Genesis 1:26-28; 2:4-9,18-15.
Created in God's Image

American Journal of Biblical Theology,
Copyright 2015, John W. (Jack) Carter     Scripture quotes from KJV

Though a simple statement, a lot depends upon the word, image. There has been much discussion and several differing viewpoints. As we look at the scripture maybe we can learn better what it is to be made in the image of God, and what responsibilities that position places on us.

Gen. 1:26.

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

"God said..." Again, God spoke and it was done. The word of the speaker represents his authority, and the Word of God represents the full authority of God. Man was created by God simply by His authority to do so. This scripture not only illustrates that He spoke creation into existence, but that He is the supreme authority over it by the virtue of that very act.

"Let us make man..." Again, we see the reference God makes to himself in the plural. The name for God, when referring to His creative and sustaining acts is Elohim, a plural. As was done in the first references to him, the verb, made, that is modified is singular. This is the first reference to man in the scripture and the word Adam is used. In Hebrew, the noun Adam, means mankind, the human race. The word does not refer to a specific individual or gender of the human race.

"In our image, after our likeness..." The word for image refers to something hewn or cut out to resemble something, while likeness means something that looks like something else. Many viewpoints are held.

  • Some feel that God has physical attributes after which we are fashioned since he is referred to as sitting down, walking, etc. However, the scripture also refers to us being under his wings, along with many other metaphors which are non human in nature. This literature style is referred to as "anthropomorphism," the assignment of human physical attributes to that which is not physical.
  • Others feel this refers to man's ability to reason. However, research has shown a limited ability for animals to reason also.
  • Some believe that this refers to the ability for man to control the rest of creation.
  • Fourth, some refer to this being the ability of man to have fellowship with God.

If God is a spiritual being, how can we be made in his likeness when we are physical beings? God did not refer to any other part of creation as being made in his likeness. If this were to refer to a physical likeness, many animals would have to be included. Consequently, lets look at ways we are different from the rest of creation and maybe we can see the difference. How are we different from the rest of creation?

  • We are not innocent. We act on learned decisions rather than natural instinct. We make choices which select between good and evil.
  • We have the ability to communicate with God.
  • We are given authority in His creation. Over what have we been given authority? (All other living creatures, as well as over all of the earth.)
  • We differ from all of the rest of creation in that we are also spiritual beings. It is in that likeness that this scripture may refer.

Gen. 1:27.

27So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

As has been the pattern of creation, after the word is spoken, the creation is done, and it is done as He said. Man was created in the image He commanded. Also, they were created male and female. What may this indicate? He created them in His image, yet we also carry some of the image of the rest of the earthly creation in that we are mortal and require propagation of the species as do the rest of the animals. This may define us as being both spiritual and physical beings.

Gen. 1:28.

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

Though the word covenant is not used here, some refer to this passage as the Edenic Covenant. As he previously did with his creatures in verse 22, he gave the command to be fruitful and increase in number. With the population of the earth over 4 billion, we apparently figured out how to follow that commandment. God also gave us some other commands. What were they? Subdue the earth. What does this mean? If we are to bring it under subjection this implies that we have been given the resources to do it. What do those resources include? Authority, intelligence, reason. Do you suppose this word subdue means that we are to make the world our slaves, consuming it to fulfill our desires? How, then, are we to have authority over the earth? In the same manner that God has authority over us. He cares for us, seeks for our best, meets our needs, protects us, teaches us, etc. What are some of the ways we should exercise that authority?

Gen. 1:29-31.

And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. 30And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so. 31And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

What has God given to man in verse 29? He has given us food for sustenance. As mortal, physical beings, he has created us with a need for food, and the ability to make use of it. What are we given to eat? Some make significant note that it is not until after Noah's flood that meat is added to the vegetarian diet spelled out in this verse.

