Question: "What is the meaning of the Hebrew word adamah?"

Answer: The Hebrew word adamah means “land,” “ground,” or “soil.” The New American Standard Bible translates adamah as “ground” 64 times and “land” or “lands” 114 times. Related to adamah is the word adam, which means “man” or “mankind.” Of course, adam is also used as the proper name of the first man, Adam.

Most scholars believe that the words adamah, Adam, and Edom stem from a root word with the basic meaning of “red.” The word adamah could then be more literally translated “red ground,” and the name Adam could be said to mean “red man” or “man from the red dirt.”

Reading from Genesis 2, we notice several plays on the word adamah:

“There was no one to work the ground, but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground [adamah]. Then the Lord God formed a man [adam] from the dust of the ground [adamah] and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man [adam] became a living being. Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man [adam] he had formed. The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground [adamah]” (verses 5–14).

Then in Genesis 2:15, we read this:

“The Lord God took the man [adam] and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”

So, not only is Adam formed from adamah and named after adamah, but he is now assigned with working the adamah and cultivating the plants that come from it.

After Adam’s sin, God curses both Adam and adamah:

“To Adam [adam] he said . . . ‘Cursed is the ground [adamah] because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life’” (Genesis 3:17).

Then God said that the curse on Adam will result in his return to adamah:

“By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground [adamah], since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:19).

The Bible teaches that mankind has an intimate relationship with the earth (see Genesis 2:5). Adam was formed from the earth, was responsible for the curse brought upon the earth, is tasked with cultivating the earth, eats the produce of the earth, and at death returns to the earth. As children of Adam, we are earthly—we have a connection with adamah. And that is why we must be born again (John 3:3). Only a relationship with Jesus Christ can break us free from the Adamic curse and the Adamic fate. The first Adam subjected us to a curse; but Jesus, the “Last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45), gives us a blessing. Contrasting Adam with Christ, Paul writes, “The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven” (1 Corinthians 15:47).