In the broadest sense, the Bible is God's message to man
(the human race) dealing with the overall subject of their
mutual relationship. Since this is the case, we are not surprised
to find that in the Bible man is second only to God in
importance (if frequency of mention is any criterion). However,
much of the Bible's teaching concerning man is hidden from the
average reader, due to the unfortunate fact that the one English
word man translates four Hebrew words, which differ from one
another in meaning quite as much as do such English words as
man, fellow, individual, and person. In many passages of
Scripture where man is mentioned, the meaning of the passage
is considerably simplified if we know which of the Hebrew
words for man is used, and apply its particular meaning to the
passage. This treatment is especially needed in the book of
Ecclesiastes, and if followed, will eliminate the seeming
necessity of regarding the book as being inspired only as to the
writing, and not as to the content.
The following four articles deal with these four Hebrew words which are used in the Old Testament to denote that manifold being who was made in the image and likeness of God. The writer acknowledges much indebtedness, in the preparation of these four articles, to Synonyms of the Old Testament, by Robert Baker Girdlestone, published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Mich.
The Hebrew word Adam was not only the proper name
of the first man. It became the generic name of both him and
his descendants. It thus means man in the sense of mankind, or
the human race. It also denotes man as an earth-born creature,
for Adam was given his name because he was formed of the
dust of the ground, or adamah. As an Adam then, man is of
the earth - earthy. He came from the earth, is sustained by the
products of the earth, and in the end, returns to the earth.
As an Adam, man is a creature of physical being and appetites, or in other words, is a living soul. Inasmuch as the animals are also said to be living souls, it is apparent that, viewed strictly as an Adam, man has much in common with the animals; though at the same time he is carefully distinguished from them. It is this similarity to the animals that is stressed in such passages as Eccl. 3:18-22:
"I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men (sons of adam), that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts. For that which befalleth the sons of men (sons of adam) befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth so dieth the other; yea they have all one breath; so that a man (an adam) 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 the spirit of man (adam) that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth? Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man (an adam) should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?"
If, as we read these words, we think of man in his total nature, not only as an adam, but also as an ish, an enosh, and a gever, we shall have to agree with Dr. C.I. Scofield, that, not the content of the book of Ecclesiastes is inspired, but only the writing of it. However, when we perceive that the writer is speaking of man strictly as an adam, a biological creature formed of the earth, and destined to return to the earth, we find nothing contradictory to the rest of the Bible in his statement. What he says of man as an adam would be untrue of man as an ish, but is altogether true of man as an adam. When man is considered as an adam, the emphasis is upon his homogeneity. In spite of racial, national and individual differences, all members of the human race have much in common (mainly of a biological nature); and it is this common heritage which is stressed in the use of the word adam as a name for man. As to his spiritual estate, the Scriptures testify that:
"There is not a just man
(adam) upon the earth, that doeth
good, and sinneth not."
As an adam, man labors incessantly under the sun; yet, in the end, his work is of no profit:
"What profit hath a man
(an adam) of all his labour which
he taketh under the sun? And I gave my heart to seek and
search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done
under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons
of men (sons of adam) to be exercised therewith. I have
seen all the works that are done under the sun; and behold,
all is vanity and vexation of spirit."
Eccl. 1:3; 13-14.
Since man as an adam is a creature of flesh, and came from the earth, he finds his delight in the things of the earth which serve to satisfy the flesh. Thus we find the writer of Ecclesiastes writing that man (adam) should eat, drink, and make merry:
"Then I commended mirth, because a man
(an adam) hath
no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and
to be merry: for that shall abide with him of his labour the
days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun."
That the making merry includes unstinted sexual satisfaction is intimated in Eccl. 2:8:
"I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces: I gat me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men (sons of adam), as musical instruments, and that of all sorts."
The latter part of this verse is mistranslated and is given in the
Jewish translation of the Old Testament as: "... the delights of the
sons of men (sons of adam), women very many." Man, therefore, as an
adam, or son of adam, finds his chief delight in women very
many. We shall find a decided contrast when we consider man
as an ish.
Man's destiny as an adam is to return to the ground, or adamah, whence he was taken:
"In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return
unto the ground (adamah); for out of it wast thou taken: for
dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return."
