At this point in the Creation story, we are told very little about our nature as images, very little about the ways in which we are godlike. That comes out, as we shall see, in Genesis 2:4-25.
Yet our relation to the rest of creation is already clear. For, as we have seen, immediately after declaring He would make us in His image, God said why He has made us so: “so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” As the sovereign Creator’s images, we are creation’s sovereigns, meant to reign over the rest of creation.
David reiterated this. For right after he declared that God made us only a little lower than Himself, crowning us with glory and honor, he went on to say:
You gave them charge of everything you made,
putting all things under their authority –
the flocks and the herds
and all the wild animals,
the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea,
and everything that swims the ocean currents. (Ps. 8:5-8 NLT)
David glanced downwards after he glanced upwards, surveying the rest of creation and perhaps wondering whether we are just another animal species.23 Yet by hearing God’s word he steadied himself, coming to understand that our being made in God’s image makes us unique.24 He then understood our situation for what it actually is: As God’s images, we stand between Him and the rest of the creation, where, according to this word in Genesis 1:26, we are to fulfill the office of ruling all the rest of it wisely and benevolently.25
Then God did what He had declared He was about to do
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.(Gen. 1:27)
The Hebrew construction for the ESV’s word man in this verse suggests it would be better to translate it as mankind or, even better, humanity, since “clearly,” as Wenham writes, “mankind in general, ‘male and female,’ not an individual, is meant.”26 This emphasizes the third set of relationships we must acknowledge to understand ourselves. We are related in one way to God and in another to the rest of creation, but we are also inevitably and necessarily related in yet a third way to each other, to other human beings. So we exist within three kinds of relationships, each in its own way creating, shaping, and sustaining us: our primary relationship is with God, then there is our relationship to other human beings, and finally our relationship to the rest of creation. Living within the ‘space’ created by these three kinds of relationships constitutes specifically human being.27
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