Orthodox Judaism/Genesis 1:26


I know you have answered about the "plurality" in this verse basically eluding to God as communicating majestically, in or during creation, with the "ministering angels" - or, if I am reading your response correctly, Creation is a "collaborative effort" (my words from understanding your response) between God and the ministering angels. I am curious about this answer however. Are angels "creators" as well? I would not think that the "created" can be the "Creator". If this assumption on my part stands, then were the angels simply being "informed" (as in a majestic way?) about Creation? (As if God needed to inform - at best - or ask permission - at worse - the angles about creation?) Only God is Creator and does not need any other "input" or give information if He is the Absolute Authority. Also, the Scripture is, "Let US make mankind in OUR image..." Even if ministering angels are part of the Creation narrative (in a "hands on kind of way"), how could humanity be created in both the "image of God" and the "image of angels" - two completely different "entities" as well as authoritative power to create? Finally, and this is related, what was the cause of Satan's rebellion against God AFTER the Creation narrative? Satan was a ministering angel as well and so would have been accustomed to fulfilling the will of God. Why would he rebel when his role would not have changed after the creation of humanity? Clearly Satan did not want to submit to "some aspect" of God's plan -whether it was now becoming subservient to humanity (as humanity standing alone) or in rejection to the plan of salvation for humanity (God "becoming flesh") and Satan refusing to be a part of this plan.  Please do not see this as "disingenuous" Christian attack on Orthodox Judaism - which I greatly respect. I am looking for deeper understanding from the Orthodox perspective and have a Masters in Theology.

Hi Rich,

thank you for your thoughtful question. As you can tell by the timing, I had to ponder it a bit, and my answer to you is now being composed based on quite a bit of research I've done. There are several explanations to the "us" in Gen 1:26, on different levels of understanding Judaism. Certainly angels are creations themselves, and are not creating anything. In fact, the purpose of the angels is to fulfill the will of God, they don't have the capacity to come up with any deviations from it. So to address the Satan's supposed rebellion, it never happened. I suppose you're referencing the book of Job when you're asking this question, and if so, let me know and we will unpack it in full detail. But to address the first part of your question - who is the "us"? Admittedly, I'm probably going "off the reservation" with this one because the preponderance of widely available sources wouldn't touch it, but hey, it ain't high school and I don't have to ask permission.

Okay. So until the man is created, you'll notice that each time God creates something - He sees that it is good and then causes that creation to continue creating (9 - And God said, "Let the water that is beneath the heavens gather into one place, and let the dry land appear," and it was so.   
10 - And God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas, and God saw that it was good.
11 - And God said, "Let the earth sprout vegetation, seed yielding herbs and fruit trees producing fruit according to its kind in which its seed is found, on the earth," and it was so.). Same with waters swarming the living creatures on day 5, and earth bringing forth the living creatures on day 6 - so you see that everything living has been created secondarily, after God created the conditions for them to exist. So until the man was created, this went on. This is significant for the following reason. According to Judaism (and deeply explored in the Kabbalistic studies), God has several attributes. The first attribute is what we, in layman's terms, would call "nature". This is why hurricanes don't separate between the good and the bad, and earthquakes kill man and woman and child and animal alike. Loosely, if God created the world only with his attribute of Justice, it would only follow these "natural" laws. Mercy is another one of G-d's attributes, and it is that attribute that He called upon to create a man. Thus, we are also created with not only the capacity for eating/sleeping/existing like everything else in the world, but with the G-dly capacity for emotions and deeper understanding, which indeed is how we are in His image. Additionally, we have free will (something angels don't actually have), which puts us on a different level than the rest of the world He created.

That said, explanations given by the sages are incredibly insightful. Nachmanides explains that G‑d was referring to the earth from which man was actually formed. As we see in the next chapter (v. 7), "And the L-rd G‑d formed man of dust from the ground, and He breathed into his nostrils the soul of life, and man became a living soul." I think it's very significant because truly man was created using all other creations G-d put in place previously (luminaries = sun+moon = atmosphere = air, water, light, plants, animals and so on), which means He "called upon" all the previously created conditions to arrange in such an order that the creation of a man became possible.

I can tell you with absolute certainty, however, what that verse does NOT refer to. It does NOT refer to the Trinity, and there is preponderance of opinions formulated by Christian thinkers that testify to that.

For example, the evangelical Christian author Gordon J. Wenham, who is no foe of the Trinity and authored a widely respected two-volume commentary on the Book of Genesis, writes on this verse,

Christians have traditionally seen [Genesis 1:26] as adumbrating [foreshadowing] the Trinity. It is now universally admitted that this was not what the plural meant to the original author. (Gordon J. Wenham, Word Biblical Commentary on Genesis, Word Books, 1987, p. 27.)

The Liberty Annotated Study Bible, a Bible commentary published by the fundamentalist Reverend Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, similarly remarks on this verse,

The plural pronoun “Us” is most likely a majestic plural from the standpoint of Hebrew grammar and syntax. (Jerry Falwell (Executive Editor), Liberty Annotated Study Bible, Lynchburg: Liberty University, 1988, p. 8.)

There are quite a few more that I didn't bother quoting but you get the point I hope. Reading the Trinity into this verse is a tremendous stretch of imagination; it would be very much contrived.

Now, back to the second part of your question, abut Satan's rebellion. This idea contradicts Judaism completely. Satan (translated as Adversary) is one of G-d's angels who has a specific purpose. Chronicles, Job, Psalms, and Zechariah are the only places where Satan is mentioned. In each instance, the job description of Satan is to act like what we now call a Prosecuting Attorney, or District Attorney, and accuse and show evidence against the defendant. Each time Satan must get permission, if not a directive, from G-d to do what he does. And it's not like he is "accustomed" to fulfilling the will of G-d per your question - rather, because angels do not have free will, he doesn't have a choice, he MUST do the will of G-d (much like your car won't start unless you crank it in which case it's a direct "order" to start the engine and only to start the engine).

I probably introduced more confusion than I intended; but perhaps not. Happy to expound on any of this, and again thank you for your question and your patience while you waited for my answer.


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Eli Hadar


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