What was given to all of the beasts, birds, and moving creatures for food in verse 30? This may paint a picture for us of a creation that is without strife between the species. There is no need for any creature to be in fear of any other, and there is a plentiful supply of green plant for food. Sounds like a regular "Garden of Eden...." As was the pattern of the other days of creation, when it was complete he now refers to all of what he has created as being good.

Gen. 2:1-3.

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. 3And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.

The seventh day He rested. Without getting into a lengthy discussion on the Sabbath, we might simply note that as He rested on the seventh day, all of Judeo-Christian cultures followed in the same manner, by dividing its work into seven-day sequences with one day set aside for rest. Consequently, the number seven is also frequently used to refer to something being complete. Examples?

Gen. 2:4-9.

These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, 5And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground. 6But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground. 7And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. 8And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Up to this point, the focus on the creation has been on God, and his authority over it. His word dictated and established all that is. Now the focus is turning onto Man and his relationship with God. As we have seen, since man is made in God's image, there will be a developing relationship with Him. These verses will describe that aspect of the creation. In these verses God has breathed into his created man the breath of life, and provided for him that garden which would provide for his sustenance. Specially noted are the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. As God has provided for our physical needs, he has provided for our spiritual needs as well. He has given us an eternal spirit with the freedom to experience it, and the tree of good and evil which, should we consume of its fruit, will cause us to be no longer innocent, and cause us to suffer the separation from God that such free choice will avail to us.

When God created this universe, he used the same substances for all objects, known well to al Physics and Chemistry students. From the basic atomic elements all matter was created. What separates us from all other matter in the universe? We share the same dust, but (1) God gave man both life and soul, or spirit. It is the physical life that we share with plants and animals. It is the spirit that we share with God in eternity. All else will be destroyed at the end of our physical life. It is only the eternal spirit that is in the image of God that will remain.

Gen. 2:18-20.

And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. 19And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. 20And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.

In these verses, the use of the Hebrew word, Adam, is translated "the man" from its context. It refers to the male of the species, traditionally referring to a single man, Adam. What task is given to Adam? To name the species. What does this imply from its context? When you name something in the Old Testament, it is an act of authority. God is revealing to man his authority over creation. Note also, that since the animals were already created, he was seeing males and females. Each had others of their kind. What lesson may we be seeing from this? Adam could see there were no other of his kind, since all that he could see before him was subject to him. Something was missing. God saw the need man had.

Gen. 2:21-25.

And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; 22And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. 23And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. 24Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. 25And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

The scripture describes the creation of woman by taking something out of man to do so. What does this mean to you? To Adam, its meaning was clear. As such she was not a second individual placed next to him in creation, but rather, a part of him. The two were one. This is very similar in context as the lesson of mutual submission taught in Eph 5:21-33. As man was given dominion over the earth, note that he is not given dominion over the woman. She is referred to as a "help meet". This refers to one who works alongside. Consequently, the authority the man has over creation is shared by the woman, as she is part of him. Their stewardship towards creation is mutual, as is their responsibility to another. Again, note that the metaphor of woman taken from the rib of man refers to their close relationship, as being one body and is not a statement that man has dominion over the woman, that man lost anything for woman to be created, or that males have one less rib than females.

Why did God create man? (1) He loves us.

Psalm 145:8-9,17 (KJV) The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. 9The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works. 17The LORD is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.

(2) To provide redemption for us:

Romans 5:8-10. (KJV) But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 10For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

(3) To give us purpose:

Eccl. 12:13. (KJV) Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.

Matt. 22:34-40. (KJV) But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. 35Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, 36Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38This is the first and great commandment. 39And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

What are some lessons we can glean from these verses?

  • All people are created in God's image and have an inherent dignity and worth. There is nothing in all of God's creation as valuable as a single human, regardless of any classification we may place them into.
  • Because we have been given responsibility of subduing and governing the world in which we live, we must exercise that responsibility.
  • Because human beings are social creatures, they need the interaction that should occur between them and God as well as that between them and other people.
  • God's ideal for the marriage relationship is that of a bonded man and woman united with Him becoming a new and holy entity.