What Is Man?


LORD, what is man, that You take knowledge of him? Or the son of man, that You are mindful of him? (Psalm 144:3)

Three passages of Scripture ask this question. The psalmist asked it in the above text, and in Hebrews 2:6 the intense writer of that book quoted from the parallel passage in Psalm 8:4. In each of these sections, the wonder behind the question was the amazing authority that God the Creator had conferred on man, who had obviously really blown it. Natural experience would seem to imply that God had something of a lapse in judgment by delegating a key managerial role over the planet to a being whose first major decision was to rebel against his very Maker!

Obviously, God does not—nor did He then—make a mistake.

What, then, is man? Why did the omnipotent and omniscient Creator grant such far-reaching abilities to humanity? How can we find a reasonable answer to such a question? If indeed there is a Creator, and if He has revealed something of Himself in recorded text, where can we find evidence of His sovereign design and planning for such a weighty responsibility?

Day Six

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)

These are familiar words to most of us, but what a profound design is behind this magnificent choice of words. After building a universe that displays information about the “invisible attributes” of Himself (Romans 1:20) and structuring “speech” and “knowledge” in the processes of every day and night (Psalm 19:1-3), God now reveals He will create a being that will represent Him both in likeness and in authority!

The universe and planet Earth were ready for life on Day Five. God created the living things that would fill the seas and the sky by the multiplied thousands. The waters would “abound with an abundance of living creatures” and the birds would fly “across the face of the firmament of the heavens” (Genesis 1:20). Then early the next day, God brought into existence the “cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth” (1:24)—again in numbers that stagger our imagination. Evolutionary considerations aside, whatever is implied by these statements, the creation of these living creatures offers a vast reservoir of insight into the amazing variety and wonder of God’s limitless knowledge. (Contemplate God’s many rhetorical questions to Job in chapters 38 through 41 when you have the leisure to peek into God’s direct oversight of His creation.)

But God’s plan also included a manager for the planet. That’s us.

The Personal Touch

There are a number of passages that indicate the personal involvement of the Creator with the myriad “kinds” of sea, air, and land creatures, but the specificity of God’s personal touch with the bodies of Adam and Eve is stunning!

And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)

And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. (Genesis 2:21-22)

He who planted the ear, shall He not hear? He who formed the eye, shall He not see? (Psalm 94:9)

These descriptions are not about a sweeping “abundance” swarming in the waters or “every kind” of “moving creature” filling the land. This is a personal, hands-on attention to detail. This is “forming” the eye and “planting” the ear. Yes, this could be some form of poetic license of the songwriter, but the language and the narrative of Genesis insist on a one-time event of a one-of-a-kind representative of the Creator Himself. The word picture drawn is of the Creator reaching down into the dirt of the planet that He made, sculpting the body of His own image, and personally placing that body into a garden that the Creator prepared for His manager to live in.

The LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. (Genesis 2:8)

Twice God used the word translated as “formed” when describing what He did to make the physical body of Adam. The Hebrew word yatsar is used 62 times in the Old Testament, and it always implies “fashioning” or “shaping” something. When God was teaching Jeremiah about His sovereign authority, He told him to go to the potter’s house and watch the potter make a clay jar (Jeremiah 18:2-4). The word translated as “potter” is the Hebrew yatsar. Just so, God was the “Potter” using the “clay” from His planet to form the human body! The apostle Paul used that conversation with Jeremiah to define our place in the order of things. We were formed by the Potter and can certainly not talk back to the One who formed us!

But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? (Romans 9:20-21)

When Adam later described what he knew the Creator had done to make the body of the woman whose substance came out of his own body, he said: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (Genesis 2:23). Later, Paul would tell Timothy that “Adam was formed first, then Eve” (1 Timothy 2:13). The New Testament Greek word translated as “formed” in both of those records by Paul is plasso and can only mean shaped by hands. The Bible is certainly consistent.

How About Now?

I suppose some might think that the perfect bodies of Adam and Eve were totally unique, and that since Adam’s sin and rebellion brought death into the world (Romans 5:12), the resulting bodies of their descendants are no longer “special” or “wonderful.” However, the Bible seems to go out of its way to take the opposite position.

I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them. (Psalm 139:14-16)

David is talking about his body! And there is more. God seems to go out of His way to let us know that every one of us—especially those of us who have been twice-born and have begun to know the marvels of God’s care and calling—is the work of His hands.

Therefore thus says the LORD, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob: “Jacob shall not now be ashamed, nor shall his face now grow pale; but when he sees his children, the work of My hands, in his midst, they will hallow My name, and hallow the Holy One of Jacob, and fear the God of Israel.” (Isaiah 29:22-23)

Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:4-5)

Thus says the LORD, who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him. (Zechariah 12:1)

My highlights in the above verses note the significance of God’s involvement with each of us.

Made in His Image

One of the joys of ICR’s ministry is being able to demonstrate the science that affirms the accuracy and authority of God’s Word. Much of our work is done behind the scenes while our team researches the details and data that are available to us today. My brother Dr. John Morris has often said, “Now is a wonderful time to be a Bible-believing Christian.” There is so much information that has come to light in the past few decades—especially in the past 10 years—that it is sometimes difficult to develop ways to share it all with you.

Many of our readers have purchased the DVD set Unlocking the Mysteries of Genesis. The response to this series has been so encouraging that we began immediately to involve our team and resources in a new four-episode DVD series, Made in His Image: Exploring the Complexities of the Human Body. The filming, reviewing, post-production, finalizing, and reviewing again (and again) have been completed, and the masters have been sent to the replicators. The set should be in our Distribution Center by November 1! To say that we are excited is an understatement.

Here is a quick summary of the four episodes.

The Miracle of Birth. This episode explores the marvels that take place during gestation and at the moment of birth. The changes that allow a baby to transition from nine months in a water-world to life on the outside take place in just a few moments. Only a Master Engineer could do such a wonderful thing.

The Marvel of Eyes. What we “see” involves far more than an exchange of photons of light and an instantaneous recognition of our world. Your jaw will drop and your heart will rejoice at what God has done to enable you to see.

Uniquely Human Hands. The human hand is far more wonderful and complex than any other appendage in the living world. From the touch of a loved one to the painting of a masterpiece, our hands are the manifestation of stunning and sophisticated design.

Beauty in Motion. All the mental and physical abilities that make up me and you come together in the majesty of a ballet pirouette or a baseball pitch. The human soul and spirit are part of God’s image—and they both find expression in the athletic performance unique to mankind that confirms creation.

ICR is taking pre-orders through the end of October that will ensure quick delivery as soon as the sets are received at our dock. We are offering a special gift of Dr. Randy Guliuzza’s full-color Made in His Image booklet with every pre-order through the end of October. Now is a great time to take advantage of gift ideas for the coming Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons.

Thanks for helping us spread the message of the true blessing that we are made in His image and are “fearfully and wonderfully made.”

* Dr. Morris is Chief Executive Officer of the Institute for Creation Research.

Cite this article: Henry M. Morris III, D.Min. 2015. What Is Man?. Acts & Facts. 44 (10).