Creation of Humanity, Image of God
Genesis 1:24, 25, “And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.”
Notice the repetition of one particular phrase. God commands that the earth bring forth creatures after their kind. Then in the fulfillment of that command three times the text emphasizes that each of these categories were created after their kind. Literally in the Hebrew it reads, according to its category or according to its kind. In the space of two verses there are five references to kind. This doesn’t happen by chance. You cannot just come along and somehow figure out some way where you have some sort of development from one species into another species when you have this kind of repetition in the text. When we look at this verse we see that there are three broad categories of animals: the beasts of the earth would refer to the wild animals [the living things of the earth], then the cattle, referring to domestic animals, and then everything that creeps on the ground, the Hebrew word remesh, which would include not just creepy-crawly things. The way that this is used in other passages such as Leviticus 11:29-31, is to include other things such as amphibians and small mammals. So it doesn’t just refer to insects, etc. God makes all of these simultaneously on the earth, according to plan—“and saw that it was good.” This is the first creative activity on the sixth day. All of these things indicate that no chance is involved in any of this, it is all according to plan and by design.
In verse 26 we come to the apex of God’s creative work, the creation of the human race. “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.” Notice the similarity between verse 26 and verse 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.” Verse 27 is different: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”
In verse 28 we see a mirror image of what is stated in verse 26, “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.” Verse 27 is sandwiched in between. Whenever you have that kind of a structure in the Scriptures it is what is called an inclusion, and this is a literary device that the author uses to emphasize what is in the middle. When there is a structure like that, where there is statement A and then A-prime, which is a repetition of A, and in between is statement B, what is being emphasized and highlighted is statement B. That is actually the subject of the passage. The real emphasis here is not so much on what is said in verses 26 and 28, although that is very important, but the emphasis and focal point is on Genesis 1:27, that God created man in His image. So this creation of man on the sixth day is simply summarized here in verses 26-28. It is picked up then as the theme of chapter two. Genesis 2 gives us the details of how the man and the woman were created on the sixth day. But in terms of the opening narrative all we are told is a summary of God’s creation of man, male and female, in His image. This is a typical stylistic device in Hebrew narrative called pearling, where you stream text together and you have a summary in one section, and then you come back pick up a specific incident and blow it up and expand it. It is a way of bringing emphasis. There is no conflict, then, between the action of Genesis 1:26-28 and the description of God’s creative activity in chapter two.
There is a second thing that needs to be pointed out here. Matthew 19:3-6, “The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” The reason this is important is that the liberal contention is that Genesis 1 is one creation account and Genesis 2 is another creation account. They say that they conflict; you can’t make Genesis 2 fit one 24-hour day.
Look at how Jesus handles the answer to this question. “Have ye not read, that He which made them at the beginning made them male and female.” This is a direct quote from Genesis 1:27, so in His answer the first part of His sentence (v. 4 doesn’t end with a period) is taken from Genesis 1:27 and v. 5, the second part of His sentence, “For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and the twain shall be one flesh,” is a quote from Genesis 2:24.
So Jesus in answering the Pharisees takes part of a verse in Genesis 1 and part of a verse in Genesis 2 and pulls them together. He sees no contradiction between those two accounts. In fact, He sees them as completely coordinate and completely compatible. So if people come along and try to make a distinction between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 they are going to have real problems with Jesus. This is the whole point that needs to be emphasized: You can’t start manipulating the text in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 to try to fit any kind of modern cosmogony without doing serious damage to the person of Christ, the work of Christ, and the foundation of what Paul teaches in the epistles. Everything that is in the New Testament has its foundation in Genesis chapters one through eleven. So Genesis 1:26, 27 sets forth the fundamental text explaining the creation of man, and v. 28 gives us a clear statement of the purpose for man in terms of being in the image of God.
“In our image” – This is a qal jussive, a first person plural cohortative. In Hebrew a cohortative is a first person command. In English we think of a command as “You do something.” We don’t have a first person command, but in Hebrew there is a first person command. It is called a cohortative and has the idea of “Let us do something.” So it is an imperatival statement addressed to a first person. What is the significance of the plural here? There are some who want to say that this is simply a plural of majesty, and this raises a number of problems for Jewish expositors. One attempt to explain this is that when God said, “Let us”, He is talking to the angels. But then you have a problem because it says in the conclusion of that clause, “Let us make man in our image. ” Then there are those who want to be too rigid with the text and say, Don’t try to read the Trinity into this. But we have to at least read plurality in the Godhead into this because it is not only “Let us make man in our image,” and of course, that could be an editorial “we,” but it is more than that because of the use of the first person plural pronoun in relationship to image: “in our image, according to our likeness.” While it doesn’t teach the Trinity per se, you can’t rule out plurality here; it is clearly indicating a plurality in God. This type of exchange where you have God talking to Himself or discussing the plan within Himself, in the Godhead, is something that appears in a number of places in the Old Testament, e.g., Psalm 2:7, where two persons are involved in the dialogue. A second example of plurality in the Godhead is Isaiah 48:16–a divine individual is speaking and saying, “Come here to me”. This verse has all three members of the Trinity present. So even though you don’t have an explicit doctrine of the Trinity in the Old Testament there is the clear presentation of plurality in the Godhead and conversation within that Godhead. A third passage is Psalm 45:7. Then there is Psalm 110:1.
