Word for Word: Episode 49

אָדָ֛ם בְּצַלְמֵ֖נוּ

Mankind in Our Image

The apex of creation was mankind (אָדָ֛ם adam). So far creation has been filled with with phenomena, objects, and living things. Though it all demonstrated the majesty and creativity of God, the earth was had no one who could understand it. This required a special feature that could show the mind of God. He called it His "image" (צֶלֶם tselem).

"Adam" comes from the verb אָדַם which means "to be or make red". The word for "ground" also comes from this root. The color red represents blood that is essential for life.

As seen earlier, life had been given to animals of the sea, air and land. The blood flowing in the veins of mankind represented more than mortality. It represented the life that is in God as an attribute. Mankind had life at the pleasure of God Himself, as will be seen in Gen. 2.

The inherent life in God, imparted to mankind, made it resemble the creator in a special way--the image (צֶלֶם tselem)--of God. Though animals could be clever, mankind would be truly creative. Like God, they would be builders. Most of all, they would make decisions that changed the world.

The word tselem is from a root that denotes a shadow, or shade. Trees and structures cast an outline upon the ground when light is blocked from going through them. Metaphorical use of this concept can illustrate only a glimpse of what "cast" the shadow. In this way, the communicable attributes of God can be seen in mankind.


According to our likeness

Not only was mankind to think like God, the species was to "be like" Him. The word דְּמוּת (dĕmuwth) is from דָּמָה, meaning to resemble, or to be like.

To the first readers, or hearers, of this account, the concept of being godly was more palatable than being in his image. But when one respects the authority in place, and acts according to the desires of that authority, he or she will become like that authority. God, as creator, had made mankind with the capacity to follow rules. It follows, then, that being like God means godliness, not divinity.


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