“Blessed be Your Glorious Name, and may it be exalted above all blessings and praise. You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you” (Nehemiah 9:5b-6).
To repent and confess their sins before the Lord in the present, Israel looked back to the beginning of Creation, and continued through the history of Israel up until their situation where Ezra read the Book of the Law of Moses which the Lord had commanded Israel (Nehemiah 8:1). We speak today of One New Man, but here Israel demonstrated the unity that comes from hearts that are thirsty for the Word of God. “…all the people assembled as one man…” It wasn’t all the people and lower animals gathered as one man; it wasn’t a mixture. No-one said to the lower animals, ‘let us’ gather as one man.
This was not hankering after the past and the kind of thing the Jewish Messiah, Yeshua/Jesus, warned of in Luke 9:62 – “No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Rather it is acknowledging, affirming, and learning from the past, in order to gain a right perspective on the present, and focus with a declaration of intention of faith for the future.
God made Man in His image. He said, “Let us make humanity in our image, after our likeness.” Then it says that God “created humanity in His own image.” The Bible goes on to expand on that by stating, “male and female He created them.” This single verse in Scripture is repeated twice over, “God created humanity in His own image”, adding emphasis through repetition, highlighting the importance of what God was doing. An emphasis that states clearly that man is different to the beasts of the field.
The Politically Correct, I suggest, will eventually want to put animals on a par with humans. That animals be given human rights has been mooted from time to time in the past.[i] Children in infant schools are being taught that humans are the same as animals. This teaching is transported around the world in the vehicle of evolution, a theory deceptively taught as scientific fact. We will discover what is happening, and why it is happening in today’s world, by going back to the book of beginnings, the Book of Genesis. It is there that we discover the stark reality that there is nothing new under the sun – “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
There is meticulous order to Creation with the suggestion of hierarchy. First in creation is inert matter, containing the building blocks of everything. Moving on to the third day of Creation we have organic matter, with vegetation emerging from the lifeless ground; grasses producing seeds of their species, and fruit-bearing trees containing the seeds of their own species (Genesis 1:11-12).
Scripture repeats that vegetation needs to be self-propagating, each to its own species. Man, to some degree, has moved away from that natural process so that seedless grapes, for instance, are harvested. In God’s order, grape vines need to produce grapes which contain the seeds for growing new grape vines, ensuring the preservation of the species line. This speaks of the laws prohibiting crossbreeding of animals and hybridization of crops (Leviticus 19:19).
Understanding the image of God as set out for us in Genesis Ch.1 will help us to understand what it is for Man to be created in His image. Man is unique in God’s creation. Man is the pinnacle of creation, the crowning glory of all that God made. Man is a creature and physically he is similar in make-up to the higher animals as far as the basic internal organs go; but Man is set apart from the creatures; created in God’s image to have fellowship with God. In Jewish thought, God is presented as all-powerful (Elohim), Independent, Intelligent, Thoughtful, Orderly, Purposeful and Creative. What is missing in the Jewish concept of God is Relationship;
Relationship within the Godhead.
Jewish and Christian thought has focussed on God’s image in humanity being in the main, human rationality. This has been because of the influence of Greek philosophy or Hellenism on both Judaism and Christianity. The power of reason was everything, while the human body was deprecated to the point of being evil, particularly in the religion of Christianity. Mainstream Judaism never fell prey to those teachings of Platonism and Gnosticism, that considered the human body as inherently evil. God’s image in humanity is much more than reason. When God breathed into Man’s nostrils, Man received more than we conceive of as physical life. Man became a living being – nephesh chayah. Nephesh is properly translated as ‘being’, rather than ‘soul’ as in the KJV and as found in Greek thought. All Scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16), and God’s Word is Spirit and Life (“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life” – John 6:63). God’s breath into Man will include God’s Word. Nachmanides, also referred to by the acronym Ramban (1194–1270), and considered one of the greatest Jewish scholars ever, argued that “when God breathed the breath of life into man, he transferred to him of his own divine essence… Man contains a divine spark, an element of the divine spirit.” Man is endowed with a spiritual nature of God-likeness. Man has a conscious ability to know God. God Himself is set apart from creation, He is other than, from eternity to eternity; and with careful reading and investigation, we can see that He is so much more besides; there is no end to God! In all eternity, those that are with God in His Kingdom will be on an eternal voyage of never-ending discovery. How great is our God! How great is our King! He is the greatest God, the only God! Praise His holy Name!
In the beginning and in each day of Creation we see law and order unfolding. As we approach the end of this age lawlessness is increasing and there is a continuing breakdown in order, (Matthew 24:12) and the love of many will grow cold. Perhaps this is happening to a degree now, during this age of “global warming”.
