Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Genesis 1:26-28 (part 1)

In Genesis 1:26-28 (DAY 6b), we get the creation of human beings.

First, what’s omitted here? There is no reference in 1:28c to “it was good”. One could argue that 1:31’s “very good” covers that—or that 1:26’s “in God’s image” implies that it’s a given! Another angle—and the one I find most compelling—is that it’s more complicated than that (in Gen 3 and even Gen 2).

Leon Kass: “A moment’s reflection shows that man as he comes into the world is not yet good [in any sense]. Precisely because he is the free being, he is also the incomplete or indeterminate being; what he becomes depends always (in part) on what he freely will choose to be. Let me put it more pointedly: precisely in the sense that man is in the image of God, man is not good—not determinate, finished, complete, or perfect. It remains to be seen whether man will become
good, whether he will be able to complete himself (or be completed).”

Second, man is created last as the climax of God's creative activity. Perhaps He wanted to make sure there'd be no confusion about a role for man in creation. Although that may sound funny, people question the way God runs the universe all the time—e.g., with respect to suffering. In Job 38:4, God asks "Where were you when I laid the foundation?" Maybe "man was created last so God wouldn't have to listen to any advice". In any case, this is also an honor; man is last, but not least. Matthew Henry observes that man was "not put in the palace while still under construction".

Now, let’s tear into these three huge verses!

26a's "let us MAKE man in our image, in our likeness

First, note the plural of us and our (3:22, 11:7). At the least, this is a reference to the Trinity’s role in Creation (Jn 1:1-3, Col 1:16; Gen 1:2, Job 33:4).

Second, it is "let us make" rather than the usual "let there be..." God did not speak man into existence; instead, he is shown as the product of God's direct intervention. Anthropomorphically, this implies more thought and effort from God—as well our specialness. Matthew Henry: "It should seem as if this were the work which He had longed to be at; as if he had said 'Having at last settled the preliminaries, let us now apply ourselves to the business' of making man."

Third, “image” and “likeness” are synonyms. We are made in the image of God—as a shadow or a sign of the greater reality. The word is related to the Hebrew term tselem which means to “cut off, chisel”—as a statue. A statue is an image, both like and unlike its original—and it is dependent on that which it images. Likewise, we are god-like but limited/flawed; we are god-like but we appear just after the animals. As Kass notes, “Man is the ambiguous being, in between, more than an animal, less than a god.”

Fourth, we are to "rule over..." (Ps 8:1,3-9). We are made in God's image—and thus, we receive (delegated) sovereignty. One of the key purposes of God for us is government—in the sense of self-governance, governing those in our circles, and executing human government. Of course, we often fail at all three.

Gen 1:27 has the Bible’s first clear instance of poetry. This is an under-rated literary style, given our Western/modern biases, but it amounts to 40% of the OT, as well as man’s first words (Gen 2:23).

For the third time, we find the Hebrew bara—to create. It showed up in Gen 1:1 for the creation of everything, in Gen 1:21 for the creation of living creatures; and in Gen 1:27 for the creation of human beings. Interestingly, these happen to be three of the biggest gaps for Evolution as a comprehensive explanation for the development of life. In each case, we have the assertion that God did it—or Evolution (or other natural processes) did it.

Finally, Gen 1:28's has a blessing with commands to be fruitful, increase in number/fill/pro-create, and subdue/rule. Note that fruitful is separate from multiply; there is a role for both kingdom work and family (Gal 5:22-23, Jn 15:1-5, Gen 2:2, 2:15).

Here's Part 2 of Genesis 1:26-28...


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