The Image of God: Male and Female as Kings and Queens

The Image of God

Male and Female as Kings and Queens

Genesis 1:26-27

Part 2

Jesus’ church is not united in its understanding of the role of women in the culture.[1] Differences of opinions divide us. We listen to people in agreement with our position but ignore or dismiss men and women who view the issue differently. Today we are in gridlock, an OK Corral standoff. And due to anger and frustration, hostile name-calling begins (“feminazis,” “chauvinists”) and the demeaning of our opponents. I’ve written this piece in the hopes that by examining what God has said in Scripture, we all can better understand the roles God calls men and women to fulfill in the culture and maintain the unity of the Spirit in the cords of peace.

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Genesis 1-2 is our Magna Carta

It is important to understand that the material we find in Genesis 1 & 2—events prior to the entrance of sin—is designed to be our standard and sets the guidelines for the roles of men and women. Genesis 1 & 2, in other words, is to be our Magna Carta.[2] We all will benefit if we do not ignore our Magna Carta.

The responsibilities assigned to men and women prior to the fall are to be normative for us. These descriptions are not meant to intimidate us but to help us understand our natures and the roles the Creator originally assigned to us in grace.

What Role Did God Shape Us to Fulfill?

God the Creator crowned male and female as kings, queens, and conquerors over the entire creation. God gave both men and women, as His visible image, authority to exercise dominion in partnership. We can be assured of this shared role by carefully examining Scripture, the Bible Jesus read, believed, and quoted.[3]

As human beings, we are notable creatures because we are like God in ways that the rest of the creation fails to share. We are assured of our distinctive status by observing three clues in the narrative of Scripture.

“Let us make man in Our image, in Our likeness… So God created man in His own image… male and female He created them.” Genesis 1:26, 27

God and Human Beings are a Plurality

First clue: rather than finding the expected “Let there be…” which characterizes the formation of the earlier aspects of creation, for humans, we discover the unexpected, “Let Us make…” (Gen 1:26). That’s a flashing light to get our attention.

The plurality of God—“Us” —is emphasized in the story of the creation of human beings so that we sit up and take special notice. God is a plurality (“Us”[4]) who relates to Himself when He says, “let Us...”  As humans, we also are a plurality. Man is male and female. So, we share a likeness with God. We relate to one another as males and females in plurality in the same way God relates to Himself as a plurality: with mutual respect, unity, and love. God is not in competition with Himself. God is unified and operates in community. Man is a community.  

So, males and females were not meant to be competitors or antagonists. We were meant to be a community of partners. God’s relationship with Himself is our pattern and paradigm. Man is a partnership of two collaborating in unity. Just as God said, “let Us,” so also males and females were meant to say, “let us” rather than “I will.”

In marriage, for example, male and female share the divine desire to join together in creating humans. God said, “Let Us make man[5]…” So also, married partners can say, “Let us make man…”[6]

We are not to behave like animals toward one another and display the antics of cable TV shouting matches. We are partners and are to relate to one another as God has related to Himself throughout all eternity. We are a plurality yet partnering in unity, acting as one. Together we share responsibilities, challenges, risks, and joys.

Male and Female Share a Likeness to God

The second clue that signals our uniqueness is found in the striking change from merely made “according to its kind”[7] to “Let Us make man in Our image.”[8] That’s astonishing. Our likeness is not simply of ourselves. The creation of human beings is not another opportunity to display selfies. We are exceptional because, unlike the other creatures, we share a likeness to God. Males and females are like God. We can find out about God by looking at each other because He is known by His image. That image and likeness confers indescribable value, worth, and dignity to males and females in equal measure.[9]

Man is Male and Female

The third clue that signals our incomparable status is also noted by another shift from the usual pattern. Up to now, gender has not been an important feature in the creation, despite the fact that the rest of creation also consists of males and females. But in the making of humans, gender is stressed. Man is the creation of male[10] and female.[11]

So, gender is a distinguishing feature of the human race. But why stress our gender distinctions? Why underscore that God’s image is male and female in partnership?

Man is One and Two

The stress on our distinctive genders brings our plurality into sharp focus and reinforces the close connection that males and females share with their Creator. He also is a plurality but no dimension of that divine plurality is inferior. So, the stress on our plurality is a marquee alerting us of the dignity, worth, and equality that both genders share.  

The combination of three textual shifts underlines my encouragement to all men and women of faith. We share a equal likeness and ontological connection to God unlike anything else in the creation. As we serve as equals in partnership as a plurality, God, also a plurality, is mirrored. Like God, humanity is a community. We are an indescribably sacred community.

