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Then ELOHIM said, “We

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will make

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in our image

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and according to our likeness,

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and he shall rule over

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the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over the livestock and over all the earth and over everything that creeps on the earth.


Then THE CREATOR AND OWNER OF ALL THINGS said, “We will make man to resemble us and be our representative, and to be like us in many important ways, and he shall exercise authority over and care for the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and the easily domesticated animals, and all the earth, even over all those creatures that are hard to catch because of how they glide over the ground.


1: “we”

A plural is used when we would expect a singular. However, we have already seen that Elohim is plural and expresses the fullness with which God possesses and displays all the divine attributes. In this case the purpose of a plural form is the same. The practice of changing a singular to a plural for the purpose of emphasis is seen various times in the Hebrew Scriptures. So, while it sounds strange to our ears, the use of a plural here was not strange to the people of antiquity. God was about to create a special reflection of Himself. Therefore, since what God is would be expressed in a small way in this creature to be made, it fits perfectly for God to express Himself in a way that emphasizes the fullness of His divine attributes.

Some have suggested that this passage indicates that God consulted either with Himself or with the angels, before making mankind. However, for Him to consult the angels would contradict Is 40:14, which says: “With whom did he take counsel, and who has instructed him, who taught him the way of justice, or who showed him the way of understanding.” Furthermore, the use of a plural here does not prove the existence of the Trinity, for that would be to assume something for this passage that is not taught clearly until the New Testament. However, it does hint at, or lay the groundwork for, a Trinity.

2: “will make”

This expression has the same force as the commands God has given earlier in the passage, but it must be translated differently because He is not commanding anyone else to do something but rather is expressing what He has determined should happen. It is stated in such a way as to communicate that His decision is firm and He will indeed do what He has decided to do. That firm determination on God’s part is not always followed by immediate action, for He knows when best to act, however, in this case the statement of the purpose is one with the commencement of the action.


The word for man is the same as the name Adam, and it is generally thought to mean “red.” Adam was red because he was formed from reddish dirt. In ancient times names were usually given which had some connection to the situation of the birth or the family at the time of the birth. That was true of the naming of Adam. We can imagine God saying something like this: “You came from the red dirt so your name will be red.” However, naming him after the dirt had another effect which was to remind man where he came from, and in so doing, hopefully avoid any tendency toward pride.

4: “image”

The Hebrew word used here means “resemblance,” and comes from a root meaning “shade or shadow.” Other possible renditions are “illusion, or a representative figure.”

5: “likeness”

This Hebrew word also means “resemblance,” but it comes from a root meaning “compare.” It can also mean “to liken, or to be like.” Genesis 5:3 uses these same two words to describe the way in which Adam’s son resembled Adam. So we see from the comparison of a father and son that we are not identical to God, but we are like Him in many important ways. Jewish tradition has strongly taught that this resemblance is not of a physical kind, and we cannot say what God’s physical characteristics are. The resemblance is therefore in regard to spiritual and moral issues.


The word means “to rule, to have dominion over, or to dominate.” In what way would man “have dominion, or rule” over the animals? Since man is God’s representative and is intended to demonstrate the qualities of God, he should rule over the animals in the same way that God rules over us. God does not force us to do what He wants but He does set limits to our actions, defining some things as acceptable and others as unacceptable. He also does more caring for us than He does judging us. Likewise, with the animals our role should be more along the lines of caring for them than anything else. While we can limits to the actions of animals to a small degree, our ability to judge or punish them is much more limited than God’s ability to judge and punish us.