© Jeff Stacey | Last updated: 26 July 2020
1A3. God’s primary purpose in all of His creation:
To express His own nature forever,
beginning especially on Earth by making Himself known to people worldwide,
and through them as they respond Him
1A3(title) God’s primary purpose in all of His creation
The Bible states in many places that everything is done in accord with God’s intentions or purposes Job 42:2, Isaiah 14:24,26-27, Romans 8:28, Ephesians 1:11b. If a primary purpose of God could be identified, it would explain why He has created and sustained the universe, including planet Earth! It would also be central to understanding all of the Bible [1A(intro)2].
God’s primary purpose is nowhere specifically stated in Genesis 1 – 3. Yet it is frequently implied, as follows.
1A3(a) First indications of God’s purposefulness
1A3(a)(i) The dramatic beginning
Gen 1:1-2 gives a sense of theatrical anticipation that the “stage” was set and God’s vast “drama” was about to begin! The “script” to be “completed” had already been written by God Gen 2:1-2 and the “Producer”, the Spirit of God, was ready and waiting Gen 1:2b. Then God the “Director” “raised the curtain” with His first command, “Let there be light”! Gen 1:3 (rather like in making movies: “lights! camera! action!!”).
Further words spoken by God achieved other immediate results that were exactly as He had said Gen 1:6-7,9,11, Gen 1:14-15,24,26,27,29,30. They accorded with His intentions when giving His commands. So these sublime outcomes can be taken as indicators of God’s purposes, whatever they were.
This purposefulness was further highlighted by the way in which God’s commands were given. They were expressed in the form “Let . . . ” [1A1(b)(iii)]. This implied that God first conceived each thing, then authorised or gave permission for them to come into existence. Again this indicated that God’s acts of creation were purposeful, in line with His prior intentions.
1A3(a)(ii) Immediate focus on “the earth”
In all of this grand account of the creation of the universe there was immediate and increasing emphasis on “the earth” Gen 1:1b,2, 2:1 (this is also assumed by Gen 1:9-13, 20-30, 2:4-25). It was indicating that planet Earth was to be the place where God’s purposes would be especially focussed. For Earth to be “centre-stage” seems extraordinary in view of the vastness of the universe as we now know it. Yet such a confined focus is unmistakable in Genesis 1 – 2. In a breathtaking contrast, the very brief mention of God making the stars seems almost like a “throw-away line”! Gen 1:16b.
1A3(b) Various intended roles within a continuing, ordered universe
The differing roles of light, the sky, sun and moon were indicated by several “separations” when they were created Gen 1:4, Gen 1:6-8,14.
All of these roles involved the carrying out of specific purposes or functions. The sun, moon and stars were to be “signs” to mark the seasons, days and years, to give light on the Earth, and to “govern” the day and night Gen 1:14-18. These functions indicated that the universe would not be chaotic but ordered under God’s control, to serve His purposes. It would also be ongoing.
1A3(c) The whole universe expressed God’s own nature
At several points during the creation process it is stated that God “saw that it was good” Gen 1:4a,10b,12b,18b,21b,25b. When the whole vast creation was completed, God saw everything that He had made and declared that it was “all very good” Gen 1:31a. Putting it this way says that after His personal inspection, God declared it all to be very good!
For God to describe created things as “very good” would mean they were absolutely perfect, totally in accord with what He valued and required [1A1(b)(iii)].1 Therefore the whole creation was fully aligned with God’s own values. It totally expressed God’s own nature.
1A3(d) God’s intended roles for people
God’s intention was for people to have central roles on Earth. This was indicated in several ways, as follows:
# The creation of the first two people, Adam and Eve Gen 1:26a,27 and then God’s declaration of their roles Gen 1:26b,28 on day six Gen 1:31 were the last and the climax of all His acts of creation.
# The roles of the people were to be dominant throughout the whole Earth Gen 1:26b,28b.
# The marriage relationship between Adam and Eve Gen 2:24 would result in procreation and increasing numbers of people who would occupy extended territory Gen 1:28a.
# The multiplication of people would generate wider relationships between them, as families, clans and larger communities. They would then interact with each other corporately, as complex societies and cultures.
# The promise by God to provide fruits and plants as food for the people and all creatures indicated that this was all to be a continuing situation Gen 1:29,30.
