26 Then 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 birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ge 1:26–27). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
26–27 The creation of humankind is set apart from the previous acts of creation by a series of subtle contrasts with the earlier accounts of God’s acts. First, in v. 26, the beginning of the creation of humans is marked by the usual, “And God said.” However, God’s word that follows is not an impersonal (third person) “Let there be”; rather, what is used is the personal (first person) “Let us make.”
Second, throughout the previous narrative each creature is made “according to its own kind” (lemînāh). But the account of the creation of humankind specifically notes that the man and the woman were not made “according to their own kind.” Rather, they were made “in [God’s] image” (beṣalmēnû). They are not merely like themselves, they are also like God; they share a likeness to their Creator.
Third, the creation of humankind is specifically noted as a creation as “male and female” (v. 27). The author has not considered gender an important feature in his account of the creation of the other forms of life, but for humanity it is clearly of considerable importance. Thus the narrative puts heavy stress on the fact that God created man as “male and female.”
Fourth, only humanity has been given dominion in God’s creation. Humankind’s dominion is expressly stated to be over all other living creatures: those of the sky, sea, and land.
Why the author has singled out the creation of humankind in this way? One answer is that the author intends to portray him as a special creature marked off from the rest of God’s works. But the author’s purpose seems to go beyond merely marking humankind as different from the rest of the creatures; the narrative is also intent on showing that humans are like God. As much as they are not like the other creatures, they are to that extent also like God.
Behind the account of the creation of humans in this narrative lies the purpose of the author of Genesis and the Pentateuch. In this broader picture of humankind’s creation, the reader is given a perspective on certain facts that are to serve as the starting point for the larger purposes of the Pentateuch. Humans are creatures. But more than that, they are special creatures. They are made in the image and likeness of God.
There have been many attempts to explain the plural forms: “Let us make [naʿaśeh] man in our image [beṣalmēnû], in our likeness [kidmûtēnû].” Westermann, 1:144–45, summarizes the explanations given for the use of plurals under four headings: (1) the plural is a reference to the Trinity; (2) the plural is a reference to God and the heavenly court of angels; (3) the plural is an attempt to avoid the idea of an immediate resemblance of humans to God; (4) the plural is an expression of deliberation on God’s part while setting out to create humankind.
The singulars in v. 27 (beṣalmō, “in his own image,” and beṣelem ʾelōhîm, “in the image of God”; cf. 5:1) rule out the second explanation (i.e., that the plural refers to a heavenly court of angels), since in the immediate context humans are said to be created “in his image,” with no mention made of humans’ being made in the image of the angels. To this the author adds a further qualification that God made humankind “in the image of God.” This seems to be an intentional refutation of the notion that the plurals in v. 26 refer to the angels.
The third and fourth explanations are both possible within the context, but neither explanation is specifically supported by the context. It is not convincing to point to 11:7 in support of the notion of deliberation, since the use of the plural in that passage is motivated by the chiastic wordplay between the words nabelâh (“let us confuse,” 11:7) and nilbenâ (“let us make,” 11:3; see J. P. Fokklemann, Narrative Art in Genesis [Assen: Van Gorcum, 1975]). Where we do find unequivocal deliberation (as in 18:17), it is not the plural that is used but the singular: “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?” As Westermann has stated, the first explanation is “a dogmatic judgment,” though we could add that it is not a judgment that runs counter to the passage itself. However, if we seek an answer from the immediate context, we should turn to the following verse(s) for additional clues.
In v. 27 it is stated twice that humankind was created (bārāʾ) in God’s image, and a third time that humans were created (bārāʾ) “male and female.” The same pattern is found in Genesis 5:1–2a: “When God created [bārāʾ] man … he created [bārāʾ] them male and female.” The singular “man” (ʾādām) is created as a plurality, “male and female” (zākār ûneqēbâ). In a similar way the one God (wayyōʾmer ʾelōhîm, “And God said”) created humanity through an expression of plurality (naʿaśeh ʾādām beṣalmēnû, “Let us make man in our image”). Following this clue, the divine plurality of persons expressed in v. 26 can be seen as an anticipation of the human plurality of persons reflected in man and woman, thus casting human personal relationships in the role of reflecting God’s own personhood.
