Genesis 1:26 – 1:31

1:26   Having completed all forms of creation, God then said: ‘Let us make man’.  Like a person who builds a palace and, after having furnished and decorated it, ushers in its owner so it is ready for his immediate dwelling. (Sanhedrin 38a)

“Let us make man..”  This preliminary statement indicates that man was created with great deliberation and wisdom.  God did not associate man’s creation with the earth by decreeing ‘Let the earth bring forth’ as He did with other creatures, but instead attributed it to the deepest involvement of Divine Providence and wisdom. (Abarbanel)

B’chor Shor notes that the verb ‘make’, implies – as it does in verses 7, 16, and 25 – ‘bringing to a state of final completion’.  The intent is ‘Let us bring to perfection the as yet uncreated man, whose image and form awesomely equip him to rule and govern…’

The Talmud (Sanhedrin 38a) says man was created last so he should find all things ready for him.  If he is worthy, he is told: ‘All things were created in your behalf.’  At the same time his late appearance on earth conveys an admonition of humility: If man becomes too proud he is reminded: Even gnats preceded you in the order of creation.

The Mishnah offers ethical reasons why only one man (one pair) was created: In order to prevent feuds….. so that one man should not be able to say to his fellow, ‘my ancestor was greater than yours!’  Finally, the creation of only one man exhibits the power of God, Who, by means of only one ‘mold’ produces so many various types.  Adam is the single ancestor of all mankind, and how different men are from one another!  (Sanhedrin 4:5)

“Let us Make…”  So many different schools of thought on this one.

Targum Yonasan writes ‘And God said to the Ministering Angels who had been created on the second day of the creation of the world, “Let us make man!’

These are the angels who minister before Him continually, such as Michael, Gabriel, etc. They are the ones referred to by the Sages as ‘the heavenly household’ and it was with them, the Sages tell us, that He consulted before creating man.

Ramban says: ‘Our discourse deals only with angels, which are identical with the intellect, for our Torah does not deny that He governs that which exists, through the intermediary vehicle of angels.  In some passages there is the plural form of God, “Let us make man in our image’; ‘Come let us go down’ (Genesis 11:7)  The Sages have interpreted this verse to mean: God does nothing without first consulting the Heavenly familia (religious community with one head).  The intention of these verses is not, as thought by the ignorant, to assert that God spoke, deliberated, or that he actually consulted with and sought the help of other beings.  How could the Creator seek help from those He created?  They show only that all parts of the Universe are produced through angels, for natural forces and ‘angels’ are identical. (Moreh 2:6)

Ibn Ezra says ‘God spoke to the angels: Let us make man!  We ourselves will engage in his creation, not the water or earth!’

Ramban is of the opinion that the plural denotes God and the earth: “concerning the ‘living soul’ God commanded: “let the earth bring forth.’  But in the case of man He said: ‘Let us make’ – I and the earth.  The earth to produce the animal body from its elements as it did the cattle and beasts, and the higher spirit would come from the ‘mouth’ of God. (2:9)

Many see the plural form as pluralis majestatis.  Those who say that this verse points to a plurality of creators are ignorant…because they do not know that the Hebrew language gives a distinguished person license to say: ‘Let us do,’ ‘Let us make’ though he is but a solitary individual.  Thus Balak said (Numbers 22:6) ‘Perhaps I shall prevail that we may smite them’; Daniel said (Daniel 2:36) ‘This is the dream, and we will tell its interpretation to the king’…..There are many other examples in Scripture. (Rav Saadiah Gaon)

Man – A general term for mankind as a whole. In Genesis 5:2, the term man applies to both the male and the female: ‘He called them (adam) man on the day they were created.’

The origin of the word adam (man) is the subject of a wide range of views, one of which is from Radak.  Radak holds that it is related to ‘adamah’ (ground), used to create man.  When God created man from the upper and lower elements He called him Adam, as if to say, ‘Although his spirit is from the heavens, he is nevertheless adam, for his body was formed from the adamah.

‘ Our image, after Our likeness.”  This is a verse that must constantly be uppermost in the minds of man for it is a basic principle in Judaism.  Man was created in God’s image, and it is his responsibility always to act in such a way that he reflects favorably upon God whose image he bears.  This is not the task of great men only, every human being is made in God’s image and, therefore, was created with the ability to live up to it. (Harav Nosson Zui Finkel)

‘Man alone among the living creatures is endowed – like the Creator capable of knowing and loving God and of holding spiritual communion with Him; and man alone can guide his actions in accordance with reason.  He is therefore said to have been made in the form and likeness of the Almighty. (Rambam)

Man is a miniature world and his soul is likened to his Creator in five ways, as the Talmud (Berachhos 10a) comments: ‘Just as God fills the whole world so the soul fills the body; God sees but is not seen, so is the soul; God sustains the world, so does the soul sustain the body; God is pure, so is the soul; God abides in the innermost precincts, so does the soul; Let that which has these five qualities come and praise Him who has the five qualities.”  This is the meaning of ‘in our likeness.’ (Vilna Gaon)

Man is bidden to subdue his impulses in the service of God, and is endowed with dominion over nature.  As Psalm 8:5-6 reads: “You have made him a little lower than the angels, and have crowned him with glory and honor.  You have given him dominion over the works of Your hands;…..”

