Hebrew Word for Man: Adam

by | Feb 8, 2024 | Blog | 0 comments

The creation of man is arguably the most important part of creation. God started by creating the universe in 5 days of creation and then finished by creating man on the 6th. He then rested on day 7 which resulted in the law of the sabbath. Even though there is some debate on the first language man spoke, it is without question that the Old Testament Bible was written in Hebrew. As such, understanding the Hebrew term for man can help us understand God’s purpose for mankind.

What is the Hebrew Word for Man?

The Hebrew word for man is Adam. Adam was the first man’s formal name, but it persisted throughout the Old Testament long after Adam’s demise to refer to humankind in general. The term is common in literature, and it is used to describe the condition of man. However, three other Hebrew terms refer to man. These are; ish (or iysh), enosh, and geber. 

The Meaning of Adam

God named the first person he created “Adam.” But after his passing, the name is still used to refer to human beings. The most common version of this word is Ben Adam. This phrase comprises two terms: “ben,” referring to “son,” and “adam” meaning “man.” When put together, these two words refer to “son of man,” a Hebrew reference to a human being.

This term also has an everyday use, essentially referring to an adult responsible person. Ben Adam appears 99 times in the Old Testament. Interestingly, the Holy Book uses the phrase 93 times to refer to Prophet Ezekiel. 

“Son of man, I’ve authorized you to watch over the house of Israel. So here are the words from my mouth and give them my warning” (Ezekiel 3:17). 

“Just like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding regions, no human being will remain, nor shall a son of man reside in it.” (Jeremiah 49:18)

Moreover, “Son of man” has been used several times to describe Jesus Christ. But it uses the definite article “ha” (translated as the). So it’s not merely “son of man,” it’s “the son of man.”

The Second Hebrew Word for Man: Ish

Iysh (or ish) refers to a man in the gender sense, and its female version is inshshah. We can notice all three terms in the Genesis account capturing Eve’s creation.  

Then God sent Adam into a deep sleep, and when he was fast asleep, the Lord extracted one of his ribs and filled it up with flesh. The Lord God then crafted a woman from the rib taken from Adam and presented her to him. Adam said, “This is now flesh of my flesh and bone of my bones; she shall be called woman [ishshah], as she was taken from man [ish].” Consequently, a man shall leave his parents and unite with his wife to create one flesh. (Genesis 2:21-24)

Ish is used throughout Genesis to refer to men, particularly in the family context. God didn’t design Adam to be an island. Rather, He intended that His first human being be in communion with another person. The words ish and ishshah capture this reality well. 

The Third Hebrew Word for Man: Enosh

This third Hebrew reference for man denotes him in his physical and moral weakness. It essentially refers to his mortal nature. With this understanding, we can read Psalms 8 with a new perspective. 

When I observe the heavens crafted by your fingers, with the stars and moon arranged by your design—what is humanity [adam] that you take thought of them, and the offspring of a mortal [enosh] that you attend to them? (Psalm 8:4-5)

David first uses the term Adam to refer to a universal man, which is correct since he’s referring to man in the creation context. But the context is giant and grand – the stars, moon, and heavens. This gives us the impression of man’s tiny nature and his weakness. Thus, it makes sense that David switches the reference to enosh. 

The thought that Enosh also references our moral failings infuses a redemptive twist to the verse. Amazingly, the Lord God considers us despite our tiny nature. However, it’s incredible that he still loves us despite our sinfulness. 

Fourth Hebrew Word for Man: Geber

The final Hebrew word for man is the complete opposite of enosh. Geber encapsulates a well-developed, able-bodied, and physically strong being. The term can also refer to a once mighty man who has lost strength. 

“My heart is shattered, and every bone in my body quakes. I am like a man [ish] inebriated, resembling one filled with wine, when in the presence of the Lord and His sacred words.” (Jeremiah 23:9)

This text references both meanings of man. Jeremiah refers to himself individually, emphasizing his weakened state through the term “geber.” This textual strategy resembles David’s approach in Psalm 8, where “enosh” specifies the particular aspect of universal man or “adam” he is considering.

Moreover, Geber brings already familiar texts back to life in new ways. Take this example from Job:

The Lord responded to Job from a whirlwind, saying, “Who is this that cloaks statements in clumsy words? Prepare yourself like a man [geber]; I’ll ask you, and you must answer. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations? Say it if you understand. Who determined its dimensions, if you know? Or who stretched a measuring line across it?” (Job 38:1-5)

God seems to be advising Job to “man up.” But context matters in this case. The text presents Job’s manliness in relation to God. He doesn’t get his strength from within, but God provides it. 

Geber is used in a somewhat humorous manner here. God, addressing Job amidst the whirlwind as a “geber,” playfully underscores that Job’s strength in the presence of God is rather insignificant. Job is more akin to an “enosh” than a “geber” in reality. 


The original Hebrew language presents man in four distinct senses still relevant to this day: Adam (Man as universal), Ish/iysh (Man in his particularity), Enosh (Man in his mortal and moral weakness), and Geber (Man in his strong suit). What stands out is how we must understand the Hebrew word for man with regard to another. In this case, it’s in relationship to his wife and God.


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About: Ronie

Ronnie Amaya has been actively involved in ministry since his high school and university days where he served as a Christian union leader. After graduation, he worked as an itinerary minister preaching in Schools, Universities, Street Evangelizations, and Churches. In 2018, he led a team in planting a new church in Nairobi, Kenya where he is currently serving as the lead pastor.
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Ronnie Amaya has been actively involved in ministry since his high school and university days where he served as a Christian union leader. After graduation, he worked as an itinerary minister preaching in Schools, Universities, Street Evangelizations, and Churches. In 2018, he led a team in planting a new church in Nairobi, Kenya where he is currently serving as the lead pastor.

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