It is obvious that this sentence was passed upon man strictly as an adam. The breath (neshamah) of life which was breathed into his nostrils, by virtue of which he became a living soul, certainly does not go into the grave. Not having come from the earth in the first place, it assuredly does not terminate there. But, as a biological creature, a physical organism of flesh and blood, man's destiny is to return to the ground from which he was taken. It is concerning man as an adam, that Solomon writes in Eccl. 9:10b:
"For there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave whither thou goest."
If we consider a deceased man as merely a dead body, there is
nothing difficult in this passage of Scripture.
It is possible for a man to live his life strictly as an adam, on the fleshly, or animalistic level, concerned only with the satisfactions of the flesh; and having all his hopes and aspirations directed toward the earth. Such men are graphically described in Psalm 49:6-14:
"They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches; none of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give God a ransom for him: (For the redemption of their souls is precious, and it ceaseth forever:) that he should still live forever and not see corruption. For he seeth that wise men die, likewise the fool and the brutish person perish, and leave their wealth to others. Their inward thought is, that their houses shall continue forever, and their dwelling places to all generations; they call their lands after their own names. Nevertheless man (adam) being in honour abideth not: he is like the beasts that perish. This their way is their folly: yet their posterity approve their sayings. Like sheep they are laid in the grave: death shall feed on them and the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning; and their beauty shall consume in the grave from their dwelling."
Thus, if an adam lives like a beast, he will die like one; and all
of his hopes and aspirations will be laid in the grave with him.
As an adam, man will have a grave for an everlasting home; for when a believer is raised in the resurrection, he will not be raised in this sinful, corruptible flesh and blood that now characterize him as an adam; but will be raised in the likeness of Christ:
"As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also
bear the image of the heavenly."
I Cor. 15:49.
As for adam's unending sojourn in the grave, Eccl. 12: 5 says, in part:
"... because man (adam) goeth to his long (olam - everlasting) home, and the mourners go about the streets."
Our Lord is called son of adam in Psalm 8:5:
"What is man (enosh) that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man (ben-adam) that thou visitest him?"
That this passage is a prophetic reference to Christ is affirmed
in Hebrews 2:6-9. As a son of adam, Christ was truly a member
of the human race; dependent during his sojourn on this earth,
upon its products to sustain his physical life just as any other
son of adam. It was the genuineness of his humanity that the
Lord stressed by referring to himself repeatedly as the son of
man (huios anthropou). The Greek expression is exactly
equivalent to ben-adam. Christ, by virtue of being a son of
man, was just as truly a member of the human race; as, by
virtue of being the Son of God, he was truly a member of the
continued at top of next column
Adam was formed of the dust of the ground, and became
a living soul when God breathed into his nostrils the breath, or
neshamah, of life. This divine gift made him into the image
and likeness of God, for it imparted to him a spirit which was
superior to that of the animals, in that it bestowed upon him a
superior intelligence and also the power of speech. While
animals are also said to be living souls, they did not become
such by having breathed into them the neshamah of life.
Nowhere is any animal said to possess this neshamah. It is
peculiar to the human race and accounts for man's superiority
to the animals - and also for his capacity to worship God.
The possession of the divine neshamah is what characterizes man as an ish. The etymology of the word is doubtful, but it is similar in Hebrew to the word for fire, and also to a verb meaning to exist, to be. Since fire is, itself, a symbol of life, it seems probable that as adam denotes man as the earthy one so ish represents him as the living one. Man therefore has a dual origin: an earthly one, indicated by the name Adam, and a heavenly one, denoted by the name ish.
When the word adam is used for a man, the underlying idea is of a mere unit of mankind, one of many others like him. However, when man is referred to as an ish, the emphasis is upon individuality and personality. When Eve was created and presented to Adam as his wife, 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."
Gen. 2: 23.
Here Adam used the word ish for the first time, and applied its
feminine form to Eve. "She shall be called ishah, because she was taken
out of ish."
