Dating or Naming

Adam’s path of self-discovery

At first blush, this section of scripture is confusing and usually only taught as a child’s nursery story, “Oh! how cute, Adam named all the animals.” But there is a bit more going on in these few verses; let’s see if we can crack it open. 

Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.
Gen. 2:18-20

Notice that this naming ceremony is couched inside of God’s concern for Adam being alone, needing a helper or life partner.  Inside of the crisis of Adam’s aloneness, do you see the partnership at work between God and man? God forms all the animals and then brings them to Adam for naming. If God was able to create them, was he also not able to name them? No, of course he could, but that would rob Adam the opportunity for self-discovery.

What do I mean by self-discovery?
This is Adam being taught who he is.  Doesn’t he discover that he is different from all the animals, none of them are compatible mates for him.  God led him through this discovery process instead of just telling him.  He finds out in the laboratory of Eden that, “I am unique amongst all the creatures”, “I’m not like them, who am I? Oh, I’m like God”.  Adam wakes up to the realization of the image he bears. 

There seem to be several things at work in this short vignette.  One, Adam is looking for a life partner and unable to find one. Second, he’s discovering his uniqueness, how he’s different from the animal kingdom. And third, he discovers his role to nurture and care for the creation. 

This third revelation is more subtle, so let’s break it down. 
What does it mean to name something?  If you have children think of the process of naming your child, what was it like? If it was it challenging – why? Something is at work in you – you realize your responsibility to care for this child, nurture and provide for them, teaching them correctly, what kind of person will they become. We want their name to reflect our highest goals and aspirations for their life.  This is what Adam was doing for all the animals. 

To name something is to know it, to make it relatable on its own terms, giving it an identity.  It also implies that you will care for and nurture it until it can take care of itself. This is the mandate being given to Adam when charged with naming the animals.

From these few verses we learn some very important truths about life.  Mans’ role is one of partnership with God, we are to work together with him. Secondly, as we give ourselves to that partnership, we discover who we are with respect to the things he puts before us.  And finally, knowing him as a kind father we are to reflect that kindness to those under our care.

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