Finally, in verses 26-28, God creates human beings. On the sixth day He produced the acme of His physical creation, for whom He had refurbished the earth. Everything that He made was designed to carry out His plan to reproduce Himself through the creation of the human race. From this point, the great drama of human existence began to unfold.
Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Genesis 1: Fact or Fiction?
Notice the seven major, broad overviews within which mankind's specific responsibilities are addressed:
1. This covenant introduces the sovereign Creator God Himself. In Genesis 1:1-5, He stands alone; the focus is on Him and what He wants us to learn first about Him. He stands at the beginning of all things and precedes everything. Everything He gives to man—God is the sovereign Creator and Giver of every good gift—he must use responsibly within God's purpose. This pattern of focusing on the sovereign Creator God and His purposes appears in all covenants with Him. God rules!
2. This covenant reveals that He is orderly. Every step in creation is taken in a scientifically logical progression, establishing that the creation and His purposes are not haphazard. Randomness is not part of His nature. God is purposeful and already has a plan that He is following step by step.
3. In the beginning, like God Himself, everything was morally perfect. No sin is present, nor are any demons there to interrupt His thoughtful construction of a practical and beautiful place for Him to work out His purpose for mankind.
4. No aspect of the creation is to be worshipped. Everything God made and gave to mankind is a product of and inferior to the One who made all things. No animal or object is to be used as an intermediary between the Creator and mankind. Only the Creator is to be worshipped.
5. Beginning with Adam and Eve, humanity is charged with populating the earth and subduing it. Men are not to have an adversarial relationship with the earth but to harness its potential and use its resources for human benefit. In this case, subduing indicates activities like cultivating its fields and mining it for mineral riches. Mankind is not to rape the earth but to work to manage properly what he has been given. Humans, created in God's image, are to exercise their God-given authority as His servants to care for the earth as He would. That is, men are to follow God's pattern. There is, of course, far more to being made in His likeness, but ruling is part of the reason for it.
6. Simply being born gives a person a stewardship responsibility. People are to treat God's wonderful gifts with the same loving care in which God designed and created them.
7. Mankind is to enjoy the foods produced in the Garden as well as the bountiful productivity God placed within humanity's purview.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Five)
The true God is the Author of the Bible, and He used His sovereign authority to determine the revelations it contains and the sequence in which they are given. Since Adam and Eve, believing in the existence of the true God and His Word has been the principal challenge affecting the quality of life mankind thinks it must have for happiness and prosperity. These beliefs have eluded human understanding—not because God has hidden Himself, but because men refuse to accept the clear evidence He provides in the creation.
Imagine that the Creator God sat us down in a room by ourselves and presented a short film summarizing the Bible's first ten chapters. What would we see? What would it teach us about His character, purpose, and plan?
Authors and filmmakers are creators in their own way. They prepare an outline, a story flow, they wish to follow either to entertain or to educate their readers or viewers. Have we ever wondered why God began the Bible as He did? Consider this simple overview as a factor of utmost importance to our well-being in relation to life's purposes.
Have we ever consciously noted that the Bible begins in Genesis 1 with God creating order from what appears to be the result of either a destruction of a previous system or an array of disparate parts, fashioning them into a form appropriate for His next step? Either way, as the story unfolds, the role He plays emerges. The primary point is virtually impossible to miss: Supreme order and direction in what He will reveal originates in and from Him. Though normally invisible to humanity, He is clearly in control, initiating what will happen and also continuing to completion what He began.
The orderly progression of time and activity continues as God arranges, piece by piece, the environment in which later events will take place. Created elements appear in a natural progression. First, there must be light. From this point on, everything coming into view is made new and in sparkling, showroom condition.
Last of all, the two humans are designed in the image of God Himself. They, Adam and Eve—who will set in motion the human side of the action—are created, given life, and presented gifts, which are examples of His grace: earth and all it contains for their use within the boundaries He set. They immediately begin to use what God freely gave them as gifts.
