The Search for A Second Adam: A New Way of Reading Scripture (Part 1)

More than anything, the Bible is a great unfolding drama with all kinds of plot twists and and unexpected turns. The big picture that I want you to see has to do with the promise in Genesis chapter 3. God made the world good. In fact, after he made man, he called his creation very good. And yet somehow, our first parents took all the good gifts they had been given and used them to commit high treason. Nonetheless, God did not leave mankind in this fallen condition. Though death entered the world through this fall, God nevertheless promised that one day a child would be born who would victoriously defeat his enemy. Though his heal would be bruised, this promised child, this son of Adam and Eve would one day crush the serpent’s head.

In many ways, the Bible is the unpacking of this initial promise in Genesis 3:15. Christians across the centuries have referred to this as the proto-evangelium, a pre-gospel. It’s a kind of seed that, once it is planted here in Genesis, eventually grows and develops across the pages of scripture into a great fruit-bearing tree. And so one of the questions that Bible readers should ask from this point in the story on, is whether or not any of the new characters who are introduced in subsequent chapters might in fact be this child of promise.


The first child born to Adam and Eve quickly revealed that he was not the in fact the savior of mankind but, rather, was a kind of first anti-Christ. Whereas Adam and Eve were given the commission to be fruitful and multiply, with Cain, we see the principle of death and division as he slays his brother Abel in an act of cold-blooded murder. Clearly, this was not the new Adam.


This principle of sin and death continues for the next few chapters, and in Genesis 6:5–8 we read, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.’ But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.”

Now here we see something promising. Noah is even presented in the story as a kind of new Adam since he’s chosen to be ambassador of a new creation. God even says to Noah and his family after they leave the ark, “be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it,” echoing the very words which he had said to Adam and Eve in Genesis 1:22.

Unfortunately, the story takes an unexpected turn in Genesis 9:20 where we read that “Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent.”

Here, the chosen offspring of the new creation is no longer found to be a blameless man of his generation, but like his first parents, misuses a particular kind of fruit, and ends up naked and ashamed. Here we have a clue that Noah, though he was in some ways a type of the one to come, was not the new Adam who would crush the head of the serpent. Rather, what we actually have here in Genesis 9 is a kind of echo of first fall.

The response of Noah’s children is also interesting. We read in Genesis 9:22 that “Ham saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside.” Yet “Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father.” In response to the different actions of his sons, Noah praised Shem and Japheth, and cursed Ham, who ended up being the father of the Canaanites (Israel’s future enemies). It’s interesting to point out how these things end up playing out later on in redemptive history. The Pharisees, for example, are again and again found to be playing the role of Ham, as they gleefully point out the sins of others, while Jesus quietly tabernacles among us, covering our shame, and the humiliation of our nakedness.


In Genesis 12, we encounter a new character by the name of Abram. “Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’”

In fact, in the account during which God changes Abram’s name to Abraham in Genesis 17 God says, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” Perhaps this is the new Adam! Here is the servant who will be fruitful and multiply, who will fill the world with a harvest of righteousness.

Yet soon after his initial call, we discover that there is a famine in the land, and this chosen vessel is forced to sojourn to Egypt. Fearing for his own safety, he lies about the nature of his relationship to his wife Sarai, and in doing so, he ended up offering Sarai to be defiled by an Egyptian king. Yet when the lie is discovered, the king says to Abram, “What is this you have done to me?” In these words we have an amazing parallel to the words uttered by God after Adam and Eve had eaten of the forbidden fruit. In Genesis 3:13, God asks the question, “What is this you have done?” This identical question is now brought to Abram here in Genesis 12.

What’s amazing is that just in case we didn’t get it the first time, different versions of this same scene unfold before our eyes two additional times in the Bible’s great drama, showing that we must pay careful attention to these things since repetition was an ancient way of underscoring or highlighting the importance of a theme. The second time this happens is in Genesis 20, as Abraham says to the Canaanite king Abimelech that Sarah is merely his sister, offering her up once again to be defiled as he fears for his own life. Yet God reveals the truth of this situation to Abimelech, saying, “I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her. Now then, return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet…” So then Abimelech calls Abraham to him saying, “What have you done to us? And how have I sinned against you, that you have brought on me and my kingdom a great sin? You have done to me things that ought not to be done.”

