“God and Women in Genesis 1:26-28:
Rereading the Creation Narrative from a Feminist Perspective”
26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
The Hebrew word in Genesis 1:26 and 27 that translates as “mankind” in the English language refers, in the most literal sense, to both genders: male and female—what some Hebrew scholars and theologians have called the “natural genders,” and for others the “natural sexes.” Thus, as many students of Scripture already know, mankind should be best rendered as humanity or human beings in English. I do, however, would like to consider a simple question: what if we were to read these three verses of Genesis 1 (26-28) from a feminist and womanist perspective. Let us consider these additional pertinent questions:
- What difference the feminist lens would make in our understanding of the relationships between men and women in the world?
- Would a feminist rereading of this passage lead to a rejection to the traditional gender hierarchy?
- Would a feminist rereading of this text lead to a complementarian perspective about gender roles and functions?
- How shall this rereading change the way we “define” women and “understand” their roles, functions, and contributions in the world?
- What if we were to replace each reference to “mankind/humankind/human beings” in these texts with the word “women”?
- What if we were to interpret each (textual) allusion or echo to “mankind/human/human beings” in this passage as a reference to women?
*** In the Hebrew text, the word is not “women” (plural) but “woman” (singular). For the sake of rhetorical force and linguistic reconceptualization, I would like to use the plurality (women) instead of the singularity (woman) in my analysis below. Let us try this interpretive exercise below:
• God created women in his image and likeness.
• God gave women power and ability to rule over the fish in the seas (natural sciences).
• God gave women power and ability to rule over the birds in the sky (natural sciences).
• God gave women power and ability to rule over the livestock.
• God gave women power and ability to rule over all the wild animals.
• God gave women power and ability to rule over all the creatures that move along the ground.
• God blessed women, and God spoke to “the woman” directly and clearly.
• God gave women power and ability to increase in number.
• God gave women power and ability to subdue the earth.
• To be created in the image of God is to have freedom, critical thinking, imagination, and intelligence, as well as resistance to struggle against all forces of human oppression and evil.
• Hence, by creating women in his own image, God gave women freedom, critical thinking, imagination, and intelligence. God also equipped women to reject and fight against all forms of human oppression, abuse, and evil.
• By creating women in his own image, God ordained women to be his representative in the world, to be his agents in the cosmos, and to reflect his communicable qualities, virtues, and attributes in the universe.
In conclusion, from creation, God has empowered women by giving them natural abilities, intrinsic freedom, natural authority, and natural intelligence to create order in society; to administer laws and justice in society; to exercise dominion and control over the natural world; to make the world liveable and functional; to lead and rule over all things in the world; and to create harmony and coherence in the cosmos. According to this text, the power of woman encompasses everything in the world because God has created her to be his agent or ambassador in the world. In other words, the art of governance, administration, and leadership are divine gifts and abilities extended to the woman gender. Literally and originally, I am arguing that the passage of Genesis 1:26-28, both directly and indirectly, suggests that God has called women to govern, administer, and to lead, as well as to perform different roles and functions in both public and private places, such as at home, in society, in government offices, in sacred spaces such as ecclesiastical settings (in churches).