“In our image and according to our likeness” – there has been a tremendous amount of discussion about what these terms mean. The terminology is the Hebrew is be, which usually means “in”, and tzalam has the idea of image, although it is somewhat uncertain as to exactly what the etymology of that word is. It is used only twelve times in the Hebrew Old Testament. In ten of those instances it refers to a physical representation. It is used of the images of Baal in 2 Kings 11:18; 2 Chronicles 23:17. It is used for other images of Canaanite deities in Numbers 33:52 and several passages in Ezekiel and in Amos 5:26. So here it has a very physical sense to it. But it also has an abstract use and in Psalm 39:7 it refers to the immaterial nature of human life. Psalm 73:20 refers to a dream image. Perhaps the best word to understand the core meaning of tzelem is the idea of representation. This idea of representation, then, clearly includes an abstract idea. When we look at the preposition be that is placed in front of tzelem it gives us more indication. That is described by Hebrew scholars as the beth of essence, i.e., describing the essence of something, and it should be translated “as.” So man is created as the representation of God. This emphasizes the fact that man is to represent God. We are created as a representative of God.
The second word that is used is the word damut, and the preposition preceding it is the preposition k. The word damut here is a much more abstract concept than Tzelem. It generally indicates something that is not physical and is an image or representative of something else, and it is virtually a synonym to the other word. So the two words function together as a sort of poetic pair to describe the same thing. Even though you have the preposition be in front of the first one and k in front of the second one, there is a shift. Genesis 5:3, “And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image.” There we have a reversal. Instead of tzelem first and then damut, as in Genesis 1, what happens in Genesis 5 is that these words are switched. “Likeness” is mentioned first and “image” is mentioned second. In Genesis 5:3 the prepositions are reversed: be is now with demut and k is now with tzelem. This just indicates, by comparing the two passages, the total interchangeability of the two ideas, and this indicates basically that the function of man is to represent God and that man’s basic form, i.e., his essence, is a reflection of God. This is what distinguishes man from all manner of living things. As pointed out earlier, when you have on the third day the creation of vegetation, it is not life. The word in the Hebrew is nephesh—nephesh hayah, indicating a living thing, and it is this word nephesh, which has the idea of life in many passages and in other passages it has the idea of soul. It is only to the animals and to mankind that you have this concept of nephesh, but what distinguishes man’s nephesh from the nephesh of the animal kingdom is that man is in the image and likeness of God. Man is to represent God and he is given certain faculties that enable him to do that; that reflect God and go beyond anything that might be apparent in animals. The only thing that can be said for certain is that the difference between the animals and mankind is that mankind is created in the image and likeness of God.
That has two aspects. For so long we react to the fact that this is physical. But God doesn’t look like man. We can’t escape the fact that ten of the twelve uses of tzelem refer to a physical representation. Does that mean that mankind is a physical representation of God? No. Primarily the first aspect of this representation is immaterial, non-material, and it has to do with the make-up of man in terms of his soul and human spirit. That is, that God gave man self-consciousness so that when he looks in a mirror and sees himself, he knows himself. Animals don’t know that. Then there is mentality, the ability to think, to think God’s thoughts after Him, to reason according to what God has revealed. (These definitions are as they are before the flood) In self-consciousness you have man recognizing God; so it is relative to God consciousness. In his mentality he is thinking the thoughts of God. Then there is volition, self-determination. In the pre-fall condition he is following God’s will. Finally man has a conscience, which stores the norms and standards, and this is directed towards God and has divine absolutes stored in that original conscience. These four elements work together to make up the soul, and then they are bound together with the human spirit, which means that their self-consciousness is able to relate to God, their mentality is able to understand God’s thoughts, their volition responds to God, and their conscience responds to divine norms and standards. When that human spirit is lost and they are spiritually dead they are no longer going to be God-conscious in the same sense, i.e., a full understanding of who and what God is, because they are the image-bearer of God. There was a complete rapport with God prior to the fall. But after the fall they can’t think God’s thoughts, they are bound up in human viewpoint; man becomes the ultimate reference point. In volition they are in negative volition, hostility toward God, and their conscience now has a second set of standards, a set of pseudo standards adopted from their own experience. So man is connected immaterially with a human soul and a human spirit, but this is housed in a physical body.
