We are told in the very beginning, Genesis 1:27, that we are created in the image of God. But what does that mean?
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Does it mean that we look like God? I know there are many places in the Bible where God appears to people, and his appearance was too much to behold. Most of the descriptions we have, such as from Moses and Daniel, present God as an overwhelming presence.
On the other hand, God told Moses that he could see the back but not the face of God, for anyone who sees the face of God’s will die. That implies that God has a physical body like ours.
By the way, when God said that anyone who sees his face will die, does that mean the sight of God’s face is so emotionally overwhelming that it shocks us to the point of death, or simply that it is forbidden to see his face and if we see it, we must be executed?
After all, he told Adam and Eve if they ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil they would die, but when they ate they didn’t die. At least, not immediately; eventually they did, a few hundred years later. So, if they hadn’t eaten, would they have lived forever?
Who knows? However interesting that answer might be, I am going off on a tangent so let’s get back to today’s message.
I don’t think that we are created looking like God, if for no other reason than this: God is not a physical being. He is spirit, and as such can appear in any form he wishes. So, no, I don’t think God looks like we do or that we look like him, and that whatever form he has taken in the past to appear to people, whether in real life or in visions, is for our benefit.
One thing that might give us a hint to what “in the image of God” means might be found in that fact that of all the millions of different creatures God created, only human beings are created in his image. By identifying what is it that humans have which no other creature has, that might point to the image we are looking for.
So, nu? What’s so different about us?
I think it’s that we have a soul.
Animals have intelligence, they have emotions, they have skills (Jane Goodall turned the anthropological world upside down when she discovered chimpanzee’s had developed tool usage), and they also can learn new skills and pass them down to their progeny. All of these things are exactly the same things that humans have, except that the Bible specifically omits any reference to animals being reborn.
Now, one of the first lessons I learned about proper biblical exegesis is that “You can’t make an argument from nothing”, and just because something is not mentioned in the Bible, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. However, since we are specifically separated from every other living thing by the fact that we alone are created in God’s image, and that we, alone, will be resurrected in the End Days, then I think it makes sense that we have something which is the same thing God has but is not found in any other creature on earth.
And what is that? It’s our soul. I have always heard that the soul is eternal, and if that is true, then it is the one thing that only a human being has in common with God, thereby making us the only creatures in the world that are made in the image, or we could also say similar, to God.
That’s my take on what being made in the image of God means. It means that we have a soul that part of us which is eternal, just as God is eternal, and only human beings can lay claim to this similarity.
The only thing left now is to decide where our souls will go after we die. The answer to how we do that, my friends, is to follow the roadmap to salvation that you find in the Torah.
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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!