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WHAT’S IN A NAME?: Wrestling with Scripture #4

Updated: Oct 29, 2023

Okay, you’re probably thinking there’s nothing new to discover about Adam and Eve. You’ve heard the story since Sunday school and although it’s a pretty amazing tale, it seems a simple one to follow. God created Adam, then Eve, and placed them in a perfect garden—paradise—that He’d created for them to enjoy. But Eve was tempted by the serpent and sinned, changing the course of history forever and getting them expelled from the garden to prevent them from eating from the Tree of Life and living forever in a sinful state.

But what if some of the most basic things you’ve been taught—or assumed—are wrong? Or at least suspect?

Genesis says God put Adam into the garden. I only recently noticed that Eden is not the name of the garden, but the garden is in Eden and, elsewhere in the OT, it is called the Garden of God. Have you ever wondered how long Adam was there enjoying fellowship with God before Eve was created? How long would it take him to name all the animals? How long do you think Adam and Eve were there together before the Fall? I’ve always assumed it was quite a while because the verses seem to imply that God made a practice of walking with them in the cool of the day, but since they had no children to that point despite God‘s command to be fruitful and multiply, it may have been a relatively short period of time.

And what about Adam and Eve’s names? Did you know that the Hebrew word commonly translated “Adam” is ădăm which means man/humanity and is derived from the word ădămă which means dirt? Or that Eve is a transliteration from the Hebrew word meaning life? After the woman is created, Adam speaks for the first recorded time and does not call himself ădăm. He calls himself Ish and the woman Ishi or Isha for she was taken out of him. Granted, Ish and Ishi don’t have the same ring, but it’s worth noting that God said that whatever Adam called a living creature would be its name.

Then there’s the serpent. Are we supposed to see it as a literal talking snake? Did the evil one take the form of a serpent or speak through it? If so, it’s fun to speculate what this creature looked like before God cursed him and commanded him to crawl on his belly from that time forward (Gen 3:14), Since Revelation depicts the devil as a dragon, I wonder if he was originally created to be semi-erect or winged.

There’s an entirely different possibility since the word translated “serpent” can also mean hisser or accuser. We read in Revelation 12:10 : “… for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, who accused them before our God day and night.” Scripture teaches that the devil was one of the chief angels before his rebellion, perhaps God’s righthand man. Despite our nonsensical view of plump, curly-haired cherubs or children dying young becoming precious angels, the Bible presents these messengers of God as imposing figures. Everyone confronted by an angel from Elijah to Mary to the shepherds are terrified and are immediately told, “Do not be afraid.” So, I find it fascinating that Eve did not seem surprised or frightened by the devil’s presence In the Garden of God or by the fact that he spoke to her.

Another interesting fact is that Satan probably isn’t the evil one’s name. Except for one case, Satan in the original text is preceded by ‘the’ indicating that it’s more likely a title or a position than a name. So, does the devil have an actual name? Rolling Stones’ fans might offer Lucifer at this point, but I only recently discovered that the word only appears once (Isaiah 14:12) in the Bible and then only in the King James version (KJV). Unsure of the original Hebrew meaning, the KJV translators simply transliterated it from the Greek word lucifero, which basically means to shine.

If you’re like me, this no-name devil concept is a bit unsettling. It’s hard to unlearn something I’ve thought was true for most of my life, but a friend at church offered a unique insight. She pointed out that the Bible places enormous importance on names. By omitting the enemy’s name, she felt God may have been making a statement about His own complete authority over evil and lowering the devil’s status in the process.

I loved her idea because I saw an immediate parallel to the fourth day of creation. When God creates the sun and moon, He calls them “the greater light to rule the day” and “the lesser light to rule the night.” Since the pagans of that time worshipped the sun and moon, the Bible makes a statement to the ancient Hebrews about their God’s total sovereignty in that He not only created these lights, but that He is so far superior to them that He doesn’t even bother to call them by name. What better way to degrade the authority and glory the devil tried to usurp from God than to render him a nameless liar for all eternity?

Names are important. They are part of our identity. Consider how often God changed someone’s name in the Bible to reflect a new purpose or direction for their lives. We need to remember that God’s name is Holy and cry out with the Psalmist, “LORD, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!”

Some even think that the commandment to not take the Lord’s name in vain has less to do with swearing and more to do with a warning to those of us who claim the name of Christ to never do so lightly. As Christians, we are image bearers of God and ambassadors for Jesus Christ. We need to take His name seriously.

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