So far Genesis has recorded two essential acts of creation:
- The creation of the inanimate world: matter, atmosphere, vegetation (no consciousness)
- The creation of the animate world: fish, birds, animals (consciousness, life)
In verse 26, Moses begins to record the third act of creation, the creation of spiritual life.
The Divine Council
Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;"
- Genesis 1:26a
This was not the first such council. Many other things had happened before "time", before the creation of the world which had been decided by the Godhead. The decision to sacrifice Jesus for the sins of the world, made before the world was made.
For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you.
- I Peter 1:20
The names of those who would receive Christ written in the Book of Life before the foundation of the world.
The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to come up out of the abyss and go to destruction. And those who dwell on the earth, whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will wonder when they see the beast, that he was and is not and will come.
- Revelation 17:8
Note that the dialogue does not address the angels because man is not in the image of angels but of God. This exchange within the Godhead appears in other places in the Bible.
The Lord says to my Lord:
"Sit at My right hand
Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet."
- Psalms 110:1
Come near to Me, listen to this:
From the first I have not spoken in secret,
From the time it took place, I was there.
And now the Lord God has sent Me, and His Spirit
- Isaiah 48:16
Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world."
- John 17:24
This is one of the earliest glimpses that we have of the nature of God. From these verses we learn several things about Him:
- God is communicative in the sense that ideas are part of His nature and the exchange of them is possible.
- God has a multi-person nature because the verse refers to one God and yet there is an exchange within the Godhead. This verse also provides the answer to the question, "Where in the Bible does the Trinity come from?
- The creation of man was designed and not an outgrowth of existing creatures. God had a concept of what man would be.
The terms "image" or "likeness" mean, among other things, resemblance, figure, model or shape. Man is made to resemble or modelled after God.
Some things to note about man's creation:
- The term "MAN" is the same as "ADAM" and is related to earth (ADAMAH – HEBREW). This is given to the first human made because he is essentially created from the same elements that the other creatures are made from, the elements that have already been created, basically the earth.
- The term "ADAM" is used in a formal way as the name of the first man only in Genesis 2:19 but the two terms are interchangeable.
ADAM has a triune nature that reflects the nature of God: He has a body formed like the bodies of the inanimate creation. Made of matter. He has consciousness like the animate creatures such as birds and animals. He is aware of himself. Some call this "soul". He possesses the spiritual character of God: will, morality, ability to communicate with every aspect of creation as well as other humans and God.
That animals communicate with each other in various ways; that they communicate with humans in limited ways (they do not exchange creative ideas) is not unusual. Only man can perceive God and communicate with Him. This is the witness of his spiritual nature.
An important idea here is that the spirit of man is in the image of God, among other things mentioned, it is eternal. Unlike the life of an animal which is temporal. When a man dies, his body goes to dust, his spirit to God for judgment. When an animal dies, his body goes to dust and his consciousness ceases. We know what happens after death. (The writer of Ecclesiastes merely asks this question as one who doubts.)
Who knows that the breath of man ascends upward and the breath of the beast descends downward to the earth?"
- Ecclesiastes 3:21
Before the world was created God knew what it would be like and how it would function. He also knew of the fall of man and planned for it as well having decided the manner of salvation, who would accomplish it and who would receive it.
He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him.
- Ephesians 1:9
…and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.
- Genesis 1:26b
Man is not just another animal evolved from lower animals. He has a distinct nature apart from animals and his position in creation is not something that occurs as a result of survival of the fittest. It is a position naturally given him by God. (The term "dominion" means to reign or rule over.)
This rulership is not a kingly rule but more like the idea that the creation is in cooperation with man to support him and see to his needs.
The act of creation
God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them."
- Genesis 1:27
Verse 26 is the preamble that describes what God is about to do and the nature of man once created. Note in verse 27 that the same creative pattern is followed. The generic or essence of the new creation is formed (inanimate, animate) then the variations (matter, vegetation, fish, birds, animals) then God fashions the "spiritual" (likeness of God). Finally the variations are made (male and female).
