Question: Homo sapiens are related by a genetic history that reaches back 200,000 years. If Genesis chapter 2 is correct Adam's place in history is around 5000 BC in Southern Mesopotamia. So how did he make his appearance?
Answer: 200,000 years ago (approximately) something special seems to have happened allowing us to call ourselves "modern humans." This makes the scientific community ask, "Did a distinct event take place 200,000 years ago that produced modern humans?"
Genesis chapter 1 informs us about Homo sapiens being made in God's image. From that point on, being human means you have proceeded from a previous human in the human race. This has been known since we became human. The book of Job attests that men believed this, we note that Job was asked, "Were you the first man ever born?" (Job 15:7). He was not asked if he was the first man created.
And yes, the science seems to tell us that 200,000 years (the Middle Paleolithic era) is the correct timeframe for the appearance of what we call "modern humans". The oldest known skeleton of a modern Homo sapien dates to about 196,000 years ago.
Genesis chapter 2 informs us that the timeframe for Adam, Eve, and their children is based in the Neolithic period of human development, where we read of cities, agriculture, tilling the ground, keeping livestock, irrigation, and farming. It’s too late to be included in the Paleolithic period; people had got well past the hunter-gatherer stage. Around 5500 BC a distinctive style of impressive pottery—known as Halaf—spread across the whole of northern Mesopotamia. The high quality of the firing means that many examples have survived. Adam had stepped into a recognisable civilisation.
Science can help us understand the scriptures; the men who follow the proverb "It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings to search them out" (Prov 25:2) help us understand how we should view the Bible.
Their “searching out” has helped us understand that the sun doesn’t move around the earth, so we now understand how to interpret the Bible in matters relating to the sun.
Science has also explained that humans have been on the planet much longer than 6000 years, so that also helps us grasp what the Bible teaches us about early humankind.
Adam and all humans are made from the dust of the earth. "God said, “Let the land produce living creatures" (Gen 1:24), we share the same humble beginnings as all living creatures, for human beings are living creatures.
But there’s another important way we can view this fact, apart from thinking that many years ago God formed life from inorganic matter. There’s something worth considering: we are all made from the earth, because what is now part of our body was just a few short weeks ago inanimate earth, soil, or dirt.
Let’s say we buy a radish from the supermarket, that radish has been freshly picked, it ended up on the supermarket shelf just a matter of days after it was uprooted from the earth. While the radish was growing in the ground its roots reached down into the soil and absorbed lifeless dirt, transforming it into a part of the succulent red radish that looks appetising in our salad. We eat the radish and it becomes a part of our body. So what was earth just a few days ago is now a part of a human being.
Everything we eat was soil not too long ago. Even if we eat meat, let’s say beef, the cattle we eat were eating grass not too long ago, and we eat the beef; so what was grass, was formerly earth, and is now a part of a human being.
Everything we eat was soil just a few months ago, so we are all made from the earth, and that’s recently, not thousands of years ago. Every cell in our body was earth. When a human being dies we go back to being dirt. Dust to dust. Every human being was earth not too long ago.
Adam was made from the earth, as we all are.
So to the original question: Other scriptures in the Bible may throw some light on how Adam was chosen. Firstly, it will help us to know that in ancient Mesopotamia adoption was an official practice that took place; there were a number of ways a child could be adopted. We have clay tablets that document adoptions.
One route to adopt a child involved a newborn that had been abandoned from birth, what was known as “to the dog” while still “in (its) water and blood.” In one clay tablet that’s been found a woman has abandoned her newborn son, and this is expressed as “throwing him into the dog’s mouth” whereby she legally forgoes all her rights to that child.
Another tablet has been translated as, “If a man an infant out of his amniotic fluid for sonship has taken and has brought him up, that adopted child shall not be (re) claimed.”
This suggests that the parents abandoned the infant, and he was quickly adopted while amniotic fluid was still on him. If the adopter has raised the infant, the adopted child could not be reclaimed by anyone, including the child’s natural parents.
