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What Did Adam Know On His First Day?

Naming the Animals

One of the tasks Adam was given on the first day of his creation was to name the animals, an act that demonstrated his

Adam names animals

dominion over them as God had prescribed (Genesis 1:26, 28).  Yet, therein lies a supposed problem that the day-age theory would presumably solve: if those days were not day-ages and death had not entered until Adam sinned, then why would Adam give names to animals that denote their carnivorous nature (such as bird of prey)?  The proponents of Progressive Creationism have suggested that Adam was familiar with death, even before the creation of Eve, which would explain why he would give the animals names that fit their ferocious nature.  Progressive Creationist Richard Deem explains:

When Adam was first put into the garden, God said that he could eat from any tree except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:15-17). God threatened that Adam would “surely die” if he broke this command. This threat makes no sense unless Adam had already seen the death of animals. There is no recorded reply of Adam asking what death was. If he had never seen death this would have been an obvious question. This is strong biblical evidence that Adam had already seen the death of animals even before Eve was created. In addition, Adam’s choice of names for the animals indicated that he had seen them kill other animals. For example, the Hebrew name for lion is derived from the Hebrew root that means “in the sense of violence.” In addition, Adam named some of the predatory birds using a Hebrew word with the meaning “bird of prey.” In naming the eagle, Adam used the Hebrew word whose root means to lacerate. So, scripture suggests that there was animal death before the fall of Adam and Eve.  (Deem 2006a)

Suggesting that Adam must have known what death was first hand in order to understand God’s directive is nothing more than speculation and not necessary since any child can understand the idea of death without having a family member die.  To suggest that Adam knew what death was based on the names of the animals is not logical.  Furthermore, Deem has assumed that Adam spoke Hebrew.  While it is possible that Hebrew was the original language, there is no way to be sure that Adam and Eve didn’t speak a completely different language.  The above author is putting words into Adam’s mouth that are not in the text.  Because the Bible is God’s Word, we want to be careful not to add or subtract from it, but just understand what is given.

 

Did Adam really include in the name lion the meaning of “in a sense of violence”?  We agree that when we look up the Hebrew word אריה aryeh in the popular Strong’s Dictionary, the definition does in fact say “in a sense of violence.”  But this does not in any way imply that Adam while in the Garden of Eden was thinking to himself, “Gee, what should I call this animal?  Hmm, well, it has big teeth and I have seen it kill and eat other animals!  I need to call it something that is characteristic of its violent nature.  I know!  I will call it aryeh (or in English violence).”

 

The reality is that Strong’s Dictionary and other lexicons sometimes make an educated guess.  When compiling a lexicon (dictionary) of ancient languages, the authors study the available writings and begin to formulate their ideas from there.  There is no master copy of original meanings that they can consult.  Some words are much easier than others due to their high frequency.  The meaning of others,  which are used only once in the entire Bible, known as hapax legomenon, and must be deduced from the surrounding vocabulary.  An example of such an occurrence is found in Isaiah:

 

The wild beasts of the desert shall also meet with the jackals, and the wild goat shall bleat to its companion; also the night creature (לילית lilit) shall rest there, and find for herself a place of rest.  (Isaiah 34:14)

 

The term night creature is the Hebrew word lilit which occurs only here in the entire Bible.  Even if it were to have been uttered by Adam, this would not tell us what it means.  Thus, the translation night creature is only an educated guess on the part of the translator due to its similarity to the Hebrew word לילה layla meaning night.

 

Parallelisms

Another tool the translator can use to help clarify a text is parallelisms.  Parallelisms are times when the biblical author followed the word in question with a synonym in close proximity.  We see this style of parallelism often in the Proverbs where an idea is expressed two (or more) different words.  Consider the following example from Proverbs 2:10-11:

 

When wisdom enters your heart,

And knowledge is pleasant to your soul,

Discretion will preserve you;

Understanding will keep you.

 

There are several clues that would help us understand if one or two of these words were difficult since each verse is a pair of words meaning approximately the same thing:

 

  • wisdom –  knowledge
  • heartsoul
  • discretionunderstanding
  • preservekeep

 

The words in this passage are fairly easy, but we can see how if we didn’t know one, we could make an educated guess based on the context and meaning of the other.  This is how many words are ascribed their meaning in the Bible – not from looking at a lexicon or dictionary, but from studying the context in which the word is used; so too with the word lion.  The various authors of Hebrew lexicons such as Strong’s, Brown Driver Briggs (BDB), and others do not know the original meaning of the word.  However, they have observed the animal lion and how it is generally portrayed in Scripture as “in a sense of violence.”  But we must recognize that “in a sense of violence” is not the true meaning of the word lion, which is the translation of the Hebrew aryeh.  The same is true of the birds of prey.  Adam, didn’t look at them and say to himself, “Hmm… I think that I will name you ‘bird of prey’ (Hebrew ayit עיט).”  Again, modern scholars don’t know what the etymology of עיט (ayit) is so they gave it a general term “bird of prey” for that is what it is.  Let’s consider an example in English that is similar.

