The First Act of Man's Sovereignty Over the Animals
Genesis 2:19
And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air…

Man was certainly the superior master of nature. This is evident from the next feature which our text mentions. God brought the animals which He had created to man, to "see what he would call them"; and the names chosen by man were to remain to them forever. This is the first act by which man exercised his sovereignty; and although his intellect was not yet roused, he was sufficiently endowed for that task; for he had been capable of understanding the Divine command and of representing to himself death. In the first cosmogony, God Himself fixed the names of the objects which He had called into existence; He determined the appellations of day and night, of heaven, and sea, and dry land. Here He cedes this right to man, whom He has ordained "to have dominion over all the earth." The name was, according to Hebrew and Eastern writers in general, an integral part of the object itself; it was not deemed indifferent; it was no conventional sign; it was an essential attribute. When God revealed Himself to Moses in the burning bush, the latter hastened to inquire under what name He wished to be announced to the Israelites. When a crisis in the life of an individual was imminent, or had been successfully overcome, his name was changed into another one expressive of that event. Kings, at their elevation to the throne, assumed another name. To "know the name of God" was identical with knowing His internal nature, and even with piously walking in His precepts. The right, therefore, of determining the names includes authority and dominion; but man did not perform this act of his own accord; he did not yet feel his exalted rank; but God, by inviting him to perform it, made him governor over the works of His hands, and placed all under his feet (Psalm 8:7). It has been frequently observed, that our text explains the origin of language, and attributes its invention solely to man. Language is, indeed, a spontaneous emanation of the human mind; it is implanted in its nature; in furnishing man, besides his external organization, with reason and imagination, God bestowed upon him the principal elements for communication by speech; it is as natural a function of his intellect as reflection; intelligent speech is one of the chief characteristics of man; hence the ancient Greek poets call men simply the "speech-gifted"; the germ was bestowed by God; man had to do no more than to cultivate it. But our author does not enter upon this abstruse question at all; it is of no practical importance for religious truth; it must have appeared superfluous to one who knows God as the Creator and Framer of all, as the Bestower of every gift, as Him who "has made man's mouth, and who maketh dumb" (Exodus 4:11). Pythagoras, and other ancient philosophers, justly considered the invention of names for objects an act of the highest human wisdom; and the Chinese ascribed it to their first and most honoured sovereign Fo-hi, who performed this task so well, that "by naming the things their very nature was made known."

(M. M. Kalisch, Ph. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.

WEB: Out of the ground Yahweh God formed every animal of the field, and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. Whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.

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