The Image of God

God Creates Man

“This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made earth and heaven. Now no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the LORD God had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground.” (Gen. 2:4-5)

The word “field” in the Hebrew could mean a restricted land area. It may refer to a section of the earth that would later be called “Eden” (delight).  Moses was not speaking of the origin of plants but of the growth of plants. The plants had not yet really “sprouted” out because they needed plenty of water for that and it had not rained.

“But a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground.” (Gen. 2:6)

 Though there was no rain, God mysteriously watered the ground. The moisture needed for plants came from the ground.  But what else was needed to grow the plants beside the rain?  Someone to till the soil!  Tilling the ground is necessary for the maturity of plants.

“Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” (Gen. 2:7)

The name of God used here is “Jehovah Elohim,” which identifies Him as the self-existent God who is also the powerful Creator. The Bible teaches us that Jesus Christ was the actual Creator.

  • “All things were made by Him” (John 1:3)

  • “For by Him were all things created” (Col. 1:16)

  • “By whom he made the worlds”  (Heb. 1:2)

God “formed” man. The Hebrew word formed is “yatzar.”  It means to form or to shape from something, in contrast to “bara,” to create from nothing (Gen. 1:1).

The prophet Jeremiah also used the word “yatzar.”

“The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying: ‘Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause you to hear My words.’ Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making (yatzar) something at the wheel. And the vessel that he made (yatzar) of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made (yatzar) it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make.” (Jer. 18:1-4)

Dust of the Ground

God made man (“adamah,” or red earth) of the dust of the ground, from the chemical components of dirt.  The chemical ingredients found in the human body correspond exactly with those in dirt (lest we think too highly of our bodies)!

God breathed into man the breath of lives – Hebrew, “nephesh chayim.”  The English Bible translates “life” in the singular.  However, the word lives is plural “nephesh chayim.” When God made the animals, he created them, “nephesh chayah” (singular).  But, in contrast, God breathed into man, “nephesh chayim” (lives).

This is extremely important! God had breathed into animals a soul, a life principle, or a conscious existence. This life principle included the ability to relate to the earth, have conscious existence, the appetites, the necessity to persevere, to survive, to mate, etc.   But God breathed into man a spiritual aspect of the soul not found in animals, a God likeness. The Bible calls this spiritual aspect “a spirit.” This word in the Greek is “pneuma.”  In the Hebrew it is “ruach,” literally translated “breath” or “wind.”

“What man knows the things of a man except the spirit (pneuma) of the man which is in him?” (1 Cor. 2:11)

“But there is a spirit (ruach), in man, and the breath of the Almighty gives him understanding (Hebrew: bin, the ability to perceive).” (Job 32:8)

It is as though God exhaled His breath into Adam, and Adam inhaled the breath of God.  Adam awoke to consciousness of life and a relationship with God. This consciousness of life contains both a soul and a spiritual capacity.

The soul of man contains man’s ability to think (to rationalize), to feel, and to choose in the earthy arena.  

The human spirit (pneuma) is the part of the soul that links man to God. It is this part of man that makes fellowship with God possible.  The soul (suke) is the part of man’s “nephesh chayim” that is earthy; the spirit is that which is heavenly.                             

“So also it is written, ‘the first man Adam became a living soul, (“psuke,” breath), The last Adam became a life-giving spirit (“pneuma”).” (1 Cor. 15:45)

 Before the fall, man had a living spirit that was made in the image of God. With the spirit, man had the capacity to know God and to appreciate and value God.  With the will, he had the capacity to choose to fellowship with God.  We are going to see that something happened to man as a result of the fall that destroyed this capacity.

The Bible seems to link the spirit and the soul together. In fact, they are so closely linked that it is humanly impossible to distinguish between them. Only the word of God has the power to penetrate into their realm and discern between them.

“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Heb.  4:12)

 Man being created in God’s image means that the invisible parts of man, the soul and spirit, are fashioned after God. It will be this part of the person that will be tested in the Garden of Eden.


New American Standard Bible

Brown, Driver, and Briggs Hebrew Definitions

Robert B. Thieme, Jr.