After Israel left Egypt and was wandering through the wilderness, the King of Moab became afraid and hired the false Prophet Balaam. Numbers 23 records Balaam’s second message to Balak, King of the Moabites, in response to Balak’s request for Balaam to curse Israel for him. Within that message lies a verse very familiar to most Christians.
God is not a man, that he should lie, nor the son of man, that he should repent. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not make it good?Numbers 23:19 (REV)
The two Hebrew words translated “man” in verse 19 are iysh and adam respectively. It is widely known and accepted that both words can interchangeably be used, and commonly are, for man as a human being. In fact, the NIV, NLV, CEV, GNT, ISV and the GWT translate these words as “human” or “people.”
A similar statement is recorded in 1 Samuel 15:29: “Also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent, for he is not a man, that he should repent.”
It’s easy to understand what human/man means in these contexts. In Genesis 1:26 God says “let us make mankind (adam) in our own image” and in Genesis 2:7 further understanding of the word adamis found as God says that he formed man “from the dust of the ground” (haadama).This fact is established in Psalm 103:14: “For he himself knows our make-up. He remembers that we are dust.”
Humans are corporeal, terrestrial, with limitations. They are not spirit beings. Spirit beings are neither corporeal nor terrestrial. And certainly God is not limited. It is very clear: God is not a man nor the son of man.
This Hebrew idiom “son of man” appears some 195 times in the Bible. Approximately 93 of those occurrences are in the Book of Ezekiel where God calls Ezekiel “son of man.” There is no debate over Ezekiel’s nature: he was a human being, a man, not a spirit being or a separate yet unified part of God.
Eighty-three of the occurrences of the phrase “son of man” occur in the four Gospels where Jesus refers to himself as the son of man. Even after Jesus was resurrected out from among the dead, Stephen is recorded in Acts 7:56 as saying “Look! I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God.”
It should be plain and simple that a man/a son of man is a human being. Ezekiel certainly was. And Stephen, at a critical moment in his life, calls Jesus “the son of man,” not God the Son. Why? Because he was the son of man, the Second Adam; he himself even said so as recorded 83 times.
If Jesus was the son of man, then he was corporeal, terrestrial and limited, by definition. He himself attested to being corporeal, even after his resurrection, in Luke 24:39:
Look at my hands and my feet, and see that it is I myself. Handle me, and see, because a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you can see that I have.”Luke 24:39 (REV)
Jesus also simply and concisely defined the nature of God in the Gospel of John:
God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.John 4:24 (REV)
God, who is The Holy Spirit (see appendix 11 to the Revised English Version at www.revisedenglishversion.com) is not corporeal, terrestrial, nor limited.
Let’s look at one more passage that reveals Jesus’ identity: 1 Timothy.
5For there is one God, and one mediator between God and mankind, a man, Christ Jesus, 6who gave himself as a ransom for all—the testimony given at the proper time.1 Timothy 2:5&6
In verse 5,” mankind” and “man” are the Greek words anthropon andanthroposrespectively. The BDAG Lexicon lists several ways in which the word anthroposis used in Scripture. They are:
- a person of either sex, w. focus on participation in the human race, a human being
- a member of the human race, w. focus on limitations and weaknesses, a human being
- a male person, man
- someone, one, a person.
- a person who has just been mentioned in a narrative
- a person, perceived to be contemptible, a certain person
- in address, varying from a familiar tone to one that is more formal friend, indicating a close relationship between the speaker and the one addressed.
In addition, the English word “anthropology”, the study of man, comes from anthropos.
Jesus was a man, terrestrial, and in his resurrected body he remains a man, terrestrial, but now with a spirit-powered/energized, incorruptible body just like the one believers will receive upon Jesus’ return.
Words have meaning. If they don’t, then communication fails. There are times when a word takes on a separate or new meaning (which can be understood by the context in which it is used), but that is not the case with the use of the phrase “son of man” and nearly all of the occurrences of the word “man” (see the REV commentary on Genesis 32:24).
Yahweh gave us His word so we could understand Him and learn about Him. The Scriptures were not written for the highly educated or the scholars only. They were written for the everyday man and woman so we could learn and have fellowship with Yahweh and our savior, Jesus Christ.
God’s testimony of His Son is clear and wonderful. As Christians, we should proclaim that same testimony. We should give glory to God and His Son, our wonderful Lord and savior Jesus Christ, by allowing them both to occupy, in our hearts, the thrones they both deserve.