Genesis 1:26 – 2:25 – Male and Female: The Image of God

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Now Read: Genesis 1:26 – 2:25 (NASB)

In my previous post I discussed how the poetry of the creation account speaks to the nature of God and how He relates to His creation. But in that discussion I skipped over one very important part: the creation of man and woman. I intentionally skipped that part, because it deserved its own post, and it also naturally follows over into chapter 2.

It may seem a bit odd how verses 26-28 of chapter 1 discuss the creation of man and woman, and then chapter 2 seems to talk about it again. In chapter 1 the creation of man and woman is listed, briefly, as part of the overall creation account. But the author of Genesis knew that this part of the creation story warranted more explanation. So in chapter 2 he steps back and dives deeper into the story and gives us a fuller description of what man and woman are, what they represent, and why they were created.

So let’s go back to chapter 1, verses 26-28:

“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’”

From this brief text we can take away two important things:

1. What are man and woman?

The creation of man and woman is set apart from the creation of the rest of the animal kingdom. Unlike the rest of the animals, we are created in the image of God. That means a lot of things, but in the simplest sense it means that we share a resemblance to God. Not that we are exactly like God, or that we are equal to God, or that we share every quality with God, but that we resemble God in some aspects of our being. Our ability for reason and intellect, our ability for love and compassion, are all aspects of human nature that set us apart from the animals and demonstrate the likeness of God. But looking at the text, it seems very obvious that one aspect of our God-likeness stands out among all the others. It is actually the only part of our God-image that is actually explicitly called out: The fact that we are made as male and female. That, I believe, becomes the most important lesson that we should take away from this passage and is expanded upon in chapter 2 (I’ll come back to this).

2. Why did God create Man and Woman?

The other important message that we get from Genesis 1:26-28, is that God created man and woman (in His image) so that we would rule over the earth, and over all the creatures that live in it. Why exactly would He do that? Because God just created the heavens and earth, which He filled with life, and God wanted Himself to be represented throughout the whole earth. He didn’t want to just create everything just for the fun of creating it. He created it for one absolutely critical reason: to bring Glory to Himself. That may sound like an awfully conceited thing to do, but if you realize that He is the all-knowing, all-powerful, Creator of all things with glory beyond comprehension, He is kind of entitled to make a big deal out of Himself. In fact His glory is the most important thing in the whole universe, and for the sake of His creation, He must make a big deal out of it, otherwise it is all for nothing. The reason for man and woman’s existence is for us to witness, and proclaim that glory to all the ends of the earth. He created us, so that there would be creatures who bear His image, that could represent Him in the flesh, to both see and admire His creation. He also created us, so that there would be creatures who bear His image that could rule over the rest of the creatures so that God’s dominion of the earth would be real and tangible throughout. The ultimate purpose of all of it is to bring glory to God, and as image bearers of God we are uniquely equipped to both witness and proclaim His glory to all ends of the earth.

So even just from a few verses in chapter 1, we know what we are, and why we are here. We are the image bearers of God (male and female), and we are here to represent His image, by having dominion over His creation, and using that dominion to bring Him all the glory.

But that apparently is not enough, because the author of Genesis felt that these few verses needed to be expanded upon. The importance of humans, as the image of God (male and female) was not adequately captured in just those three verses, and so we have chapter 2, that goes back to the creation of man and woman, and gives us a closer look.

I have been emphasizing the “male and female” aspect. It’s not that I’m trying to appease some trolling feminist waiting for me to leave women out of the discussion. I’m emphasizing it, because I think it is the absolutely critical aspect that makes us image bearers of God.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that in 1:27 it says that God made man in His own image, and then immediately follows that up with how we were made “male and female”. Some people read this and take away from it that both men and women are made in God’s image, and therefore equal in worth and beauty and dignity. That is absolutely true! But I do believe that focusing on that misses the point a little bit. The point, I believe, is not that man and woman are each made in the image of God, but that man and woman together are made in the image of God. God made man and woman each as images of God, but only half an image that is most complete and most realized, in the union between the two. That may not be obvious in this one verse, but when it is expanded upon in chapter 2 it becomes more obvious.

