‘The Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, 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’
Genesis 2.4b-9, 15-end (vs. 19).
Theological reflection on Adam tends to focus on his role as the progenitor of humanity and of sin. But is this the key objective of the story? If so, why does it include reference to humans that are apparently unrelated to Adam, such as the people Cain feared (Gen 4.14-15), and why does it have Eve (rather than Adam) committing the first sin (Gen 3.6)?
Plausible explanations aside, part of the author’s intention seems to have been to show Adam acceding to the three-fold role of prophet, priest and king. This is apparent in the verse above; until this point, God has spoken, acted and ruled directly, without an intermediary. It is also evident in Adam taking up residence in a garden that is part of a larger domain - in ancient Near Eastern culture this arrangement signifies kingship (cf Neh 3.15; Eccles 2.4-5; Jer 39.4 and 52.7).
It is quite astonishing what is going on here. Adam, we are told, is made from something as lowly, lifeless and unpromising as the dust of the earth. Yet once animated with God’s breath, God elevates him to a place of honour and authority in creation. The reader is invited to witness an accession - God’s investiture of Adam both as God’s agent and as God's regent over creation.
As human beings, we share not only in Adam’s fall but in his prophetic, priestly and kingly role. What implications does this have in our work this week?
During 2022, millions of people around the world will celebrate the seventieth anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II. How can we use this as a spur to follow the example she follows of Christ the servant king?
Almighty God, you sent your Son as the Second Adam to fulfil to perfection the role of prophet, priest and king in your plan of redemption. Help us in our daily lives to follow Christ in speaking your word, doing your works and judging with your wisdom.
Consider marking Queen Elizabeth’s accession by giving someone you know a copy of the beautifully-illustrated short book The Servant Queen and the King She Serves, co-published by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity and the Bible Society. It contains a foreword by Her Majesty.
Peter S Heslam, Director of Faith in Business
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