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Who was Adam in the Bible?

Adam is the first human created and thus the father of all humanity. Genesis 2:7 explains, "then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature." In many English translations, we do not see this man's name until Genesis 2:20 where we learn that "the man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him." The Hebrew word adam means man or human being. It is used in the generic sense throughout the Old Testament as well as to refer to Adam specifically.

Genesis 2 also tells us that God placed Adam in the garden of Eden. He was to tend and keep the garden. God told Adam that he could "eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die" (Genesis 2:16–17).

Genesis 2 goes on to describe the creation of the first woman—later named Eve (Genesis 3:20)—from Adam's side. God stated that it was not good for the man to be alone. Eve was the appropriate companion and helper God created. When Adam saw her, he declared, "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man" (Genesis 2:23). Genesis 2:24 describes the bond of marriage in which a man leaves his parents, holds fast to his wife, and the two become one flesh. We also see the intimacy and purity of Adam and Eve's bond: "the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed" (Genesis 2:25).

Genesis 1:27 sums up God's creation of humanity this way: "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." We read further that God blessed them and commanded them to "be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth" (Genesis 1:28).

However, this idyllic state did not last. Genesis 3 tells us about the serpent tempting and deceiving Eve. She ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, "and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate" (Genesis 3:6). First Timothy 2:14 points out that Adam was not deceived. Adam and Eve's eyes were opened and they saw they were naked, so they made themselves loincloths of fig leaves. When they heard the sound of God walking in the garden, they hid. God called out to Adam, and Adam admitted he had hidden out of fear because he was naked. When God asked if he'd eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam said, "The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate" (Genesis 3:12). God then spoke to Eve, and she said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate" (Genesis 3:13). Blame was passed, but God outlined curses on the serpent, Eve, and Adam.

Sin and death entered the world. The relationship between humans and God was broken. The relationships between humans, particularly between men and women, would never be the same. Even the ground would be cursed, and the man's work would become toil. But God did not abandon Adam and Eve. On the contrary, He clothed them with garments of skin, barred them from the garden of Eden so they would not take from the tree of life and live forever in a state of sin, and promised that salvation would come (Genesis 3:15).

It is interesting to note that immediately after the curses are outlined, we read, that Adam "called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living" (Genesis 3:20). Adam latched on to God's promise that Eve would have children. He continued to cling to his wife. He continued to live out God's call to be fruitful and multiply.

It seems Adam and Eve's first child was a son named Cain, infamous for killing his brother Abel. The next named child we read about is Seth, from whom Noah descended. We learn that when Seth had his son Enosh, "people began to call upon the name of the LORD" (Genesis 4:26). Adam and Eve no doubt had numerous children (Genesis 5:4). Adam lived for 930 years (Genesis 5:5).

Genesis 5:1–3 gives us important information about the nature of humanity. It says, "This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created. When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth." Adam became a sinner bound to death, and all of humanity would be the same.

Romans 5:12–14 explains it this way, "Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come."

The "one who was to come" is Jesus Christ. Luke 3 traces Jesus' genealogy back to Adam. Romans 5 goes on to explain, "But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. … For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:15, 17; cf Romans 5:12–21). In talking about the reality of Jesus' resurrection and the future resurrection of those who put their faith in Jesus, 1 Corinthians 15:22 says, "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive." The passage further explains, "Thus it is written, 'The first man Adam became a living being'; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. … The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven" (1 Corinthians 15:45–49).

Though we are each born in the likeness of Adam—sinful, separated from God, and destined to die—that is not the end of the story. Jesus has defeated sin and death on the cross and through His resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20–28, 56–57). All who put their faith in Him are new creations, reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:17–21). Though we were once dead in our sins, "God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:4–10).

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