Friday, May 24, 2013

Genesis 1:26-27 Day Six: God Creates Mankind

"Then God said,
 'Let us make man in our image, in our likeness,
and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air,
over the livestock, over all the earth,
and over all the creatures that move along the ground.'

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
Genesis 1:26-27 (NIV)

We are still looking at the sixth day of creation.  We already briefly examined how God created the land animals on the sixth day.  Now we are going to look at God's creation of mankind on the sixth day as well.

First, the obvious question:  Who is God speaking to when He says "Let us..."?  Well, some people think that this is only what is sometimes called 'the plural of majesty'.  That is when a royal personage says something like "We are not pleased." -- when he/she really means "I am not pleased."  It is as if the person were speaking in behalf of the office which he/she holds.  However, that to me is just side-stepping the issue here, for God seems to be speaking to someone, and He includes that person in both the creative act itself ("Let us make...") and in the goal/purpose of that creative act ("...Let us make man in our image, in our likeness..." )   So it doesn't seem to fit that this is just a 'plural of majesty' type of situation.  [Besides, such plural of majesty conversations always reminds me of something out of a Monty Python film, where a royal dowager frostily asserts, "We are not amused."]

What about the angels?  They seem to have been created before mankind, and are most likely present in God's throne room, as it were, when this conversation is taking place. We don't have too many details about the creation of angels, but they seem to have been rejoicing and praising God as He created the earth and its inhabitants:

"Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?
Tell me if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions?
Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone --
while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels shouted for joy?"

Job 38:4-7 (NIV)

However, God wasn't speaking to the angels, for He says, "Let us make man..." -- if He had been speaking to the angels, that would mean that they took part in our creation, which they didn't.
He also says, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness..." -- so if He were talking to angels, we would have been made in their image as well as God's image...which we aren't.  Angels are created beings, not creators.  So who is He speaking to?

Himself.  No, He is not crazy.  The Bible indicates that there are three persons in the Godhead.

  • There are verses in the Bible where each person -- God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, either address each other or are addressed as individual persons.
  • There are other verses where each person of the Godhead is acting as a separate person.  
  • There are other verses where each seems to have the quality of deity, of being God.
  • As if that weren't puzzling enough, there are also places in the Bible where it says that they are 'one' with each other.   Or that God is 'One'.


Here's my take on it.  First, I think it is not unusual that there are things about God that we do not fully understand with our finite minds.  That is not surprising.  He is God, after all.  We can only relate things to our own experiences, or to the extent of our rather limited knowledge or imagination.  It would be pretty arrogant of us to think that only the things that we can understand are real or true.

The Bible never uses the word 'trinity'.  We use that word to try to give a name to that concept where three-are-one, where there is a tri-unity.  It seems strange to us.  We are not used to that kind of one-yet-three concept.

Or are we?  What about the way we can readily understand that water is three-in-one?

The idea that really helps me relate to that concept of three-yet-one is water.  Yep, good old H2O.  See, water can come in three forms:  solid, liquid and gas.  As water, it can be in the solid form, like ice cubes.  It can be in the liquid form, like water that you can drink out of a glass.  Or it can be in the form of gas, like the steam which you might see rising from your tea kettle.

These three forms can seem very different, and even function very differently.  (Ever try pouring yourself a glass of steam?!)  Yet they are one in the sense that each form (the water, the ice, the steam) is still H2O in its elemental state.  And nothing else is H2O, besides H2O.

I think the same is true about God.  He is God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, with different, sometimes concurrent jobs to do.  [Like ice in a glass of water.]  Each person of the Godhead is fully God [like the ice, the water, and the steam are each fully H20].  And nothing else is God, besides God. 

That example does not answer every question we might have about the tri-unity of God.  However, these ideas help me to think that there quite reasonably could be a God who is three-in-one. 
There is much more to be said about this issue, but this was just a brief overview of it.

Oh, one other thing which I found which was interesting:  The NIV Study Bible notes on Genesis 1:26 states in part:
 "...(In the ancient Near East, kings marked their conquest of lands by setting up images of themselves in the conquered territories as a sign of their authority and ruling presence.  An especially noteworthy example is the life-size statue of the ninth-century B.C. Hadad-Yithi, ruler of Gozan, found at Tell Fekheriyeh in northeastern Syria in 1979.  An Aramaic inscription on the statue identifies it as the "image" and "likeness" of the ruler, using the Aramaic cognates of the Hebrew words.)"

I think it is interesting because in our passage we have God creating mankind in His image and likeness, and bestowing upon them the rulership over the earth He had created.  In the rest of Genesis 1:26, mankind is given rulership over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.  No wonder, then, that Satan [in Genesis chapter 3] came to tempt Adam and Eve [as opposed to, say, a giraffe or a fish or some other creature] -- Adam and Eve were the living representatives of the authority and rule of God over the earth.

God created mankind (both male and female) in His own image and likeness, according to Genesis 1: 27.  [In the next post we will see that both shared in the blessing which follows in Genesis 1:28-30.]  Genesis 1:27 is the first example of poetry in the Old Testament, according to the NIV Study Bible.  It also notes that the verb 'created' is used three times in this verse, as if to emphasize that this creation of mankind is the central divine act of the sixth day.  Although it is written at the beginning of this post, I think I will will repeat it here:

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

Genesis 1:27 (NIV)  

A beautiful Psalm which celebrates God's creation -- and mankind's role in it -- is Psalm 8.  Part of it reads:

"When I consider the heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.

You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
you put everything under his feet:
all flocks and herds,
and the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air,
and the fish of the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.

O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!"

Psalm 8:3-9 (NIV)

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