“Then the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living soul.”
This is how Genesis 2:7 reads in our English translations. In the Hebrew, it looks like this (reading from right to left):
וייצר יהוה אלהים את־האדם עפר מן־האדמה ויפח באפיו נשמת חיים ויהי האדם לנפש חיה׃
Hebrew readers will notice something peculiar. The first word of the verse is misspelled! The first word is vaiyitzer (ויצר), meaning “to form” or “formed,” and it is supposed to be spelled with a single yod. Yod is the letter that resembles an apostrophe (י). Yod is the second letter of the word vaiyitzer: ויצר.
Yet in every Torah scroll in the world, the word is misspelled in Genesis 2:7, written with two yods instead of one. Elsewhere it is spelled with a single yod, but not here. Why is this? Why have the scribes so faithfully copied what seems to be a simple typo?
We have to be mindful that each letter in the Hebrew alphabet is a symbol. For example, the letter aleph symbolizes an ox; the letter beit symbolizes a house; the letter gimel represents a camel; the letter dalet represents a door. What does the letter yod represent? The letter yod represents a hand!
Here we find meaning. When God formed adam (man) from the adamah (clay), He used both of His hands to do it! That’s why there are two “hands” in the vaiyitzer of Genesis 2:7––because God formed man from the clay using both of His hands. (At least, that’s the picture we get in the Hebrew.)
If we jump forward to John 9, we find God reaching down and using both of His hands again. In John 9, Jesus spits on the ground and works His saliva into the mud. He then applies the mud to both eyes of a blind man. He tells the blind man to go wash in the Pool of Siloam (which means sent). Though the blind man cannot see Jesus, he listens to His voice and obeys the command. The blind man finds his way to the Pool of Siloam. There he washes, and his sight is restored. What just happened?
Writing this, John has to be thinking of Genesis 2. In Genesis 2, God formed man from the clay. Man’s creation was perfect, the highest design in the universe. But soon enough man sinned, and sin marred his image. It caused a great deal of damage. So Jesus comes to correct that damage. What does Jesus do? He goes back to the way God made man to begin with––with clay. But this time He doesn’t have to start from scratch. All He has to do is make some new clay, apply as needed, and form a new creation of the eyes. Once again something from God’s mouth (breath in Genesis 2, saliva in John 9) combines with the clay of the earth to raise up a man.
Why does Jesus go back to Genesis 2 to heal the man? Because the problem of blindness arose in Genesis 3. Of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, the serpent said, “...in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” The woman then saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and so she ate. Notice how much eyesight is involved at the fall. Yet the moment “their eyes were opened,” they immediately started blocking things from their sight. They made themselves coverings, and they hid from God. They put God Himself out of view.
Jesus is surrounded by people suffering the effects of the Tree of Knowledge. But the people overlook their condition because the effects were inherited from Adam and Eve. Like the blind man’s blindness, the effects of the fall trace back to birth in every case. And since everyone is equally effected, the damage is then perceived as no damage at all. In principle, it takes a man with sight to know that a blind man is blind. An isolated group of blind people will not realize they are blind. But this is the predicament in which Jesus finds Himself. He’s amid a group of people who are spiritually blind, yet they don’t realize it. So what does He do? He singles out a beggar who is physically blind, and for this man Jesus performs a miracle of restoration. Baffled by this change in condition, the question they ask is, “How were your eyes opened?”
Eyesight is a central theme in John 9. We find various groups of people going back and forth as to whether or not Jesus is a prophet, a man of righteousness, a man sent by God. One group recognizes Him as such, and even though they can’t understand it exactly, they are humble enough to recognize the truth before them. However, the opposing group refuses to recognize Jesus for who He is, because, well, they are “like God,” determining good and evil, boxing in the law according to the boundaries of their own understanding. For this group, the Tree of Knowledge stands in the way of the Tree of Life. God Himself remains out of view.
To the latter group, Jesus says “...your sin remains.” But for the beggar, for the one in a position of humility, He makes a new creation of the eyes and says, “Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam.” Why does Jesus send the blind man to the Pool of Siloam? Why not somewhere else?
This is an important part of the story, and the choice is not accidental. This particular pool, the Pool of Siloam, has a rich history. It was already 700 years old when the events in John 9 take place. It had been built during the reign of King Hezekiah. It was designed to bring water inside the City so that, during a siege, Jerusalem could still have safe access to a water supply. The pool is fed by water from the Gihon Spring (which is outside the City Walls). From this spring, water is channeled into Jerusalem via an underground passage. And this is why the Pool of Siloam is called Siloam which means sent, because the water is “sent” into the City.
How they made this thing bewilders the mind. In order to channel the water into the City, Hezekiah had to carve a tunnel through the earth no less than 583 yards long! He instructed his men to work from opposite directions. One set of workers started cutting into the rock on one end (from inside the wall) while a second set started cutting into the rock on the other end (from outside the wall). It’s an amazing feat of engineering that they met up in the middle! (Google Hezekiah’s Tunnel for more information.)
In 1880, an ancient plaque was discovered inside the tunnel. Today the plague is kept in a museum, it being among the oldest extant records written in Hebrew using the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet. On the plague is an inscription that describes how the tunneling was completed. “The stone cutters wielded their picks, each crew toward the other, and while there was still 3 cubits to go, the voices of the men calling each other could be heard since there was an increase of sound on the right and the left. The day the breach was made, the stonecutters hacked toward each other, pick against pick, and the water flowed from the source to the pool, 1200 cubits.” (The Siloam Inscription)
Now there are a lot of places where this blind man could have washed the mud off. But Jesus said I want you to go to this pool. The pool that was created when Hezekiah was king. The pool that was created by two groups tunneling through rock toward each other. The pool that means sent. This is where I want you to go.
It’s a picture. To the humble, Jesus says in essence, “If you draw near to me, I will draw near to you. You want the living water. You want life. You want back in the Garden. Well I’m working toward you, tunneling out from God’s Presence. You work toward me, tunneling in toward God’s Presence. You might be operating in darkness. But you can hear. You can hear Me working toward you. I am sent for you; you are sent by Me. Keep faith, and you will soon see as you ought to see.”