What has God chosen to show us thus far? First, He is the Author of all that is. Second, He brings order out of lifeless chaos. Third, perhaps our Lord's flesh-and-blood brother sums it up best in James 1:17-18:
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.
What has God revealed of Himself to this point without saying a word except for what He commanded to bring into existence? It is purposefully instructive.
Genesis 1 shows that He is a God of order and that He has a distinct purpose for each step He takes. He is a God of awesome powers, moving mountains, seas, rivers, valleys, and vast oceans of atmosphere into place. Greenery and animal life appear. Nothing happens randomly. Every step proceeds as He directs. He is in control as He purposefully establishes His sovereignty over everything He has brought into existence.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Ten)
As God created, it is extremely significant that of all He created, only one creation is in His image, mankind. This is important to the purpose God is working out. Also, it is significant that of all the creatures God created, only mankind is given dominion over anything else, animate or inanimate.
Verses 26 and 28 show the first inkling of man's awesome potential. We are in God's likeness and His image, and have been given dominion in order to fulfill that potential.
If one looked up the word "image" in a Hebrew dictionary, it would not be very satisfying, being a typical textbook definition. It merely means "a shadowing forth, a phantom, a sketch, an outline." It gives the impression of a mere shape, a stickman. However, it has another, more interesting definition that means "whatever makes a man remarkable or procures respect."
The word "likeness" is commonly thought by linguists to mean nothing more than an intensification of the word "image." Even though it is a different word, its meaning is very similar. Putting those two words together, the Hebrew clearly shows that we are remarkable, especially in comparison to all other life. We are in the image of God.
Though we are remarkable, we are merely an outline, a mere copy or representation. We are illusory compared to God, because He is the reality.
The word “image” deserves further examination. The word "image" could evoke different mental images depending upon one's perspective. Over the past several decades in the United States, "image" has acquired a deceptive application that obscures its true meaning. This application skews one's understanding, interfering with the meaning God intends.
For example, today, a politician hires a publication firm to create an image for him that the people will find acceptable, and, thus, vote him into office. If someone is trying to find employment, they dress a certain way to project a particular image for employers to perceive. Corporations also try very hard to find the right image before the public.
To an American, an “image” has subtly come to mean "the illusion of what something is presented to be" rather than "the essence of what it really is."
In Hebrew, the word translated "image" is not "a deceptive illusion." Rather, image means "the likeness of one subject expressed in another." This difference is important. It means, "the likeness of one subject, God, expressed in the other, man." The verse indirectly says that man is very much like God.
The Hebrew meaning is frequently used in English in reference to family resemblance or characteristics. We say that a child is the spitting image of his father or his mother, possibly referring to physical or social traits.
The "image" is no illusion; it is the reality. It is the family trait. It is the essence of reality.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Right Use of Power
Two things are made especially plain. God states three times in verse 27 that man is created. In verses 26-27, He says four times that man is created in the image of God. He wants us to grasp those points because the same applies to us! Even though we are now about 6,000 years from when He first spoke those words, these realities have not changed one iota.
In addition, God clearly gave us beings created in His image authority over animals. That authority has not been taken from us. This dominion implies responsibility in managing them that we owe to our Creator.
Many people seek to escape the responsibility of answering to our Creator, devising complex explanations to deny His existence to themselves and others. They may reason that, if He does not exist, how can they be responsible for submitting to His commands?
They will move heaven and earth, as the saying goes, looking for proof to back their denial of God. The great bulk of mankind lacks the resources, the time, or the education to make such a search, so for their own benefit, they simply deny His existence by ignoring Him. These two categories of people are part of the “Nones”—those who claim no spiritual attachment whatever—of this generation.
Others, without making any real effort to search out the truth, create a god or goddess they are comfortable with and worship him or her to salve their consciences. They do not seem to grasp that their dodges do not alter their responsibility to conform to what God laid out in the beginning.