We were meant to face the challenges of culture making together and have dominion side-by-side as equal team members. We do better together.

What, then, specifically, does the Creator want us to do as equal partners?

Males and Females: Made to Rule in Partnership

It is only humans—God’s image bearers--that are given authority to rule over the creation. God is the ultimate King and Ruler, and He delegates his authority to human males and females, His visible images on earth.

“Then God said, Let us make man in our image, in our likeness and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the land, and over every living creature that moves along the ground.” Genesis 1:26

Royal Overtones

Rule is the Hebrew word, radah, and always refers to dominion over living things. It also has royal overtones, describing the rule of Israel’s kings:

“He will rule from sea to sea and from the river to the ends of the earth.” Psalm 72:8

“The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion; rule in the midst of your enemies.” Psalm 110:2[12]

Male and female were created in God’s visible image (Gen 1:27). Together in partnership as equals, they are given God’s authority to rule as kings and queens[13] over all created beings—including the mysterious serpent. Humanity has royal blood in its veins.[14]

We did not take that authority via a cosmic coup d’etat or by virtue of a popular election. Our authority is derivative as God’s image bearers, male and female. Men and women are divinely ordained as peers when it comes to ruling.

Males and Females: Conquerors

But men and women are also given authority to subdue the creation.[15]

“God blessed them[16] and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth, and subdue it…’” Genesis 1:28

For the first time, God speaks directly to the human race,[17] establishing a relationship, fellowship, and a conversation with His image bearers and co-regents. The key idea of the Hebrew word subdue[18] is one of “to conquer.”[19] But why the need to conquer a land already characterized by God as “good”?[20]

Traitor in the Gates

Within the boundaries of the good land is a traitor, an enemy of God and, therefore, of human beings; that traitor must be conquered by man’s trust in God’s Word, a reflection of His character. The traitor is the mysterious serpent.[21] The man and the woman failed to conquer the serpent because they trusted their own judgment about what was good for them rather than trusting God’s evaluation.[22] Scripture is the story of how God moves sacred history toward the restoration of the ideal, what was normative in Genesis 1-2.[23]

The consequences of their failure to trust are felt in all aspects of the creation, in their relationship with God and with one another.[24] But the original mandate to conquer remains.

So, with hope generated by God’s promise that the seed of the woman would one day crush the head of the traitor, the serpent,[25] men and women partner together in Christ to conquer the devastating effects of sin and the curse.

The Woman is Man’s Peer

So, what was God’s design for the role of women in the culture? What is to be normative for women? Women were meant to rule and conquer in partnership with men. The woman is man’s peer in the creational mandates (to rule and to conquer) and in capacities of intellect, personal worth, and sensibilities. She has the capacity to think, feel, ponder, meditate, invent, imagine, rule, govern, and reason as well as he can.

Women are Key Players in the Culture

What can a woman do in the culture as queen and conqueror? As a queen, she can rule as teacher over a classroom, Principal over a school, Superintendent, Mayor, Governor, Senator, Prime Minister, or President.

Women Can Conquer

As a conqueror, a woman can invent cures to conquer life-threatening diseases,[26] act as judge to conquer injustice,[27] paint masterpieces or write concertos or meaningful songs to conquer the blahs, practice medicine as a doctor, PA, nurse or nurse practitioner to conquer sickness, or practice law to protect the innocent[28] or prosecute the guilty, conquer discouragement or depression by wise counsel, guide the wanderer, conquer hopelessness and misery by counseling, conquer ignorance by teaching and writing, conquer racism, inequality, and discrimination by organizing, writing, speaking, and mentoring.

A woman can conquer rage in others by being a cool hand on a hot head, conquer fear by instilling confidence, conquer anger and bitterness by promoting forgiveness, conquer illiteracy by teaching reading and writing, conquer poverty by teaching life skills and hiring employees in business, conquer hopelessness and fury by mentoring, and conquer hunger and thirst by teaching irrigating techniques.

She can rule over her children to overcome recklessness, selfishness, and foolishness and prepare them for responsible, selfless adulthood by teaching whole-hearted love for God and neighbor.

She can harness the creation for its potential to serve humanity as a scientist, a biologist, a chemist, an engineer, inventor,[29] or to protect the community as part of law enforcement.[30]

We Were Meant to be Partners

Women can do what men can do. Like men, women were meant by divine design to be co-conquerors and co-culture makers. It’s a divine mandate explicitly asserted in Scripture.