 

Etymologies

When we say God we are referring to the Supreme Being who is the Sovereign of the universe. Looking in Collins’ English Dictionary we see that the definition of God is “a supernatural being, who is worshipped as the controller of some part of the universe or some aspect of life in the world or is the personification of some force.”  But what is the origin of the word?  We have seen the definition of the word, but where did it come from?  Does the origin stem from supreme being, or powerful one?  Is it related to the word good?

 

To answer these questions we must consult an etymological dictionary which gives a history of origin of words.  According to the Online Etymological Dictionary, god (or God) in old English did mean supreme being.  That, however, is not the end of the story.  In Proto-Indo-European, the predecessor to English, it was spelled ghut which meant that which is invoked.  Although some trace it to an alternate Proto-Indo-European root ghu-to meaning poured, from the root *gheu meaning to pour, pour a libation.  The etymological dictionary also notes that it is not related to the word good.  So, we see in a word we use every day that it had an origin that probably none of us knew before.  We might have thought that it was related to good since God is good and if not that, then at least it came from supreme being.

 

However, the original meaning is neither supreme being nor good but is rather that which is invoked or poured.  This is informative since it demonstrates that a definition and origin (etymology) are not necessarily the same.  Thus to suggest that Adam was familiar with death before the fall and therefore called the lion violent and eagles and vultures birds of prey is anachronistic.  We simply don’t know what Adam meant by the names that he gave.  All that we know is that in the Bible, the Hebrew words aryeh lion and ayit birds of prey are the meanings of those words as derived by scholars according to how the words are used, not according to their original meaning.

 Replenish the Earth and the Gap Theory

In Genesis 1:28 we read “…and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it.” (KJV)  The King James Version’s use of the word replenish has been seen by Gap Theorists as proof that the earth is old, since supposedly Adam and Eve are commanded to fill again.  In fact, the idea that God commanded Adam and Eve not merely to fill the earth but to fill the earth again, stems from the Gap Theory.[i]  The proponents of the Gap Theory believe that the billions of years of the age of the heavens and earth, as touted by evolutionistic thinking, is found between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2.  Thus, did God command Adam and Eve to fill the earth for the very first time or to fill the earth again?  Did they actually understand that they were to fill the earth again because the world prior to their creation had been destroyed?

 

Replenish/Malu

It is true, that in today’s English, when we say replenish we mean filling up something that is depleted, something that was once full and is now empty.  However, just less than 200 years ago, Webster’s Dictionary (1828) defines the word as, “To fill; to stock with numbers or abundance.”  We can see that the word has changed from meaning fill to fill again today.  Of course, the answer ultimately lies not in English but in Hebrew.

 

The Hebrew word מלאו (malu) does not mean to refill, but simply to fill.  It in no way connotes or implies to fill again.  It just means fill.  God gave the same command to fill in Genesis 9:1 to Noah after the flood as He did to Adam and Eve.  There is no question that Noah was to fill the earth again, but that is not intrinsically implied by the word; God simply said to fill the earth.  Likewise, to suggest that God commanded Adam and Eve to repopulate a world that had been recreated is poor exegesis and is not even remotely supported from the text.  We can, therefore, absolutely conclude that Adam and Eve simply understood God to be telling them to fill the earth for the first time and not to refill the world.  They would absolutely not infer from God’s command that there had been a world gone bad prior to theirs.  In fact, there are no words or verses that support such a claim.[ii]



[i] Weston W. Fields in his book Unformed and Unfilled (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1978) provides a thorough discussion of the Gap Theory and its fatal flaws.  See also

answersingenesis.org/creation/v3/i3/gap_theory.asp

[ii] For a discussion on the Gap Theory, see: Russell Grigg From The Beginning Of The Creation

answersingenesis.org/creation/v19/i2/beginning.asp

 

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10 comments

  1. Adam and Eve may not have spoken Hebrew, but they did speak the same language. This is known through the tower of Babel, when The Lord confused the tongues. Prior to that point, it is implied that there was only one language. Perhaps though, it was Hebrew, considering the bible itself was written in Hebrew. While at babel the languages were mixed, it’s quite possible that Hebrew predated that mix. That’s my own speculation though.

    Shalom.

  2. If it was Yhwh’s intent for Adam to name all of the creatures in the animal kingdom that he had dominion over, why didn’t this event take place along the seashore? Wasn’t all marine life under Adam’s charge? Also, the stated purpose behind Adam naming all of the peaceful creatures (the beasts and the birds) was to find Adam a mate!

    Gen 2:20
    nd 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. KJV

    Why would Yhwh expect Adam to find a help meet among the animal kingdom?
    Something other than what has been traditionally interpreted is going on here.

  3. I 100% believe in what the bible says in a literal six day creation, I vehemently deny the gap theory! I believe the gap theory theory is straight from the pit of hell.
    My question is as a born again believer in Jesus Christ, how do I respond to fellow brothers and sisters when they don’t believe in a literal six day creation and they are leaning towards the gap theory?

    • I hope to write a full length article on that in the future. However, the shore answer is that the grammar does not allow for it. I detail that in chapter five of Discovering the First Six Days

  4. Is Saint Augustine’s exegesis of the 2nd and 3rd chapters of Genesis correct?  Do a search:  First Scandal.

  5. Thanks Doug, It was a good read and did clarify that for me. Hope all is well for the new year. Hope to see you soon.

    Doug Craven

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