1A3(e) What was meant by people being “made in the image and likeness of God”?
God declared His intention to “make mankind in our image, in our likeness” Gen 1:26a. Then breaking into poetry, the next verse describing His action only refers to “image” Gen 1:27. Does this omission of “likeness” have significance? Note that all of God’s previous stated intentions were followed by a description of things happening exactly and fully as He had said [1A3(a)(i)]. So what do these two words “image” and “likeness” mean here? Are they interchangeable or not?
1A3(e)(i) The meanings of “image” and “likeness”
The two English words “image” and “likeness” are often said to have the same meaning, and this is usually so in English. There are also rather interchangeable occurrences of “image” and “likeness” in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the “Septuagint”) and in the Greek New Testament. However, this is not so in the Hebrew Old Testament (OT).
In the NIV the word translated as “image” in Gen 1:26a,27a (also used similarly in Gen 5:3c, 9:6b) is derived from the root Hebrew word tselem. But “likeness” in Gen 1:26b is derived from the root Hebrew word demut (also used similarly in Gen 5:1c,3b). What are the meanings of these two Hebrew words? This can be clarified by looking at how they are used elsewhere in the Hebrew OT, as outlined below.
1A3(e)(ii) The meanings of the Hebrew word used for “image” (tselem)
tselem and its derivative words occur elsewhere 9 times in the Hebrew OT, where they are translated in the NIV as follows:
“idols”(6) Numbers 33:52, 2Kings 11:18, 2Chronicles 23:17, Ezekiel 7:20, 16:17, Amos 5:26
“models”(2) 1Samuel 6:5,11
“figures” (1) Ezekiel 23:14
The six NIV translations of tselem as “idols” referred to “a created and formed artifact that is worshiped as, or as representing, a pagan deity”.2 The two NIV translations as “models” also referred to man-made objects involved in seeking supernatural powers. The one NIV translation as “figures” refers to a vision of a person.
So all but one of these uses of tselem elsewhere in the OT referred to man-made objects that were representations of a pagan god and/or believed to have supernatural powers. So it is amazing that this was the word chosen by God to describe the people He was creating!
However, in a parallel but contrasting sense, the meaning of “made in the image of God” could refer to God-made “objects” (people) who were representations of God Himself and actually had some of His powers!
But it is obviously ridiculous to claim that the powers of mere mortals are in any way comparable to those of God! In what sense could their powers be God’s powers?
1A3(e)(iii) The meaning of “made in the image God”
Many of God’s powers had already been demonstrated by His words and actions as recorded prior to Gen 1:26b. For example, God:-
# Spoke in understandable words Gen 1:3,6,9,14-15,20 (see also Gen 2:16-18)
# Gave permission for things to happen Gen 1:3,6,9,11,14,20,24,26a
# Conceptualised things before they became actual Gen 1:3,6-7,9,11,14-15
# Saw things Gen 1:4,10,12,18, 25 (see also Gen 1:31, 2:19)
# Named things Gen 1:5,8,10
# Exercised authority by carrying out intentions Gen 1:6-7,14-18,20-21 (see also Gen 1:27, 2:18,21-22, 3:22-24)
# Made moral judgments Gen 1:12,21,25 (see also Gen 1:31, 2:18, 3:14-17,22)
# Made ways of signifying time Gen 1:14
# Classified things under different categories Gen 1:21,25 (see also Gen 2:16-17)
# Stated or implied His future plans Gen 1:22 (see also Gen 1:28, 3:22)
# Gave gifts Gen 1:29-30 (see also Gen 2:16,22, 3:21)
Others recorded after Gen 1:26b:-
# Completed an agenda of tasks Gen 2:1-2
# Rested after doing intended tasks Gen 2:2-3
# Planted a garden Gen 2:8-9
# Directed a person to go to a specified place Gen 2:15, 3:23
# Gave a command and a warning to a person Gen 2:16-17
In human terms, these words and actions are so mundane as to be not even noticed. But in these chapters all of them were referring to God’s powers! These could be summarized as His being able to:-
# create and make things
# differentiate between things
# make ethical judgments between good and evil
# have intentions and carry them out
# exercise authority over people and things
# give attention to minor tasks as well as major ones
Therefore although God’s powers are infinite, yet all of the above abilities are of a similar kind for both God and people. This is why they seem “mundane”, being so familiar to people.