In chapter 2 we are told how God planted the Garden of Eden, creates the man out of the dust from the ground, breathes life into him and then places him in the garden. At this point woman has not been created yet, but God says in verse 18, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” Verses 19 and 20 then talk about how God had Adam go through and name every beast and bird and living creature in the earth, at the end of which it then laments, “there was not found a helper suitable for him.”

It is tempting to read these verses and think God actually thought that the man might find his companion among the animals and the birds, and was somewhat surprised when he didn’t.

But that is most certainly not the case.

God knew from the beginning that it was not right for the man to be alone, because God intentionally created him as only half an image of God. He therefore says, “I will MAKE him a helper suitable for him.” God did not say “I will FIND him a helper” He said He would MAKE him one. And He declared this before he had the man go through and name all the animals. God knew ahead of time there was no creature out there that would be the other half of the man’s God image, because He hadn’t created her yet.

Then why did God send the man on the wild goose chase?

Firstly, God instructed the man to name all the creatures as a way of signaling man’s dominion over all the creatures of the earth. Remember from last time, in ancient societies naming something was a way of declaring dominion. That is what God did when He named the earth, seas, heavens, day and night. But God also wanted mankind to take dominion over the creatures of the earth (as His representatives bearing His image) and God gives the man this task so that that dominion would be solidified.

Secondly, and in my opinion more importantly, God sends the man on the hunt for a companion, not to have him try and find his companion but so that he would see for himself that there was no other companion. God wanted the man to feel the emptiness from his incomplete God-image. God did this, not to be cruel and heartless to the man, but so that he would recognize he was created for union with the other half of the God-image. God put the man through that so that when God finally did present him with the woman, the man would realize how precious she was.

And boy did he realize it.

When God created the woman, and brought her to the man, he exclaims, “This is now bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh.” In one sense he is being literal, since we are told that God fashioned the woman out of a rib taken from the side of the man, but in the greater sense he is exclaiming that this is finally someone who is like him, in a way that none of the animals were like him. It might sound like a line from a cheesy romance movie, but what he is saying is “Finally, you are the one who completes me!”

When God created mankind in His image, male and female, it was not simply because we needed to procreate. It was because relationship and intimacy is perhaps the most critical aspect of God’s character that He chose to put in us as bearers of His image. I think it’s interesting that in Genesis 1:26 God says, “Let us make man in our image.” The plurality of a singular God is emphasized right there next to mankind being made in His image as male and female. There is one God, but He is made of many persons. This is the first hint at what we now understand as the trinity of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. God is one, made up of multiple persons in close intimacy and relationship. So intimate in fact, that in an inexplicable and mysterious way they are one. Likewise, man and woman, are two persons who become “one flesh” when united together, and yes, I’m talking about sex.

This is why God created us as male and female, and then instated marriage as a framework within which His image is to be expressed. Verse 24 spells it out as plainly as possible, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife and they shall become one flesh.” This is how God has defined marriage: A relationship between one man, and one woman, for life.

This definition was reaffirmed by Christ himself: “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” (Matthew 19:3-6)

And also affirmed by the apostle Paul: “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:31-32)

Both Jesus and Paul directly quote Genesis 2:24 when they define what marriage is. Paul even goes a step further and affirms that man and woman in the unity of marriage represents the image of God (specifically the image of the union between Christ and the church). Paul calls this a “great mystery.” The deeper truth of the union of man and woman in marriage as an image of God goes even beyond even Paul’s ability to comprehend, but he affirms it as truth non-the-less.

This, the union of male and female being the image of God and marriage as a picture of Christ and the church, has extraordinary implications. If the union of the male and female forms the complete image of God, then sex is so much deeper and has so much more significance than most people give it credit.

