Understanding Biblical Manhood

What does God have to say about man and woman? Who did He create them to be?

I decided to study the words used in the Old Testament for man and for woman [1], specifically using the Old Testament Hebrew because the Old Testament is where we find the roots, beginnings and original design of things.

So here are six of the most common words for man used in the Old Testament Hebrew. I think you will find this as enlightening as I have. You will not only see different aspects of manhood, but also some of the progression of a man’s development.

 1. The Creation Man: Adam (pronounced ah-dahm). This word refers to both male and female at times; but can also refer to mankind in general. It’s talking about man from a creation or design point of view. God created this person in two primary ways: in the image of God, with value and dignity, and also finite (with limitations). It’s very important for a man to realize he is created in the image of God but that he also has limits, by design.

2. The Sexual Man: Zakar (pronounced zah-car). This is the second most common word in the Old Testament for man. It refers to the phallic man – the sexual man. The word technically means, “to bore through.” It is part of who God designed him to be. Not asexual, but of a particular sex with particular desires and drives. But those desires and drives need to be controlled. He is created as a sexual male, but needs to realize the need for limitations to be enforced on those desires and drives – by himself – so he doesn’t abuse his sexuality.

3. The Warrior Man: Gabor (pronounced guh-bore). The word means “warrior.” It speaks of the aspect of man that is the achiever. The warrior goes out and attacks goals and all kinds of tasks to achieve those goals. It’s used of David and his “mighty men.” They were the ones who were there to protect, to defend, or do whatever it took to conquer for him, if need be. It’s used of wise men and it’s used of spiritual men who conquer the forces of evil. It is the warrior man that provides for and protects his family and those he loves. But if the warrior does not limit his power as a warrior he can become destructive and harmful to others.

4. The Wounded Warrior: Enosh (pronounced ee-nahsh). The person who most often describes himself this way is Job. It’s the picture of the warrior who has been wounded, as if he’s been in battle long enough to become wounded. This depicts a man who is facing all kinds of difficulties, who is paying a price for his going out to accomplish and achieve. This is a concept of man that our culture has little value for. In our culture we often say this man is in a mid-life crisis. This man usually feels past his prime, like life is passing him by for younger warriors. But the reality, in God design, is that this man must face his wounds and grow through them so he can move on and become another form of man.

5. The Mature Man: Ish (pronounced ish). This word is always used in contrast to a young man. It’s an older man, a mature man. It’s a man who, through his wounds, has come to grips with who he is and who he is not. He has accomplished a degree of self-discipline and self-acceptance. He is no longer feeling the need to compete as much as he used to. He has a settled contentment with who God made him to be. This is the man who has learned and grown from his mistakes, his wounds and his failures. He has refused to be defeated by this process of life that is necessary for any man who wants to continue to grow and mature.

6. The Wise Man: Hakam (pronounced ha-kom). This word depicts the sage or the wise man. This is the man who has continued to move along in life to become a mature man, but he has also become a wise person who can help other people understand life and begin to grow. He is a mentor. He is a form of a patriarch to those around him. He is a person who is sought out by others to sit at his feet, so to speak, so they can listen, learn, grow and benefit from his wisdom.

Both men and women need to see through the empty concepts of our culture that say a man is only worth something until he turns 40-45. That is and never was God’s idea.

There is value in all these portrayals of man. Though the warriors of our culture may be particularly prized, without wounded warriors who have learned and grown into mature men from their wounds, we will not have wise men, or sages, who can help some of the warriors understand what is ahead and not have to be wounded quite so deeply in order to learn and grow toward the maturity that God desires.

Next is Part 2: Womanhood



[1] This idea was fascinating to me after reading a book by Bob Hicks titled, The Masculine Journey, where Mr. Hicks did a biblical study of the most common words for man in the Old Testament.

Dr. Rick Taylor

Dr. Rick Taylor

Equipping Director at The Well Community Church, international speaker, and author of The Anatomy of a Disciple.

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