In a few places, Leviticus uses the Hebrew word adam to refer to “any person.” Why adam? Most commentators suggest that it’s to emphasize sexual inclusiveness. 

Trevaskis (Holiness, Ethics, and Ritual in Leviticus) thinks there’s more. He points out that the tabernacle is an architectural garden of Eden, and adds that “symbolic significance may attach to the offerer’s description as adam mcam (‘a human from among you,’ v. 2a). The plausibility of this proposal increases when one takes the uniqueness of this way of referring to an individual Israelite into account. The term adam occurs only seven times in Leviticus (Lev. 1.2; 5.3; 7.21; 13.2; 16.17; 24.17, 21) compared to the much more frequent use of nephesh(24 times) and  ‘ish(52 times). . . . Otherwise, in Leviticus, adam refers to the danger that the ‘uncleanness’ of a ‘human’ poses to a ‘person’ (nephesh, Lev. 5.3; 7.21); the requirement that no ‘human’ be in the tent of meeting on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16.17), and the consequences associated with the taking of the life of a ‘human’ (Lev. 24.17, 21). 138 The rareness of the term within Leviticus, and its deliberate positioning within a context that is reminiscent of the Garden of Eden might suggest that it is a deliberate allusion to the first ‘human’ who was excluded from this setting.”

In short, “Rather than a simple sex-inclusive reference to humanity,” the phrase “an adam from among you” “possibly has symbolic meaning. In view of the Edenic symbolism of Exodus 25–40, it can be speculated that it is a symbolic reference to either the first Adam or to the human condition outside the Garden.”

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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