I was doing some study on Adam, and came across Hosea 6.7. The Hebrew, for reference:

והמה כאדם עברו ברית שם בגדו בי׃

I was already aware different translations choose to render כאדם either as 'like men' or as 'like Adam'. However, this time I read it in the NRSV, which renders it as:

But at Adam they transgressed the covenant;
   there they dealt faithlessly with me.

Translating it as 'at Adam' was new to me.

The phrasing 'like men' seems redundant (Israel sinned 'like men'? They are men), but that's my own opinion. The Pulpit Commentary follows 'like Adam', stating this translation is

supported by the Vulgate, Cyril, Luther, Rosenmüller, and Wunsche, is decidedly preferable, and yields a suitable sense. God in his great goodness had planted Adam in Paradise; but Adam violated the commandment which prohibited his eating of the tree of knowledge, and thereby transgressed the covenant of his God.

However, this would make Hosea the earliest written reference to Adam (let alone the whole event of his sin) outside of Genesis 2-5, and probably earlier than the latter by a couple of centuries. Reading Hosea 6.7 this way appears, to me, to be anachronistic.

However, a cursory search in the Hebrew scriptures gives me one text that has 'Adam' as a city, Joshua 3.16:

the waters flowing from above stood still, rising up in a single heap far off at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, while those flowing towards the sea of the Arabah, the Dead Sea, were wholly cut off. Then the people crossed over opposite Jericho. (NRSV)

In English, at least, 'at Adam' in Hosea 6.7a seems like a very natural antecedent for 'there' in Hosea 6.7b, but is this a valid translation / interpretation of the Hebrew?

  • 4
    This is fascinating, thanks. I think, to the extent that it's rendered "at Adam," the translators are understanding a bet rather than a kaf preposition - באדם. Per the NET notes, the editors of BHS say the kaf represents an orthographic confusion (ב to כ). This seems to be the origin of the at vs like difference.
    – Susan
    Commented Aug 14, 2014 at 1:01
  • 1
    So the NRSV et al. are speculating that the serif on the bet was accidentally dropped to become a kaph, or is there any manuscript evidence of this?
    – user2910
    Commented Aug 14, 2014 at 1:16
  • 2
    I know nothing beyond the NET footnotes but hopefully someone else can address this.
    – Susan
    Commented Aug 14, 2014 at 1:21
  • 1
    It's a good start, at least!
    – user2910
    Commented Aug 14, 2014 at 3:05

8 Answers 8


OP has already done a fine job in identifying the problem, and setting out solutions. The majority of modern commentators take ...ʾādām here as a reference to a place name, "Adam" (as in Joshua 3:16, as noted by OP). The notion that the following šām "there" requires a place-name as antecedent, and that the only viable candidate is ...ʾādām, is widely found compelling.1

But there are some wrinkles in how they handle the preposition kə-, "like, as".

  • The typical solution is to conjecture that kə- should be read bə-, thus "in" or "at Adam". Everyone concedes that there is zero versional evidence for this, and the editors of Hosea in both Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia and Biblia Hebraica Quinta make this clear by recording no evidence for a textual variant at this point.

    This isn't quite the whole story, however, as W.R. Harper notes in his ICC commentary (Amos, Hosea [T & T Clark, 1905], p. 287) the evidence of de Rossi's Variae lectiones Veteris Testamenti ex immensa mss.... (1786), p. 175 that there is a medieval codex with the bet preposition:
    de Rossi
    This hardly constitutes the sort of evidence needed for what might have been in Hosea's text, however. Besides which, as the Latin glosses make clear, this evidence wasn't understood by de Rossi to indicate a place name rather than a simple noun "mankind".

    Still, the expedient of following the conjecture is widely followed: e.g. H.W. Wolff, Hosea (Hermeneia; Fortress, 1974), p. 105; J.L. Mays, Hosea (OT Library; Westminster, 1969), p. 99; G.I. Davies, Hosea (New Century Bible; Eerdmans, 1992), p. 171 [who also attributes the suggestion to Wellhausen, see Die kleinen Propheten (1893), p. 114]; Andrew Macintosh, Hosea (ICC; T & T Clark, 1997), pp. 236ff.

  • The massive Anchor Bible commentary by F. Andersen and D.N. Freedman is unique in accepting the place name, but rejecting the emendation.2 They argue that

    Adam is a place name and kĕʾādām means "as in/at Adam," although Adam is not the only place where such things occur. For the same syntax, see kmdbr, "as in the wilderness" (2:5), although the k could also be explained as asseverative.

