In the Presence of God


Lesson Focus: This lesson is about God’s creating man and woman and establishing the marriage relationship.

Male and Female: Genesis 1:26-28.

[26]  Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." [27]  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

[28]  And God blessed them. And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth."  [ESV]

In these verses the uniqueness of man and his superiority to the rest of creation are expressed in three ways. First, he is said to have been made in God’s image. This is not said of either objects or animals. Second, he is given dominion over the fish, birds, animals, and even the earth itself. Third, there is a repetition of the word created. This word is used at only three points in the creation narrative: first, when God created matter from nothing [1]; second, when God created conscious life [21]; and third, when God created man [27]. Lest we should miss this, the word create is repeated three times in reference to the man and woman. It is as though God put exclamation points here to indicate that there is something special about the creation of man. The repetition of being created in the image of God emphasizes the uniqueness of man. What does it mean to be made in God’s image? One thing it means is that men and women possess the attributes of personality, as God Himself does, but as the animals, plants, and matter do not. To have personality one must possess knowledge, feelings, and a will. This God has, and so do we. We can say that animals possess a certain kind of personality. But an animal does not reason, love and worship as men do. Personality, in the sense we are speaking of it here, is something that links man to God but does not link either man or God to the rest of creation. A second element that is involved in man’s being created in the image of God is morality. This includes the two further elements of freedom and responsibility. To be sure, the freedom men and women possess is not absolute. Even Adam and Eve before the fall were not autonomous. They were creatures and were responsible for acknowledging this by their obedience in the matter of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It is relevant to the matter of morality that, when the sanctification of the believer is spoken of as being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him [Col. 3:10] or conformed to the image of His Son [Rom. 8:29], it is the moral righteousness of the individual that is most in view. The third element involved in man’s being made in God’s image is spirituality, meaning that man is made for communion with God, who is Spirit [John 4:24], and that this communion is intended to be eternal as God is eternal. It is on the level of the spirit that man is aware of God and communes with Him. Here lies our true worth. We are made in God’s image and are therefore valuable to God and others. God loves men and women, as He does not and cannot love the animals, plants, or inanimate matter. Moreover, He feels for them, identifies with them in Christ, grieves for them, and even intervenes in history to make individual men and women into all that He has determined they should be.

Although man was made in the image of God, this image has been greatly marred by sin. There are vestiges of the image remaining, but man today is not what God intended. He is a fallen being, and the effects of the fall are seen on each level of his being: in his body, soul, and spirit. At the fall, man’s spirit, that part of him that had communion with God, died instantly. His soul, the seat of his intellect, feelings, and identity, began to die. Man became futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened. They exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man [Rom. 1:21-23]. Thus man’s soul is seriously damaged especially as it pertains to spiritual matters. Eventually even the body died. However, the glory of the gospel is seen at precisely this point, for when God saves a person He saves the whole person, beginning with the spirit, continuing with the soul, and finishing with the body. The salvation of the spirit comes first; for God first establishes contact with the one who has rebelled against Him. This is regeneration, the new birth. Second, God works with the soul, renewing it after the image of the perfect man, the Lord Jesus Christ. This work is sanctification. Finally, there is the resurrection in which even the body is redeemed from destruction. Moreover, God makes a new creation, for He does not merely patch up the old spirit, soul, and body. God creates a new spirit that is His own Spirit within the individual. He creates a new soul, known as the new man. At last, He creates a new body. This body is like the resurrection body of the Lord Jesus Christ through whom alone we have this salvation.

Something’s Missing in Paradise: Genesis 2:7, 15-20.

[7]  then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. [15]  The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. [16]  And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, [17]  but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." [18]  Then the LORD God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him." [19]  Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. [20]  The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.  [ESV]

[7]  The profundity of verse 7 is that it describes man as a combination of what is low and what is high. On the one hand, he is described as being formed from the dust of the ground. On the other hand, man has been breathed into by God, an image of glory. It is man’s unique role to combine both dust and glory. Dust is one of the most fascinating images of Scripture. It is a symbol of that which is of little worth, of low or humble origin. Dust is used as a symbol of the total defeat of one’s enemies. It is a sign of mourning. Job used the word twenty-two times to speak of the littleness of man in his misery. In describing man as being formed from the dust Moses undoubtedly wished to stress man’s humble origin and show that he can aspire to glory only by the grace of God, who made him. The reason why it is possible for men to call on God for renewal or even to remember that God remembers their origin is that they are more than dust. They are also spirit, which Genesis 2:7 indicates by saying that after God had formed man from the dust of the ground, He continued His work by breathing into his nostrils the breath of life. This is man’s glory. Thus man was specially created by God’s breathing some of His own breath into him. Man has a special relationship to God by virtue of the divine spirit. Hence, although like the animals in certain respects, he is also above them and is to excel them in his love of and obedience to the Creator. As a result of God’s forming man from the dust of the ground and breathing some of His own breath into him, man became a living creature.