It is concluded that people being made “in the image of God” referred to similarities in their kinds of capabilities. These included many “internal” things such as mental processing and imagining, even awareness of self and others, and of supernatural things.
All of this meant that people had some similarities to God in being able to see, think, imagine, discern, speak and act! They even had sufficient capabilities to get some understanding of God Himself!
“Human beings as God’s dialogue partner are … the only creatures capable of responding to God. At the level of humanity in its entirety, Gen 1:26–27 lays the foundation for what happens [later]”3
1A3(e)(iv) The meanings of the Hebrew word used for “likeness” (demut)
demut and its derivative words occur elsewhere 20 times (15 in Ezekiel) in the Hebrew OT, where they are translated in the NIV as follows:
“likeness”(2) Ezekiel 1:28b, 10:1a
“like”(4) Isaiah 13:4a, Ezekiel 1:13a,26a, 23:15b
“looked”(3) Ezekiel 1:16b, 10:10a, Daniel 10:16a
“looked like”(4) Ezekiel 1:5a,10a,22b, 10:21b
“figure(s)”(3) 2Chronicles 4:3a, Ezekiel 1:26c, 8:2a
“appearance”(1) Ezekiel 10:22a
“form”(1) Ezekiel 1:5b
“sketch”(1) 2Kings 16:10b
“image”(1) Isaiah 40:18b
These various NIV translations of demut mostly refer to “that which is seen . . . and has a similarity or comparison”.4 Almost all5 of them occur in attempted descriptions of extraordinary (not man-made) things or beings, that had been seen or heard in God-given visions. This could suggest that demut was initially a “technical” word used only in relation to descriptions of manifestations of God.
Mostly an element of vagueness or uncertainty was expressed about the adequacy of the descriptions given. This is hardly surprising, given some of the things described, such as God’s throne, the glory of the Lord, God’s coming judgment, the Day of the Lord, and blazing winged “living creatures”!!
1A3(e)(v) The meaning of “made in the likeness of God”
These attempts to describe extraordinary visions used comparisons with known things. The aim was to try and make understandable to people, the various indescribable and divine things that had been seen.
So in a parallel sense, the meaning of people being “made in the likeness of God” could be referring to them making divine things understandable, somehow. That is, as people, they were in some sense portraying God’s indescribable nature!
But again, it is obviously ridiculous to claim that mere mortals could in any way be “portrayals” of God! In what sense could they be expressions of His divine nature?
In Gen 1:1-26a the nature of God had already begun to be expressed or portrayed, as seen by the effects of His words. That is, He showed what He is like by the ways He used His capabilities.
God then defined how the people were to use their capabilities Gen 1:28. This referred to their roles and activities. They were to multiply and to exercise enormous authority over the whole of Earth and its creatures.
This was how God intended the man and woman to express His own nature. By using their capabilities in these ways they would show the likeness of God Himself!6 They could even make His own nature understandable.7 Yet “. . . in respect of an analogy, no identity of God and man can or should be asserted, but only a similarity (“something similar to us”).”8
1A3(e)(vi) The huge scope of what God intended for people, by being “in the likeness of God”
It is staggering to ponder the kind of life God intended for people! Gen 1:26. With God’s blessing, they were to inhabit the whole Earth and be the authoritarian rulers or “kings” over it all!! Gen 1:28. Being made “in the likeness of God”, their lives were always to be seen as expressing His nature. So their impacts on each other, all creatures and their environment would be entirely God-like.
They were to live freely forever in this way Gen 2:16 in complete harmony with the perfect world as God had created it Gen 1:31a. The only crucial requirement was that they live in absolute obedience to God, never violating His one command Gen 2:17.
In other words, under the sovereign authority of God, all people were to rule as “kings” (sovereigns) over the whole world, as their “kingdom”!
1A3(e)(vii) Summary: the meaning of people being “made in the image and likeness of God”
As explained above, the meaning of people being “made in the image and likeness of God” has been assumed to be:
God had given people the same kinds of capabilities as His own, and these were to be used only in the ways that He commanded.
This was how they would fulfil His intended roles for them and share with Him in accomplishing His primary purpose.