In sum, and in direct response to OP's...

In English, at least, 'at Adam' in Hosea 6.7a seems like a very natural antecedent for 'there' in Hosea 6.7b, but is this a valid translation / interpretation of the Hebrew?

... the short answer would be, Yes.


  1. Douglas Stuart in his Hosea-Jonah for the Word Biblical Commentary (Word, 1987), pp. 99, 111, reinterprets no fewer than four words (all of which, he claims, "have meanings different from what might seem their most obvious renderings" [p. 111]) in Hos 6:7, and while within the realm of possibility, seems to produce a fairly willful distortion of the text.
  2. F. Andersen & D.N. Freedman, Hosea (Anchor Bible 24; Doubleday, 1980), pp. 438-9. It's possible that J.A. Dearman, The Book of Hosea (NICOT; Eerdmans, 2010), pp. 197-8 also belongs here. He entertains the b- preposition, but seems to opt for k- given Hosea's propensity for similes. He doesn't explicitly reject the emendation, but this is strongly implied. In any case, he too takes ʾādām as a place name.
  • I think the connection between the reference to אדם and the falling from grace in Gan Eden is present in the verse and unavoidable. But I agree with you that אדם can also be interpreted to refer to a place. Commented May 21, 2015 at 10:52

I believe that the word כְּאָדָם in Hosea 6:7 may have been a clever play by the author to refer to both the city referred to in Joshua 3:16 and the Adam of Genesis. Throughout the book of Hosea, the author mentions several places which were identified as committing idolatry, sinning, or otherwise acting against G-d's will. These places include Samaria and Ephraim (Gilgal) in the Northern Kingdom, as well as Benjamin (Beth-Aven), and Judah (Gibeah) in the Southern Kingdom. But the author also mentions Gilead, which includes the city of Adam, several times. Hence it would seem that the author intended the city of Adam to be seen as a wayward city along with the others mentioned in the text.

Furthermore, the author reveals that he has an intimate knowledge of the book of Genesis in Hosea 12:4-5. Here, he refers to the tribe of Jacob but also makes a connection to the patriarch Jacob from Genesis:

12:4 בַּבֶּטֶן עָקַב אֶת אָחִיו וּבְאוֹנוֹ שָׂרָה אֶת אֱלֹהִים:
12:5 הוַיָּשַׂר אֶל מַלְאָךְ וַיֻּכָל בָּכָה וַיִּתְחַנֶּן לוֹ בֵּית אֵל יִמְצָאֶנּוּ וְשָׁם יְדַבֵּר עִמָּנוּ:

12:4 "In the womb he (Jacob) grabbed the heel of his brother and with his strength he struggled with an angel."
12:5 "He strove with an angel and prevailed; he wept and implored him; in Beth-El he will find him and there he will speak with us."

It is reasonable to assume that the author also had knowledge of Genesis chapter 3, where Adam is ejected from the Garden of Eden for disobeying G-d's commandments. Having already mentioned Adam, the city, in the first half of Hosea 6:7, it would have been easy for the author to make the connection in the second half of the verse to the Adam of Genesis.

  • 3
    This answer doesn't address the translator's speculation on the Hebrew wording, but it DOES answer the question(+1). Sometimes the answer lies within the 'context' rather than the morphology of the words, and this answer makes perfect sense within the context of Hosea's message.
    – Tau
    Commented May 16, 2015 at 10:43
  • 2
    Upvote for arguing Hosea's knowledge of a Genesis story. Sheds light on the issue. Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 3:16

The Idea in Brief

The Masoretic Text and Babylonian Talmud provide compelling insights.

First, the Masoretic Text provides structure through the cantillation marks and accents to help understand how the words related one to another. In this respect, the cantillation and accent marks provide no direct relationship between the word אָדָם (Adam) and the word שָׁם (Sham). That is, the direct relationship instead is between the word שָׁם (Sham) and the word הֵמָּה (Hamah). Thus there is no editorial emphasis in the Masoretic Text for correlating אָדָם (Adam) with שָׁם (Sham).

Second, the Babylonian Talmud indicates that the word אָדָם (Adam) in this verse is in express reference to the man created in the Garden of Eden. The weight given to the Babylonian Talmud comes from Jewish oral tradition, which provides some accuracy as to how Jewish scholars had understood and taught the nuances of the Hebrew Scriptures over the centuries.

