Why did God say: “Let US make man in OUR image, after OUR likeness?”

This article is short, but truly a study on the fringe of Christianity, something I am known to present. But it is just a study and examination of what a few others suppose. It is not suggested as doctrine or dogma — it is just something to make you think “outside of the box” and presented to stimulate your brain. Whether you believe any of it or not has little bearing upon your relationship with our Creator, but it will be interesting to hear your comments. Our study is in Genesis 1.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…”  (Genesis 1:26, ESV)

The use of the plural words “us” and “our” in this verse has created a lot of argument in Christian academia. It is not specified to whom it refers, but some authors and commentators suggest that God is talking to himself or that he is speaking with other members of the Trinity. That is absurd in my opinion, because there was no concept of the Trinity in the Old Testament, and even if there was, why would it be necessary for God to speak to himself or other parts of himself in a conversation? Also, the Jewish converts to Christianity in the first century did not express ideas of a Trinity, although modern Christian teachers seem to think so. “One would think that if the Trinity is correct, the Bible would present clear evidence in scripture and explain it throughly. There is no record of the Trinity doctrine ever being taught and, for being such an important part of Christian doctrine, it is striking that the word Trinity does not even appear in the Bible.”1

What is the Elohim?

The word “God” used in Genesis 1 is actually translated from the Hebrew word elohim.2 So, a more accurate translation of Genesis 1:26 would be as The Scriptures Bible version states, “And Elohim said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness . . . .’” (Genesis 1:26, TS).3 Elohim can be used for the plural  “gods” in the ordinary sense, as well as the Supreme God, so it is possible God was speaking to a group of which he belonged. “A simpler explanation is that ‘us’ reflects an announcement by the single God of Israel to a group in His presence—the heavenly host.”4 This heavenly host may have been part of, or the entire, divine council of heaven.

Biblical scholar Michael Heiser said that all entities called Elohim (אֱלֹהִים) in the Old Testament “have one thing in common: they are by nature not part of the world of humankind, a world of ordinary embodiment.” Elohim “…as a term describes residence—it identifies the proper domain of the entity described by it. Yahweh, the lesser gods, angels, demons, and the disembodied dead are all rightful inhabitants of the spiritual world.” This spiritual world, like our human world, has creatures of different rank and power. This heavenly host or divine council manage the affairs of heaven under the authority of Yahweh, the God of Israel.5

There are other places, too, that mention the concept of God’s divine council (see Genesis 3:22, 11:7, Isaiah 6:8). There is specific mention of council meetings in Job 1:6–12 and Job 2:1–5, “One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before the LORD . . .” (NRSV).6 In Jeremiah 48:29, which has the LORD saying, “We have heard of the pride of Moab . . .” (NRSV), the “we” probably refers to Yahweh’s divine council. Even the New English Translation which uses the singular “I” in this verse (to avoid confusion of who the “we” are, they say), has a note indicating it really refers to a plural form.7 Personally, I think using the singular form wrongly, causes even more confusion to those searching for truth.

Two Heavenly Powers

At one time, during the Second Temple period (c. 516 BC to 70 AD), Jewish intellectuals thought of “two powers” as heavenly rulers, one visible and one invisible. This consisted of Yahweh at the top with two distinct personalities, basically two Yahwehs. One was supreme and the God of Israel and the other subordinate to him. The early Christians accepted this idea and considered Jesus as the second individual personality of Yahweh, but subordinate to the almighty God of Israel.

The new Jewish converts to Christianity worshiped both the God of Israel and Jesus of Nazareth. They thought both to be the “two powers” of the Jewish thinkers.8 Sometime later, the Jews declared this “two powers” authority as unorthodox, quite possibility as a political move to stem the growing Christian movement. This is an overly simplified explanation of a very complicated subject originally presented in scholarly form, but gives a nebulous overview of the thought.

