Thursday, November 7, 2019

Adam Named the Animals

Alice C. Linsley

Genesis 2:18-23 is a delightful folk narrative about God bringing animals to Adam to name. The story does not receive much attention from Bible scholars because they are at a loss to explain the origin of this narrative.

Genesis 2 is recognized as the older of the creation stories. The context of Genesis 1 is Babylonian and much later. The context of Genesis 2 is African, and it is in African tales that we discover the purpose of this account of Adam naming the animals. African animal tales highlight social relationships and hierarchies. By giving Adam the ruler's role in naming the creatures over which he is to have dominion, God establishes a hierarchy in the order of creation.

The Man and the animals are created from the same substance. They are formed from the earth and are earth creatures. As the story continues Adam discovers that he is unique. There is no other creature like him. He is alone until God fashions a companion for him, the woman.

The woman is also unique. She is made from the man, not the soil. In a sense, the woman is the crown of creation and as such she is vulnerable. The spirit of rebellion against God's order in creation makes her his first victim. By obeying the serpent instead of God, Eve became subjected to a creature of low estate. She exchanged her crown for an abased state. The first trespass was against God's order of creation.

St. John Chrysostom wrote, "Do you see how the devil led her captive, handicapped her reasoning, and caused her to set her thoughts on goals beyond her real capabilities, in order that she might be puffed up with empty hopes and lose her hold on the advantages already accorded her?" (From here.)

The social relationships are changed. The animals under Adam's rule are part of a fallen realm. Now the whole of the creation yearns for the day of redemption. In the grand scheme of God's providence, it would be a woman's obedience that would begin the restoration of paradise. Her name is Mary and she is the Mother of Christ our God.

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