Monday, October 24, 2011

Did God create Women and Men equally?

While surfing the Internet, I have come across several Christian blog sites that sometimes tend to place women as second class citizens.  When God created man, did He actually intend for him to have total control (dominate) over women?  Or, did God create woman to be man’s companion and to share equally (Genesis 1:27) in their dominion over all of the earth (Genesis 1:26).

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26)

Why does God use the plural form, "Let us make man in our image"?  One view says this is a reference to the Trinity - God the Father, Jesus Christ His Son, and the Holy Spirit - all of whom are God.  Another view is that the plural wording is used to denote majesty.  Kings traditionally use the plural form in speaking of themselves.  From Job 33:4 and Psalm 104:30, we do know that God's Spirit was present in the creation.  From Colossians 1:16 we know that Christ, God's Son, was at work in the creation.

In what ways are we made in God's image?  God obviously did not create us exactly like Himself because God has no physical body.  Instead, we are reflections of God's glory.  Some feel that our reason, creativity, speech, or self-determination is the image of God.  More likely, it is our entire self that reflects the image of God.  We will never be totally like God because He is our supreme Creator.  But we do have the ability to reflect His character in our love, patience, forgiveness, kindness, and faithfulness.

Knowing that we are made in God's image and thus share many of His characteristics provides a solid basis for self-worth.  Human worth is not based on possessions, achievements, physical attractiveness, or public acclaim.  Instead it is based on being made in God's image.  Because we bear God's image, we can feel positive about ourselves.  Criticizing or downgrading ourselves is criticizing what God has made and the abilities He has given us.  Knowing that you are a person of worth helps you love God, know Him personally, and make a valuable contribution to those around you.

"Let Us Make" is emphatic.  It emphasizes the majesty of the speaker.  Furthermore, the use of a plural for God allows for the later revelation of the Trinity (Genesis 11:7; Matt. 28:19). 

The "us" cannot refer to the angels that are present with God because man is made in the image of God alone, not also that of the angels.

"in Our image":  What is the image of God in man? The traditional view is that God’s image is certain moral, ethical, and intellectual abilities. A more recent view, based on Hebrew grammar and the knowledge of the ancient Near East, interprets the phrase as meaning “Let us make man as our image” (the Hebrew preposition in this phrase can be translated as).  In ancient times an emperor might command statues of himself to be placed in remote parts of his empire.  These symbols would declare that these areas were under his power and reign.  So God placed humankind as living symbols of Himself on earth to represent His reign. This interpretation fits well with the command that follows—to reign over all that God has made.

"according to Our likeness": This phrase draws attention to the preceding figure of speech. Since God is Spirit (John 4:24), there can be no “image” or “likeness” of Him in the normal sense of these words. Indeed, image-making was later strongly prohibited because of the clear ties that has with idolatry (Ex. 20:4–6).  We may not make images of God for He has already done so! We are His images; it is we who are in His likeness.  This is the reason God values people so much: we are made to reflect His majesty on earth.

"have dominion": Rule as God’s regent.  That is, people are to rule as God would—wisely and prudently—over all that God has made (fish, birds, cattle, and so on).

Word Focus: God - (Heb. pl. elohim) (Genesis 1:1, 26; Deut. 7:9; Isa. 45:18) H430: The standard Hebrew term for God.  This word is related to similar words for deity found throughout almost all Semitic languages.  The basic meaning is probably “Mighty” or “the Almighty.” In Hebrew, this word often occurs in a form called “the plural of majesty” or “the plural of intensity.” In contrast to a normal plural (that is, “gods,” such as the false gods of 1 Kin. 19:2), the Hebrew uses this plural to mean “The Fullness of Deity” or “God—Very God!” Many Christians point to the plural form of this word as revealing the plural nature of God.  God is one, but He is also three distinct persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

So God created man in His own image;
in the image of God He created him;
male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:27)

God made both man and woman in His image.  Neither man nor woman is made more in the image of God than the other.  From the beginning the Bible places both man and woman at the pinnacle of God's creation.  Neither sex is exalted, and neither is depreciated.