By using the word ish to refer to himself as opposed
to the woman, or ishah, Adam was showing consciousness of his
individuality and maleness as contrasted with the femaleness of
Ish is a man as contrasted with a woman, a husband as contrasted with a wife, a master as contrasted with a servant and a great and mighty man as contrasted with a poor and lowly one. For example, in Psalm 62:9, the expression men of high degree is literally sons of ish, while men of low degree is sons of Adam. In using the word ish for man, then, the emphasis is upon the individuality, personality, intelligence, dignity and potential greatness of man. While the word adam is applied to men fewer than five hundred times, the word ish is used more than fifteen hundred times.
The word ish can denote either a godly or an ungodly man. The word itself has no connotation either of good or bad. It does, however, imply dignity and worth in a worldly sense. An ish may be perfect and upright, as was Job.
"There was a man
(ish) in the land of Uz, whose name was
Job and that man (the ish) was perfect and upright, and one
that feared God, and eschewed evil."
Or, as in Psalms 5:6b, he may be bloody and deceitful:
"The Lord will abhor the bloody and deceitful man (ish)."
While the sons of adam find their delight in eating and drinking, and in women, very many; man, as an ish is capable of finding delight in the things of God:
"Blessed is the man
(ish) that walketh not in the counsel of
the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth
in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of
the LORD, and in his law doth he meditate day and night."
Of course, man as an ish does not always delight in the things
of God, but he does have the capacity to do so. As an ish, man
has a need, not for women, very many, but for one woman to be
a helper, suitable for (or suited to) him.
Man's destiny as an ish depends upon his earthly relationship with God. As an ish, he has an immortal spirit which must return to, and give an account to, God. As an adam, he returns to the ground, but as an ish, the heavenly component breathed into his nostrils must return to God, and there be judged by the Judge of the spirits of all flesh.
The word enosh first occurs in the Old Testament as the name of Adam's grandson - spelled Enos in our English version. Thereafter it becomes one of the words used to denote man (or rather a man), for enosh, like ish stresses individuality. In order to understand the sense of the word enosh as it is applied to man, we must examine the verb anash, from which it appears to be derived. This verb signifies to be incurably sick, and is found in the following passages, in which the italicized words translate the verb anash:
"... and it (David's child) was very sick."
II Samuel 12:15.
"My wound is incurable." Job 34:6.
"... in the day of desperate sorrow"
"Why is my pain perpetual, and my wound incurable?" Jeremiah 15:18.
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." Jeremiah 17:9.
"Thy bruise is incurable." Jeremiah 30:12.
It appears, then, that the word enosh, as applied to man,
suggests that he is incurably sick with the disease of sin, with no
hope of recovery apart from the grace of God. If adam denotes
man as the earthy one, and ish as the living one,
describes him as the incurable one. Where man's state as an
adam merely implies his earthy origin, existence and end;
appears to lay the stress upon man's carnality - that part of his
nature which is unconditionally at war with his Maker. In this
connection it may be mentioned that Christ is never referred to
prophetically as an enosh. However, he is described in one of
Daniel's visions as one like a son of Man (enosh). In the light
of the meanings of enosh
and adam, what we call the adamic
nature might more properly be called the enoshic nature.
Of course, the word enosh (as well as the other three words) is used a very great number of times in a neutral sense; i.e., it simply refers to man without necessarily stressing his sinfulness and carnality. Yet, there are a very great many passages in which the word is used which do emphasize man's depravity and especially his inferiority as compared with God. Note its usage in the following passages:
"Shall mortal man
(enosh) be more just than God?" Job
"Is there not an appointed time to man (enosh) upon the earth?" Job 7:1.
"What is man (enosh) that thou shouldest magnify him?" Job 7:17.
"But how should man (enosh) be just with God?" Job 9:2.
"What is man (enosh) that he should be clean?" Job 15:14.
"Thou turnest man (enosh) to destruction, and sayest, Return, ye children of men (benai-adam)." Psalm 90:3.
"As for man (enosh), his days are as grass." Psalm 103:15.
These and other passages show clearly that when the
word enosh is used in a characteristic sense, the stress is upon
the incurable sinfulness of man's nature - a sinfulness which is
manifested by implacable rebellion against God.
Viewed strictly as an enosh, man's destiny is to be destroyed. That carnal nature which is designated by the word enosh must be eradicated from the believer before he can stand in the presence of God. Thus we find Job saying to God in the fourteenth chapter of the book of Job, verse 19:
"Thou destroyest the hope of man (enosh)."
