Dust and Spirit

By: Steve Negley

Posted: April 30, 2015

Category: Daily Devotional

…then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. Genesis 2:7 (NRSV)

Before I felt called to ministry, I had never really been intrigued by languages. (I had started Spanish in junior high school, and I wish now that I had kept to the task. I switched to Latin in high school, but can still only really recognize a few root words and recite a couple of Latin nursery rhymes.) The value of language study did start to sink in, however, when I was exposed to some biblical word-plays.

There’s a catchy Hebrew word-play early in Genesis. In the creation story that we find in Genesis chapter 2, there is a message taught by two words. One Hebrew word that we might recognize is ADAM. We treat it as a proper name, but it also refers to the creature “man.” The next Hebrew word is ADAMAH. This word means clay, dust, dirt. The words themselves reinforce the message that we are given early in the narrative.

“The Lord God formed the human man (adam) from the dust of the earth (adamah),
and breathed life into us, and the man became a living being.

There is such a profound statement here about who and what we are.

We are “dust people”, one of my seminary professors liked to remind us. We are dust people, into whom God has breathed the breath of life.

There is a thought there of our dependence on God. (It is God who formed us from the dust and animated us by the breath of God’s Spirit. There is another Hebrew word-play here with wind/breath/spirit. )

There is the concept here of our simple and humble state, and God’s wish to give us life and breath. (God made us and filled us with God’s own Spirit.)

There is a statement here about our very existence. (We are here, living breathing beings, because of what God had done.)

It’s interesting what we can learn; if we just pay attention to the stories we are told.


Thank You, God, for giving us even the simple breath of life. Keep us depending on You. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.