God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Genesis 1:27 NASB
Male and female – What is the point of the repetition? Wasn’t it clear enough with the first, “God created man”? Why add the second “in the image of God He created him”? Maybe questions like this just don’t bother you, but they bother me.
We could suggest that this is Hebrew poetry. Chiastic poetry follows a pattern, not phonetic rhymes. The pattern is usually A-B-C-C’-B’-A’. But that doesn’t apply here. The pattern isn’t (in Hebrew) “create-God-man-image – image-man-God-create.” It is “create-God-man-image – image-God-create-man.” There must be another reason for this repetition.
I think the repetition is designed to do two things. First, it emphasizes the fact that Man is the direct result of God’s creative act. In the ancient Near-East, many mythologies suggested that Man was the by-product of some other divine activity. The children of Israel coming out of Egypt were subjected to many decades of teaching along these lines. The gods were busy with other things. Men were at best an afterthought, designed to carry out the tedious work in the world. They were not expressly and purposefully designed with the Creator’s image in mind. Hebrew corrects this pagan belief.
Secondly, and just as importantly, this repetition introduces the extended thought, “male and female He created them.” Other ancient Near-Eastern mythologies include some story about the generation of men, but none include any story about the generation of women. The Hebrew cosmogony is unique. Not only does it report that women are also the purposeful design of God (and not, as the Greeks thought, merely deficient males), the account in Genesis 2 places the woman at the pinnacle of creation. This is the first place in the creation account where male and female are deliberately specified in spite of the fact that gender is obviously part of the previous creation of animals. By demarcating the difference only with human creation, the account emphasizes the importance of the female.
But there is one other factor that is often overlooked. The Hebrew account makes it abundantly clear that being human is communal, cooperative and commissioned. In other words, in Hebrew thought Man is not an individual. Man is both male and female. That does not mean androgyny. It means that my humanity is a function of living outside myself. To be human I must interact with others, and in particular with those of a different gender. I am not totally myself within myself. Some vital part of what it means to be me can only be found in relation to another. This implies that to be human is to accept the responsibility to care for others. I am commissioned to obligation. Taking care of myself is not enough. Loving my neighbor as myself is essential to being human.
Torah represents the accumulated response of the people of Israel to the ‘revelation’ of the infinite nature of each person’s responsibility for another. This, in turn, is our understanding of the meaning of creation, which presupposes that we are not responsible for our own being but rather are beholden to another.”
Greek psychology places enormous emphasis on care of the self. In its worst form, psychology promotes the idea that taking care of myself is the highest form of humanity, that the world must necessarily revolve around me if it is to be of any value and that unless I nourish myself, I will be unfit to provide for others. But from the very beginning, Hebrew presents a different picture. Hebrew suggests that who I am is measured by how responsible I am for others, not to others. My humanity is not measured by how “put together” I am but rather by how much I serve another for their benefit. To be human is to be a servant.
Topical Index: human, other, male, female, Genesis 1:27, responsibility