Author and scholar, Michael Heiser, wrote, “In the Old Testament, God’s heavenly dwelling was also his headquarters, the place where he met with his council, the members of the heavenly host who served him in the administration of his creations. This is the context for the plural language of Genesis 1:26. God created human beings to reflect his image (i.e., represent him) just as the members of his heavenly host did.”9 Speaking of the term “our image,” this does not apply to a physical or material image, but to personality or nature or morality. One Bible commentary suggests that the emphasis of image means man was to be like God in creativity, decision making, compassion, and love.10

Others, also, think along these lines saying that Jesus pre-existed as one of the two ruling Yahwehs. It was Yahweh the Son who made visible appearances, whereas Yahweh the Father was always the invisible God; as an example, it was Yahweh the Son who appeared to Abraham and other patriarchs.11 Yahweh the Father created all things by way of Yahweh the Son, therefore it was the Father who was speaking to the Son when it was said in Genesis 1:26, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”12

An analogy may be considered by looking at “Yahweh” as being the corporate office staffed with a President-CEO (Almighty God) as the “top guy” and a Vice President-Manager (Jesus) as the “second in command.” Down the corporate hierarchy would be angels and other spiritual beings. I know, this is like comparing apples to oranges, but you get the general drift of this idea.

Now I present these different perspectives only for your entertainment. I’m not suggesting these views are right or wrong, only that some serious academics consider their possibility and I thought you may be interested, too. Many students of the Bible want to know the true nature of God and the spirit realm in which he lives. And to be honest, I always wondered about a possible “pecking order” among entities in that spirit world. Sometimes strange ideas help us understand and answer some of the questions we have.

Copyright © 2018 Dr. Ray Hermann
OutlawBibleStudent.org

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References & Notes

  1. Hermann, Ray, “Can you be a Christian and Not Believe in the Trinity?” (The Outlaw Bible Student, OBS, 28 July 2018), https://outlawbiblestudent.org/can-you-be-a-christian-and-not-believe-in-the-trinity/
  2. Strong’s Hebrew word #430. אֱלֹהִים ˒ĕlôhı̂ym – gods in the ordinary sense, used of the supreme God; and sometimes as a superlative:— angels, × exceeding, God (gods) (-dess, -ly), × (very) great, judges, × mighty.
    Strong, James, The New Strong’s Dictionary of Hebrew and Greek Words, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996).
  3. The Scriptures, (South Africa: Institute for Scripture Research, 2009).
  4. Barry, John D., et al., (eds.), Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016), Ge 1:26.
  5. Ibid., “Divine Council,” by Michael S. Heiser.
  6. Elwell, Walter A., (ed.), Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1989), vol. 3, pp. 341-343.
  7. The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Je 48:29.
  8. Barry, John D., et. al., (eds.), Faithlife Study Bible, (Bellingham WA: Lexham Press, 2016), “Old Testament Godhead Language,” by Michael Heiser.
  9. Heiser, Michael S., The Bible Unfiltered: Approaching Scripture on Its Own Terms, (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2017), pp. 185-186.
  10. Barry, John D. et al., (eds.), Faithlife Study Bible, (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016), Ge 1:26.
  11. “The Preexistence of the Messiah,” (Garden Grove, CA: Qadesh La Yahweh Press, 2001), p. 1, http://yahweh.org/publications/articles/preexistence/preexistence_messiah.pdf
  12. Ibid., p. 4.
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36 thoughts on “Why did God say: “Let US make man in OUR image, after OUR likeness?””

  1. Thank you very much for this article. I am truly blessed to have found it. I was confused (and confusion comes from satan himself) in relation to the word “us”. Jesus was with God in the beginning (first fruit) as specified in Genesis 1:1. That verse then referred me to John 1:1. After reading your article, which I discern the Holy Spirit led me to this morning, I discern Father has now given me peace in relation to Genesis 1:26. Thank you again and God bless.

    Reply
    • Thank you for your comment and for your kind words. I am happy that you found this article of value. Many times God’s word is like a puzzle — we need to piece it together to get the correct message. I pray the Holy Spirit continues to guide you.

      Reply
  2. I love the conversation dealing with many ideas, regarding why God say let us make a man in Our own image.

    yes, we are all have different ideas about this,I just want to share my Ideas that i believed the ONENESS of 1 GOD, 3 MANIFESTATION IN ONE GOD HEAD, THE 3FOLD MANIFESTATION, In old testament God manifest as FATHER in the new TESTAMENT GOD MANIFEST as SON, the the last days God manifest his Holy Spirit…

    Reply
  3. El, the plural Elohim, elos, chronos, saturn, saturnus. All the same.

