Topical Studies

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Bible verses about Tselem
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Genesis 1:26-27

The word "image" is translated from the Hebrew tselem, and it means "shape, resemblance, figure, shadow." There is nothing abstract in it. This same word is used in Genesis 5:3:

And Adam lived one hundred and thirty years, and begot a son in his own likeness, after his image [tselem], and named him Seth.

Adam lived 130 years and begot a son in his own likeness, after his shape, after his resemblance, after his figure, after his shadow. There is absolutely no argument from anyone anywhere about the meaning of "image" here. There is nothing abstract.

Even as the animals reproduced after their kind, so did Adam and Eve reproduce after their kind. What was reproduced was in the form and shape of Adam and Eve. It was in their image. It is only when we apply this to God that people begin to question. All go on the assumption that God really does not have any shape—it is only something that He uses when convenient. However, that is not what the Bible testifies.

If we want to be accurate with the scriptures, we must be consistent with the way these words are used in the Scripture. The same word is used of Adam and Eve as is used of God.

This word is also used in Exodus 20:4—right in the commandment: "You shall not make for yourself a carved image [tselem]. . . ." This is the same word as Genesis 1:26. Does anybody contend that these images do not look like eagles, dragons, snakes, or men or women? No, the image, the idol, looks like something that is a resemblance, the shape, the form of what it is being copied from. This word can also be found in Leviticus 26:1; Psalm 106:19; and Isaiah 40:18-20; 44:9-17.

Seventeen times the word tselem appears in the Old Testament, and even the liberal Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, which goes to great lengths to avoid saying it, admits that concrete form and physical resemblance must be considered for Genesis 1:26-27: "Perhaps we may conclude that, while much of the thought that there is an external resemblance between God and man may be present, Ezekiel, who was a priest, has it" (vol. II, p. 684).

The Scripture cannot be broken; they do not contradict one another. They have to grudgingly admit that it is there in the Bible. Man looks like God. Continuing the quote: "However cautiously he states it, P [P stands for priestly, one of the four different groups of people who edited the Bible] seems to have reached a measure of abstraction."

They are very sneaky. Well, maybe there is a concrete resemblance, and we know that Ezekiel has it, yet the fellow who wrote Genesis 1, perhaps he reached a measure of abstraction. How hard it is to give up the assumption!

The same consistency is shown with the word "likeness." In the Hebrew it is demooth, which means, "model, shape, fasten, similitude, and bodily resemblance."

Notice Genesis 5:1, 3:

This is the book of the genealogy of Adam. In the day that God created man, He made him in the likeness [demooth] of God. . . . And Adam lived one hundred and thirty years, and begot a son in his own likeness [demooth], after his image, and named him Seth.

If it is used for God in Genesis 1:26 (God's creation of man in His image), and then we see it here in Genesis 5:1, 3. Do we not have to apply the same discernment of what God intends? The word demooth also appears in Isaiah 40:18; Ezekiel 1:5, 10, 13, 16, 22, 26, 28; 10:1, 22.

When we begin to study the whole subject, we begin to understand why Interpreters had to say that Ezekiel showed man in physical resemblance to God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Image and Likeness of God (Part 1)



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