This is the last article in our Creation series. So far in the creation story, we have studied every aspect of creation except the last and most important piece, humans. God’s precious humans are made along with the animals on day 6 of creation. Last time, we looked at the animals. This time and to conclude, we are going to look at the creation of humans and how significant we really are in the creation story. Let’s begin.
“26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27 God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground-everything that has the breath of life in it-I give every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning-the sixth day.”
Here we have the beautiful description of God creating man. There is a lot to discuss in this passage. So let’s begin.
An Overview or Detail?
If we just read this section, everything seems to make sense. God makes mankind or humans, He gives them dominion, and creation is complete. The problem lies within Genesis chapter 2. When we read Genesis 2, we read a sentence like verse 7, “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” Wait, you may ask, wasn’t man already created on day 6? Why is there another creation of man here? This can cause a lot of confusion but there is a simple answer. Genesis 1 is an overview of the big picture of creation. Genesis 2 is like a zoom-in on day 6 and describes “how” God created man. Specifically, it is a zoom-in on verse 27 of Genesis 1. We won’t get into the details of they were formed just yet, but there is clarity for the confusion.
“Us” and “Our”?
We see in verse 26 that God says, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness,…”. The most common question from this statement is what is the “us” and “our”. Why does God use plural language to talk about Himself? The most simple answer to this question is that these plural word are describing the Trinity. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that make up the one God. God is 3 different beings that are also one. It can be confusing to think about but it is an excellent study as well. This phrase is God literally talking to the three parts that make up Him. The Father, Son, and Spirit are all present here. I think it is on purpose that God makes sure to mention that all of Him are present and take part in the creation of humans. In no other aspect of creation do we see God making mention of His divine nature like He does when He creates humans. This is just another aspect of why the creation of humans is so special in the creation account.
Image, Likeness, Created
The first line that we see in this passage is a powerful one to say the least. Here, God speaks and says, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…”. I want to focus on what it truly means to be made in God’s triune image and in His likeness. It is in these words that we find true meaning for what it means to be human. The two words we see are “image” and “likeness”. The words in Hebrew mean almost the exact same thing as our english words do. So let’s think about this for just a moment. God creates humans and He creates them, He creates us in His image and in His likeness. We were created to reflect God. We were made in his likeness, we were made to resemble God. What a powerful idea to think about. None of the other creations have this said about them. The animals weren’t made in His image, the plants weren’t made in His image. The creation of the whole earth doesn’t even mention it. Yet when it comes to making humans, us, God says we were made as a reflection of Him.
But what does it really mean to made in His image? One way we can look at it, is that we were made to have God’s character and reflect His attributes. Our love, our compassion, our faithfulness is like that of God’s. However, when sin entered the picture not long after our creation, the image we were created in was stained. We are still created in His image, but we have done things that have tainted and stained that image of our Creator.
To Rule or Not To Rule?
While reflecting the attributes of God is one way of looking at being made in His image, it is not the only way to look at it. Another way of defining what it means to be made in God’s image is looking at what comes after the first mention of God’s image in verse 26. If we look at verses 26 and 27, we see God talking in verse 26 and then God creating mankind in verse 27. However, there is a really really big detail in the middle of these statements. God actually gives us a reason for Him creating us in His image. Verse 26 says,
“26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.””
The prime reason we were made in the image of the Creator was because we were made to rule. The word “rule” here is translated radah in Hebrew which means “to rule” or “to have dominion”. Now, this can easily be confused with ruling harshly and ruthlessly but this is not the type of ruling that is intended here. This same word for “rule” mentioned here is also used in Ezekiel 34:4 which shows that brutality and harshness is the wrong way to use our radah authority. Our main job, our original purpose was to rule on God’s behalf here on earth. It is interesting to note what it is specifically we were supposed to rule over. Fish, birds, livestock, wild animals, and creatures along the ground are all under our rule given to us by God. What is not mentioned for us to rule over are each other. God does not say here that we have authority to rule over other humans and to rule over one another. We have been given the authority to rule on His behalf over everything on earth except, humans. This is such an important part of our creation and one that we don’t follow which leads to death.