Finally, there is one reference in the Hebrew Bible (Job 31:33) where the word אָדָם (Adam) occurs in tandem with transgressions committed, and therefore refers to the man created in the Garden of Eden. Thus the spelling of the word in Job 31:33 is the same as in Hosea 6:7 -- that is, both word appear spelled as כְּאָדָם with the prefix כְּ (which means as, or just like). The implication is that while rare, the phrase occurs in the Hebrew Bible with reference to the man created in the Garden of Eden.


The following graph comes from Bible Software with additional editorial diagram comments. The diagram provides the understanding of how the Hebrew words modified one another through the system of cantillation and accent marks. Please click the image to enlarge.

enter image description here

The cantillation and accent marks indicate that there is no direct relationship between אָדָם (Adam) with שָׁם (Sham). Instead, the word שָׁם (Sham) is modifying the word הֵמָּה (Hamah), which the word אָדָם (Adam) is also modifying. In other words, the editorial emphasis is not on the geographical location of אָדָם (Adam), but the geographical location of הֵמָּה (Hamah). Therefore, based in the Masoretic system of cantillation and accent marks, the אָדָם (Adam) in Hosea 6.7a does not appear to be an antecedent for 'there' in Hosea 6.7b.

Secondly, the Babylonian Talmud is explicit that אָדָם (Adam) in this verse is in reference to the man created in the Garden of Eden. The reference here is b. Sanhedrin Folio 38B [Line 25 ff.]. The following citation comes from the translation from Neusner (2011). Please click to enlarge. Note: heretics were referred to as min, or minim (pl.)

enter image description here

Finally, the phrase כאדם occurs three times in the Masoretic Text, which the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia notes as part of the Masorah Parva (margin notes of the Masoretic Text) and Masorah Magna (footnotes and/or endnotes of the Masoretic Text). In one passage (Job 31:33) the reference is to the man created in the Garden of Eden. In reference to this observation, Keil & Delitzsch (1996) provide compelling narrative support that there is no relationship between אָדָם (Adam) with שָׁם (Sham). Please click to enlarge.

enter image description here

Keil & Delitzsch see the Adam in this passage in reference to man in the Garden of Eden. Also, they do not correlate אָדָם (Adam) with שָׁם (Sham), but instead correlate שָׁם (Sham) with הֵמָּה (Hamah).


In summary, the cantillation and accent marks in the Masoretic Text provide the visual (and aural) perspective in order to understand the relationship between Hebrew words. In this regard, they help to understand that there is no direct relationship between the word אָדָם (Adam) and the word שָׁם (Sham). That is, the direct relationship instead is between the word שָׁם (Sham) and the word הֵמָּה (Hamah). Secondly, Jewish oral tradition affirms that the 'Adam' in this verse is in reference to the man in the Garden of Eden. Lastly, the Hebrew phrase כאדם occurs three times in the Masoretic Text; that is, in Job 31:33 the reference is to the man created in the Garden of Eden who transgressed against the Lord. Keil & Delitzsch bring these thoughts together in their helpful and compelling commentary. In summary, the אָדָם (Adam) in Hosea 6.7a does not appear to be an antecedent for 'there' in Hosea 6.7b.


Keil, C. F., & Delitzsch, F. (1996). Commentary on the Old Testament (Vol.10). Peabody: Hendrickson, 66.

Logos 6 Bible Software, Hebrew Cantillations

Neusner, Jacob (2011). The Babylonian Talmud: A Translation and Commentary (Vol.16). Peabody: Hendrickson, 190.

  • 2
    You know I value your answers! But here you mistake what the accents do in relation to šām. Antecedents need not be in the same clause as their referring term. They can be in a different sentence, or even paragraph. Accents mark phrase- and clause-level conjunctions and disjunctions. It doesn't matter what the accents are doing, šām (like LXX ἐκεῖ) still refers to place - it cannot refer to "them". It addresses "where", not "who". The grammatical relationships are misrepresented here. :( The other כאדם references are interesting, but different contexts of course.
    – Dɑvïd
    Commented May 22, 2015 at 7:13
  • 1
    @Davïd Maybe I'm misunderstanding one of you, but it appears that Joseph does maintain that šām refers to a 'there'... but that the 'there' is Hamah, not Adam.
    – user2910
    Commented May 22, 2015 at 14:36
  • 2
    @MarkEdward I don't know why Joseph consistently glosses הֵמָּה hēmmâ "They/them" with "Hamah", but even so, it cannot be the antecendent for šām. It's not a place! It's a 3rd person plural masculine independent pronoun (with its own antecedent in 6:5). (Unless I'm disappearing down the rabbit hole.....)
    – Dɑvïd
    Commented May 22, 2015 at 14:57
  • 1
    @David - In the purple highlighted areas where I cite Keil & Delitzsch, they mention Psalm 14:5. In that verse, šām is modified by the remainder of the verse (through the systems of cantillations and accents). They indicate that the same applies to Hosea 6:7. So the modifying here is not grammatical, but logical (through the systems of cantillations and accents). Very Respectfully,
    – Joseph
    Commented May 22, 2015 at 18:17
  • 1
    @MarkEdward - Yes, you correctly understood my point. That is, šām refers to a 'there'... but that the 'there' is Hamah (better, hēmmâ), not Adam. Again, the system of cantillations and accents is not grammatical, but logical.
    – Joseph
    Commented May 22, 2015 at 18:25