Another category is quite worrisome: the sincere folk who consider themselves Christian. However, either due to false teaching in their churches or perhaps their own laziness, they believe that much of the Old Testament no longer applies to them. In their minds, it has been “done away” along with what they consider Old Covenant laws, deliberately ignoring what Jesus Himself says about those same laws (Matthew 5:17-20).
However, God's Word still stands, and mankind is still responsible to follow this covenant, as Romans 1:20-21 declares:
For since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead [margin, divine nature], so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Five)
This verse contains the first words God spoke to mankind. The Hebrew word translated as “blessed” can also at times signify a curse. Here, without a doubt, it signifies that God's conferring of good on the newly created couple is to be shared by their descendants.
This divine act not only confers dominion over what God created, but it also establishes that, even as God is the Creator and Giver of His wonderful creation at that moment, He is also the Giver of its continued blessings through time to Adam and Eve's descendants. In His first oral communication to them—an authoritative command to spread over the earth and enjoy His creation's benefits—He desires to establish in their minds that everything before them was a gift from Him to prepare them to face life.
The physical creation of earth, which culminated in the creation of Adam and Eve, parallels the spiritual creation this same God is undertaking in us. Even as God supplied all that Adam and Eve needed for life, so is He supplying all that we need for our spiritual creation. The apostle Paul confirms this in Philippians 4:19, “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Our responsibility is to hold fast to His promises in faith.
We have been given much, but much more is required of us than is required of the unconverted because God has given us gifts not given to them. This principle of God's judgment appears in Luke 12:47-48:
And that servant who knew his master's will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.
The overriding thought in the foreground of this first and universal covenant is that the entire creation—including us and the spiritual life given us, but in context, especially earth and what it contains—is a gift from God to aid us in making our way through the physical life He has provided. This is a reality: We live and have being, and we think, plan, build, and look to the future all because of what God has done. This reality must be foundational in our relationship with Him because it provides solid footing for the humility necessary to make it work. Because He is the Giver of all good things, our thinking about ourselves in relation to Him must begin here.
In the context of Genesis 1, these blessings, these gifts, are somewhat similar to the gifts of the Spirit listed in I Corinthians 12. A dissimilarity, though, is that I Corinthians 12:11 says, “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He will.” Here, God supplies gifts for functions He assigns within the church rather than for all of life. But an important similarity that we must live by is that God is still gifting to meet the needs of those He is creating, but in this case the gifts are spiritual rather than physical.
The following truth is not stated in Genesis 1-3, but it is a conclusion gathered from this covenant's entire context combined with understanding gathered elsewhere in God's Word: All of God's gifts are aspects of His grace given to aid us in succeeding within His purpose.
The emphasis should be on His purpose. For example the entire creation is a gift. Whether one is converted or unconverted, it stands as a major teaching device, and receiving it bears responsibilities. Serious and honest consideration of it should lead to answering many questions about our place in a relationship with God, and to realizing some of our responsibilities. This is why Paul declares mankind “without excuse.” The fulfillment of these responsibilities lies in the uses we make of the gifts God has given.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Five)
In the beginning, Adam and Eve were not created with the evil nature we see displayed in all of mankind. At the end of the sixth day of creation, God took pleasure in all He had made and pronounced it "very good," including Adam and Eve and the nature or the heart He placed in them. An evil heart cannot possibly be termed "very good." They were a blank slate, one might say, with a slight pull toward the self, but not with the strong, self-centered, touchy, and offensive heart that is communicated through contact with the world following birth.
Following Adam and Eve's creation, God placed them in Eden and instructed them on their responsibilities. He then purposefully allowed them to be exposed to and tested by Satan, who most definitely had a different set of beliefs, attitudes, purposes, and character than God. Without interference from God, they freely made the choice to subject themselves to the evil influence of that malevolent spirit. That event initiated the corruption of man's heart. Perhaps nowhere in all of Scripture is there a clearer example of the truth of I Corinthians 15:33: "Evil communications corrupt good manners."
Comparing our contact with Satan to Adam and Eve's, a sobering aspect is that God shows they were fully aware of Satan when he communicated with them. However, we realize that a spirit being can communicate with a human by transferring thoughts, and the person might never know it! He would assume the thoughts were completely generated within himself.