1:27  “..In the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”  Rashid notes an apparent contradiction between this verse and verse 2:21 which details the creation of woman from man’s side.

Rashi interprets that the Torah informs us here that both were created on the sixth day, while the details of their creation are expanded upon later on.  According to the Midrash, man was created originally wit two faces – half female, half male – and after divided them.

The change from singular to plural in this verse is also noted.  Man is endowed with both individual (spiritual) stability and the stability of the species.  This would explain why the singular is used in the verse ‘in the image of God He created him’ and the plural use in ‘male and female He created them’.  The former refers to man’s (spiritual) stability as an individual which he enjoys over and above the other animals.  The latter refers to the stability of the species which is due to the union of male and female. (Ikkarim 1:11; Malbim)

Although all living creatures were created in both sexes, this is noted specifically only in the case of human beings to stress that both sexes were created directly by God in equal likeness to Him. (Hirsch)

The Midrash notes that the expression ‘and it was so’ is not used at the creation of the heavens; of the sea-giants; and of man.  The reason is that in each of these cases the term ‘created’ is used, therefore, ‘and it was so’ does not apply.

Similarly, the absence of ‘that it was good’ (i.e. that it reached the intended state) in the narrative of man is noted.  Rav Yosef Albo suggests it is absent because the standard intended for man is higher than for other beings.  He is bidden not to stagnate but to constantly strive for a higher standard – to reach that potential intended for him.  Man must therefore exercise his free will in the quest, or he has not achieved his level of perfection.  Thus, man was not given a final state.

1:28  “God blessed them….and said….be fruitful and multiply”  In the Sefer HaChinuch it is counted as the first Mitzvah – the first of the 613 Jewish commandments.  The root of this mitzvah is that in accordance with the Divine wish, the world is to be inhabited, as it is written (Isaiah 45:18) He did not create it a waste land; He formed it to be inhabited.  This is a great mitzvah upon which all the mitzvos of the world exist, because it was given to man and not to angels…..One who neglects this has rejected a Positive Commandment, incurring great punishment, because he thereby demonstrates that he does not wish to comply with the divine will to populate the world.

There are two parts to this blessing: that they be fruitful and reproduce; and that they govern the world.

1:29-30  Rashi, Ibn Ezra, and most commentators group these two verses together indicating that man and beast shared the same diet – all were to eat herbs.  Man was thus forbidden to kill animals for food, this becoming permitted only after the flood. (Sanhedrin 59b)

Ramban, however, perceives a distinction in the verses.  According to him, verse 29 is addressed to man and his wife.  In it God gave them every form of herb-yielding seed and all fruit of the trees.  Verse 30, however, is directed to the beasts of the earth and the fowl of the heaven who were confined to all green herbage, specifically excluding the fruit of the tree or the seeds.  Thus, according to Ramban, man and animal did not share the same diet.

  • Note: That Adam was not permitted to eat meat is derived in Sanhedrin 59b from our verses: ‘to you shall it be for food and to all the beasts of the earth’ (the herbs) but the beasts of the earth themselves have not been given to you.
  • Whether this prohibition, before the Flood, extended also to animals that died by themselves, or to fish, and fowl is uncertain.
  • Interesting is the comment in Midrash Agaddah: ‘From this verse you learn that Adam was prohibited from eating meat, for God had not created His creatures in order to have them die and provide food for other species.  Had Adam not sinned, creatures would never have died.

It was only after they sinned (6:12) and God decreed that they perish in the Flood, that He saved some of them to preserve the species, and He permitted the sons of Noah to slaughter and eat them.  However, there were restrictions: they could not eat a living animal, nor could they eat a limb cut off from a living animal or the blood because it is the basis of the soul (Leviticus 17:14) Similarly, they were commanded to ritually slaughter the animals before partaking of their flesh.

“Behold I give to you’  The beginning of this verse does not include the words ‘for food’, Hirsch explains that the verse is to be understood: ‘See, I have given all vegetation, etc. to you.  Their further preservation and continuation for food depends upon your attention and care …. ‘They are to be your food’: it is therefore in your own interest that you give them wise and heedful care.

The earth’s creatures were thus to be satisfied with the restrictions upon them, while God, for His part, will ‘open His hands and nourish the desire of every living thing’.  (Psalm 14:16)

The commentators note that this statement is not concluded with ‘that it was good’.  It became eternally established because these dietary rules – prohibiting meat – would be changed after the Flood.

1:31  “..and behold, it was very good.’  As the Vilna Gaon explains: Something can be ‘good’ by itself, but no longer ‘good’ when fitted to another thing.  The divine works of creation, however, are good in themselves and also together with others..

..behold, always introduces us to something new… that whereas each unit of creation was considered ‘good’ in isolation, now when creation was complete and all of its units were perceived as part of a whole, it was recognized as ‘very good’…

“And there was evening and there was morning the sixth day.”  The commentators note the unusual use of the word – the before the word sixth:

Chizkuni: It designates ‘the day that is distinguished among the other days of creation as the day on which His work was completed.

Hirsch: We are clearly meant to regard this day as the culmination of the first five, the day in which the list of creations found a goal and were fulfilled.

And so, with the expression of ‘very good’, the Six Days of Creation – preparatory to the Seventh Day, Sabbath – come to a close.


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