This is an interesting view of life in Mesopotamia, it doesn’t make the people of Mesopotamia less civilised than we are, because babies are sometimes abandoned in the modern world too, it’s not a good thing, but it sometimes happens.
Mesopotamians showed themselves to be civilised by having documentation for someone who had found an abandoned baby and adopted the child.
In Ezekiel 16 we read: "Your ancestry and birth were in the land of the Canaanites; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. On the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to make you clean, nor were you rubbed with salt or wrapped in cloths. No one looked on you with pity or had compassion enough to do any of these things for you. Rather, you were thrown out into the open field, for on the day you were born you were despised. Then I passed by and saw you kicking about in your blood, and as you lay there in your blood I said to you, 'Live!'"
In this chapter Ezekiel is told to confront Jerusalem. And as we read though the chapter we realise that God is speaking in an allegorical way about their ancestry and history and telling the people to look how far away they have moved from their beginnings. It seems at that time Jerusalem is the focal point for the Israeli nation, some of which is already in captivity, including Ezekiel himself.
The allegory continues and mentions that God adorned Jerusalem with jewelry: putting bracelets on her arms and a ring in her nose. We are reminded of how the Israelites first started to become a nation. Rebekah was given two gold bracelets weighing ten shekels and a gold nose ring weighing a beka. Ezekiel laments at how far the nation has fallen. But it is the first part of Ezekiel’s message that may be of interest to us.
He starts off talking about their ancestry saying, “your father was an Amorite and your mother was a Hittite.” That sounds a little odd because weren’t Abraham and Sarah father and mother to the nation of Israel? And they were from Ur. The Hittites crop up in Canaan when the Israelites first start to take the land of Canaan for themselves. They had descended from Ham, Noah’s son. But there is a second people group also named the Hittites who were a major empire with a capital city called Hattusha, founded in 5000 BC, who descended from the early settlers in Anatolia now part of Turkey. The Amorites were nomadic people and were well known to the Mesopotamians and early Canaanites.
Also, when Moses wrote his song in Deuteronomy there’s a stanza which says, “Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past . . . In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye . . . The Lord alone led him; no foreign god was with him. He made him ride on the heights of the land and fed him with the fruit of the fields” (Deut 32)
Isaiah begins his prophecy with, “Hear me, you heavens! Listen, earth! For the Lord has spoken: ‘I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me” (Isa 1:2).
We also read in Hosea, "Say of your brothers, ‘My people,’... I will strip her naked and make her as bare as on the day she was born" (Hos 2:3).
When these scriptures ask us to look back, we may wonder just how far back are we talking about? Did Yahweh really find an abandoned baby kicking about in its blood and amniotic fluid with its cord uncut?
If that happened then Yahweh spent a lot of time with Adam raising him as his own son. He breathed into him, investing something of himself within Adam. Yahweh would have spent time on earth raising a child just like we do. He would have taught the child, fed him, and made a home for them to dwell in. He arranged for irrigation ditches to be dug from the Euphrates and planted a garden and taught Adam about looking after the fruit trees. Adam got to know the animals in the area and made up names for all of them. Yahweh would bring an animal along and say, “What do you think of this one?”
They may have laughed as Adam came up with a name for each animal that his father Yahweh brought to him, just like any parent would have fun while teaching their children. Some thought appears to have gone into the naming of the animals.
Adam’s education would be higher than current university and college courses, even though we have some fine and knowledgeable lecturers and teachers. Adam was being taught by someone who had a keen interest in the biological life of planet earth because he was, after all, the architect and producer of all such life.
The name of an eagle comes from the Hebrew root meaning “to lacerate” or “one who lacerates.” The talons on an eagle are razor-sharp; their beak is also sharp and is used for killing their prey. Adam would have taken time to analyse the behaviour of a creature and the researching of a particular animal was a part of his education.
