STUDY NINE: MORE INFORMATION ABOUT MAN [Genesis 1:26 – 2:25]
© Rosemary Bardsley 2013
Genesis 2:4(5) – 25 does not constitute a parallel or alternative creation narrative. The first narrative [Genesis 1:1 – 2:3(4)] gives a general day by day report of the creative actions of God on each day covering the whole of creation, including God’s creation of man in his image. The second narrative [Genesis 2:4(5) – 25] shifts the focus from the general to the particular – from ‘the heavens and the earth’ to man, and gives additional information about the creation of the man and the woman, along with their relationships with God, each other, and the other creatures. This narrative about man continues into Genesis 3, reporting how the man and the woman responded and what ensued from their response.]
It is not surprising that the focus shifts from ‘the heavens and the earth’ to man, given that the story of man’s rebellion against God and God’s calling man back to himself is the theme of the rest of the Bible.
A. GOD MADE US TO REFLECT HIS GLORY
The earlier study on our creation in the image of God indicated that it is built into the very fabric of God’s creative purpose that human beings should reflect his glory. This is our fundamental identity as human beings. This imaging God is what it means to be human. [When we come to Genesis 3 we will note the ironic fact that it was ‘being like God’, that the great deceiver tempted us with, with a sadistic addition.]
This shining out of God’s glory covers all of our being and all of our doing. Everything else that God wants us to do is dominated and governed by this central identity and purpose.
B. GOD CREATED US TO RULE OVER THE EARTH AND THE LIVING CREATURES
Task #1: What do these verses teach about our God-given responsibility towards the earth?
Dominion as image
Dominion over creation is understood by many as part of the meaning of the image of God. And so it is. And because it is we must never see our dominion as an absolute power, or power in itself, or arbitrary power. It can only ever be power/dominion exercised within the confines and meaning of the image of God, and as delegated authority under the command of God. We are not the King. We are representatives of the King.
Dominion as blessing
The command to subdue and rule over the earth [1:28] is an expression of God’s blessing. The text reads ‘God blessed them and said to them “…subdue it. Rule over …”’ To have this responsibility, this role, was to be blessed. It was not a burden. It was a blessing.
We can experience something of this blessedness as we apply our minds to learn about the earth: in the study of astronomy or anthropology, botany or biology, chemistry, geology, physics, mathematics and so on, where we are constantly amazed and enriched by the creative power and intricate design of our God.
The Scripture teaches us that God ‘richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment’ [1Timothy 6:17].
Dominion in Paradise/Eden
The blessedness of this command is heightened in 2:8,9,15 where we learn that God placed Adam in the most beautiful part of the earth, where the most beautiful trees with the most delicious fruit were growing. It was here, in this paradise, that man began his life, and began to fulfil his God-given responsibilities. Genesis 2:8-17 describes this garden and man’s placement in it.
Dominion as command
Although this dominion is a blessing it is also a command. It is something God told man to do [1:28]. Man is appointed by God to look after the earth. This involves accountability and responsibility. Although everything is put into our hands, we cannot do with it as we like. We are not authorised by this command to abuse or misuse the earth and its creatures. Nor are we permitted to do nothing. Our divine mandate is to do something: to
Rule over the fish, the birds, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures [1:26]
Subdue the earth [1:28]
Rule over the fish, the birds and every living creature that moves on the ground [1:28]
This is not a passive live-and-let-live situation. It is a proactive ruling, a proactive subduing. It assumes that it is not good for the earth and its creatures to be left to themselves, even here in their pristine perfection.
Our human history does not provide us with any information on how this command was worked out, of how this synergy between man and nature looked and felt. Genesis 3 happened, and that which was a blessing became a burden, and that which was God’s creative purpose for us became a curse. With our human corruption nature itself was corrupted, and is even now, like us, waiting, suffering [Romans 8:20-22].
Dominion and naming the animals
A further expression of man’s dominion over nature is portrayed in man’s naming of the creatures [2:19-20a]. To give a name to something is to have power over it.
When we come to Genesis 3 we will see there (1) a failure to exercise dominion over the serpent; (2) misuse of the position of authority in the presumptuous eating the forbidden fruit; and (3) the curse applied in what was previously this area of blessedness.
Task #2: Discussion points:
(1) How do you feel personally about this responsibility of dominion?
(2) To what extent and in what manner is this dominion being exercised today?
C. GOD COMMANDED US TO BE FRUITIFUL, MULTIPLY AND FILL THE EARTH
Genesis 1:27 teaches us that when God created ‘man in his own image’ he created them ‘male and female’. In 1:28 they are commanded to be fruitful and increase in number, and to fill the earth.
In Genesis 2 more details are given about how God created this first couple. First he created Adam from the elements of the earth [2:7], and then he created a woman from Adam’s rib [2:21-22]. Adam joyfully recognized the woman as of the same kind of creature as himself [2:23]. Adam later called the woman ‘Eve’, because ‘she would become the mother of all the living’ [3:20]. Marriage is implemented [2:24].
[See the Study Ten for more on the male/female distinction and unity.]
D. GOD GAVE A WORD OF PROHIBITION
Genesis 2:17 contains the one prohibitive command given to Adam:
‘You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.’
This tree, along with the tree of life, was in the garden of Eden.
What happened with this command is dealt with in Study Twelve.
Task #3: Discuss the meaning and importance of this command.