24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. 25 And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
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 heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on 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 heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” – Genesis 1:24-28 ESV
God’s timeline for creation was unfolding according to His perfect plan. He was methodically replacing the former chaos and darkness with order and light. And every phase of the divine process was well-orchestrated and designed to prepare the way for what would be His crowning achievement: The creation of man.
God had created the land on which man would exist. He had prepared the oxygen-rich “heaven” or lower atmosphere that would be necessary for man’s survival. There was the sun and moon to determine the days and seasons of man’s life. The sun’s distance from the earth was perfectly planned so that the ambient temperature on earth would be conducive to human life. And God had even created a protective barrier in the upper atmosphere that would prevent the harmful rays of the sun from doing irreparable damage to His creation. And to top it all off, God had provided an abundant source of food and nourishment in the form of fruit-bearing trees and vegetation.
There was nothing haphazard or random about the creation. It was all well-ordered and highly intentional. God was preparing the perfect environment in which to place the crown jewel of His creation plan. The all-knowing God of the universe was not making this up as He went along, but it was all part of the well-designed strategy He had developed long before He had initiated the creation process.
Once again, Moses reveals a deliberate order to the events of creation. This next phase involves God’s creation of “living creatures” (Genesis 1:24 ESV). The Hebrew word is נֶפֶשׁ (nep̄eš), and while it can be translated as “soul,” the surrounding context dictates that it refers to animal life. Moses describes three different kinds of creatures: “livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth” (Genesis 1:24 ESV). Livestock refers to what will come to be known as domesticated animals such as cattle or sheep. Creeping things describes all those creatures whose physical stature place them close to the ground. This will include everything from reptiles to rodents. The final category, beasts of the earth, appears to indicate all remaining species of wild animals.
While the Hebrew word, נֶפֶשׁ (nep̄eš), can be translated as “soul,” it will soon become readily apparent that these “living creatures” are meant to be viewed as quite different from humanity. As Moses recorded the unfolding nature of God’s creation process, he kept his audience in mind. He wanted the people of Israel to understand the unprecedented role that they, as human beings, played in God’s plan for the universe. They were not just another form of animal. The living creatures, while conscious and capable of thought, were not made in the image of God.
Moses is very deliberate and specific when he writes, “God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind” (Genesis 1:25 ESV). These creatures, while made by God, did not bear the image of God. They were of a completely different “kind.” They bear God’s handiwork but do not share in His character or nature. And their creation is followed by an important and relationship-defining statement from God.
“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” – Genesis 1:26 ESV
Here, for the first time in Moses’ narrative, we find God referring to Himself in the plural. Over the centuries, this verse has been used to defend the concept of the Trinity or God in three persons. While this verse does not explicitly teach a trinitarian doctrine, it does support the concept. And if this verse is viewed in relationship with other passages, it is easy to see the plurality of the Godhead displayed. In the opening lines of his gospel account, John declares that Jesus played a key role in the creation.
In the beginning the Word already existed.
The Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.
God created everything through him,
and nothing was created except through him.
The Word gave life to everything that was created,
and his life brought light to everyone. – John 1:1-4 NLT
The Godhead, consisting of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, enjoyed a unique three-in-one relationship that was totally non-replicable and inexplicable. Yet, man was created in such a way that he could emulate, albeit imperfectly, this divine co-dependency and relational intimacy. Humanity would be given the unique ability to mirror the Godhead and experience the joy of fellowship and the gift of God’s blessing. Man was to be a decidedly different form of “living creature.”
“First, God’s deliberation shows that he has decided to create man differently from any of the other creatures—in his image and likeness. God and man share a likeness that is not shared by other creatures. This apparently means that a relationship of close fellowship can exist between God and man that is unlike the relationship of God with the rest of his creation. What more important fact about God and man would be necessary if the covenant at Sinai were, in fact, to be a real relationship? Remove this and the covenant is unthinkable.” – John H. Sailhamer, “Genesis,” in Genesis–Numbers, vol. 2 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary
Another key difference between man and the rest of creation was his dominion role. God clearly articulated the unique role that man would play in His newly created universe.
“…let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” – Genesis 1:26 ESV
The Hebrew word is רָדָה (rāḏâ), and it conveys the idea of rule or authority. God was delegating His sovereign authority to mankind. The King and creator of the universe was passing on to humanity a responsibility to care for all that He had made.
God’s purpose in giving humankind his image is that they might rule the created order on behalf of the heavenly king and his royal court. So the divine image, however it is defined, gives humankind the capacity and/or authority to rule over creation. – NET Bible Study Notes
Once again, it must be remembered that this “history” of the creation was intended as a much-needed reminder for God’s chosen people, the Israelites. Moses was trying to help them understand the unique role entrusted to humanity by God. From the very “beginning,” mankind was to have acted as God’s vice-regents, bearing His image and carrying out His divine will for His creation. They were to have been stewards over all that He had made. And, as God’s precious possession, the Israelites had an even greater responsibility to reflect God’s glory, power, and authority through their lives.
Moses was reminding his fellow Israelites that they had a two-fold responsibility to act as God’s faithful stewards. They, along with all humanity, had been created with one purpose in mind: To rule as God’s vice-regents over His creation. But as the heirs of the promises made to Abraham and the recipients of God’s law, they had the extra-added responsibility to live in keeping with His divine will as His children. This entire retelling of the creation story was meant to remind them of their unique status as the apex of God’s creative order and to encourage them to do what the first man and woman failed to do.
God had originally created a pair of individuals who would bear His image, share in His royal rule, and spread His glory across the face of the earth.
God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them. – Genesis 1:27 ESV
God created this first couple, blessed them, and then reiterated the divine mandate He had assigned 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 heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” – Genesis 1:28 ESV
They were to procreate, making more of their kind – those made in the image of God. In obeying this command, they would spread the glory of God throughout the earth. They would populate the planet with more godly image-bearers and, in so doing, the invisible God would be made visible throughout the earth. They would reflect His nature and demonstrate His goodness and glory through their daily lives and their interactions with one another and the rest of His creation.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.