1A3(f) “In the image of God” did not refer only to the man
Who the Bible was referring to as “made in the image of God” is intriguing. A literal translation of the Hebrew of Gen 1:26a would be “Then God said ‘let us make man in our image… and let them rule over…’ “. Being plural (“them”), this would mean that “man” referred to mankind – both men and women – all “made in the image of God” (as translated by the NIV). It is also extraordinary that this was paralleled by God referring to Himself in the plural!
But a literal translation of the Hebrew of Gen 1:27 (using the NIV punctuation) would be “So God created the man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them”. This clearly says that it was “the man” (not just “man”) who was “created in the image of God”.9 Yet it then goes on to say that God created them male and female.
So was “in the image of God” the same both for men and women? Were they given the same God-like capabilities? Obviously those listed above [1A3(e)(ii)] applied to both.
Gen 5:2(ESV) settles this question. It plainly states that both men and women were being referred to as “man”, meaning “mankind”. For this reason I have mostly used the generic word “people” throughout this website, to avoid any ambiguity from using “man” or even “mankind” in a combined sense for human beings.
1A3(f)(i) Differences between the creation processes and intended roles and activities of men and women
Yet Genesis 2 does show differences between men and women, as follows:
# The creation of the man and woman was in different ways and at different times Gen 2:7,21-22.
# Adam had interactions with God before Eve was created. God gave him some specific activities and commands Gen 2:8,15,16-17,19-20.
# The most significant of these interactions was when God commanded and warned Adam not to eat fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil Gen 2:16-17. Adam therefore was directly accountable to God to obey this command.
# The woman was created derivatively from the man Gen 2:21-22,23b.
# The man and woman were also different physically, although immediately recognisable as human beings Gen 2:23a.
# Their intended roles were also different Gen 2:18b,20b.
So in these several ways their creation processes and intended roles and activities were clearly differentiated by God, even though their capabilities as people were basically the same.
1A3(f)(ii) The roles of men and women were to be relational and complementary
God declared that the alone-ness of Adam was “not good” Gen 2:18a. This implied that his aloneness had to be overcome so that he would be able to carry out God’s roles. Obviously the whole dimension of interpersonal relationships would be missing if Adam remained alone.10
Adam immediately and joyfully responded when God brought the woman to him Gen 2:23a. They were happily united Gen 2:24-25. When it came to reproduction they both had essential, complementary roles to play! Gen 1:28a. This would result in the creation of more people and more complex social interactions between them all, both males and females.
1A3(f)(iii) The differences between the roles of men and women were soon demonstrated
The scenarios in Gen 3:1-13 clearly illustrated these different roles [see 1B23 to 1B25, 1B28 and 1B30]. It is apparent that the crafty serpent deliberately avoided Adam and his primary accountability by targeting Eve Gen 3:1,4-5. Eve earnestly but unsuccessfully tried to obey God Gen 3:2-3,6a while Adam failed to give her any support. Inexcusably, he just stood by passively while his wife’s commitment to obeying God was under attack Gen 3:6b. So the serpent’s strategy was successful in bringing the downfall of both the woman and her husband Gen 3:6.
God then first called only the man to account Gen 3:9. When interrogated by God, Adam tried to blame his wife and God for his own failure! Gen 3:12. But God ignored these “excuses” and held him accountable. God judged him for not obeying His command, but instead doing what his wife said Gen 3:17.
So although Adam and Eve were intended by God to fulfil jointly the roles He defined for them, it was the man that God held primarily responsible for ensuring that they did so.
Specifically, the responsibility for obeying God rested primarily with the man. His role was to take the lead in obeying God, as the one primarily accountable to God.
This would especially include encouraging and nurturing his wife. He was to protect, assist and support her with spiritual strength and wisdom, to help her fulfil her responsibility to obey God. She would then be best able to help him obey God.
This clarified his wife’s primary role as his “suitable helper”. She was to assist, support and cooperate with him in fulfilling his primary spiritual responsibility – to obey God. They had been blessed and commissioned by God to carry out His intentions together in these ways Gen 1:27c,28 in the most intimate of all relationships – their marriage Gen 2:24.