The Septuagint has (Hosea 6:7):

αὐτοὶ δέ εἰσιν ὡς ἄνθρωπος παραβαίνων διαθήκην· ἐκεῖ κατεφρόνησέ μου

Translating the passage in question from the Septuagint gives:

they are like a man that transgresses a covenant; (...)

That is, the reading for "כאדם" is "ὡς ἄνθρωπος" which means "like a man".

The Septuagint was made with much older Hebrew manuscripts than those from which the Hebrew Bible that we have today originates. In as far as the Septuagint is credible as a translation guide, the reading "man/men" instead of "Adam" is the one that is correct.

The Septuagint translation also gives insight as to why "כאדם". Reading "Like men they transgressed the covenant" is confusing. Reading "(they are) like a man that transgresses a covenant" gives a clear meaning. This form of accusation is found in other parts of the text (see for example 5:10).

  • 2
    This is a helpful addition. The weird thing, of course, is that it leaves us without an obvious antecedent for ἐκεῖ. As far as I know, that term always refers to a place, and I don’t see another nearby option (unless the following sentence can be used?). I wonder how the LXX translator was understanding that.
    – Susan
    Commented May 21, 2015 at 9:44
  • 1
    @Susan the place where "ἐκεῖ" refers does not need to be an actual place; just as with "there" in English, "ἐκεῖ" can also be used to point somewhere that is not a place (e.g. "The problem is there"). Taking this under account, "ἐκεῖ" may point to the reason why God says that "κατεφρόνησέ μου" ("they dealt faithlessly with me"), that is the accusation of the first part of the verse. This would serve as an emphasis of the treachery that "transgressing a covenant" conveys.
    – nxavar
    Commented May 21, 2015 at 11:04

Late to the discussion for sure. However, many translations have "like Adam" and I believe this to be correct. The antecedent for the word "there" is "the covenant" Hosea 6:7a. The location is not a physical place, but rather that place where God created a covenant that they, like Adam's violation in the garden, they violated.


I would suggest that the literal translation At Adam is perfectly legitimate, if we view it in the context of 1 Cor 15:22 "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive."

From a covenant perspective it appears there are two heads Adam and Christ. When Adam sinned all his progeny sinned, they being in him. There is a strong sense in which we were literally in Adam when he sinned. We are Adam as much as he is our father. When Adam sinned we were there essentially and physically. The fact that the children of Israel "transgressed the covenant" in say Hosea's time, is simply due to the fact that Adam transgressed the covenant. "The sins of the fathers are visited on the children".

At Adam, at the very point that Adam sinned all the sins of mankind were "In Seed" in him, Adam, as "in Adam all die".

Literally their covenant faithlessness was "in Adam" or "at Adam", at the point that Adam sinned they sinned and the outworking of that sin is seen in the unfaithfulness of Adams progeny. All sin points back to one point "At Adam", there is the source and we, that is all men, were there at that point in Adam, at Adam, when he sinned.

Therefore there is a strong sense of _'Place'_in the translation which would not be out of context if this was the thought of the Prophet, if he by divine illumination saw all in Adam and all breaking the covenant in him, at that point.

Romans 5:17 "For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one"

At adam, is just the same as saying, in Adam.

I understand that this is a theological argument, but is nevertheless an answer to a hermeneutical question.