Could anything be more obvious than to conclude from this clear indication that the image and likeness of the being created by God signifies existence in confrontation, i.e., in this confrontation, in the juxtaposition and conjunction of man and man which is that of male and female, and then to go on to ask against this background in what the original and prototype of the divine existence of the Creator consists? (K. Barth, Church Dogmatics, 3/1 [New York: Scribner, 1956], 195).
1:27 / The combination of the special term “create” (bara’; v. 1), its threefold repetition, and the phrase image of God conveys that in making humans God reached the goal of creation. “Create,” used elsewhere in the days of creation only with the great creatures of the sea (v. 21), informs us that God was personally involved in the origin of humankind. Man, in the statement God created man (’adam), is a collective standing for all humanity, that is, those God made at the beginning as well as their descendants.
The placement of “the image of God” at the center of a chiastic arrangement stresses its importance, as does the repetition of “the image.” There has been an abundance of scholarly discussion about this evocative phrase, for the text does not explicitly define its meaning. Nevertheless, the way “the image of God” functions in this context and in 9:5–6 gives insight into its significance. It conveys here that humans have the highest position in the created order. As God’s representatives on earth, humans were invested by God with authority to subdue the earth and rule over the animals (v. 28; see P. Bird, “Male and Female He Created Them,” HTR 74 , pp. 129–59, esp. pp. 138, 154).
Genesis 9:5–6 states that every person is inviolate by reason of being made in God’s image. Besides making murder a heinous crime, this text opposes any type of caste or slavery system. Furthermore, the image carries profound moral implications. Both Testaments teach that whatever one person does to another affects God (e.g., Amos 2:7; 1 John 4:20). A person’s manner of interacting with other humans characterizes the way that one relates to God. Moreover, because God made humans in his image, God yearns to redeem those who have disobeyed him by providing the means for them to receive forgiveness and reconciliation.
Male and female he created them. The Hebrew emphasizes the phrase “male and female” by placing it before the verb. This third and final part of the verse contains four important ideas. (a) It ascribes sexuality to God’s design for humans. Thus, an essential aspect of human nature is quite different from God’s nature. An implication of this is that we need to draw on the outstanding qualities found in each gender to have a full view of God. If we imagine God as predominantly male or female, our picture is partial and distorted. (b) This reference to human sexuality sets the stage for God’s blessing humans with fertility and commanding them to populate the earth (v. 28). (c) This phrase establishes the fact that every male and every female is made in God’s image. In the essence of being human there is no qualitative difference between male and female. (d) We learn that God made humans as social creatures who discover their identity and destiny in relationships characterized by rapprochement. “Male and female” conveys that the basic reciprocating human relationship is between a man and a woman (see Gen. 2:21–24). Beyond that basic relationship, humans form communities for sustaining and enriching their lives. Living and working together is thus an integral expression of being in the image of God.
Another one of the many important aspects of being human that this section explores is the ability to handle the word, or language. God recognized this ability at the beginning by blessing humans and giving them instructions (vv. 28–30). God can converse with those in his image, and Scripture is a record of those conversations. Moreover, conversation enables humans to have genuine fellowship with God. This is the basis for God’s calling of Abraham, in which God established a people who would worship him wholeheartedly. Through conversation people also communicate with each other and thereby gain insight into their own identities. Rich personal interchange brings humans great joy, for it flows out of the innermost being, that is, the aspect of humanity that is in the image of God.
In addition, the ability to handle words raises human acts above biological necessity as it enables a person to conceptualize, plan, evaluate, and anticipate. Being cognizant of what they are doing, humans bear responsibility for their deeds. Skill with words also opens the pursuit of wisdom to humans. Words then become an avenue for humans to exercise their creative instincts.
