elsewhere, where the Heb. âdâm (= man) occurs with the def. article (hâ-âdâm), there is no reference to the proper name “Adam.” See note on Genesis 2:16.

of the dust of the ground] These words describe the Hebrew belief concerning the physical structure of man. It was seen that after death the bodily frame was reduced, by dissolution, into dust: it was, therefore, assumed that that frame had at the first been built up by God out of dust. For other passages illustrating this belief, cf. Genesis 3:19; Genesis 18:27, Psalm 90:3; Psalm 104:29, 1 Corinthians 15:47. We find the same idea in the Babylonian myth, where man is made out of earth mingled with the blood of the God Marduk1[3], and in the Greek myth of Prometheus and Pandora.

[3] See Appendix A (Book Comments).

breathed … life] The preceding clause having explained man’s bodily structure, the present one explains the origin of his life. His life is not the product of his body, but the gift of God’s breath or spirit.

At death the breath (ruaḥ) left man’s body; hence it was assumed, that, at the first, the mystery of life had been imparted to man by the breath (ruaḥ) of God Himself. Through life, man became “a living soul,” (nephesh), and, as “a living soul,” shared his life with the animals. But man alone received his life from “the breath of God.” It is this breathing (n’shâmâh) of life (LXX πνοὴ ζωης: Lat. spiraculum vitae) which imparts to man that which is distinctive of his higher principle of being, as compared with the existence of the animals, cf. Genesis 2:19. It would seem from Job 34:14-15 that one phase of Hebrew belief was (1) that at death the flesh of man turned again unto dust; (2) that God took back unto Himself His breath (ruaḥ) which He had given; (3) that the nephesh, or soul, departed into the Sheol, the region of the dead.

For the picture here given of vitality imparted to man by the breath breathed by God into man’s nostrils, cf. Job 27:3, “The spirit (or breath) of God is in my nostrils.”

We should compare the expression “breathed into” with the words in St John’s Gospel John 20:22. There the symbolical act of our Lord derives significance from this verse. Christ who is “the New Man,” Himself imparts the life-giving Spirit; “He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Spirit.”Verse 7. - And the Lord God (Jehovah Elohim) formed man of the dust of the ground. Literally, dust from the ground. Here, again, Bleek, Kalisch, and the theologians of their school discover contrariety between this account of man's creation and that which has been given in the preceding chapter. In that man is represented as having been created by the Divine word, in the Divine image, and male and female simultaneously; whereas in this his creation is exhibited as a painful process of elaboration from the clay by the hand of God, who works it like a potter (asah; LXX., πλάσσω), and, after having first constructed man, by a subsequent operation forms woman. But the first account does not assert that Adam and Eve were created together, and gives no details of the formation of either. These are supplied by the present narrative, which, beginning with the construction of his body from the fine dust of the ground, designedly represents it as an evolution or development of the material universe, and ends by setting it before us as animated by the breath of God, reserving for later treatment the mode of Eve's production, when the circumstances that led to it have been described. And (the Lord God) breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. Literally, the breath of lives. "The formation of man from the dust and the breathing of the breath of life must not be understood in a mechanical sense, as if God first of all constructed a human figure from the dust" (still less does it admit of the idea that man's physical nature was evolved from the lower animals), "and then, by breathing his breath of life into the clod of earth which he had shaped into the form of a man, made it into a living being. The words are to be understood θεοπρεπῶς. By an act of Divine omnipotence man arose from the dust; and in the same moment in which the dust, by virtue of creative omnipotence, shaped itself into a human form, it was pervaded by the Divine breath of life, and created a living being, so that we cannot say the body was earlier than the soul" (Delitzsch). And man became a living soul. Nephesh chayyah, in Genesis 1:21, 80, is employed to designate the lower animals. Describing a being animated by a ψυχή or life principle, it does not necessarily imply that the basis of the life principle in man and the inferior animals is the same. The distinction between the two appears from the difference in the mode of their creations. The beasts arose at the almighty fiat completed beings, every one a nephesh chayyah. "The origin of their soul was coincident with that of their corporeality, and their life was merely the individualization of the universal life with which all matter was filled at the beginning by the Spirit of God" (Delitzsch). Man received his life from a distinct act of Divine inbreathing; certainly not an in-breathing of atmospheric air, but an inflatus from the Ruach Elohim, or Spirit of God, a communication from the whole personality of the Godhead. In effect man was thereby constituted a nephesh chayyah, like the lower animals; but in him the life principle conferred a personality which was wanting in them. Thus there is no real contradiction, scarcely even an "apparent dissonance," between the two accounts of man's creation. The second exhibits the foundation of that likeness to God and world-dominion ascribed to him in the first.