  • 1
    I'm sorry to downvote, but this doesn't answer the question being asked: Whether 'at Adam' is a legitimate translation of the Hebrew wording in Hosea 6.7, and if that would be corroborated by the existence of a city named 'Adam' (as mentioned in the book of Joshua). Your answer is an argument that the English word 'at' should be semantically equated with the word 'in', and doesn't really touch on Hosea or Joshua to make this point.
    – user2910
    Commented Feb 22, 2015 at 22:48

If the answer is ' like Adam ' , then life as we know it, makes more sense. Considering if a covenant was made between God and Adam bonded with an oath of receiving life if they obey or death if they break it. They broke the oath and now we all have to die..when a covenant is made it includes the children too..that's why we have to die too.

  • 1
    Welcome to BH.SE! We're glad you're here, and it will help you out to take the site tour to see how the Stack Exchange works. One thing that is required on an answer here is to show your work. If you can give us a citation for a covenant including the children, that will be great.
    – Frank Luke
    Commented Jun 23, 2017 at 18:58

The problem with this verse is that it can mean one, or all three. The word "Adam" (אָדָם) is repeatedly translated throughout scripture as "man" or "mankind". In the first three chapters of Genesis, we see that the word Adam is always translated as "man" unless context indicates that "man" is referring to a proper individual in the story. In these instances we translate it as "Adam" as this makes more sense in English. Despite this, there is no real delineation in the book of Genesis or elsewhere between the historical Adam as a Bible character and mankind as a whole. This purposely encourages the reader to view the creation story as an allegory or parable to mankind as a whole, though not necessarily to the exclusion of a historical, literal Adam (Perhaps there was a real guy, but his name was really Larry, for example).

Therefore, a reading of this verse as "But in Adam they transgressed the covenant; there they dealt faithlessly with me." is the same as "But in mankind they transgressed the covenant; there they dealt faithlessly with me." and there is no distinction between the two.

The final "at Adam" interpretation largely regards how you view the fall. In order to support a hyper-literal reading of Genesis, some theologians will cast the fall as a one-time, historical event. In this interpretive framework, this text would support an "at Adam" reading of the text. This view tends to be a hallmark of Calvinism. Therefore, a Jewish reader would most likely never interpret this verse in this manner. This is further backed by the fact that the Covenant was not formally extended to God's people formally until Abraham, though some make the case for the Covenant as far back as Noah and the rainbow with the covenant never to flood the whole earth. Because the Covenant was really about redemption of God's people and (was/is) looking forward to the coming of the Messiah, we would first need to see a covenant between Adam and God which looks forward to salvation for an "at Adam" interpretation to make much sense. Furthermore, for Adam to be breaching the Covenant even as he made it would be counter-intuitive as well.

Lastly, for the Christian, the "at Adam" interpretation can be informed on your view of Grace. If you view Grace as a single event which happened at the cross, but do not believe in a continuing work of grace (again, a hallmark of Calvinism), then this view may make sense. But if you view grace as a continuing work which occurs at the death of Christ, but also in the believer at the acceptance of Christ and throughout his life when he sins, then the fall must be viewed as a continuing work as well. So while mankind fell with the historical Adam, just as Grace came with the death of Christ, mankind also continues this work when we each sin and fall individually in our lives just as the work of Grace continues when we each accept Christ or rely on his grace for our salvation. Further discussion of this concept however is better suited for https://christianity.stackexchange.com/ or you can probe https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com to see if given texts support Calvinist interpretations to help you decide how to view this verse (for example, Epehsians 1).

From a zoomed in view of this text however, there is no reason to translate this as "at Adam".

  • With respect your reading of calvin is deficient in its view of justification and sanctification. For a good overview of Calvinist theology in this area John Murray 'Redemption accomplished and applied'. Calvinism essentially teaches that all is "by grace". Calvinism most definitely teaches 'sanctification'! Calvinism teaches that 'justification' was accomplished at the cross, sanctification is the outworking of that justification! All grace requisite for bringing the elect to glory was purchased by Christ in His suffering which He endured "once for all". Commented Feb 24, 2015 at 12:33
  • It depends on the Calvinist, doesn't it? There is also the issue of election. But like I said, that is a discussion for another forum. Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 16:01
  • This is a question about Hebrew linguistics. Your answer doesn't address that at all.
    – user2910
    Commented Mar 20, 2015 at 22:21
  • Sure, it does. I stated that Linguistically, it can be translated as one or all three contexts and the translation depends only on context in this case. I also said "there is no real delineation in the book of Genesis or elsewhere between the historical Adam as a Bible character and mankind as a whole." This is true at the linguistic level. Commented May 17, 2015 at 4:41