January 7, 2017

What God Intended at Creation

Genesis 1:26-28

(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 air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon 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.

(28)And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” [RSV]

In verse 26, God announces His intention to make man. This divine fanfare, unparalleled in the creation account, sets the making of man apart as a special event. God seems almost to jeopardize His unique glory by sharing His image and rule with a mere creature. Nevertheless, such a one God now intends to create. Verse 26, then, has the force of riveting our attention on God’s next creative work, the zenith of His genius and benevolence.

Verse 26 teaches the glory of man in three ways. First, God says, “Let us make man.…” In verse 24 God had said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures.…” By the sheer power of His spoken will, God had caused the living creatures to emerge from the earth “by remote control as it were.” In the creation of man, however, God Himself acted directly and personally.

Second, man was created to bear the image or likeness of God. Taking in the whole of Scripture, I think it probable that the image of God in man is the soul’s personal reflection of God’s righteous character. To image God is to mirror His holiness. Other interpreters construe the image of God in a more general sense, including human rationality, conscience, creativity, relationships, and everything we are as man. But however one interprets the imago Dei, God shared it with man alone. Man is unique, finding his identity upward in God and not downward in the animals.

The third indication of man’s greatness in verse 26 is his special calling under God: “… and let them have dominion.…” Man stands between God above and the animals below as God’s ruling representative. Man is the crown of creation.

In verse 27, God fulfills His purpose as declared in verse 26. In describing God’s supreme creative act, Moses shifts from prose to poetry:

So God created man in his own image,

in the image of God he created him;

male and female he created them.

Each of these three lines makes a point. Line one asserts the divine creation of man. We came from God. Line two overlaps with line one, except that it highlights the divine image in man. We bear a resemblance to God. Line three boldly affirms the dual sexuality of man. We are male and female. Nowhere else in Genesis 1 is sexuality referred to; but human sexuality, superior to animal sexuality, merits the simple dignity given it here. Further, Moses doubtless intends to imply the equality of the sexes, for both male and female display the glory of God’s image with equal brilliance: “… in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” This is consistent with God’s intention, stated in verse 26, that both sexes should rule: “… and let them rule.…”

Finally, in verse 28, God pronounces His benediction on man. In verse 22, God spoke His blessing out over the mass of the lower creatures. But here in verse 28 we read, “God blessed them and said to them.…” With man alone, male and female alike without distinction, God shares an I-thou relationship. In His benediction the Creator also authorizes male and female together to carry out their mission to rule the lower creation.

To sum up: Man was created as royalty in God’s world, male and female alike bearing the divine glory equally.

Most evangelical feminists would heartily agree with this interpretation of the text. Genesis 2 and 3 are more controversial. But I must challenge two points of feminist interpretation before moving on to chapter two.

First, in commenting on verse 26, note that God refers to “them,” both male and female, as “man”. He writes:

… the designation “man” is a generic term for “human beings” and… encompasses both male and female. This fact is made especially clear in Genesis 5:2 where the word man designates both male and female: “He created them male and female; at the time they were created, he blessed them and called them ‘man.’” (NIV)

This is a striking fact, indeed. It demands explanation. After all, if any of us modern people were to create a world, placing at its apex our highest creature in the dual modality of man and woman, would we use the name of only one sex as a generic term for both? I expect not. Our modern prejudices would detect a whiff of “discrimination” a mile away. But God cuts right across the grain of our peculiar sensitivities when He names the human race, both man and woman, “man.”

Why would God do such a thing? Why would Moses carefully record the fact? Surely God was wise and purposeful in this decision, as He is in every other. Surely His referring to the race as “man” tells us something about ourselves. What aspect of reality, then, might God have been pointing to by this means?

Thus, when God declares, “Let us make man in our image…” the term man refers to both male and female. Both man and woman are God’s image-bearers. There is no basis in Genesis 1 for confining the image of God to males alone.

How may we understand the logic of God’s decision to describe the human race as “man”? Let me suggest that it makes sense against the backdrop of male headship. Moses does not explicitly teach male headship in chapter 1; but, for that matter, neither does he explicitly teach male-female equality. We see neither the words “male-female equality” nor “male headship” here or anywhere in Genesis 1-3. What Moses does provide is a series of more or less obvious hints as to his doctrine of manhood and womanhood. The burden of Genesis 1:26-28 is male-female equality. That seems obvious-wonderfully obvious! But God’s naming of the race “man” whispers male headship, which Moses will bring forward boldly in chapter two.

God did not name the human race “woman.” If “woman” had been the more appropriate and illuminating designation, no doubt God would have used it. He does not even devise a neutral term like “persons.” He called us “man,” which anticipates the male headship brought out clearly in chapter two, just as “male and female” in verse 27 foreshadows marriage in chapter two. Male headship may be personally repugnant to feminists, but it does have the virtue of explaining the sacred text.

Some contend that, in principle, one ought not to refer to the human race as “man.” Such terminology is unfair to half the population, they insist. I am not arguing that one must always use “man” in social and theological discourse to avoid misrepresenting the truth. I am arguing, however, that, in light of Genesis 1:26-27 and 5:1-2, one may not call this linguistic practice unjust or insensitive without impugning the wisdom and goodness of God.

So part of the rebellion is not following God’s plan, “Man” that’s you men, have to step up your game and be the godly leader of the family as God intended.

God bless from


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