But Adam had failed to support Eve when she was struggling to resist the serpent’s deceptive challenges Gen 3:1-5. This obviously contributed to her sad failure to obey God Gen 3:6a. This in turn led to his own failure! Gen 3:6b,17.
1A3(f)(iv) God’s intentions for men and women in fulfilling their complementary roles
God was giving people central roles on Earth that were to be dominant and worldwide Gen 1:28. Men and women had the same types of capabilities as God and were to use them in the complementary ways that He intended, by obeying Him always. Then they would be expressing God’s own nature in what they were, how they related to each other, and all they did!
This makes clear what God’s intentions were for all people, as follows.
1A3(g) God intended to make Himself known TO people
There would seem to be little purpose in God expressing His own nature unless there were other beings who could appreciate what He was doing. But for God to express His own nature TO people would involve some significant issues. Given the totally transcendent nature of God, He could not be comprehended at all by people unless He Himself somehow made this possible.
God primarily revealed Himself by expressing His own nature in concrete historical situations as experienced by people. He had equipped them to be His principal “audience”. He had given them God-like capabilities to perceive and understand at least some of the things He was doing on Earth. By this means He could make Himself known TO them.
1A3(g)(i) God’s nature was made known TO people by means of all His creation
All of God’s creation was intended to make Himself known TO Adam and Eve as they lived in it, observing and experiencing it in all its grandeur and beauty Gen 2:1b,8-9a. A wonderful example of this was when God brought all the birds and wild animals to Adam as expressions TO him of God’s own nature. Adam then appreciated and named them with God’s approval Gen 2:19-20a. Names represented the nature of persons or creatures. So God’s endorsement of the names given by Adam indicated that he had correctly perceived what each animal was really like. He had “got it right”! Having and using “naming rights” was also understood as a profound exercising of authority Gen 1:26,28b.
1A3(g)(ii) God’s nature was made known TO people by means of His direct, intimate relationship with them
No sooner had God created Adam and Eve than He began to make Himself known TO them by speaking and interacting directly with them in an intimate two-way relationship Gen 1:28-30, 2:8,15-17,19,22.
1A3(h) God intended to make Himself known THROUGH people
People were also to be God’s principal agents THROUGH whom He would express His own nature and make Himself known on Earth. As they fulfilled their God-intended roles, they were to be the central participants in all of God’s Earthly activities.
The people would affect each other, all creatures and their environment Gen 1:28b. Ultimately this would be worldwide in scope! By being made in God’s image and obediently acting in His likeness, they would express God’s nature. This meant that their influences would be like God’s, totally beneficial to each other and to all of His creation.
1A3(h)(i) God was expressing His Kingly nature THROUGH Adam and Eve
In His mighty acts of creation, God had given commands that achieved immediate results completely in accord with His intentions. God had acted with sovereign authority by exercising absolute power through giving “royal” commands or “fiats” [1A1(b)(i)]. Then the dominant roles that God defined for Adam and Eve Gen 1:26b,28b authorized them to express over all of Earth the likeness of this kingly power of God. In this way God would be dramatically expressing His own Kingly nature THROUGH them.
1A3(h)(ii) God expressed His own nature TO Adam and Eve THROUGH each other
God created Eve and brought her to Adam Gen 2:21-22. Adam had not seen any animal that was like himself Gen 2:20b so he exclaimed with delight when he met God’s created fabulous companion for him! Gen 2:23. This implied that God expressed His own nature TO Adam THROUGH Eve (and TO Eve THROUGH Adam).
1A3(h)(iii) Procreation: God’s extraordinary way of making Himself known THROUGH people
God had sovereignly created Adam and Eve Gen 1:27, 2:7,21-22. But He created further people only THROUGH procreation by people. This was truly extraordinary. Such a degree of direct participation by them certainly demonstrated God’s commitment to making Himself known THROUGH people! He had delegated essential complementary roles to them Gen 1:28a, 4:1. They had been commissioned by God to act together in His likeness, as creators of people!!
1A3(j) God intended to make Himself known TO future people THROUGH present people who were His recorders and explainers
The recording by people of God’s words and acts of self-expression was also vital. God would make Himself known TO future generations of people THROUGH these records.
But this would have to be in humanly understandable terms. So God created language as His own main means of explicit communication with people, as well as for them to communicate with each other. This was one of the most sublime capabilities that He gave to people, along with the invention of writing to record language.