An important point here is that both male and female share this similar "essence" as spiritual beings, higher than animals, eternal like God. There will be some differences as to form and role which will be given later but the essence is the same.
This is the general description of the creation of man and the placement of where this act fits into the sequence of the six days of creation. Later Moses will telescope into the details of this creation and what happens to man. No more explanations are given about the birds, stars, etc. After this description of the six days of creation the narrative will shift to tell the story of man, his fall and how God saved him.
God's Charge to Man
We need to realize that there are two worlds that are very difficult for us to imagine and understand because they are beyond our world.
- World to come. New heaven and earth.
- Pre-sin world of Adam and Even. Very different because we live in a world of sin and death and they (like heaven) lived in a perfect world.
This is why some of these explanations seem strange to us because they explain another world of which ours only bears a resemblance.
28God blessed them; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth." 29Then God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; 30and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food"; and it was so. 31God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
- Genesis 1:28-31
After the general description of the creation of man and woman, God gives them instructions about what they are to do. Some interesting notes about that change and that world.
- Only one man and woman are created. However, it seems many pairs of animals created since it says that "swarms" were made and they "abundantly" filled the earth.
- The first command is to fill the earth with mankind. God made this command with the full knowledge of the earth's ability to sustain mankind. Overpopulation is not due to God's lack of planning but rather to poor management and distribution of resources, wars and greed by mankind. The earth can sustain its present population with its technology and resources. It is the sin in the world that creates the problem of misery.
- To subdue and have dominion does not mean to exploit ruthlessly the environment. It means to understand and manage the creation for the good of all its inhabitants. Science to understand and technology to develop and use the resources for the benefit of all. In that perfect world the order was evident and open to understanding; the creation was also compliant for development and exploration. There were no struggles for survival. Life was to be an exercise of joy and discovery.
- Man was originally given the vegetation to eat. The suggestion is that before sin they ate no meat. It is not clear if the same was true for animals but it seems that they too only ate vegetation.
Some ideas on this:
- Men may have begun to eat meat after the sin of Adam in disobedience to God. (Jabal introduced cattle raising in Genesis 4:20)
- God gave man permission to eat meat after the flood (Genesis 9).
- Animals may have been kept under population control in the pre-sin world by God in order to avoid the predatory cycle.
- After the sin of Adam or after the Flood, animals began to be meat eaters themselves (Their need for protein in a harsh climate).
- If God can create the world, He may have kept it in balance without the need for killing or meat eating. These activities may have come after the curse and certainly came after the Flood.
Alternate idea – Young earth, not fully matured at creation.
God sees that everything He had made was very good. This suggests certain things:
- No death, because death is the result of sin and everything is good.
- No fossils, etc. because these are the result of death. The Flood can explain the presence of fossils.
- No devil. The Bible says that He looked at everything He had made (that must include angels because angels were made by God and were present when God created the world).
If God saw that everything He made was very good at this point, it means that everything is good and without sin and that includes Lucifer. He also rejoiced at this point. His rebellion must have come later along with his fall. He may have been jealous of man's creation in God's likeness and his role in serving man and thus fell.
The final act is the creation of man and the charge to inhabit the earth, learn about and manage the creation for the good of all. This is his responsibility towards the creation.
- Summarize the actions of creation up to the point of God's creation of man and how these actions support one another.
- In what ways are the inanimate elements and the animate elements of creation alike? How are they different?
- What is significant about God's statement in Genesis 1:26a?
- What is meant by man in the image of God?
- How does man possess the nature of God?
- What is man's position in relation to the other things God created (Genesis 1:26b)?
- Summarize God's charge to man in Genesis 1:28-31 and what is meant by the expression, "very good"?
- How can you use this lesson to grow spiritually and help others come into a relationship with Jesus?