Adam Naming The Cattle Genesis 2:20

Genesis 2:20

In the progress of the sacred narrative, we are told that God said that it was “not good for man to be alone,” and declared his intention of making a suitable companion or “help-meet for him;” but instead of proceeding with the account of this creation, the record proceeds to a very different matter. “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.” What has this to do with the providing of an help-meet for the first of men? The narrative proceeds: “And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but,”—and here comes the secret—“but for Adam there was not found an help-meet for him.” It was, therefore, evidently  the design of the benevolent Creator, to enhance, in the view of the man, the value of the gift he was about to bestow upon him, by showing him that the existing races of animated nature, abounding as they did in elegant and beautiful species, did not afford any creature suited to be his companion, or to satisfy the yearning of his heart for the fellowship of an equal being. Nothing was better calculated to realize this impression, than to bring the various animal existences under the notice of Adam, and at the same time to endow him with that perception of their several qualities and natures, as is implied in his being able to give them distinctive and appropriate names. It is very possible that, being as yet ignorant of the Divine intention, Adam considered that he was expected to find out for himself a meet companion among these creatures. So Milton understood it, in a very remarkable passage, in which he seems to ascribe the power of reasoning to brutes—God is represented as saying to Adam—

“Is not the earth
With various living creatures, and the air
Replenished, and all these at thy command
To come and play before thee? Knowest thou not
Their language and their ways? They also know
And reason not contemptibly: With these
Find pastime, and bear rule; thy realm is large.
So spake the Universal Lord, and seemed
So ordering.”

In previously describing the names of the cattle, Milton takes the same view as we do, that the knowledge involved in that act was conveyed by instant and supernatural enlightenment.

“Each bird and beast behold
Approaching two and two; these cowering low
With blandishment; each bird stooped on his wing,
I named them, as they passed, and understood
Their nature; with such knowledge God endued
My sudden apprehension: but in these
I found not what methought I wanted still.” 

Of course, modern rationalizing philosophy has found something in this remarkable statement on which to bang its cavils. It has been ascertained, it is urged, that animals are exclusively adapted to the regions which they inhabit, and that it would be contrary to their nature, and zoologically impossible, for them to leave their own climates, and to assemble in one place. It is certain that, if this did take place, as assumed, it was a supernatural impulse, which urged them to travel to one point; and we should think, that no believer in the existence and power of God, can doubt the possibility of such an impulse being given, whether he believes that it was given or not. Is that impossible to God, which is possible even to man, who can show us, in any of his large cities, animals brought together from all the climates of the earth, from the Equator to the Arctic circle? But again, how do we know that various climates did exist before the deluge? There is good reason to think, that before then the temperature of the earth was through all parts more equal than it has been since; and hence the animals would have no inducement to classify themselves into their climates, or any difficulty in passing from one part of the world to any other part.

But, again, was there any necessity for this migration of the animals of different climes to Eden? On what ground is it assumed thus quietly that animals were created in their different climates? Why might they not be created in the same locality in which man received his existence, afterwards dispersing themselves, as his own race did, to the several parts of the earth? If the climate before the deluge was equable, there could be no difficulty in this dispersion from a common center; and if there were then various climates, the animals would gradually wander till they came to the region best suited to their natures, and there remain. It is only necessary to suppose that the creation took place in a medium climate, such as all animals could at least bear till they found their congenial localities. This is not altogether hypothesis, for it is the same course of dispersion, from a common  center, which as we know did take place after the deluge, and which may therefore well have taken place after the creation.

In fact, instead of being embarrassed by the difficulty of the subject, we may be confused by the variety of the explanations which occur to our thoughts, and any one of which will furnish a satisfactory solution of all that has been indicated as “hard to be understood” in the Scripture narrative of the circumstances.

If the animals were dispersed, before this, over the world, the sacred text does not impose upon us any inevitable necessity of providing for their migration to Eden, although we have done so; the text may be very well understood to refer to the animals in or near Eden. The Hebrew word rendered by “all” (kol), is not always understood in the largest sense of universality, but often of many, or of a large part; and that it was in this instance to be received with some limitation, is evident from the fishes not being specified. Supposing all the animals already dispersed, it is obviously unnecessary that such as were wholly unsuited to engage Adam’s attention for the object in view, should be brought from their several localities for the purpose. Or, if they were assembled in one place previously to their dispersion, it would be equally needless that his attention should be engaged by animals he was never likely to see again, and which exhibited no qualities to suggest an even possible suitableness for the purpose immediately in view.

We see no reason to suppose that more than single pairs of any species, as of man, were in the first instance created; in which case, and supposing that they dispersed as they multiplied, the land of Eden must at the first have been like a vast zoological garden, such a garden as man never formed, seeing that it contained the primeval representatives of every species. In this must that land have differed from all other lands, which have since contained many animals of a few of the different species of the earth, instead of a few animals of all the different species.

As these various creatures doubtless presented themselves  to the notice of Adam in pairs, he must the more deeply have been convinced of his own isolated condition. All these creatures had suitable companions, and he had none: each of them was already provided with a mate, and could be no help-meet for him.