This is the fifth in a five part series called “In the Beginning,” exploring various creation stories.
Genesis 1:26 – 31
Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’ So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’ God said, ‘See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.’ And it was so. God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
What does it mean to be people who have bodies, created in God’s image? Genesis tells us that we are made in the image and likeness of God. I thought it might be helpful to dig a little into what these words actually mean in their original language. The Hebrew word for image tselem has the sense of a cut out or something constructed. I imagine the craft where you cut out a paper people chain. The Hebrew word for shadow tsel comes from the same root. The word likeness can mean similar in manner or pattern. Perhaps we are the shadows of God – not exact but similar. We were created to act in a manner like God, though we often do not act as such.
One of my professors once asked our class what it would like if we took seriously the belief that we are all created in the image of God. What if when we encounter others, we proclaim like Jacob who greets his estranged brother Esau with, “for truly to see your face is like seeing the face of God”(Genesis 33:10). What if we believed being made in the image of God was not just descriptive, that is not only about what and who we are but how we are to be.
In Genesis humanity is created last and given dominion over the earth, we are to continue God’s creative work. We have been given the responsibility like God to care and create. Today you are invited to read a different story about the creation of humanity from the Inuit. As you read the story reflect on this question: what is our role and relationship with and within creation?
“An Inuit Creation Story” *
How did it all come to exist? Once long ago the whole earth the soil, hills, stones, snow, and ice-just dropped down from above. At first it was impossible to stand up because the sky was so close to the ground-until the first humans and animals who originally lived huddled together below decided to set up pillars, one in each of the four directions, to prop up the sky. But the pillars were not strong enough. They became dis located, causing the world to tilt. Then a pouring rain came down and drowned everything. The islands in the sea where everyone sought refuge tipped over. You can still see the remains of the original creatures’ shells and bones on the island tops today.
We think there must have been another living world underneath us, also supported by four pillars. That’s because of the driftwood we pick up along the shore-it must be all that’s left of the underground forest, the world where we Inuit came from. First, two Inuit men emerged from out of the ground. They were made out of niaqugtack (mounds of earth). They ate of the earth. These two Inuit wanted to reproduce, so one took the other to be his wife-man. The wife-man became pregnant, but when the time came there was no way for the child to get born. So the husband sang a magical song to the pregnant wife-man. The singing made the wife-man’s genital split and the wife man was transformed into a woman. Most of us Inuit descend from the two of them.
Unfortunately, not all women could get pregnant. They needed to go out in search of children of the earth. Babies came out of the earth, covered with leaves from the snowbanks among the willow bushes. There they lay sprawled out with their eyes closed. They couldn’t even crawl. The women went out in the snow and found the babies. They adopted them and brought them home. They made clothes for them and nurtured them. Soon there were many Inuit populating the world. They needed to get food to eat and fur to protect their bodies, but it was too dark to hunt. All they could get were ptarmigan (grouse like bird) and hare who lived nearby. They would shoot them with the bow and arrow.
Ravens wanted light, too, so they could better find their food, but foxes preferred the dark-the better to pillage the caches where the Inuit people hid their meat. The two got into a big argument. “Qau! Qau! May the light come, may the day come!,” said the raven. “Taaq! Taaq! May it be night, may it be night!,” the fox responded. With these magical spoken words they settled the argument by alternating between the two. And it has been that way ever since.
Now we Inuit realized we needed the help of the animals to hunt. We needed dogs. So a man went out with harnesses in hand and began to stamp on the ground and call out. Suddenly dogs sprang out of tiny little earthen mounds that peaked above the snow. They shook themselves off. From then on men with their team of dogs could track big game-bear and walrus and seal-from much farther away and bring it back home.
Before day and night, there was no death. People jut grew older and older and when they could no longer walk or see, they would just lie down. With death also came the sun, moon, and stars. So now when people die they can go up to heaven and become luminous.
*This story is from Creation Stories: Landscapes and the Human Imagination, by Anthony Avendi