1:27So God created man: This is the third time the verb for create is used in Gen. 1 (vv. 1, 21). Here it is used three times. The language of vv. 26, 28 is elevated prose; this verse is pure poetry. The twelve words of the original Hebrew are arranged in three lines that have their own poetic repetition and cadence. The term for “man” (Heb. ‘adam) is likely associated with the term for “red earth” (Heb. ‘adamâ). Here the word is generic, including male and female. These words are sexual. Some have thought that Adam’s and Eve’s “discovery” of human sexuality was the forbidden fruit of ch. 3. However, these words indicate that human sexuality was a part of the original creation (5:2). Although the misuse of human sexuality is soundly condemned in Scripture (Lev. 18), its proper use is celebrated (Gen. 2:24, 25; Song). Verses 26–28 include the woman no less than the man in the story of creation.
1:27 male and female. Cf. Mt 19:4; Mk 10:6. While these two persons equally shared God’s image and together exercised dominion over creation, they were by divine design physically diverse in order to accomplish God’s mandate to multiply, i.e., neither one could reproduce offspring without the other.
1:27 There has been debate about the expression image of God. Many scholars point out the idea, commonly used in the ancient Near East, of the king who was the visible representative of the deity; thus the king ruled on behalf of the god. Since v. 26 links the image of God with the exercise of dominion over all the other creatures of the seas, heavens, and earth, one can see that humanity is endowed here with authority to rule the earth as God’s representatives or vice-regents (see note on v. 28). Other scholars, seeing the pattern of male and female, have concluded that humanity expresses God’s image in relationship, particularly in well-functioning human community, both in marriage and in wider society. Traditionally, the image has been seen as the capacities that set man apart from the other animals—ways in which humans resemble God, such as in the characteristics of reason, morality, language, a capacity for relationships governed by love and commitment, and creativity in all forms of art. All these insights can be put together by observing that the resemblances (man is like God in a series of ways) allow mankind to represent God in ruling, and to establish worthy relationships with God, with one another, and with the rest of the creation. This “image” and this dignity apply to both “male and female” human beings. (This view is unique in the context of the ancient Near East. In Mesopotamia, e.g., the gods created humans merely to carry out work for them.) The Hebrew term ’adam, translated as man, is often a generic term that denotes both male and female, while sometimes it refers to man in distinction from woman (2:22, 23, 25; 3:8, 9, 12, 20): it becomes the proper name “Adam” (2:20; 3:17, 21; 4:1; 5:1). At this stage, humanity as a species is set apart from all other creatures and crowned with glory and honor as ruler of the earth (cf. Ps. 8:5–8). The events recorded in Genesis 3, however, will have an important bearing on the creation status of humanity.
1:27the likeness of God Being created in the image of God distinguishes people from all other earthly creation. God’s image is not described as being possessed in part or given gradually; rather, it is an immediate and inherent part of being human.
male and female There is no status distinction among bearers of the divine image; they are equal while having distinct capacities and roles in fulfilling the divine mandate to steward the earth.
he created them The Hebrew verb used here, bara, is the same word used in Gen 1:1. However, the plural declaration “let us make” in v. 26 uses a different verb. The verbs for “make” (asah) and “form” (yatsar) are also used elsewhere with bara to refer to God’s work as Creator in chs. 1–2. In ch. 2, yet another verb is used for the fashioning of Adam (yatsar). These verbs are synonyms. Compare note on v. 1.
