Question: "Why did God make man out of the dust of the earth (Genesis 2:7)?"
Answer: Genesis 2:7 teaches, “The Lord God formed a man from the dust of the earth and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” With the rest of creation, God had simply spoken things into existence (e.g., Genesis 1:3, 14, 20, 24), but God does things differently with man.
Three important observations can be made. First, the way that man was created from the dust makes him unique among all of God’s creation. To create the sun, mountains, animal life, etc., God simply spoke. We read, “Then God said,” over and over in Genesis 1. Human life, however, started with a decree (Genesis 1:26). To create the animals, God spoke to the earth; to create Adam, God shaped and formed the earth (Genesis 2:7) and then added the very breath of God. Man is thus a unique combination of earthly, natural material and life-giving power from God Himself. Such a mode of creation highlights the importance and value of human life.
Second, the use of dust suggests a certain lowliness. God did not use gold or granite or gemstones to make man. He used dust, a humble substance. What gives man his glory? The dust, or the breath of God within the dust? Genesis 3:19 notes man’s dependence upon God and the fragile nature of human life: “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”
Third, the literary structure of the passage puts man’s creation from the dust of the earth in a place of significance. The structure of Genesis 2:5–9 can be broken down like this:
A No plant life (verse 5a)
B No intervention by God (verse 5b)
C No man to work the ground (verse 5c)
D Mist from God (verse 6)
E God creates man (verse 7a)
X God gives life (verse 7a)
E Man become a living creature (verse 7b)
D Garden from God (verse 8a)
C Man works the ground (verse 8b; cf. verse 15)
B God intervenes (verse 9)
A Plant life exists (verse 9)
God could have chosen to create humans in any way He desired. However, Scripture records the particular way He did create—using both natural material (dust) and supernatural power to give humans a unique place in the cosmos. The recipe of dust of the earth + God’s breath emphasizes the supernatural power of God and the fragile nature of humanity. Human life is completely dependent upon God, and, as a result, humans are called to worship the Lord and to serve Him only.