In a strange turn of events, particularly in a text of ancient Hebrew literature, we find the Canaanite king innocent, and the Hebrew protagonist utterly sinful and worthy of blame. What has become of our new Adam?


The third repetition of this theme is recorded in Genesis 26, in which Abraham’s son Isaac settles with his wife Rebecca in the land of this same Canaanite king, Abimelech. And in a dream Isaac was told by God, “I will be with you and will bless you…and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father. I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven…and in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed…” Where Abraham had failed, perhaps Isaac will conquer. Yet like father, like son. In fear for his own life, he too lied to Abimelech about his wife, and offered up Rebecca to be defiled. After some time, the king discovers the truth and says to Isaac, “What is this you have done to us?”

What we see in each of these episodes is that all of these potential New Adams end up not being anything new at all, but actually end up being mirror images of the Old Adam. They are not merely sinners, but sin in particular ways that end up reminding us in some way of Adam’s original sin. In fact, the enmity between Isaac’s twins, Jacob and Esau, is reminiscent of the rivalry between Cain and Abel. The new Adam has not yet arrived, and the new creation is still on hold.


Perhaps we should put our hope in Isaac’s son Jacob? In Genesis 28, Isaac directs Jacob not to “take a wife from the Canaanite women,” saying “take as your wife…one of the daughters of Laban. God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may become a company of peoples.” Here again, we find an echo of the original Adamic charge to “be fruitful and multiply.”

In the very next chapter, there’s a fascinating scene in which Jacob is standing by a well as his future wife Rachel approaches with all her sheep. And as soon as Jacob sees Rachel, he comes near to her, rolls away the stone from the mouth of the well, which causes water to gush out, thus nourishing her entire flock.

Jacob then makes it his intention to marry Rachel, and seeks permission from her father Laban, who demands that he work for him seven years. At the end of this period, we read of a great wedding celebration, yet the next morning, Jacob’s “eyes were opened” as he realizes that he had been deceived (sound familiar, Gen 3:7). He had in fact not spent the night with Rachel, but rather with her sister Leah. So then Jacob says to Laben, “What is this you have done?” These haunting words first uttered by God in Genesis 3:13, echo again and again throughout the course of redemptive history as sinners both sin, and are sinned against.

Jacob agrees to work another seven years and is finally able to marry Rachel. Unfortunately after a period of time, Leah has four sons, but Rachel’s womb is barren. So, much like the scene with Abraham, Sarah and Hagar, Rachel suggests that Jacob bear a child through her maidservant Bilhah. And so he does. He also has children through Zilpah, Leah’s servant, after Leah becomes barren.

So is this the way toward the fulfillment of promise of the new creation? Is this the fulfillment of the new call to be fruitful and multiply? This awkward polygamous family made up of wives, maidservants and all their children? Back in Genesis 21, Abraham himself was told to cast off his son Ishmael, born of Hagar, for he will not be an inheritor of the promise which belongs to Isaac. Yet here, Abraham’s grandson Jacob is committing the very same sin by attempting to make the promise come to pass by his own efforts.

One day did eventually arrive, however, in which, as with Sarah in the days of old, God opened Rachel’s barren womb, and a son by the name of Joseph was born. And years later, as a result of his prophetic dreams, this son would be mistreated by his brothers and left in a pit. Yet somehow, miraculously, he ended up at the right hand of power in the kingdom of Egypt. By his wonderful deeds, Joseph secured a great redemption for his people. Of course we’re speaking here of an earthly and temporal redemption, the salvation of God’s people from the famine that appeared in those days. Nevertheless, Joseph’s deliverance ends up foreshadowing the work of the greater child of promise who would come in the fullness of time.

© Shane Rosenthal. All Rights Reserved.