1:27 This verse establishes the equality of the man and the woman as image-bearers of God, who together have a meaningful purpose in the planning of the Creator-God. However, the text is very specific in defining this equality, which resides in their spiritual being, for that is what it means to be “in the image of God.” This image-bearing most emphatically does not mean that the function of God’s creation is to officiate and act as God. The N.T. counterpart of this verse is Gal. 3:28, in which the apostle Paul is clearly addressing the family of believers and setting forth in this context the spiritual equality of all who are one “in” Christ Jesus. On the other hand, beginning here with the creative act itself, distinctive roles for man and woman are indicated. Therefore, the pattern is equality in essential being and distinctive difference in role or function (2:15–18; cf. Eph. 5:22, note). This equality in personhood and difference in function is beautifully illustrated by the Godhead. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all equal (John 10:30; 14:9), and yet in function the Son submits to the Father (John 5:19, 20; 6:38; 8:28, 29, 54; 1 Cor. 15:28; Phil. 2:5–11), and the Holy Spirit is sent by the Father to testify of and glorify the Son (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13, 14). Thus, the divinely defined relationship between husband and wife is analogous to the relationship within the Godhead, and the relationship within the Godhead is a pattern of instruction for the family unit.
||Modern-day vampires trace their origins to this verse and the mythical figure of Lilith, who was supposedly created before Eve. The legend of Lilith derives from a theory that Genesis has two creation accounts (this verse and 2:7, 20–22). The two stories allow for two different women. Lilith does not appear in the Bible (apart from a debatable reference comparing her to a screech owl in the Hb text of Is 34:14). Some rabbinic commentators, however, refer to Lilith as the first created woman, who refused to submit to Adam and fled from the garden. Eve was then created to be Adam’s helper. After their expulsion from the garden, Adam reunited for a time with Lilith before finally returning to Eve. Lilith bore Adam a number of children, who became the demons of the Bible. According to kabbalistic legend, after Adam’s reconciliation with Eve, Lilith took the title Queen of the Demons and became a murderer of infants and young boys, whom she turned into vampires.
1:26–27 “Let Us make …” (3:22; 11:7; Is 6:8) does not indicate multiple gods. Such a polytheistic view would be inconsistent with the lofty theology of the chapter and with the singular “His own image” (Gn 1:27; cp. 5:1–2). Ancient theories of the universe’s origin typically explained creation as the outcome of either a sexual cohabitation of male and female deities or of a battle between the major deity and some other hostile entity. The Bible uniformly affirms that God is asexual with no corresponding female consort. God made the universe by His authoritative speech, not by battling chaos deities. Genesis 1 was written in part to show that the view of the physical world current at that time (i.e., physical entities representing various deities) was wrong. The cosmos is inanimate and entirely under the control of the one God. Plural and singular forms are combined in 1:26–27 (cp. “the Spirit of God,” v. 2), reflecting God’s unity and yet His fullness. Subsequent scriptural revelation develops this further.
Although humans are created in the “image” and “likeness” of God (the terms are essentially synonyms; cp. 5:3), it does not follow that God has a body. “Image” or “likeness” often refers to a physical representation of something that may be non-material. Man was created to serve as God’s representative to govern the earth. Since man is God’s image-bearer, murder merits the strongest retribution (9:6). The OT prohibits making any material image of God (Ex 20:1–4; Dt 4:16) because God is spirit (Jn 4:24). In Lk 24:39 Jesus explains that a spirit “does not have flesh and bones” (see Is 31:3). Because God is spirit, He is invisible (Jn 1:18; Rm 1:20; Col 1:15; 1 Tm 1:17).
1:27 The creation of humanity is the crowning event of chap. 1, as shown by the fact that created is repeated three times. The verb created (Hb bara’) is the same one used in 1:1, referring to a kind of creative activity that only God can do. The term man (Hb ’adam) is used elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible to refer to humanity in general, not just males (7:21); all people, both male and female, are created in the image of God (cp. Jms 3:9). It should not be concluded that God is both male and female. Christians are generally agreed that God does not have a literal physical body. He is in no way limited by space but is everywhere fully present (Ps 139:7–10; Ac 17:28). Therefore, he cannot be said to be literally either male or female, or both. People are the only beings that are created in the image of God (Gn 9:3–6). The Bible never lumps people into the category of animals. Instead, it separates the creation of people from all other beings and attributes the most privileged roles in creation to humans alone.
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