The past several hours, I’ve been studying this question and working through the exegetical issues involved. Since this exegetical question is of significant interest to me given my areas of theological interest (i.e., redemptive history and systems of theology that attempt to provide theological organization to it), I’ve taken the time to compose a more detailed outline of my exegetical notes. For those of you with similar interests (and for those of you who requested these notes), I thought I’d share my notes. After reading through these notes, feel free to comment with your own thoughts and/or tentative conclusions.
Theological implications: This verse could refer merely to what is likely the Mosaic Covenant or additionally refer to a pre-fall covenant (e.g., Covenant of Works, Adamic Covenant, Covenant with Creation, etc.) If the latter is true, this verse would validate seeing the concept of covenant as a fundamental framework for God’s relationship with mankind and thus God’s work of redemption (as Covenant Theology argues).
Key exegetical issues:
- A כְּ (kaph, “like”) or בְּ (bet, “at”) preposition attached to אָדָם (Adam)?
- אָדָם (Adam).
- אָדָם (Adam, person, first man).
- אָדָם (generic man, mankind).
- אָדָם (Adam, location), cf. Josh 3:16.
- אָדָם (the residents of Adam, location), e.g., “as [the inhabitants of] Adam.”
- An emendation to אֲדָמָה (ground, soil, dirt).
- An emendation to אֲדָמָה (Admah).
- An emendation to אֲרָם (Aram).
- The LXX – Reads αὐτοὶ δέ εἰσιν ὡς ἄνθρωπος παραβαίνων διαθήκην (lit. “But they are like/as a man transgressing a covenant”).
- The geographical references (e.g., Gilead, Shechem; vv.7-9).
- שָׁם (adverb; “there”).
- Arguments for Israel as an Adamic (i.e., “New Adam”) figure.
It seems like one can make a good case for different interpretations. The evidence can legitimately be read in different ways (although only one way is correct, of course). Obviously, due to its obscurity, one probably should not base the concept of a pre-fall covenant on this verse. Whatever this verse may mean, its obscurity means it will not settle the issue for either side. Its interpretation is simply too difficult.
But, in light of this evidence, what do you think?