In our image, after our likeness
God said, “Let us make Man (humanity) in our image, after our likeness” – our tzelem and our demut, so that they may dominate the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and the land animals, the entire land, and all the swarming creatures which swarm the land” (Genesis 1:26)
This verse presents a challenge to classical Jewish thought because God has neither an image nor a form. Further to that, it is puzzling when God proclaims His intention to create humanity with both His tzelem (image) and His demut (likeness) while in the following verse Man is created only in God’s tzelem. The puzzle increases in Genesis 5:1 where Man is described as being created in God’s demut but not in His tzelem, and again in Genesis 9:1 since there, Man is created in God’s tzelem but not His demut. The root word, tzalam or tzelem refers to the original image or imitation. “In our image” is translated from one Hebrew word betzalmeinu and is again used with a plural pronoun “in our image” indicating the plurality of God – “Let us make”. Sadly, this is a difficult concept for many Jews. Their preconceived understanding of God being One God means that some see without seeing, and hear without hearing. God is the God of the miraculous and can and does open blind eyes giving sight to the blind, and can unstop deaf ears so that they hear. Next we have three more words, “after our likeness” translated again from one Hebrew word, kidmuteinu which comes from the Hebrew word demut, and means “a model”, “a copy”. The plural pronoun is used again indicating once more the plurality of God. The clues and meanings are there for all to see. “After our likeness” emphasises the uniqueness of Man in Creation (Psalm 8:3-5). Put briefly, Tzelem is from a Hebrew root which means “to carve” or “to cut”, God sculpturing the image of Himself when He created the human. Demut comes from the Hebrew root that means “to be like”. Perhaps we see a hint at the gender of humanity being masculine and feminine where the Hebrew word tzelem is masculine in gender while the word demut is feminine in gender.
Let us make
God’s voice is the vehicle through which He creates, where He says, “Let there be…” When it comes to the creation of Man He says, “Let us make…” This expression offers a further challenge to Judaism – “Let us…” since there is but One God; and various explanations are offered in Judaism as to what “us” means. We have seen the meticulous order of creation where everything is after its kind. There is to be no mixing or cross-breading. How is it then that one of Judaism’s explanations for “Let us…” is that God is speaking to the ministering angels, and is seeking their counsel? Medieval and modern commentators have offered this as the true understanding of “Let us”. God alone created the heavens and the earth; He didn’t have help from anyone… “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Angels are created beings, created by God – “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:16). Angels are not co-equal with God, and they cannot create. This mixing God with His creation is a dangerous and misleading concept. God is set apart from His Creation. Man, in creation, is set apart from animals. Another explanation offered in Judaism is that the “us” is God speaking to the humans themselves, and that people are empowered to create themselves in God’s “image”. The suggestion is that by using the divine spark within, man can encounter God. They can acknowledge Him and form a relationship with Him; in that relationship they can fashion themselves in the “image” of God. They design their own character through the choices they make, and their actions and attitudes. Many explanations are offered in Judaism, but by God’s amazing grace an increasing number among the Jews are discovering the true meaning, and they in turn are bringing light and understanding to the Gentiles. This is not surprising, particularly since the Scriptures came to mankind through the Jews, and the Gospel is to the Jew first (Romans 1:16). But we understand the truths of Scripture by revelation from God, not simply by having clever and intelligent minds. Both Jew and non-Jew need revelation, however much study is put in. We must study, 2 Timothy 2:15, “Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the ‘word of truth’”; but revelation comes by the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:10-14). It is all of grace from the God and Father of Mankind, to the Jew and to the Gentile.
In the English version we have three words “Let us make”. These are translated from one Hebrew word, naaseh which is a change in form from “Let there be” to “Let us”. This is to describe what is an extraordinary, momentous moment involving the creation of Man. Further to that, and as we have already discussed, it involves the plurality of God. “Let us” is a plural pronoun. “Elohim” speaks of this too. “Let us” is not a consultation with angels; angels are not mentioned anywhere in the passage of Scripture. In 1 Kings 22:19-23 it is made clear that God consulted with the heavenly court, but it makes no mention of that in Genesis and the creation of Man. To use that Scripture is clutching at straws.
Male and female
“Male and female created He them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created” (Genesis 5:2). God created them with no help from anyone. These fundamental truths are being attacked as never before…. God, Creator, Creation, male and female….
“God created (bara) the Man in His tzelem, in the tzelem of God He created (bara) him, male and female He created (bara) them…” (Genesis 1:27). Previously, bara was used only twice in reference to Creation. In this verse, bara is used three times highlighting just how immensely different this creative act is. Bara is used of man’s creation. It is used of being created in the divine image; and it is used in that man was created in two sexes – God created man in His own image; in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them.
Give glory and honour to God – “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:36)
Blessings and shalom