And God blessed them
Like so many others, January finds me in the book of Genesis once again. The creation account can seem so familiar, and yet every visit to these two chapters feels like entering a massive temple charged with mystery and grandeur. The words that struck me particularly this time were those spoken by God over the newly created pair of human beings:
And 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 heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
What a weighty and marvelous thing it is to receive such favor from the eternal God. On the day that he made them, God looked at our first parents, and he blessed them. God loved them and delighted to shower his goodness upon them. This is God’s original disposition towards our family, and despite all that happened afterward, the blessing was never rescinded.
After the fall, when God comes to judge his creatures, we encounter the word curse for the first time. “Cursed are you above all livestock,” he says to the serpent, condemning it to crawl on its belly and to eat dust all the days of its life. Then he turns to the woman. She is sorely punished, stricken with pain and dysfunction in her most intimate relationships. She is not, however, cursed. The man too is bowed down with a heavy sentence, but he is not cursed either; the earth is.
The first person to be cursed is Cain (Gen 4:11), and after him many individuals and groups of people fall under God’s curse. But not once does he ever curse the entire human race the way that he blessed us in the beginning. “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Rom 11:29). Despite our revolt and antipathy toward God that every one of us is born with, not one word of the blessing of Genesis 1:28 has fallen to the ground. Our parents were fruitful, and despite the innumerable dangers that surround us in this fallen world, they multiplied so that the entire earth is filled with their children. And these children do exercise dominion over the entire world and all of its creatures.
Of course sin has had its effect. The earth and the animals have not submitted to human dominion joyfully as they should have, and we in turn have dominated our subjects and used them cruelly. But all Satan’s craft and all sin’s deceit fail to undo the goodness of the blessing that God spoke in the beginning. The signs of the blessing are all around us, whether in fields of wheat ripe for harvest, in school playgrounds packed with screaming kids, in seeing-eye dogs serving with loyal zeal - all these and more remind us that God’s favor is still at work among the people he created and loved from the beginning.
Psalm 8 recalls in song the blessing of Genesis 1:28. Speaking of mankind, David says, “You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet.” These words return in the New Testament, in the book of Hebrews, where the inspired author applies the words, not to mankind in general, but specifically to Christ.
Now in putting everything in subjection to him (Ps 8:6), he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels (Ps 8:5), namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
Because Christ is the second Adam, the new head of the restored humanity, the blessing of Genesis 1:28 finds its final and perfect fulfillment in him. By his death and resurrection, Jesus set in motion the restoration of all things, the recovery of the fullest sense of God’s pronouncement of favor for the people created in his image, the people now united to him in the person of his Son.
It is for Christ’s sake that the blessing was never rescinded. And it is in Christ that we share in all its benefits, all the goodness that God willed for his children from the very beginning. And so Paul says, “For all things are yours … and you are Christ’s and Christ is God’s” (1 Cor 3.21-23).
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
And God blessed them.
The author of Hebrews is citing the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, which is what his Greek speaking audience would have been familiar with. The Hebrew text of Psalm 8 reads “you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings.”