Here we are told that the LORD God breathed into the first human being’s nostrils the breath – the Hebrew word is neshamah – of life, something He didn’t do with any other creature. This made us earthly persons, with capacities that distinguish us from all other living beings. Blocher writes that neshamah “is used rarely for God .… It is used for mankind and not for animals, and designates the spirit of mankind created to correspond to the Spirit of God.”32 In other words, it was by the LORD God breathing this breath into Adam that he became God’s earthly image.
When we read that the Spirit of the LORD will rest upon the future Messiah, and that this is “the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD” (Isa. 11:2), we begin to understand what the Lord’s breathing the breath of life into the first man implies. It means God has formed us with the created equivalents of those aspects of Himself that account for His being the Only-Wise Creator, Ruler, and Disposer of all things. So when the LORD filled Bezalel with His Spirit, “with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills,” he and the others to whom God gave these skills knew “how to carry out all the work of constructing the sanctuary,” enabling them to do it “just as the LORD has commanded” (Exod. 31:3 and 36:1 NIV). He also inspired them to teach others what they knew (see Exod. 35:34). To be made as God’s image, to have Him breathe into us the breath of life, means we possess the supernaturally bestowed gift of personhood that enables us to think, learn, speak, teach, and make free decisions.
In putting Adam into the garden “to work it and keep it,” God gave him and all of us as his descendants our common human vocation, which is to reign over the rest of the creation, to exercise dominion by being the thinking, planning, and acting part of creation, the part responsible for ordering, preserving, and enhancing all the rest of it. We image Him by acting as creation’s kings and queens who reign for Him over the rest of the creation.33 We are “expected,” Wenham writes, “to imitate God is [our] daily [lives].”34 But “the reign of the created image,” Blocher adds,
could only be that of a deputy. Mankind is a vassal prince who will follow the directives of the Sovereign and will give an account to him.… It is not by brute force that mankind will assure his mastery, precisely because that mastery distinguishes him from the brute beasts. As the imitator of God in the six days of the week, the viceroy of creation will deploy the power of the word and of the spirit.35
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