This destruction of enosh, or the carnal nature of man, is described by Paul in I Cor. 15:50-54:
"Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory."
The words corruptible, corruption and mortal are almost exactly
equivalent to the literal denotation of the word enosh. As an
adam, man is earthy, as an enosh he is carnal; and it is the
carnal, not the earthy, mind that is enmity against God.
continued at top of next column
The word gever comes from the verb gavar, meaning to prevail, to be strong; thus its signification is mighty one. Gever might be considered as an intensified synonym for ish, however, it adds another factor - that of might, or strength. As adam denotes man as the earthy one, ish as the living one and enosh as the incurable one, so gever is man as the mighty one. As enosh stresses man's weakness, inferiority and unworthiness, so gever emphasizes his might and power. There is no implication in the word gever as to good or evil. As a gever a man may be mighty in the service of the Lord, or in rebellion against him. The word is first used in Exodus 10: 11:
"Go now, ye that are men, and serve the LORD."
The use of these four Hebrew words for man sets forth
a truth that has been impressed upon us both by history and
experience: Man is a curious compound of strength and
weakness, of wisdom and folly, of dust and deity; a being
composed, as it were, partly of iron and partly of miry clay.
These two extremes of man's nature often lead us into a
two-fold error in our dealings with other people. Because of
the strength which we see in a person, we tend to over-rate him;
and ascribe to him virtues and strength which he may not, in
fact, possess. Then, when a weakness appears in that person,
we are prone to devaluate him completely, not even giving him
credit for the positive characteristics which he does have.
Two passages in which the word gever is used are particularly interesting. The first is Jeremiah 17: 5-7:
"Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man (gever) that trusteth in man (adam), and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited. Blessed is the man (gever) that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is."
For a mighty man to trust the adam either in himself or in
some other man, is certainly the height of folly. Even a mighty
man needs to rely upon God.
The second passage is Jeremiah 31: 21-22:
"Set thee up way-marks, make thee high heaps: set thine heart toward the highway, even the way which thou wentest: turn again, 0 virgin of Israel, turn again to these thy cities. How long wilt thou go about, 0 thou backsliding daughter? For the LORD hath created a new thing in the earth, a woman shall compass a man (gever)."
Note the reference to the virgin of Israel, and the creation of a new thing, which is that a woman shall compass a mighty one. This is almost universally accepted as a prophecy of the incarnation and Virgin birth of Christ. In Job chapter fourteen, we find all four of these words used, and it is instructive to notice how the characteristic meaning of each is played upon:
(adam) that is born of a woman is of few days and full
of trouble. He cometh forth like a flower and is cut down:
he fleeth also as a shadow and continueth not. And dost
thou open thine eyes upon such an one, and bringest me into
judgment with thee? Who can bring a clean thing out of an
unclean? Not one. Seeing his days are determined, the
number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his
bounds that he cannot pass; Turn from him that he may
rest, till he accomplish as an hireling, his day. For there is
hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again,
and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. Though
the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof
die in the ground; yet through the scent of water it will bud,
and bring forth boughs like a plant. But man (a gever) dieth,
and wasteth away: yea man (adam) giveth up the ghost, and
where is he? As the waters fail from the sea, and the flood
decayeth and drieth up: so man (an ish) lieth down and
riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake,
nor be raised out of their sleep. 0 that thou wouldest hide
me in the grave, that thou wouldest keep me secret, until thy
wrath be past, that thou wouldest appoint me a set time and
remember me! If a man (a gever) die, shall he live again?
All the days of my appointed time will I wait till my change
come. Thou shall call and I will answer thee: thou wilt have
a desire to the works of thine hands... The waters wear
the stones: thou washest away the things which grow out of
the dust of the earth; and thou destroyest the hope of man
(enosh). Thou prevailest forever against him, and he
passeth: thou changest his countenance, and sendest him
away. His sons come to honour, and he knoweth it not; and
they are brought low, but he perceiveth it not of them. But
his flesh upon him shall have pain, and his soul within him
Job 14:1-15, 19-21