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YHVH ELOHIM (read Adonai Elohim) formed

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from the ground every living thing of the field

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and every bird of the air.

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He caused them to come to the adam to see what he would name them,

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and whatever the adam proclaimed

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about each living, breathing creature, that was its name.

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Now THE PERSONAL AND ETERNAL GOD who is also THE CREATOR AND OWNER OF ALL THINGS formed the living things of the field and the birds of the air, from the ground just like He did with the man. So, in response to man’s aloneness God first caused them to come to the man to see what he would proclaim about them and thus give them an identity and a reputation. Whatever the man exclaimed about each living creature that had the breath of life in it, that was its reputation from then on.


1: “formed”

This verb is obviously referring to the animals God created earlier as described in chapter 1. It is not a newly created set of animals. However, at this point in the narrative it is giving us a new piece of information about them – that God formed them from the dirt just like He made man. In chapter one it says He spoke and they became a reality but here it says he formed them, presumably with His hands, from the earth. Which is it? Remember that the Hebrew idea of speaking something into existence means that he brought out into plain view something that was deep within himself. He showed us through everything He created, what He is like. He could reveal what is inside Him by forming something with his hands; it is not a contradiction.


What is meant by “of the field”? Is it the easily domesticated animals that work in the field, or the wild animals that live and roam in the fields, meaning in the wide open spaces? Most scholars lean toward it meaning the wild animals, those apart from the easily domesticated animals. Man would quickly learn about, and gain control over, those that are easily domesticated, but not so with the wild animals. So here God gives man the chance to watch each of those wild animals in turn and give them a name.

Is this different from, or the same as, the group of animals mentioned in Genesis 1:24 “living creatures of the earth”? The wording is more similar than different. In 1:24 the emphasis was the type of relationship the animals had (or would have) with man based on how they moved. Here we don’t see the emphasis on how they move, but it is still about man’s relationship with those animals, so it does appear to indicate those animals that are not easily domesticated, i.e. wild animals.


God included the birds in this exercise because man does have interaction with the birds. However, not very many people have interaction with fishes in the normal activities of life, and it is hard to see them much of the time, so the fishes were not included here.


How long did it take Adam to name the animals? We are not told so we do not know. We can figure that it would have taken at least several hours. Was it possible to get this done in one day? I think it was possible since Adam did not name the fish or the insects, and he would only have had to give a name to each family of animals, not each genus or species of animal within that family. We do not know if God’s original creation included various species, or if speciation (microevolution) happened after that. Even if there were more than one species of squirrel alive when Adam named the animals, it seems logical to think that he gave all the squirrels the same name without concern for the classification of species (different types of squirrels) at that time.

5: “proclaimed”

I picture Adam watching each type of animal for a little while to see how they acted and what they were like. He would exclaim something about each characteristic that caught his attention. Then he would choose the characteristic that he thought most set this animal apart from the others and was worthy of becoming that animal’s identity and reputation and he chose that as its name.

I imagine Adam laughing as he watched two squirrels chase each other around a tree trunk. Our English word for squirrel comes from French which came from Latin which came from a Greek word meaning “tail.” Lots of animals have tails, but squirrels do that thing with their tail when they want to send a warning to other squirrels. But they had no reason to send such warnings before the fall. I imagine that Adam’s name for a squirrel was a descriptive word or phrase that tried to capture their amazing agility in the trees and their level of activity, maybe something like “frenetic tree runner.”

Adam was not speaking in Hebrew. The names he gave them were lost at the time of Babel when the languages were all changed. However, the tendency to call animals by some prominent characteristic lived on. In ancient times the names of animals were often a word or phrase that described what that animal looked like or how it acted, just like Adam had done.

6: “that was its name”

The reasons for having Adam name the animals could have been several, as follows: 1) In Bible times a name had meaning and that meaning was important. Also, a name was tied to reputation, it was not just a form of identification; a number will suffice for identification, but a name had meaning and showed purpose. This was begun by God when He asked Adam to name the animals. 2) This act established man as the clear leader among the created kinds. It was his first exercise of authority over creation. God did not tell Adam what they should be called or how to name them. He gave Adam responsibility as a leader. 3) For their encouragement. see below.

While it is not true that by naming something we then own it, there is a sense in which naming something sets the direction in which that thing or living being then moves. Think of people you know with names like Joy, Faith, or Hope. We consider them beautiful names because they are more than identifiers; they express a quality we hope that person will exude, and often they do. Now think of the devastating effects of giving a child a negative name. I personally knew a girl at a middle school where I once worked whose parents named her Tequila, and I heard about a girl at another middle school whose name was Cocaine. What’s more, the teachers and staff were required to call them by the name on their birth certificate, no alterations or nicknames were allowed. We consider this sad and unfortunate because we understand in a small way that names have power.

What was the purpose of the naming? Was it just for Adam to have authority over them? Was it just for identification? Was it for Adam or was it also for the animals also?

3) Purpose number three is this: I postulate that it was also for the animals’ encouragement – for them to know and be clear about the role they should play in pointing to God’s creative power and greatness. If animals could communicate with man, then man could also communicate with animals (see my comment for Genesis 3:1). If there was communication between the two, then Adam could have used the naming of the animals as a way to guide them and encourage them in how to fulfill their purpose of glorifying God.