Following their encounter with the evil one, "the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked" (Genesis 3:7). This indicates an immediate change in their attitudes and perspectives. It also implies a change of character from the way God had created them, as they had indeed willingly sinned, thus reinforcing the whole, degenerative process.
This began not only their personal corruption but also this present, evil world, as Paul calls it in Galatians 1:4. All it took was one contact with, communication from, and submission to that very evil source to effect a profound change from what they had been. The process did not stop with them, as Romans 5:12 confirms, "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned." Adam and Eve passed on the corrupt products of their encounter with Satan to their children, and each of us, in turn, has sinned as willingly as our first ancestors did.
When we are born, innocent of any sin of our own, we enter into a 6,000-year-old, ready-made world that is permeated with the spirit of Satan and his demons, as well as with the evil cultures they generated through a thoroughly deceived mankind. In consequence, unbeknownst to us, we face a double-barreled challenge to our innocence: from demons as well as from this world.
Six thousand years of human history exhibit that we very quickly absorb the course of the world around us and lose our innocence, becoming self-centered and deceived like everybody else (Revelation 12:9). The vast majority in this world is utterly unaware that they are in bondage to Satan - so unaware that most would scoff if told so. Even if informed through the preaching of the gospel, they do not fully grasp either the extent or the importance of these factors unless God draws them by opening their eyes spiritually (John 6:44-45).
John W. Ritenbaugh
Communication and Leaving Babylon (Part Three)
To environmentalists, letting man have dominion over the animals and being told to subdue the earth means that God gives man free rein to do anything he wants to the planet—bend it to his uses and abuses, rape it of all its beauty and diversity—for his own benefit. "Does not the land have any rights?" they cry. "What about the plants and animals, birds and fish? What gives us the right to mine and burn and kill without care for nature?"
Certainly, God did not give man the authority to degrade and destroy His earth. Environmentalists are correct in saying that mankind should consider and address environmental concerns. They are quite wrong, however, to blame God for the earth's ecological problems; He is not responsible for man's destruction of the natural world.
To think that God gave man carte blanche to plunder and destroy the earth is simply ludicrous. He is its Creator! Why would He immediately command Adam to ruin it? Would any woodworker, upon just finishing a beautifully stained piece of furniture, tell his son to break it up for firewood? No! Just as God desires for His creation, the woodworker would put his handiwork to use and also care for it by keeping it waxed and dusted to prolong its life.
This is exactly what God told Adam. Genesis 2 contains a parallel account of creation, adding detail to certain parts of the narrative of the first chapter. Notice God's expanded instruction: "Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend [dress, KJV] and keep it" (verse 15). This greatly modifies the force of "have dominion" and "subdue it" from Genesis 1:26, 28!
Tend (Hebrew 'abad) means "to work or serve," and thus referring to the ground or a garden, it can be defined as "to till or cultivate." It possesses the nuance seen in the KJV's choice in its translation: "dress," implying adornment, embellishment, and improvement.
Keep (Hebrew shamar) means "to exercise great care over." In the context of Genesis 2:15, it expresses God's wish that mankind, in the person of Adam, "take care of," "guard," or "watch over" the garden. A caretaker maintains and protects his charge so that he can return it to its owner in as good or better condition than when he received it.
To Noah, God gives a similar command after the Flood:
So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand. (Genesis 9:1-2)
Once again God gives man dominion over all other life on the earth, and with this renewed authority comes the implicit responsibility to tend and keep what was explicitly given to Adam. In this post-Flood world, God gives mankind a second chance to use and preserve the resources He had so abundantly provided. To that end Noah, after 120 years as a preacher and shipwright, took up farming and planted a vineyard (verse 20). We can assume, from what we know of human nature, that this attitude of stewardship did not pass to very many of his descendants.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Bible and the Environment
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Genesis 1:28:
1 Corinthians 6:13-15