GOD'S VICTORY OVER THE GODS, AND THE
ELEVATION OF THE HUMAN RACE
When God reveals his intention to make the human race, he is hardly in “divine isolation.”1 On the contrary, he is situated in his divine community, whose “members … are invited in Genesis 1: 26 to participate in the last and most important act of creation” 2 (see §§1.1, 5.2). They rise to the occasion and support their leader, too.3 “In the plural of vs. 26 a plurality of heavenly beings may be understood, but there is not a hint of diversity of will or purpose.”4 God's divine court agrees to his proposal.
The appearance of gods in Gen 1: 26 might seem to prove that the Priestly writer holds a liberal interpretation of monotheism. Indeed, for many biblical authors “the monotheistic character of Israel's faith never precluded the notion of Yahweh having a coterie or surrounded by a court of semi-divine beings whom he addresses, commands, and with whom he holds conversation” 5 (§4). But unlike those many biblical
1 See Horst Dietrich Preuss, Old Testament Theology (trans. Leo G. Perdue; 2 vols.; OTL; Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1995–1996 [1991–1992]) 1.256.
2 Timothy Lenchak, “Puzzling Passages: ‘Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”’ (Genesis 1: 26),” BT 34 (1996): 167. See also Moshe Weinfeld, “God the Creator in Gen I and in the Prophecy of Second Isaiah,” Tarb 37 (1968): 115 (in Hebrew); idem, Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomic School (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972) 199–200; Patrick D. Miller, Jr., “Cosmology and World Order in the Old Testament: The Divine Council as Cosmic-Political Symbol,” HBT 9/2 (1987): 64 (repr. in Israelite Religion and Biblical Theology: Collected Essays [JSOTS 267; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000] 433–434); and, with qualification, Lothar Ruppert, “Zur Anthropologie der biblischen Urgeschichte, vornehmlich von Gen 1–3,” Cath 50 (1996): 304.
3 Cf. T. L. J. Mafico, “The Divine Compound Nameand Israel's Monotheistic Polytheism,” JNSL 22 (1996): 169–170.
4 B. Gemser, “God in Genesis,” in idem et al., Studies on the Book of Genesis (OTS 12; Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1958) 1.
5 Miller, Genesis 1–11: Studies in Structure & Theme (JSOTS 8; Sheffield: JSOT, 1978) 18. See also Jeffrey H. Tigay, Deuteronomy (The JPS Torah Commentary; Philadelphia/Jerusalem: Jewish Publication Society, 1996) 514; and, more generally, J. Day, “The Religion of Israel,” in Text in Context: Essays by Members of the Society for Old Testament Study (ed. A. D. H. Mayes; Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 2000) 438–439.