"Then Jehovah God formed man from dust of the ground." עפר is the accusative of the material employed (Ewald and Gesenius). The Vav consec. imperf. in Genesis 2:7, Genesis 2:8, Genesis 2:9, does not indicate the order of time, or of thought; so that the meaning is not that God planted the garden in Eden after He had created Adam, nor that He caused the trees to grow after He had planted the garden and placed the man there. The latter is opposed to Genesis 2:15; the former is utterly improbable. The process of man's creation is described minutely here, because it serves to explain his relation to God and to the surrounding world. He was formed from dust (not de limo terrae, from a clod of the earth, for עפר is not a solid mass, but the finest part of the material of the earth), and into his nostril a breath of life was breathed, by which he became an animated being. Hence the nature of man consists of a material substance and an immaterial principle of life. "The breath of life," i.e., breath producing life, does not denote the spirit by which man is distinguished form the animals, or the soul of man from that of the beasts, but only the life-breath (vid., 1 Kings 17:17). It is true, נשׁמה generally signifies the human soul, but in Genesis 7:22 חיּים נשׁמת־רוּח is used of men and animals both; and should any one explain this, on the ground that the allusion is chiefly to men, and the animals are connected per zeugma, or should he press the ruach attached, and deduce from this the use of neshamah in relation to men and animals, there are several passages in which neshamah is synonymous with ruach (e.g., Isaiah 42:5; Job 32:8; Job 33:4), or חיים רוח applied to animals (Genesis 6:17; Genesis 7:15), or again neshamah used as equivalent to nephesh (e.g., (Joshua 10:40, cf. Joshua 10:28, Joshua 10:30, Joshua 10:32). For neshamah, the breathing, πνοή, is "the ruach in action" (Auberlen). Beside this, the man formed from the dust became, through the breathing of the "breath of life," a חיּה נפשׁ, an animated, and as such a living being; an expression which is also applied to fishes, birds, and land animals (Genesis 1:20-21, Genesis 1:24, Genesis 1:30), and there is no proof of pre-eminence on the part of man. As חיּה נפשׁ, ψυχὴ ζῶσα, does not refer to the soul merely, but to the whole man as an animated being, so נשׁמה does not denote the spirit of man as distinguished from body and soul. On the relation of the soul to the spirit of man nothing can be gathered from this passage; the words, correctly interpreted, neither show that the soul is an emanation, an exhalation of the human spirit, nor that the soul was created before the spirit and merely received its life from the latter. The formation of man from dust and the breathing of the breath of life we must not understand in a mechanical sense, as if God first of all constructed a human figure from dust, and then, by breathing His breath of life into the clod of earth which he had shaped into the form of a man, made it into a living being. The words are to be understood θεοπρεπῶς. By an act of divine omnipotence man arose from the dust; and in the same moment in which the dust, by virtue of creative omnipotence, shaped itself into a human form, it was pervaded by the divine breath of life, and created a living being, so that we cannot say the body was earlier than the soul. The dust of the earth is merely the earthly substratum, which was formed by the breath of life from God into an animated, living, self-existent being. When it is said, "God breathed into his nostril the breath of life," it is evident that this description merely gives prominence to the peculiar sign of life, viz., breathing; since it is obvious, that what God breathed into man could not be the air which man breathes; for it is not that which breathes, but simply that which is breathed. Consequently, breathing into the nostril can only mean, that "God, through His own breath, produced and combined with the bodily form that principle of life, which was the origin of all human life, and which constantly manifests its existence in the breath inhaled and exhaled through the nose" (Delitzsch, Psychol. p. 62). Breathing, however, is common to both man and beast; so that this cannot be the sensuous analogon of the supersensuous spiritual life, but simply the principle of the physical life of the soul. Nevertheless the vital principle in man is different from that in the animal, and the human soul from the soul of the beast. This difference is indicated by the way in which man received the breath of life from God, and so became a living soul. "The beasts arose at the creative word of God, and no communication of the spirit is mentioned even in Genesis 2:19; the origin of their soul was coincident with that of their corporeality, and their life was merely the individualization of the universal life, with which all matter was filled in the beginning by the Spirit of God.

On the other hand, the human spirit is not a mere individualization of the divine breath which breathed upon the material of the world, or of the universal spirit of nature; nor is his body merely a production of the earth when stimulated by the creative word of God. The earth does not bring forth his body, but God Himself puts His hand to the work and forms him; nor does the life already imparted to the world by the Spirit of God individualize itself in him, but God breathes directly into the nostrils of the one man, in the whole fulness of His personality, the breath of life, that in a manner corresponding to the personality of God he may become a living soul" (Delitzsch). This was the foundation of the pre-eminence of man, of his likeness to God and his immortality; for by this he was formed into a personal being, whose immaterial part was not merely soul, but a soul breathed entirely by God, since spirit and soul were created together through the inspiration of God. As the spiritual nature of man is described simply by the act of breathing, which is discernible by the senses, so the name which God gives him (Genesis 5:2) is founded upon the earthly side of his being: Adam, from אדמה (adamah), earth, the earthly element, like homo from humus, or from χαμά, χαμαί, χαμᾶθεν, to guard him from self-exaltation, not from the red colour of his body, since this is not a distinctive characteristic of man, but common to him and to many other creatures. The name man (Mensch), on the other hand, from the Sanskrit mânuscha, manuschja, from man to think, manas equals mens, expresses the spiritual inwardness of our nature.

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