The biblical accounts of God and His activities are expressed in language that makes it sound as though God thinks and acts as a person.11 Was this only for the sake of the readers? Was it simply to make Him understandable and familiar TO people?
Obviously when talking about God it really could be no other way. Yet the similarities in the types of capabilities and actions of God and people need not detract from the grandeur of God’s nature. These similarities simply enabled people to have some understanding of Him. Nor should they detract from the “grandeur” of each person. They were “made in the image of God” and to act “in the likeness of God”!
These entire notes rely on the assumption that the Bible provides a reliable and adequate account of these God-revealing historical events and communications. They were how God made Himself known TO and THROUGH people in the past. The Bible’s record of them is the way that God has made Himself known specifically TO all later people. So trying to understand, explain and apply the Bible are really the most important things anyone can do!
1A3(k) Summary: the intended triple roles of people
People were to be not only the main witnesses of God’s activities on Earth and the principal participants in all of them, but also the recorders and communicators of them to others. By all these means God would be making Himself known TO and THROUGH people, accomplishing His primary purpose.
In essence the people would be pursuing the same primary purpose as God Himself. They would act as His agents in expressing His own nature throughout the whole Earth – worldwide – under His directives and delegated authority. This was why they were “made in the image and likeness of God”.
God’s vast “divine drama” was to be a stupendous portrayal of His own nature in all of His creation, but especially on Earth by means of people! God Himself would provide the “script” for their roles in this drama, to be followed totally by them. They were also the main audience, as well as the post-performance reporters.
Clearly the people were intended to have profound interactions with God. This would be not only directly but also through their involvement with all of His creation and each other. Given all these diverse encounters with God, they would surely be “lost in wonder, love and praise”!12
1A3(m) The seventh day as further evidence of God’s purposes
1A3(m)(i) Paradise created and enjoyed
God followed a specific purposeful agenda that defined the scope of what He created Gen 1:3-31. He had completed this by the end of day six Gen 2:1-2. Then He profoundly honored the seventh day Gen 2:3a. Yet it is surprising that this crowning final day of His creation was highlighted by His “resting” Gen 2:3b rather than by some more dramatic, climactic creational activity.
The “paradise” conditions of existence of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden were then depicted Gen 2:4-25. They lived freely in a perfect setting and in peaceful communion with God and each other, fully enjoying God’s provision and blessing upon them, both physical and spiritual Gen 1:28-29,31a, 2:16 [see 1A9].
1A3(m)(ii) Paradise lost
The profound significance of the “Tree of Life” had not been told to Adam, although he was free to eat its fruit Gen 2:9b,16. But after Adam and Eve had disobeyed God Gen 2:17, 3:6 He drove them out of the Garden of Eden Gen 3:23a,24. He stated that this was to prevent them eating fruit from the Tree of Life, because if they did they would “live forever”! Gen 3:22b.
This raises three crucial questions about the future of people and all of God’s creation:
# Had God intended it all to be everlasting? [see 1A3(n)]
# Did this still apply after Adam and Eve had disobeyed God? Or had He withdrawn it?
# Would “paradise” ever be regained by people?
1A3(m)(iii) Was the “rest” on the seventh day intended to have eternal significance?
Each of the first six days of creation ended with the same statement: “And there was evening, and there was morning – the (first to sixth) day” Gen 1:5,8,13,19,23,31. But there was no such statement at the end of the seventh day Gen 2:2-3. This left that day “open-ended”.13
Being the seventh and final day, was it intended to suggest something about God’s ultimate accomplishment of His primary purpose? Did it imply that this would be characterized by “rest”, a state of perfect completeness, peace and freedom, with God’s own nature being totally expressed throughout all of His creation?14
These ideas are based on inferences drawn from the verses quoted. But it is not possible to give definite answers to these questions from Genesis 1 – 3.
1A3(n) The beginning and ultimate accomplishing of God’s primary purpose
At this stage it can be said that God had begun to express His own nature in all of His creation but especially on Earth. Because God’s own nature includes His endless existence [1A1(b)(i)] it can also be said that the accomplishing of His primary purpose would be forever. So it can be assumed that His intended ultimate state of all His creation would be “open-ended” – never-ending or eternal.15
1A3(p) God’s primary purpose defined
Based only on all of the above analysis of Genesis 1-11, I have arrived at the following definition of:-
God’s primary purpose in all of His creation.