We sometimes get the picture that the naming of the animals happened quickly and that Adam came up with names in a quick impromptu off-the-cuff manner, but that would not have been the case. Forethought and ingenuity went into this responsibility.
Each animal could have taken weeks or months to study and would be used as a school lesson by his wise teacher. Adam would have studied another bird of prey—the cormorant, of which the Hebrew word is shalak, meaning “plunging” or “darting down.” This family of birds are fish-eaters, catching their prey by their excellent diving technique. Once underwater they propel themselves with their feet and wings; some cormorant species have been found to dive as deep as 45 meters.
The names of other animals are categorised by the same method.
The biblical word for bat implies “flying in the dark.” From a jackal or fox we get the meaning of “burrow.” The dog “yelps” and the bear is “slow.” Lion conveys a sense of “violence” and the name can also mean “to pierce.” The leopard’s name gives us “to spot or stain as if by dripping.” We even see a sense of humour in the leopard’s name. From a jackal or fox we get the meaning of “burrow.” The dog “yelps” and the bear is “slow.” Lion conveys a sense of “violence” and the name can also mean “to pierce.” The leopard’s name gives us “to spot or stain as if by dripping.” We even see a sense of humour in the leopard’s name.
Adam was young while all this was happening. Every now and again Adam might see a human being, but he knew he was different; they didn’t have Yahweh rearing them. Yahweh taught Adam about love, sincerity, humility, and having an open heart, and how to live without guile, there would be no better father in the world to be raised by.
Adam received some of the “life” that Yahweh had. When Ezekiel tells us the story about the baby being found, the word spoken to the baby was “Live!” He gave Adam “life,” he received the “living” tag, and Adam could have gone on to receive the fullness of that life, the completion was within his grasp. He was an ordinary man, "ish" in the Hebrew language, but his adoption as a son of Yahweh meant he was chosen for a special task, it changed his being.
Jesus also tells us to look back to the beginning of the human race in Matthew 19:4–5. The first scripture he draws our attention to is from Genesis chapter 1 saying, “at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female.’” Jesus reminds us that the Creator set the established order of male and female, which equates to father and mother; each pair has offspring who in turn become fathers and mothers themselves. Then Jesus moves several verses further forward into Genesis chapter 2 and reminds us what the text declares just after Eve has been created. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” Why does the text of Genesis use Adam as an example relating to people leaving their father and mother if Adam didn’t have a father and mother?
We can’t say that God begot Adam, because he didn’t—God only has one begotten son. We can say God created Adam, in the same way that God is the creator of us all, but we can’t say that God physically fathered Adam. We may say God was Adam’s father by adoption. If, as some people say, Adam was the first man created, then drawing a parallel about leaving your father and mother doesn’t fit well if Adam never had a father and mother to leave. But if Adam was adopted by Yahweh, that means he had a natural biological father and mother that he left, and then the parallel would fit.
Furthermore, if God found a baby that had been abandoned by his parents and adopted the child, the place where he found the baby was a different location to where Adam was raised, because it looks like a journey took place. Adam existed before he was placed in the garden: “Then the Lord God planted a garden in Eden in the east, and there he placed the man he had made” (Gen 2:8 nlt). Ezekiel’s story of the abandoned baby tells us that the part of the Fertile Crescent where the child was found was Canaan; we know the garden was in southern Mesopotamia, so that could be why the text of Genesis informs us that Adam was placed in the garden rather than originating from that area. And to make sure we understand that Adam was taken to the garden rather than beginning his life there, Genesis chapter 2 states the fact one more time in verse 15: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden.” This verse clearly says Yahweh “took” the man, which implies that a journey took place.
If that’s how Adam came to be located in southern Mesopotamia then when Yahweh spoke to Abram in southern Mesopotamia and told him to go to Canaan, Abram would have taken the return journey back to Canaan from where Yahweh and Adam had first travelled.