When God designed the human body, everything related to the five senses, everything related to the physical body was not by chance. God is omniscient and He never increases or diminishes in knowledge. That means that from eternity past God knew everything that was going to happen in human history, that if He created a race with volition they would sin, and that the only solution to the sin problem would be that He would have to incarnate Himself into that race. So God the Father in eternity past knew that He would have to become one of those creatures. So how was He to design a body? What was going to be the most perfect physical form that He could develop, which He, infinite God who has Spirit plus all of these various facets and dimensions to His character, what was going to be the very best physical form in which He could put Himself? God knew that He needed a body through which He revealed Himself in a finite body. The infinite God would become finite man and reveal Himself to man. So the physical body isn’t something that just happens, it is precisely what was needed, and the best form that could ever be developed through which God could reveal Himself. So there is a physical dimension. It is not that your body looks like God but that God is going to have to make Himself finite and reveal Himself to creatures and it couldn’t be done in a better physical form than the one in which he designed for mankind.
V. 27, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” That indicates that both the male and the female are in the image of God, but there is a distinction from the very beginning between the male image and the female image. That implies that there is a difference in the soul make-up/orientation of the woman and the man. The man is designed to function in one sense and one way, and the woman is designed to function in another way, both working together as a team to fulfill the purpose and plan of God. But something happens. They fail in Genesis chapter three; they fall into sin and something happens to the image of God. There are some people who teach that the image of God is erased. The issue is whether it is simply erased or effaced. Is it marred or corrupted, or is it destroyed? To answer that we need to go to Genesis 5.
Genesis 5:1, “This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made He him.” Here we have the word damut; v.2, “Male and female created he them,” so once again it is a reminder that male and female are in the image of God; “and called their name mankind, in the day when they were created.”
Genesis 5:3, “And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth.” Notice, it doesn’t say he begets a son in God’s image. He begets a son in his image. The difference is that now, while there is an image of God there, it is marred. The image of God, as we will see later, has to do with its function of ruling and reigning, but it is marred now because of sin. It is now in the image of man or in the image of Adam, but does that mean that the image of God has gone. No. In Genesis 9 we have the foundation for the principle of capital punishment given, starting in verse 5. “And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man. Whoever sheds man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed.” This is the delegation for the most serious form of judicial action, i.e., capital punishment. This is the foundation for all forms of judicial action in human history, because if God delegates us the most form of legal action than that would mean that even lesser forms of legal action are also delegated to mankind. Why is it that God requires capital punishment in the case of murder? The second part of the verse: “for in the image of God made he man.” So man is still in the image of God, though it is marred, and because man is in the image of God this is so important because if someone kills another human being it is not only an act against another human being but it is viewed as an act against the creator. Because it is viewed as an act of rebellion against the creator God demands capital punishment.
This important to understand as believers because so often when believers argue against capital punishment they argue from false premises, such as it restrains crime. Well it might restrain crime but that is not what God says, it is not the reason that God gives it in Genesis 9. Other people say we need to have capital punishment to bring about vengeance, but it is not about vengeance. Even “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” is not a statement about vengeance, it is a statement about accountability and there is a difference. It is about the fact that this individual has created an act of blasphemy. It is a theological act of such seriousness that this person who commits murder has sacrificed his right to life, and God demands that He be removed.
When we get to the New Testament the concept of image shifts. In the Old Testament we were created originally in the image of God, that image is marred and becomes the image of man and Adam, but it is still there though it is corrupted. In the New Testament the focus is on the image of Jesus Christ. It is the image of Christ that is emphasized. Romans 8:29, “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son.” So God has a predetermined goal for the believer: to become conformed to the image of His Son. In other words, what is God’s predetermined plan for your life? That we become in the image of Christ. Man was originally created in the image of God. That image was marred and defaced by sin, and only through regeneration and then sanctification is that image restored. This is also seen in 1 Corinthians 15:49, “And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.” That is, as we start off as believers we start of in the image of Adam and as we advance in spiritual maturity we reflect God’s character more and more in the image of Christ, the image of the heavenly. 2 Corinthians 3:18 states, “But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror … are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” This is the process of spiritual maturity as we are being changed to where we reflect the character, the person, of Jesus Christ. This is the idea of the fruit of the Spirit. This is again stated in Colossians 3:10, “And have put on the new self, which is renewed in knowledge according to the image of him that created him.” So we are being renewed to this original image. The purpose of all of this is ultimately to fulfill the original dominion mandate. This is done ultimate through Jesus Christ in His return at the second coming. He is the one who is said to be the image of God in 2 Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:15.
The image is not simply there because we are to represent God, but how are we to represent God? That is the function of the next verse, which is sometimes called the dominion mandate.