The Power Of A Name: The Power Of Naming

Adam's naming of the animals raises complex issues related to naming, including the power that accompanies the act of naming and the deeper meanings of our names.

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The following article is reprinted with permission from The Union for Reform Judaism

  • God creates the world and everything in it in six days and rests on the seventh. (1:1-2:3)

  • Adam and Eve are placed in the Garden of Eden, where they eat the forbidden fruit and are subsequently exiled. (2:15-3:24)

  • Adam and Eve have two sons, Cain and Abel. Cain kills his brother, Abel. (4:1-24)

  • Adam and Eve have another child named Seth. The Torah lists the ten generations from Adam to Noah. (4:25-5:32)

  • God regrets having created human beings and decides to destroy everything on earth, but Noah finds favor with God. (6:5-6:8)

Focal Point

Adonai God said, "It is not good for man to be alone; I will make a fitting helper for him." And Adonai God formed out of the earth (ha-adamah) all the wild beasts and all the birds of the sky and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that would be its name. And the man gave names to all the cattle and to the birds of the sky and to all the wild beasts; but for the man no fitting helper was found. (Genesis 2:18-20)

Your Guide

Why does God empower Adam to name the animals if naming had previously been a divine activity?

The text states that the animals were brought to the man "to see what he would call them." From whose perspective is this text presented?

Why did God not create a companion for Adam from the beginning?

By the Way…

"What is man, that Thou art mindful of him?" (Psalms 8:5) God answered them, "The man whom I desire to create will possess wisdom that shall exceed yours [the heavenly hosts.]" What did God do then? Assembling all the cattle, beasts, and fowl, God made them pass before them [the heavenly hosts] and asked them, "What are the names of these?" They did not know.

When, however, God created man and, making them pass before him, asked him what the names of these were, he replied, "This should fittingly be called an ox; that, a lion; that, a horse; that, an ass; that, a camel; and that an eagle," as may be inferred from the text, "And the man gave names to all the cattle." Then God asked him, "And you, what shall be your name?" He answered, "Adam." God persisted," Why?" And he explained, "Because I have been created from the ground."

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Rabbi Andrew Davids

Rabbi Andrew Davids previously served as the Executive Director of the Association of Reform Zionists of America.