Genesis 1:16-2:3 by Robert Dean
Series:Genesis (2003)
Duration:55 mins 21 secs

Man and Dominion
Genesis 1:16-2:3

What it means to be created in the image and likeness of God

What sets man apart from all other creatures is not simply his ability to reason, not his ability to communicate, but that he is in the image and the likeness of God. 

1)      Man is made in the image and according to the likeness of God. “In the image”; “according to the likeness”. These prepositional phrases start with two distinct prepositions, be [as] and k [according to], but they are used together to indicate a synonymous parallelism between the two concepts.

2)      The image describes man’s function. Man is created “as the image,” the basic meaning being “representative.” We are created as God’s representatives. Man was originally created to represent God over all of the creatures. So image describes man’s function. We are to represent God. Man was originally created to represent God over all of the creatures. That is why we see in the mandate of verse 28 that man is to have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth. Literally, he is to rule the earth in God’s place. This is his function before the fall. So image describes man’s function according to the standard of God’s immaterial essence.

3)      “Likeness” is what describes that immaterial essence of the soul make-up of man in terms of his self-consciousness, his intellect, volition and conscience.

4)      These terms explain not merely that man is in the image of God but that he is the image of God.

5)      Man was thus created to fill the role as God’s personal representative and ruler over creation, so that the rest of creation could look at mankind and in a sense they would see God. Man was to be God’s representative both to creation underneath him as well as to the angels. Remember the angels are witnesses to what is going on on the earth because God is demonstrating certain things in relationship to the angelic conflict and to Satan’s charges that God is not being fair to him.

6)      The image applies equally to male and female. Man and woman together represent God on the earth.

7)      The believer being conformed to the image of Christ is to represent Christ as ambassador on the earth. The image of God is defaced and marred through the fall; it starts to be recovered through regeneration; then we grow from grace to grace and from glory to glory as the image of Christ is made in us. That is a picture of the process of sanctification, as the character of Jesus Christ is made in the individual believer. Romans 8:29; 1 Corinthians 15:49; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Colossians 3:10.

The reality of what man is is directly related to his function which is given as to rule, the have dominion. This relates to two distinct words in the Hebrew of verse 26: radah and kabash. Radah means to rule, to dominate, and to exercise dominion; kabash means to subdue, to bring everything under control or to bring something into bondage. So these two words indicate that man is to exercise complete authority over all of the animals, over all of the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, all of the natural resources that God has given to man. This is a unique point, which lays the groundwork for a Christian view of the environment. When we run up against the left-wing view of environmentalism their view is that man just wants to rape and pillage and destroy the environment, and they want man to live in peaceful harmony with the environment and not develop any natural resources. That is what we always see in paganism. In paganism we get this idealized utopian view of native man living in perfect harmony with nature—the American Indian, the Australian aborigines, African natives, etc. But they polluted nature! In most environmental rationale they are basically operating on a pantheistic and pagan view of nature, so man is just to live in harmony with nature because he is just another cog. The assumption is evolutionary. As demonstrated earlier, most of the pagan religions have the same kind of approach to origins that evolution has. So their idea is that man just lives in harmony with nature, he doesn’t do anything to disturb what is around him. He doesn’t dig in the ground, he doesn’t utilize the natural resources, everything has to be kept in a perfect balance and man is just another piece in the overall machinery of nature.

But in Christianity man is distinct from the rest of the creation. Man is to rule over the creation; man is to subdue the creation; man is to exercise his engineering skills, his mental capabilities, his inventiveness, in order to discover the natural resources that God put into the planet so that he can build a civilization that glorifies God. That is the pristine view prior to the fall of man. However, all of that gets warped because of sin. Nevertheless, God never rescinds the dominion mandate. It is restated. It is never going to be fulfilled, though, until Jesus Christ comes back and establishes a perfect government and perfect environment during the Millennium. But Genesis 1:26-28 lays the foundation for how man is to rule and dominate nature. All is to be governed and ruled by man—in a responsible manner, for sure; not in a manner that destroys the environment so that is can’t be used again.

We see the expansion of this meaning of dominion and rule in Genesis 2. In Genesis 2:15, “And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and to keep it.” This is his responsibility. It was not an environment where Adam just laid around in the garden and enjoyed all of the wonders of Paradise and ate all of the fruit that he wanted to; he had responsibilities. We will see that those responsibilities were not laborious, not burdensome, not difficulties. He enjoyed it and was in perfect harmony with nature because there was no sin at that point.