I hope that men and women will view each other as partners, not competitors or antagonists, as equals, not inferiors. When we view each other as equal partners, united by a common mandate and commissioned by the same gracious God, we can relate to one another in a fresh way, marked by mutual respect, mutual esteem, and mutual admiration.

We were meant to fellowship with God and with each other. We were meant to rule together. We were meant to conquer together over everything that sets itself up against the glory of the Triune God and everything that dehumanizes and destroys people. We have a big job to do and, in my opinion, we can achieve our mandate better together, united in humble partnership.

Part 3: In view of the equality of men and women established by God, what can women do in Jesus’ church?

 

NOTES:

[1] I write as an exegetical expositor and Teaching Pastor that subscribes to an epistemology based upon divine revelation (Deut 8:3; Ezek 28:6, 15-17; 2 Tim 3:16-17), called “Scripture” by Jesus (Mark 12:24). A sufficient epistemology cannot be founded upon human autonomy because God alone is the maker of reality and, therefore, its only accurate and trustworthy interpreter.

[2] The Magna Carta was the charter of liberties signed in 1215 that placed England’s kings (at the time it was King John) under the rule of law and serves as the foundation of English common law.

[3] Genesis is part of the Torah, the Pentateuch, other wise known as “the Book of the Law.” Jesus’ Bible is known as the TaNaKh, that is, the Torah, the Nebiim, and the Ketubim. Jesus refers to his Bible as “The Law, the Prophets, and the Writings.”

[4] Yet, God is one. “Hear O Israel, the LORD our God, the Lord is one.” Deut 6:4

[5] Man is male and female

[6] This is illustrated in Genesis 5:1-3.

[7] leminehu

[8] besalmenu

[9] It is important to observe that God uses at least six feminine similes to describe Himself. “But now, like a woman in childbirth, I cry out, I gasp and pant.” Isaiah 42:14

[10] “The pointed one.”

[11] “The perforated one.”

[12] A Psalm referring to Jesus’ rule. See Mark 12:36; 14:62; Matthew 22:44; 26:64; Luke 20:42-43; 22:69; Hebrews 1:13; 5:6; 7:17, 21; Acts 2:34-35.

[13] David A. Clines has shown that image bearers of deities in ancient near-eastern cultures involved dominion or rulership. See D.J.A. Clines, “The Image of God in Man,” Tyndale Bulletin 19 (1968): pp. 53-103.  

[14] Old Testament scholarship is united in the claim that ruling has royal overtones. Examples of such scholars are Van Seeters, C. Westermann, Sarna, Wenham, Von Rad, Schmutzer, Provan, S. Postell, J. Sailhamer, R. Cole, A. Ross, Rowe, and M. Morales. 

[15] The key idea of the Hebrew word kabash (subdue) is one of “to conquer.” It is the same word used of Joshua who was to “conquer” the inhabitants of the Promised Land (Joshua 1:3; 18:1). But just as Adam and Eve failed to conquer the serpent due to deception (Gen 3), so also Joshua failed to conquer the inhabitants of the Promised Land due to deception (the Gibeonites; Joshua 9).

[16] Observe: Not, “to him,” but “to them.”

[17] God does not speak to the rest of the creation, only to people.  

[18] kabash

[19] One of many examples of the idea of conquer is seen in Joshua 18:1.

[20] “Good” is the Hebrew word “tov” and in Genesis 1-2, means “beneficial and helpful to the human race. The Creator by means of His word transforms what is tohu-vabohu (Gen 1:2; inhospitable and non-beneficial to humans) into tov, land that is hospitable for humans to live in.

[21] Genesis 3:1ff. John identifies the serpent as Satan, the devil. Revelation 20:1-2.

[22] Genesis 3:1-7.

[23] The apostle John depicts the success of that restoration in Revelation 21-22 where the garden located in Eden is reclaimed and restored.

[24] One of the early consequences of the entrance of sin into human relationships with God and with each other is evidenced in Cain’s murdering his own brother. Genesis 4.

[25] Genesis 3:15; the seed of the woman is Jesus the Lord.

[26] In the post-fall age to come, when sin begins to leaves its toxic imprint on the human body.

[27] Deborah the prophetess and judge who led Israel; Judges 4:4ff.

[28] Including the unborn.

[30] The list of potential ways that woman can rule and subdue the creation cited here is not meant to be comprehensive, only suggestive.