Editor’s note: This is the first installment of a three-part series. Part two will cover Moses, David, and prophetic visions of things to come.


Subscribe to the Heidelblog today!


  1. Is it safe to say that the theocracy and the various Mosaic civil codes had a primary function of keeping the line of the Seed pure by maintaining the ethnic distinction of the church/bride separate from the Canaanites? T. David Gordon suggests this in “Promise, Law, Faith” but for some reason I’ve had some pushback when I mention it to some.

    • Mr. Duncan, if you send me your email address (, I will cut-and-paste the pertinent 7 or 8 pages from my manuscript on Romans that deal with the segregating aspect, and send them to you.
      T. David Gordon

  2. Mr. Duncan,
    You won’t get any pushback from me, since I wrote the book you mentioned. In the book I’m now working on (The Law in Romans, basically a sequel to the Galatians monograph), I add a chapter after the Introduction, to the effect of “Five Aspects of the Sinai Covenant,”: commanding, condemning, atoning, prefiguring, segregating. That fifth aspect, which I judge to be inarguable, seems to be the one that bothers people. But how could Matthew’s genealogy have been written if the descendants of Abraham had inter-married with the Canaanites (which they, and their Solomon, desired to do)? There would have been no “seed of Abraham” nor any memory of the pledge to bless the world through that Seed. So, I don’t say “primary,” if that means exclusive of the other four functions, but I surely believe all five are aspects of the Sinai covenant that were essential to its purpose in covenant history.
    The “pushback” you receive (I’ve received it for almost forty years) is either from people who do not understand “segregation/separation” to have any conceivable purpose, in God’s economy or ours (though, during Covid, some thought it served a good purpose), or from those who rightly understand the “covenant of grace” to be a unified plan to redeem through Christ alone by grace alone, through faith alone, to mean that the Sinai covenant cannot be different in any important way from the New Covenant (out of fear of dispensationalism, I suppose). At any rate, thanks for your comment/question, and perhaps Dr. Clark can answer your question better than I.
    T. David Gordon

    • Dr Gordon and Bill,

      Yes, there’s been an impulse, especially in the 20th century to flatten out the history of redemption (e.g., the Mosaic epoch) in view of Dispensationalism. Prior to the rise of the Dispensational movement, our theologians freely admitted that the Mosaic covenant was distinct from the Abrahamic, even though they also affirmed it as an administration of the covenant of grace. Too much is made, in my opinion, of Owen’s language re the Mosaic being subordinate. He did not mean by that what the Amyraldians meant by it. He recognized republication, which is a unique feature of Moses. It’s the both/and character of Moses which has tended to trip up modern Reformed folk. Some Baptists and all Dispensationalists want to turn Moses into a covenant of works only and in response some Reformed want to make it only an administration of the covenant of grace, which is not traditional either.

    • Thanks to you both. Dr. Gordon, your ideas in the book really opened mind to some new avenues of thought. I can’t wait for this new one.

      Dr. Clark,
      I think it is Dr. Horton who uses the term “parenthetical” for Sinai. This does seem more appropriate than subordinate. It also paints a word picture for me. The parenthesis kind of represents for me the protecting or insulating theme which Dr Gordon points out with the pedagogue/guardian language.

  3. “Yet God reveals the truth of this situation to Abimelech, saying, “I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her. Now then, return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet…”
    …So then Abimelech calls Abraham to him saying, “What have you done to us? And how have I sinned against you, that you have brought on me and my kingdom a great sin? You have done to me things that ought not to be done.”

    Might the king’s pronouncement have cleared potential public concern for legitimacy of Abraham being the seed bearer to Issac- in Genesis 22?

    • Good point, Tracey! The birth of Isaac is subsequent to this scene (Gen. 21:3), so it’s important for Genesis readers to be clear about the fact that Sarah had not been defiled by this Philistine king, and that the child she later delivered really was the fulfillment of all the promises God had made to Abraham. Had Abimelech actually been responsible for Sarah’s pregnancy, Isaac would have been excluded from the covenant just like Ishmael.

Comments are closed.