We often read the story of Adam as reflecting all of humanity – our relationality to God and others, as well as our capacity for declining the divine will. While no words for “fall” or “sin” appear in Genesis 3, we are right to view Adam’s experience on an archetypal level, since the Hebrew אדם (adam) means “human being.” In fact, in most instances, “Adam” does not appear as a proper name, but rather as “the human” (האדם; ha’adam); as fellow human beings, we are encouraged to read ourselves into the primordial story. Yet, along with being a representative of all humanity, Adam is a representative of Israel; both the human and the nation are brought into God’s land and then experience exile.
Biblical Hebrew reveals that Adam foreshadows the whole of Israel. At the start of the Genesis narrative, “the Lord God formed (יצר; yatsar) the human” (Gen 2:7). Similarly, speaking to the nation, Isaiah declares that God was the one who “formed (יצר; yatsar) you, O Israel” (Isa 43:1). At the end of Genesis 3, the text says that God “drove out (גרשׁ; garash) the human” from the Garden of Eden (3:24). Likewise, when the people of Israel go into exile from their Land, God states, “Because of the wickedness of their deeds I will drive them out (גרשׁ; garash)” (Hos 9:15). In Jeremiah, God speaks to the people through the prophet, saying, “I brought you into a plentiful land to eat (אכל; achal) its fruit (פּרי; peri) and its goodness (טוֹב; tov), but when you came in, you defiled my land” (Jer 2:7). This prophetic description of the nation mirrors the moment when Adam and Eve see that the forbidden “fruit” (פּרי; peri) is “good” (טוֹב; tov) for food and “eat” it (אכל; achal), thereby transgressing God’s command (Gen 3:6).
Yet, while Adam’s story ends in exile, Israel’s story ends in restoration. After the exile, Isaiah tells his people, “The Lord will have compassion on Jacob and will again choose Israel, and will rest them (ינח; yanach) in their own land” (Isa 14:1). The prophet’s language to describe Israel’s return from exile echoes what God does after forming the human: “The Lord God took the human and rested him (ינח; yanach) in the Garden of Eden” (Gen 2:15). Despite Adam’s transgression in the garden, the people of Israel are brought back to their Land, which foreshadows God’s plan for the restoration of all humanity.
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