Before creating human beings, God states, “Let us make humanity in our image, and in our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). If God alone is Creator, then who is the “us”? Later Christian tradition posits that this divine declaration constitutes a conversation within the Trinity, in which Father, Son, and Holy Spirit deliberate together. However, to import trinitarian theology into Genesis is to read post-New Testament Christian thought back into ancient Israel’s Scriptures. More, the Trinity would have no real need of this consultation, since Christian doctrine posits three divine persons as “one in being, essence, and nature.” Instead of referring to a triune Godhead, the text preserves the Lord’s words to other divine beings in a heavenly council. In Genesis, the supreme God of Israel speaks with a celestial entourage that Scripture calls the “children of God.”

First, it is important to note that only the one God of Israel is Creator. While the Lord says, “Let us make (נעשׂה; na’aseh) humanity” in Genesis 1:26, the very next verse describes divine creation in the singular: “God created (ברא; bara) humanity in his image, in the image of God he created (ברא) it; male and female he created (ברא) them” (1:27). Although God may consult with other divine entities, only a single Creator makes human beings. Thus, Psalm 89 can say of God, “You have created (בראת; barata) all the children of humanity” (Ps 89:47).

Yet, Psalm 89 also offers a glimpse into the other (decidedly less powerful) deities that make up God’s heavenly congregation. The psalmist asks, “Who in the heavenly expanse can be compared to the Lord? Who among the children of God (בני אלים; benei elim) is like the Lord, a God greatly to be revered in the council of the holy ones, and awesome above all who are around him?” (Ps 89:6-7). This biblical poetry parallels the “children of God” with those in the “heavenly expanse” (שׁחק; shahaq), which shows that the psalmist refers to other divine beings alongside God in the heavens. Indeed, these beings in Psalm 89 are the same “children of God” (בני האלהים; benei ha’elohim) who present themselves before God according to Job (1:6; 2:1; 38:7; cf. Gen 6:2-4). In saying, “Let us make humanity in our image,” the Lord of hosts resolves to create terrestrial beings to mirror the divine beings in the heavenly realm.    

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96 COMMENTS

  1. Should I take it then, that belief in other divine beings can be left behind while belief in the one creator God remains, who is at last closely identified with Jesus himself (John 1, Hebrews 1, Colossians 1, Mark 1:1, etc) remains? Or if I might put it another way, to what extant is the depiction of God the Creator in conversation with lesser divine beings as in Genesis 1 and elsewhere revelatory of God?
    • Thanks for your question, Michael. The Bible's writers did not deny the existence of lesser gods -- even God notes their existence (e.g., Exodus 12:12; 20:3; 23:32) -- but "belief" is up to each Bible reader. Everything in Genesis 1 (or anywhere else in Scripture) is revelatory of God.

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    • the inner council fo God(father and son)and their sprit not a seperate being, did the creation the children of God ( upper council job,24 elders, and angels)watched on the two beginnings are different times that is genesis and John 1 are different when you know the order you'll know "us"
  2. Interesting. I've heard many explanations in regards to this and this passage always fascinated me. So do you believe the "children of God" are angels or other beings entirely?
    • Thanks for your question, Julie. Being an "angel" is a job description rather than an ontological category; the English word comes from the Greek translation (angelos) of the Hebrew word מלאך (malakh), which just means "messenger." Thus, being an "angel" describes what a divine being does, but not the type of divine being. Based on other biblical data (e.g., Psalm 82), it's probably best to understand the "children of God" as lesser gods in the heavenly court of Israel's God.

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  3. How I to understand The Father and The Son and The Holy Spirit according these verses. Thank you. From Ferdinan, 🇮🇩🇮🇩🇮🇩Indonesia
    • There is but One living and true God. We worship One Triune God, neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the substances of the same. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost: but the Godhead of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost is One God.