    Please don’t turn out just because of electric universe. This video is about Saturn.

    flek

    Reply
    • Thank you for your comment. The ‘electric universe’ theory, formed in 1991, is a term for various ideas about the formation and existence of the universe, better explained by including electricity and magnetism, rather than by gravity alone. Although considered by many as “crazy talk”, it is being embraced by more scientists every day. Although I can’t publish the link you gave, my explanation is enough for additional research, if someone is interested.

      Reply
  4. I am not a Christian, but would like to proffer this explanation for you from a Jewish perspective. I hope it is helpful to you. Elohim is a term not actually for G-d. They are the emanations of G-d, Adonai (praise be His Name) is G-d. Elohim are specifically: The Crown, Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge, Temperance, Severity, Balance/Beauty, Victory, Splendor, Righteousness, and Sovereignty, or in Hebrew Keter, Chokmah, Binah, Da’at, Chesed, Geburah, Tipheret, Netzach, Hod, Yesod, and Malkut, or the Sephirot. It is through Elohim that En Sof, Limitless Being, created the tangible/limited Universe. So in Bereshit (Genesis) when Elohim speak, it is the “Voice of G-d” emanating through Elohim.

    In reference to the bi-part “Yahweh” as Christians say (for YHVH, the Tetragrammaton or ineffable name of G-d, which we do not actually pronounce) it is the Manifest (lesser aspect, or physical reality) and Unmanifest (the unknowable G-d). This still exists in Torah studies, especially with those who study Kabbalah. It is G-d in His multiple layers of existence rather than G-d in two parts. This is a complex concept as stated in the article, beyond explanation in short text.

    Our understandings of Torah are quite different, I realize, but I do believe it helpful to understand the words used in Torah as it was passed down to us from HaShem. We believe each was chosen specifically as a part of Creation. I think that there is much we can share and come together on in our journey to understanding Him.

    Reply
    • Thank you for reading this discourse and offering your point of view. The Jewish perspective is appreciated.

      Most Christians have developed no restrictions upon the pronunciation of God-Almighty’s name and readily vocalize it. Elohim is many times translated for God the creator (and other times for humans, angels, etc.), whereas Yahweh is used as the personal name, (usually translated in all caps as LORD). Adonai is usually translated Lord (upper and lowercase) to avoid confusion.

      It is true that Elohim is actually a plural noun, although sometimes it is used as singular, therefore Elohim can mean several things (compare Genesis 1:1 and Deuteronomy 5:7). This is confusing since it is sometimes linked with a single verb and sometimes with a plural one. All this gets even more complicated with terms such as ‘YHWH Elohim’.

      Christians that wish deeper study, while reading the Hebrew scriptures, are always advised to use a study Bible, which may give notes about Hebrew usage. I agree that a short article gives little help in explaining Hebrew grammar.

      Reply
    • Wow, Very informative info. Do you believe there were people on earth while Adam and Eve was in the garden? When God said in Genesis chapter 1, to be fruitful and multiply and to replenish the earth, I don’t think he was talking to Adam. Chapter 2 saids God made Adam from the dust of the ground and (placed) him in the garden to keep it. Also Adam and Eve we’re the only ones accessible to the of the knowledge of good and evil, which was in the garden. Also, it saids in chapter 1 that God ( created) men and women. In chapter 2 it saids he ( made not created) Adam from the dust of the ground. Which happened after he rested from all his work.

      Reply
      • There may have been intelligent creatures on earth, but they must have been other than human, since God created/crafted/built/made/genetically engineered humans, as established in the book of Genesis.

        There were of course, angelic and other heavenly spiritual beings, and some suggest a reptilian being that Eve encountered in the garden (that snake, serpent, dragon). I doubt that many, or any, prehuman beings would have still been around. I believe it was only after being cast out of the garden that children were born, for it was Adam and Eve that were to fill the earth with people.

        You may enjoy the article “Genesis 1:28 – God tells Adam and Eve to ‘replenish’ the Earth. Was a previous civilization destroyed?” https://outlawbiblestudent.org/genesis-128-god-tells-adam-and-eve-to-replenish-the-earth-was-a-previous-civilization-destroyed/

        Reply
  5. But in the Bible it say God was alone when man was created .So whoever translate the Scrip was. Not correct . God said I was alone so where did this US come from another psyop in the Bible that was written by Man.