To express His own nature forever,
beginning especially on Earth by making Himself known to people worldwide,
and through them as they responded to Him
This was intended to include all people for as long as Earth existed – Adam and Eve and all their descendants and all of their activities – worldwide! After the vast “beginning”, God would continue to express His own nature forever, in all of His creation. But at this stage of the biblical record, the nature of this eternal expression of His own nature is only hinted at. So a more complete definition will only be possible when dealing with later Eras . . .
1A3(q) God’s primary purpose is implied by the “A” and “B” Charts format
The “A” Charts summarise the biblical information about God and how He intended it to apply to people, in each Era. In other words, the “A” Charts represent God making Himself known TO people.
Then the “B” Charts summarise the biblical records of how this all worked out in history, in each Era. People acted in response to God and He in turn responded to them. So the “B” Charts mainly show how God actually made Himself known TO and THROUGH people in particular historical situations. This was either positively or negatively, being His responses to how they had responded to Him.
1A3(r) How God began to express His own nature TO and THROUGH people, in historical situations
Seven general descriptions of the attributes of God’s own nature have been derived from the narrative in Genesis 1 – 3 [1A1(b)]. But it has already been pointed out that these attributes overlap. Their descriptions also tend to be abstract. So trying to use them to explain God’s nature becomes blurred [1A1(a)].
However, God’s nature being beyond human understanding would always be His “problem” [1A3(g), 1A3(j)]. How was He going to make Himself known TO people?
Before the FALL God began to make Himself known TO Adam and Eve. They experienced His expressions of His own nature in what He said TO them and THROUGH all that He had created. He also began to make Himself known THROUGH them in their relationship with each other.
God was expressing His own nature TO and THROUGH Adam and Eve in concrete historical situations and interactions. In this way He was making His abstract, incomprehensible attributes understandable to them. He was expressing these in ways that were already familiar to Adam and Eve, as experienced in their daily lives.
1A3(s) Summarising God’s expressions of His own nature TO and THROUGH Adam and Eve, under three categories
In what follows, all that God was expressing about Himself TO Adam and Eve has been based on how they experienced Him. This is summarised and described under three categories – God’s power, perfection and love. Each of these can be seen to emphasise some of the seven attributes of God’s nature that I have used, as follows.
1A3(s)(i) God’s nature expressed and experienced as power
The acts of God’s power in creating the universe especially demonstrated TO Adam and Eve that He is mysteriously and sovereignly able to do anything without restrictions [see 1A4]. This would have indicated TO them that He is infinite. They may also have been able to perceive the involvement of the Spirit of God, indicating TO them that He is spiritual.
What He actually did in creation and then in His interactions with Adam and Eve was specifically purposeful. This was seen particularly when He authorized them also to exercise power by filling and subduing the Earth and ruling over all of its creatures Gen 1:26b,28. He intended to make His own nature known THROUGH them by their activities being powerful, “in the likeness of God” Gen 1:26a.
For example, Adam would immediately have experienced this power when he used his God-given authority to name the birds and wild animals Gen 2:19-20.
1A3(s)(ii) God’s nature expressed and experienced as perfection
All that God had created, including Adam and Eve, was totally good Gen 1:31a. This highlighted TO Adam and Eve that His own nature is perfect [see 1A5]. This could also have indicated to them that He is unique.
Again God was purposeful in requiring Adam and Eve to continue reflecting His perfection by their own complete goodness – their ethical purity. They were to be absolutely separated from any knowledge of evil by obeying Him totally Gen 2:16-17. God intended to make His own nature known THROUGH them by their ways of living being perfect, “in the likeness of God” Gen 1:26a,28.
For example, sadly, by their alienation after the FALL, they would immediately have realised that all they had previously experienced of God’s creation was perfect.
1A3(s)(iii) God’s nature expressed and experienced as love
The first interactions of God with Adam and Eve were in blessing them, giving them vast authority and abundantly providing for them Gen 1:28-29. These showed TO them that His attitude to them was favorable and generous, or loving [see 1A6].