Genesis chapter two describes the mechanics of God’s work on the sixth day and the creation of mankind in the garden. He had work to perform. He was to cultivate the garden. The word “cultivate” is the Hebrew abadh, which means to work. Secondly, he was to keep the garden—Heb. shamar, which has the idea of guarding, watching or keeping. Why would Adam have to guard and watch over the garden? Because in the background Lucifer is lurking. So man’s responsibility is to guard the garden from the introduction of evil. Then we know that he was to name the animals, and in the ancient world naming was a function of exercising dominion or control. So now we have this divine mandate that they are to exercise dominion over the earth.

V. 28, “And God blessed them.” And the blessing is given in the quotation. It is defined by the dominion mandate itself. This gives man a purpose and a function. “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.” In some Bibles there is a semi-colon after “multiply.” That is not what the Hebrew says; it is not broken by a semi-colon. These are not three different commands here; it is one command with five elements. This is a compound verb. You have five verbs all linked together with the waw conjunctive prefix, which indicates that all five are viewed equally. You can’t remove one without removing the other four. These are linked together syntactically and grammatically so that it is s five-fold mandate.

The first command is to be fruitful. This is the qal imperative of the Hebrew word which means to produce offspring. The second word is multiply. It is a qal imperative plus a waw consecutive of a word, which means to grow; it is not simply having offspring but having many offspring. Then the ultimate purpose is to fill the earth, and again that is a qal imperative of a word, which means they are not to stop until the whole earth is brought under dominion. Many people say that the world is being over-populated, but apparently a recent study indicated that you could take every human being living on the planet and give them a couple of acres of land and they wouldn’t fill the state of Texas. The earth is not over-populated. The dominion mandate has not been reversed. After the Genesis flood God restates this mandate to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.

In God’s plan and purpose having children is a function of being an image-bearer. The Psalmist said, "Blessed is the man whose quiver is filled with them". The metaphor the psalmist uses is that of a warrior who has a quiver filled with arrows, and he sends those arrows out into battle to gain victory over the enemy. So the picture that we have from the Old Testament is that people were to have children—they were viewed as a blessing from God—and they were, according to Malachi chapter three, to raise godly offspring. The purpose was to influence the world through missionary activity through the godly offspring. This concept is not reversed in the New Testament. The Christian family raises children, has children, in order to send them out as missionaries for divine viewpoint and Bible doctrine into the world, just as a warrior sends his arrows into the enemy in order to gain victory over them. This is a basic function of Divine Institution #3, the family. So children are always viewed in the Scripture as a blessing. Anyone who views children as less than a blessing is operating on human viewpoint, not on biblical thinking or on Bible doctrine. So the first three commands relate to the idea and filling and expanding influence over the planet. The next two commands relate to their function in ruling over everything. They are to subdue the planet, to bring it under control, to dominate it.

The question has arisen: Could the woman have conceived and born children in the garden? There are only three possibilities. The first option is that the woman was incapable of bearing children, and therefore this mandate was designed to be fulfilled only after the fall. In other words, God told them to do something but it wasn’t to go into effect until after the fall. The second option is that the woman was fully capable of bearing a child before the fall but she did not, because she didn’t have enough time, they sinned too soon. The third option was that she could get pregnant but God sovereignly overruled until their faith was tested.

The problem with the first option is that this would mean that the command as it was initially given was empty and meaningless. God would be commanding them to do something that had no meaning and no possibility of fulfillment before the fall. This creates serious problems for interpretation of the Scriptures. There are several times where these commands are given. It is given one other time before the fall to the animals. If it had no meaning for the man then it would have no meaning for the animals. Second, you have the same command to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth given to Noah after the flood, and a similar command is given to Abraham in terms of filling the land with his offspring. And if the other commands are to be understood as being effective immediately, then this command should be understood as being immediately effective. The second problem with the first view is that since all five imperatives are grammatically linked together, you can’t come in and say the last two—rule and exercise dominion—are before the fall and the first three are to be later on at some undesignated time and, of course, they don’t know they are going to sin. So since all five imperatives are grammatically linked they either all have to be effective from the instant they are given or none of them are applicable before the fall. And if they are not applicable before the fall then man has nothing to do before the fall.

