Humans from the Humus

Steven Bouma-Prediger

READ : Genesis 2:1-7

Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man become a living being. (v. 7)

Who are we humans? Answers have been given for as long as we have drawn breath. Some with a certain philosophical bent want us to believe we are souls trapped in bodies, like prisoners in a prison. Others argue we are thinking mind hitched to extended matter, or nothing more than $27.63 worth of carbon, hydrogen, calcium, and the like. Who and what are we?

Today’s text insists that we humans are earthy and earthly creatures. In a Hebrew pun the text states that we are ‘adam from the ‘adamah. We are Adam because we are made from the ‘adamah or arable earth. God scoops up some soil and breathes into it his life-giving Spirit. We are, in short, animated earth, Spirit-enlivened dirt. We are also, of course, made in God’s image. But this text reminds us that we image-bearers are earthy. We are humans from the humus, and to carry the Latin etymology further, we ought therefore to be humble. Humble humans from the humus. That’s who we are.


O God of unfathomable love, remind us of our humble origin and of our need for your sustaining breath. And give us humility that we might with love care for all that you entrust to us.