That God actually communicated directly with them also indicated that He is relational. Being God, His ways of communicating with them would have been experienced as profoundly spiritual.
God’s loving attitudes to them were also purposeful. Adam and Eve were not only to enjoy these attitudes but to express them in all of their interactions with His creation and each other. So God intended to make His own nature known TO and THROUGH them by all their ways of interacting being loving, “in the likeness of God” Gen 2:20-25.
For example, they would have immediately realised God’s love, as experienced in His creating them for each other and bringing them joyfully together! Gen 2:21-25.
1A3(s)(iv) God would sovereignly accomplish His primary purpose
Sovereignly God would accomplish His primary purpose by expressing His own nature in all of His creation. How He communicated all this TO people and intended to do it THROUGH them is now outlined in detail [see1A4-6].
Arrow 1A1 ->1A3
This arrow indicates that God’s primary purpose flowed directly from His own nature. It was in fact the expression of that nature in all of His creation, especially TO and THROUGH people.
2. Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc. GK number 7512. (Return to reading).
3. F.J. Stendebach, “selem”, in G.J.Botterweck, H.Ringgren and H-J. Fabry eds., Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (TDOT)(electronic ed.) Volume 12. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003 (ET).(Return to reading)
4. Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc. GK number 1952.(Return to reading)
5. There are two exceptions, both referring to man-made items. But these were used in temple worship, so still had supernatural associations, as follows.
2KINGS 16:10 Then King Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria. He saw an altar in Damascus and sent to Uriah the priest a sketch of the altar, with detailed plans for its construction.
Here demut still has the meaning of similarity or “likeness”, as it was only a sketch of the item, not the item itself.
2CHRONICLES 4:3 Below the rim, figures of bulls encircled it—ten to a cubit. The bulls were cast in two rows in one piece with the Sea.
Here the meaning of demut is similar to tselem. This may reflect the relatively late date (c.440-340BC) when it was written, so possibly there was Greek influence on the meaning of demut. But the objects described (figures of bulls, in two rows) were not idols but decorations on a Jerusalem Temple worship furnishing made by Solomon.(Return to reading).
6. Probably this was why Gen 1:27 only mentioned people being created “in the image of God”, because the meaning of them being created “in the likeness of God” was outlined in the next verse Gen 1:28b (as had already been planned by God Gen 1:26b) (Return to reading).
7. One apparent exception recorded in these chapters is that God could create complex things out of nothing [see 1A4(sub-title)]. Yet even this could be seen as similar to a writer creating a document, beginning with only a blank screen or sheet of paper. Furthermore, it would not be just markings on paper but expressions of complex meaning. Similarly, spoken words are more than mere sounds breaking silence.(Return to reading).
8. H.D. Preuss, “damah, demuth”, in G.J.Botterweck and H.Ringgren eds., Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (TDOT)(electronic ed.) Volume 3. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978 (ET).(Return to reading)
9. In one sense this is obvious when it says “he created him”, focussing on their similar maleness. In fact the whole presentation of God as male raises questions about His intended role for the man.(Return to reading).
10. That God as the Creator had referred to Himself as plural Gen 1:26 implied that there was a relational dimension within God Himself – and was intended to be replicated by the man and woman.(Return to reading).
11. Technically this is called “anthropomorphic” language, which literally means “man-like” (derived from the Greek words for “man” anthropos and “form” morphe). It refers to the ways that God’s nature is conceptualized by people as being similar to themselves and other things familiar to them.
Actually it is important to realise that all language is a system based on similarities. Words are merely vocal or written symbols for things as perceived by people. They become expressions of meaning when strung together grammatically in sentences and whole discourses.
So there is nothing exceptional about anthropomorphisms. Language uses such analogies all the time.(Return to reading).
12. The final line of the hymn “Love Divine, all loves excelling” by Charles Wesley (1707-1788).(Return to reading).
13. Derek Kidner, Genesis (London: Tyndale, 1967), page 53.(Return to reading).
14. W.J.Dumbrell, Covenant and Creation (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993), pages 34-36.(Return to reading).
15. This assumption would only be incorrect if God were to finally eliminate all of His creation, leaving only Himself for all eternity. But that would also represent the ending of His primary purpose “in all of His creation”. Would it have been accomplished?(Return to reading).