    Reply
  6. I just want to thank everyone who is responding to the original post. I am fairly new to my walk with God, and understanding Christ. I get so confused, so I really appreciate input and guidance.

    I’m taking notes now on the book of Genesis. I stumbled when I read God said “ let us make man in our image.” (1:26) Then next I read “God created man his own image.”

    I’m learning about God’s name being Elohim when in plural form. But then I get confused. Is it plural for God our father and Holy spirt? Since Jesus arrived at the NT, or is it Elohim for God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as God knew future and Jesus would be born to die for our sins. Help plz ❤️

    Reply
    • I am glad you read this article, as well as the comments. I also appreciate that you shared your thoughts on the subject.

      And congratulations, you have more interest than most new Christians. About you being confused, just keep searching. It is like putting a jigsaw puzzle together; as the pieces snap into place, the picture gets clearer. We just have to have patience, as we learn. God will allow us to increase our knowledge and help us find it, if we are sincere in our search.

      He wants us to make our own decisions, based on the Bible, not on what other people say. He will guide you. In that respect, please read the article “Is that Gut Feeling a Message from God?” https://outlawbiblestudent.org/is-that-gut-feeling-a-message-from-god/

      Elohim is a general term for god or gods, it is used as a plural or singular noun, but does not usually apply to polytheistic situations, like the Trinity.

      Yes, God knows the future. But if the future is already known, how can we have free will? I attempted to give my own opinion on that in another article, “Foreknowledge, Predestination, and Free Will – Did God Know Humans Would Fail?” https://outlawbiblestudent.org/foreknowledge-predestination-and-free-will-did-god-know-humans-would-fail/

      Good luck in your journey for truth. And don’t worry about losing your salvation if you don’t have all the answers. That won’t happen if you are living and growing as a Christian should.

      Reply
  7. “Why did God say: “Let US make man in OUR image, after OUR likeness?””

    I agree with Ray Hermann that God would have spoken to heavenly hosts. But It’s hard to believe biblically that there are small Gods in heaven. And I don’t agree that there are 2 Gods. Please check my previous comment. God is one who is supreme and no one has seen him or can see as He stays in an unapproachable light. He revealed himself as FATHER, SON AND HOLYSPIRIT from the ancient of days. He is called as Jehovah in OT and “JESUS” the saviour in NT. God is spirit. So He is often called as Holyspirit, Spirit of Father, Spirit of Jesus. It is as simple as it is but the mystery of Godliness is great.

    Reply
    • Thanks for sending your question. A “Pingback” is when the article is referenced by another website, blog, or article. In this case, my article was referenced by a Christian blogger in Europe. You can always click on the pingback link to see where it leads.

      Reply
  8. It’s not really a pecking order or like a rank. God said no one comes to the Father except through Jesus raised to life. Jesus said this, if you acknowledge me in front of my Father, I will acknowledge you in front of my Father. The key word here is my, only in the Lords prayer does Our Father appear – for understanding Jesus above us.

    Reply
    • Thank you for taking the time to read this post. And thank you for your comment, too.

      I believe, in the first reference, you are referring to John 14.6, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’.” (ESV) Some interpret that he is saying there is only one standard of living to approach the Father that is acceptable. Some others say that since we are sinful and cannot approach the Father in person, we need Jesus as an intermediary.

      The other reference you made, I believe, is in reference to Matthew 10.32, “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven,” (ESV) and means, by many commentators, that the only mediator between God and mankind is Jesus Christ.

      In the posted article, my comment about ‘pecking order’ was merely a play on words to suggest an administrative hierarchy. In such a case, a son is secondary than the father.

      Reply
  9. I must admit many of your posts take me on a journey and the destination is not always what I would have expected. Two Yahwehs…hmmmm! That would explain many questions I have about the Trinity. I always thought the three-in-one idea was crazy, but an office of Yahweh with two members, one subordinate to the other, makes much more sense to me. You have really given me something to think about.

    Reply
  10. Pingback: “Let US make man in OUR image, after OUR likeness?” – The Outlaw Bible Student – Christian Article – Christian Blog
  11. Could I suggest you and others interested in this give the Bible project podcast series on God a listen.
    Interesting thoughts all round

    Reply

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