"So God created man": The third time the verb for create is used in Gen. 1 (Genesis 1:1, 21); here it is used three times.  The language of Genesis 1:26, 28 is elevated prose; this verse is pure poetry.  The twelve words of the original Hebrew are arranged in three lines that have their own poetic repetition and cadence.  The term for man is likely associated with the term for the red earth.  Here the word is generic, including male and female.  These words are sexual.  Some have thought that the “discovery” of human sexuality was the forbidden fruit of Genesis chapter  3.  However, these words indicate that human sexuality was a part of the original creation (Genesis 5:2).  Although the misuse of human sexuality is soundly condemned in Scripture (Lev. 18), its proper use is celebrated (Genesis 2:24, 25; Song).  Genesis 1:26–28 include the woman no less than the man in the story of creation.

Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”  (Genesis 1:28)

To "rule over" something is to have absolute authority and control over it.  God has ultimate rule over the earth, and He exercises His authority with loving care.  When God delegated some of His authority to the human race, He expected us to take responsibility for the environment and the other creatures that share our planet.  We must not be careless and wasteful as we fulfill the charge.  God was careful how He made this earth.  We must not be careless about how we take care of it. 

"God blessed them": God’s smile; the warmth of His pleasure (Genesis 1:22; 2:3; 9:1; 12:2, 3).  God delighted in what He had made (Prov. 8:30, 31).

The word translated subdue means “bring into bondage.” This harsh term is used elsewhere of military conquest (Zech. 9:15) and of God subduing our iniquities (Mic. 7:19).  As a king sets off to war to conquer a territory, so humans are told by the Great King to subdue the earth and rule it.  Why this need to subjugate the earth?  There are at least four possibilities:

(1) Sin would ruin the earth, and people would have to expend great effort to live there (Genesis 3:17–19).

(2) Satan would defy the will of God and make all good efforts difficult.

(3) The earth left to itself would not remain good.  Instead, God planned that people would need to manage and control it.

(4) The beauty of the earth was only in the garden that God planted (Genesis 2:8); the rest of the earth would be hostile.  Whatever the case, subdue does not mean “destroy” or “ruin.” It does mean to “act as managers who have the authority to run everything as God planned.” This command applies equally to male and female.

In the Scriptures above, it is clear that God created men and women equally to have dominion over all of the earth.  The Bible also teaches that God's assigned roles for men and women are clearly set out for each to follow when it comes to family and the church.  However, the question that is sometimes not to clear for many believers is this.  Can a Christian woman teach and have authority over a man in the secular workplace?  

References: NKJV Holy Bible, Life Application Bible (NIV), the Nelson Study Bible.


dfish said...

God makes not distinction according to Galatians 3:28. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." While we have different responsibilities and abilities, one is not greater than the other. This is true about clergy and lay people as well as race and gender. God stated he hates the doctrine of setting one above another in Revelation 2:6&15.

Karen Kyle Ericson said...

Thanks for this post! It's very true. It's interesting that in the Proverbs- sometimes immorality is described as a woman. And men are the ones to take caution. As a woman I had to stop and ask what is this really saying? But yes, women are just as important and men can certainly sin. But that is clear in Proverbs as well. You really have to think and pray as you read the Bible don't you?

PJ said...

When God is talking about "man", He is including woMAN. He is talking about all of Mankind.

God Bless,

Ian Curtis said...

Well said! You know where I stand on this point, Lloyd, and I think a clear message regarding the roles of men and women has too long been neglected, apparently to the harm of the church and many Christians.
Thank you for the post; I found it personally very encouraging!

Geoff Maritz said...

An interesting post. A friend of mine, who is an author as well as a doctor, once told me something about writing that I have never forgotten. He said that a girl will read and follow stories about boys but boys on the other hand don't generally read nor take much interest in stories about girls. He also added that if you want to write a book that is read by both girls and boys you should write stories about a boy, that way you will not negate half the reading population.
I don't think he was being sexist, just realistic. That could also be why Paul admonishes women not to teach in the church, maybe he wasn't being sexist, just realistic.
I must admit that I find stories about men much more appealing than stories about women, they just seem to be more interesting, nothing else.
As far as having control over any woman is concerned, we are called to be shepherds aren't we? Anyway I have rarely met a man who has control over his wife, in my experience it's the other way round. Maybe that's why I'm still single? :)
God bless my friend, Geoff.

Frank Blasi said...

Why not read my blog, "A Divine Mystery" posted on 10/10/2011. Here based on our own marriage, I discuss why Paul the Apostle advices wives to submit to their husbands, and husbands to love their wives.

Trico said...

I enjoy your writing. Good post. Men and women are equals. You have shared many points to support your view. I have been studying the Garden of Eden story for quite sometime and I enjoyed your perspective.