[15-17]  God placed the man in the garden for the stated purpose of supervising it. In the garden God gives the man a purposeful existence that includes overseeing his environment. Work is a God-given assignment and not a cursed condition. It was sin that spoiled the perfect relationship between the man and his environment, making work a toilsome chore that became a requirement for mere existence.  The biblical account portrays God as Provider for man’s needs, a part of which is the honorable, meaningful labor of tilling the soil. The man’s principal commission is to work and keep his garden home. As God had given the natural world and all life-forms boundaries, human life too is instructed to live within prescribed boundaries. The verb commanded occurs twenty-five times in Genesis, but this first occurrence is the only place in Genesis where the narrative introduces a divine command by this formula: and the Lord God commanded. The man is addressed personally as an individual you. Unlike all other created life, the human being is endowed with special significance as a person in the eyes of his Creator, enjoying a privileged depth of divine-human communion. This is likewise evidenced in the creation narrative, where God spoke to mankind, unlike the creatures, when bestowing His blessing of procreation [1:28]. All human life merits respect and protection by virtue of the esteemed position to which God has exalted it. The prohibition against eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil gave Adam opportunity to worship God through loyal devotion. The instruction of the Lord is given as a positive expression of God’s goodness rather than a harsh restriction. The Hebrew clause of verse 16b begins with the expression every tree thus emphasizing God’s broad provision for the humans. This generosity is heightened by the expression you may surely eat. This strong affirmation indicates that the provision of God for the first couple is plentiful and to be enjoyed liberally by them. But freedom has no meaning without prohibition; the boundary for Adam is but one tree. This prohibition, however, is stated in the strongest terms, as was the provision. But which begins verse 17 establishes the contrast between provision and prohibition. The consequence of disobedience to the command is stated emphatically: you shall surely die. Out of God’s goodness and mercy He informs the man that the consequence of disobedience is death; what is at stake is whether he will choose to trust God’s words.

[18-20]  The theme of provision continues in the story as God creates a helper fit for the man. God has made the man and provided a beautiful environment with honorable work, but God announces that more is to be done to achieve the ideal for the man. God’s concern is that man is alone. God has created human life to have fellowship with Him but also to be a social entity, building relationships with other human beings. The dignity of the woman is heightened by the monologue of God’s creative contemplation (I will make). This stands in opposition to the creation of the man and the animals, which are described in the third person. The woman is called Adam’s helper, which defines the role that the woman will play. But there is nothing in the term that would indicate that the woman is a lesser person because her role differs from the man. Instead the helper is an indispensable partner required to achieve the divine commission to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it. Verses 19 and 20 explore the similarity and dissimilarity between the woman and man and the animals. It shows the uniqueness of the woman and also the singular relationship shared by man and woman. First, the descriptive language of the animals’ creation echoes the man’s creation. God formed both the man and the creatures out of the same substance (ground) and both are said to be a living creature. The source of the woman is traced to the man himself and not to the ground. She is the first of creation to come from a living being, God creates the man first and derives the woman from the man to insure that she is his equal in substance and to maintain the unity of the human family. Second, animals and birds are paraded before the man by God for the man to name them, thereby exercising his authority over them. By this the man could observe that there was none among the creatures who matched him in kind. The narration brings out this implication: for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. The point is that the man was looking for a human match, but he found none. The woman therefore is distinguished from the animals; she is not of the order of the animals over whom the man is to dominate. She will share in the responsibility of dominating the created order. The fact that the man is expressing his rule over the animal world in the search for an appropriate helper caused him to realize his inadequacy to the task if he continues in the impotent condition of alone. In this way God is preparing the man to value his mate. Just as the man was uniquely made, receiving from God the divine inbreathing of life, the woman’s creation in the narrative was unique. Both the man and the woman are mysteriously made by the hands of God.

While He Was Sleeping: Genesis 2:21-22.

[21]  So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. [22]  And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.  [ESV]

[21-22]  The narration indicates by the method of making the woman that she is a special creation in the eyes of God. She is taken from the man by a surgical act of God. The deep sleep that Adam experiences and the procedure that follows is initiated and carried out exclusively by God. Adam is not even a conscious spectator. The woman was taken from the man’s side to show that she was of the same substance as the man and to underscore the unity of the human family, having one source. This is made clear by the man’s description of her: bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. The symbolic significance of the rib is that the man and woman are fit for one another as companions sexually and socially. God is depicted as a builder who constructs the woman from the raw resources derived from the man. The Lord presents His special project to the man, suggesting by this that she is a gift from the man’s Maker. The use of brought is reminiscent of God’s presentation of the animals to the man in 2:19. This reinforces what the man discovers: the woman is Adam’s human partner. A significant difference between the two passages is that the first has a stated purpose, the naming of the animals. But here in 2:22, there is no utilitarian purpose prescribed. The garden is now complete with the presence of the woman as a suitable helper for the man.

Questions for Discussion:

1.         What three ways are the uniqueness of man expressed in 1:26-28?

2.         What does it mean to be made in God’s image? What effect does sin have on the image? What is involved in the image’s restoration?

3.         What do dust and the breath of life teach us about the uniqueness of the creation of man? Why did God prohibit man from eating fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?

4.         Why did God create the woman? What does helper mean in this context? How does God’s creation of the woman indicate her significance and role?


Genesis, James Boice, volume 1, Baker.

Genesis 1-11:26, Kenneth Mathews, NAC, Broadman.

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