The whole concept of his purpose in Genesis 1:28 is to explain what he is to do as the creature in the image and likeness of God. After the fall God has to come in and modify this because man is now a sinner and he is going to be incapable of truly fulfilling the dominion mandate. The third problem this has is that it makes being fruitful and multiplying and filling the earth a consequence of sin. The woman can’t get pregnant at all until after the fall because God really doesn’t make that part of her make-up until the curse, and that means that children are a consequence of sin. That goes counter to everything else in Scripture. In conclusion, either she didn’t have enough time or God just simply sovereignly overruled to prevent her from being pregnant. Some people have said she couldn’t get pregnant because that would mean that she would have a monthly cycle in Paradise, but that is not true. There are biological changes that reverberate throughout the entire animal kingdom because of the fall. They become carnivores, their gastro-intestinal system shifts. So there is a physical-biological change in the woman’s reproductive system because of the fall, but that does not mean that it did not exist in another way prior to the fall. In conclusion then, she was capable of being pregnant but God sovereignly overruled that capacity.

V. 29, He is addressing the man: “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.” Notice he is to eat vegetation; he is not to eat meat. He was not authorized to eat meat until after the flood.

 V. 30, “And 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 plant for food: and it was so.” When He says “every green plant for food” it doesn’t mean every plant was edible. What He is saying is that every plant provides some kind of nutrition for some kind of creature, and that there is more than an abundance of food for mankind.


1)      This means that trees with fruit, grasses and shrubs that provided nourishment for animals, were mature plants. That doesn’t mean that every plant that God created was mature, but there were many that were mature and fully able from the day they were created to supply the complete nutrition necessary for the animals. From day one God created mature fruit trees. This means that five hours after Adam and the woman were created they could reach out and clutch a ripe pear from a tree, or a ripe banana, and some of the berries in the garden were already ripe.

2)      Every animals and mankind were originally designed to be herbivores; they were not carnivores. That means they had a certain kind of digestive system, a certain kind of dental structure. All of those things were related to their eating. This condition, we are told, will be restored in the millennial kingdom, e.g., Isaiah 8:6-11. In other words, there is not going to be this antagonism in the animal kingdom and the lion is going to eat straw. So there will be a change again in the biological structure in the animal kingdom.

3)      These verses speak of God’s abounding and sufficient grace for His creatures. When God provides something to meet the requirement of man, whether physical or spiritual, it is sufficient. Sufficient means that it is as much as needed, not necessarily more than is necessary, but that God provides abundantly and generously so that man does not need to add to what God supplies. Sufficiency applies to man in the garden. He had all the food he needed to eat.

4)      In the same way God provided adequate information for Adam and Isha, it was not necessary for them to know all they could know.

5)      Every green plant is given for food, indicating that there were no plants that were inedible for some species.

V. 31, “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” In the previous days God said, “it was good.” Now He says, “it was very good.” This indicates that the creation in its totality was complete. All of the details fit together in perfect harmony. The whole of the earth was exactly as God intended according to His blueprint.

Then we come to the seventh day in 2:1ff. “  Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.” The word for “host” is sabaoth, which in other places refers to the armies of the angels, but here it doesn’t have an angelic term, it often refers to the host of the heaven in the sense of the sun, the moon and the stars. So this is a summary statement in verse 1. Verses 2 and 3 tell us the purpose of the seventh day. “And 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. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.” V. 2 makes it clear that God finished on the seventh day. But we read this and say that God finished on the sixth day, and that it was a six-day creation week, then He rested on one day. However, the seventh day is correct because of the way it is structured in the Hebrew. It is set up like poetry and there is a perfect balance and parallelism in the lines. This verse consists of three consecutive parallel lines in the Hebrew. Each line contains exactly seven words. It is divided into two parts and the last word in each line is seven. The seventh day, the day of rest, is part of the whole. That means that resting from labor is as much a part of life as fulfilling responsibilities. Man is designed to need rest and to recharge his batteries, and even though this isn’t a legalistic mandate there is a general principle here. People need to take time off for recreation and to relax and enjoy life a little bit and not work seven days a week. God sets aside the seventh day as a day, not of rest because God neither wearies or needs rest, He simply ceases from His work, and it sets up the pattern for the Sabbath that will be established under the Mosaic law for Israel.

In these two verses there is also the repetition of the phrase “his work,” and the emphasis is that God completed His work. It is His work; it is not by chance; it didn’t happen through time plus chance, through impersonal forces in nature. God is intimately involved in every aspect of the creation. So God ceased from His work during that last day.

With Genesis 2:3 we complete the study of the first section of Genesis.