But this isn’t the first time we’ve seen this idea of ruling or having dominion. When we discussed day 4 of creation and the creation of the sun and moon, there was a mention of governing day and night. These celestial bodies have a specific function and so do we. One of their primary functions was to “rule” or govern the day and night. They are governing the heavenly realms. When God created us humans, He gave us the task of ruling over the earth. To have dominion and rule on God’s behalf here on the earth He created. When comparing the celestial bodies to us, we both have the same function just in different places. One is to rule the heavenly realms, the sky and space, and the other is to rule the earth. Both are creations of God and both are ruling on God’s behalf just in different places.
In verse 27 we have an overview of the creation of humans. This verse stresses the idea of being made in the image of God and mentions something very important. There are two different “versions” so to speak of these humans God creates. Male and female. Both are humans but there is a distinction between them that God makes when He creates them. This most certainly an overview of their creation. Chapter 2 of Genesis goes more in-depth of how these two humans were created.
Responsibilities of Humans
After the creation of mankind God gives them specific tasks. Verse 28 says, “God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” This first thing we must realize is that God blesses us. Although God blessed the water creatures and birds when He created them and told them to “Be fruitful and increase in number” (v.22) as well, we were given another responsibility to rule the earth which we discussed earlier. God blesses us and says that we should be fruitful and increase in number. Reproduction is one of the biggest tasks we were divinely given by God. We are then told to fill the earth with ourselves and subdue it. This word “subdue” is interesting here. The hebrew word is kabash and means “to subject” or “bring into bondage”. Why such harsh language for the task of humans? Are we supposed to enslave the earth under our power? Well, I believe it is these kinds of questions that confuse us in the first place. When it comes to slavery or ruling, we have this negative image of what those powers are. We have these images of ruthless, destructive leaders who wreak havoc everywhere and leave death and destruction in their path. These are the images that come into our minds when we think of subduing or ruling over something. But remember, whose image were we made in? We were made in God’s image. Is God this ruthless leader? Certainly not. He is a loving Creator who is the Author of life. Therefore, since this is the image in which we were created in and for, our rule should reflect loving and caring attributes. Sin has ruined the ideas of ruling and subduing and humans have twisted the idea of what it truly means to rule. Yes, we were made to rule the earth and subdue it, but with love and care for life, not destruction and power.
The Original Diets
Verses 29 and 30 say, “29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground-everything that has the breath of life in it-I give every green plant for food.”
It is interesting to note here what kinds of creation were given for food for other parts of creation. For humans, the food supply was seed-bearing plants, and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. For the beasts and animals, every green plant is food. You might say here, “Where is the meat in the diet?” This is the key feature that I want to point out. There is no meat in any of the original diets for humans or animals. Why does God not put meat in the diet? Well for the hamburgers and chicken that us humans love, an animal has to die. For humans to eat meat, an animal has to die and so we get this image of no death in Eden, much like it will be in the end. Likewise, if we look at the animal world, it is a ferocious world. There is constant fighting, surviving, and death in the animal world. What we see here in the garden is no death or killing of each other in the animal world since they were given plants to eat, not each other. So, in both worlds, we get this peaceful image of animals and humans coexisting together. There is no killing and no death, just a peaceful coexistence of God’s creation.
Everything Is VERY Good
The last sentence of Genesis 1 says this, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning-the sixth day.” This is the conclusion of the creation account in Genesis and it may be one of the most important statements in the whole account. We see this grand image of God looking over His creation, seeing the beauty and the perfectness of His creation and it was all VERY good. This is a bit different than the other times God says His creation is good because the word “very” does not appear anywhere except right here. One thing has been added to the creation since the last time everything was “good” and that one thing is humans. When humans are created, it is then that God looks at His creation and it is “very” good. The phrase for “very good” in Hebrew is “Tov Me’od” which can be translated “exceedingly good” or “pleasant”. The thought that should be provoked here is all the God has created has been good up to this point. Now, with the creation, of humans, it that much better. The creation of humans has so many different layers of meaning not only in our eyes but in God’s as well.
Now we have come to the conclusion of the Genesis 1 creation account and what a journey it has been. The Genesis 1 account ends with “And there was evening, and there was morning-the sixth day.” This ends the account and the sixth day that is packed with so much information. The six day creation summary account ends here but it is only the beginning of the story. I hope you have learned as much as I have and have enjoyed learning all about the wonderful creation God has made. Let us never forget the lessons learned even in this account and how wonderfully in God’s image we were made.