Why is marital infidelity considered to be such a serious offense? Why is sexual abuse thought to be so heinous? Why is rape considered to be one of the vilest offenses one can commit, perhaps even worse than murder? Even atheists would affirm that it is horrible to cheat on a spouse, and vile to sexually abuse someone, and downright unforgivable to brutally rape someone. One doesn’t have to have faith in or belief in God to see these offenses exist on a whole different level than other offenses.

But why is that? Why wouldn’t they no better or worse than any other offense?

Because sexual offenses are an affront on our very essence as image bearers of God.

When a man cheats on his wife he has not just broken a promise, he has violated the union that makes them both together a complete image of the Creator. When a pedophile sexually abuses a child, he is prematurely violating that which is supposed to ultimately fulfill their image of God, their very reason for existence. When a man brutally rapes a woman he is not just assaulting her body, but is violently assaulting the very essence of her soul that makes her in the image of God.

Sexuality has the ability to affect us at a deep level like nothing else can. It reaches down into our very core and shakes us down to our very essence. Anyone, no matter their faith, can recognize that. Sex isn’t just a physical act between consenting adults, and marriage isn’t just a social or legal contract. Sex is the union of the male and female bodies that completes the image of God that he endowed in us. And marriage is the relationship within which that image was designed to be expressed.

When the nature of our existence as male and female, and the special union that exists between them, is understood as the full and complete expression of our God-image, then many of God’s laws regarding sex and marriage make a lot more sense. They are not simply the rules of a prudish God intent on holding us back from our fun, pleasure or happiness. They are not simply there to be a test of our piety. They are the infinitely wise counsel of a loving Creator who knows that anything which perverts or defiles our likeness to Him will ultimately destroy our souls.

Adultery isn’t just breaking a marriage vow; it severs the relationship that defines our God-image.

Pre-marital sex isn’t just being promiscuous; it shallowly attempts to complete the God-image without the promise of commitment or truly deep intimacy, and in so doing devalues the true expression of God’s likeness.

Pornography, or self-gratification, seeks to find the joy and pleasure of the God-image union, without any actual union with the other half, and therefore leaves a soul feeling empty, hollow and incomplete.

Homosexuality perverts the God-image by trying to make two of the same half form a complete image, but they can’t, the image will always be incomplete.

Transgenderism not only perverts, but outright denies and seeks to destroy the very characteristic of one’s self that God created to display His image.

Divorce isn’t just a tragedy of lost love or the destruction of a family; it is an outright lie about the nature of God, displaying an image of a God whose union can be severed. In some cases (serial infidelity, or abuse) divorce or separation may be necessary to protect one’s self or one’s family, but that doesn’t make it any less tragic as the disintegration of what is supposed to be the most full image of God that we know.

Any sexual act or behavior, outside of the God-defined marriage between one man, and one woman, committed to each other for life, is a perversion of the God image. And when we commit them we spit on God, and the image of Himself that He imprinted on us. It insults God, and destroys us.

I’m not saying that anyone who commits any of the above sins is no longer made in the image of God. They have not lost their worth, or beauty, or dignity as image bearers of God. They still deserve our love and compassion. God’s forgiveness is still available to them through Jesus Christ if they confess their sins, repent and turn to Him. But without repentance they will continue to deny or defile their God-image, and in so doing continue to break God’s heart, and continue on their path toward self-destruction.

It’s time for us to remember what God made sex and marriage for. It’s time for us to treat it with the respect, and reverence it deserves. It’s time for us to put ourselves in Adam’s shoes and remember the lesson that God taught him by forcing him to see how empty and lonely he was without the other half to complete his God-image. We need to realize how precious our spouses are, and see them for what they truly are. We need to look at them and proclaim, “This is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh!” which really means, “Finally, you are the one who completes me!”

Next Post: Genesis 2:25 – 3:24 – The Fall of Man, the Rise of Shame

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