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  4. Hi Dr. Schaser you are an excellent Bible interpreter and expositor providing deep interpretation and understanding on many Bible passages. I would like to ask for your favor if you can make an exposition/article about the meaning of God creating humanity in God’s image and likeness. Thank you so much.
    • Thanks for your question. Being an “angel” is a job description rather than an ontological category; the English word comes from the Greek translation (angelos) of the Hebrew word מלאך (malakh), which just means “messenger.” Thus, being an “angel” describes what a divine being does, but not the type of divine being. Based on other biblical data (e.g., Psalm 82), it’s probably best to understand the “children of God” as lesser gods in the heavenly court of Israel’s God.

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    • I believe that the information to be received will be of tremendous benefit as it works ensure better understanding of Christ.
  5. If the heavenly beings are "bnei Elohim" (sons of God) and we also know that Israel are known as sons of God, this term can become confusing. Which group does it point to? I think God was communicating with Yeshua and the Spirit.
    • Thanks for your comment, Sharon. Israel is called God's "son" or "child" in the singular (e.g., Exodus 4:22; Deut 1:31; Hosea 11:1), but the "sons of God" (plural) are divine beings. For more on this topic, see https://weekly.israelbiblecenter.com/sorting-sons-god/

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    • Israel Bible Center equips you with the tools you need to enter into the Jewish world of Scripture. We provide first-rate teaching, and the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s top scholars. As a student, you will be able to interact personally with our teaching faculty, and gain access to hundreds of hours of Bible courses, including The Jewish Gospel of Matthew and The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. Become a part of the community of teachers and students at Israel Bible Center today!
    • Thanks for your question, David. The "Word" is "with God in the beginning" (John 1:1-2), and then that Word becomes enfleshed in Jesus in the first century CE (see John 1:14). Insofar as the Word is God's unique "son" (John 1:14), the Word would have been included in the "us" of Genesis 1:26, but the exhortation need not be limited to God and the Word.

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  6. It never ceases to amaze me that there is so much talk of the 3 in1 Trinity, we always say Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Rabbis, Jewish Dr / teachers Insist that sometimes it is hard to know who is speaking God - Father or the Messiah - Jesus but never mention The Holy Spirit yet the word says quite clearly the Holy Spirit was there in the beginning He is the one who breaths life. It says that God is Spirit, it seems He is the only constantly consistent one.
    • Hi Maureen. There is a different way, that is fully aligned with the evidence seen in the scriptures, which fulfills all the expectations of God being three in one without considering God is a trinity. Right from the very beginning, God, who is outside of time and space, created us to live as terrestrial beings. I believe the Jewish thinking is that humans are a soul. Body, mind and spirit (the spirit being our eternal person and which is made in the image of God). Throughout scripture the One, who is outside of time and space enters in to meet with us by Divine Authoritive Will, Action and Response (DAWAR) the Holy Word of God. The same goes for our God imaged spirit when God presences himself to us creatures by His Holy Spirit. Every action in the terrestrial is God at work by His DAWAR (Burning bush, Red sea crossing, resurrections, healings etc. God permanently presences Himself in our Soul by His Holy Spirit. It is that simple.
  7. Interesting insight. But would it be right to say that Trinity was smuggled into the Christian Bible, as the Old Testament seem to discredit the idea?
    • It wouldn't be right to say that the "Trinity was smuggled into the Christian Bible," since the word never appears in the Old or New Testaments; that is, it's not "in the Bible." The Old Testament doesn't discredit the idea that would later be expressed in Christian tradition as the trinity (that is, God is complex in God's unity according to the OT), but trinitarian doctrine doesn't fully explain the breadth of God's complexity according to Israel's Scriptures.
    • Israel Bible Center equips you with the tools you need to enter into the Jewish world of Scripture. We provide first-rate teaching, and the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s top scholars. As a student, you will be able to interact personally with our teaching faculty, and gain access to hundreds of hours of Bible courses, including The Jewish Gospel of Matthew and The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. Become a part of the community of teachers and students at Israel Bible Center today!
  8. Please expond on "lesser gods". Are they created by our Creator God? or are you saying there is another realm of which our Creator God is a member, beyond the Heavenly Court. I understand there are three types of Angels, God's first family, created by our Creator.
    • Yes, everything is created by the one Creator God according to Israelite theology -- both in the earthly and heavenly realms. For more on the divine court, see https://weekly.israelbiblecenter.com/sorting-sons-god/
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