1:26 in our image. God is, as it were, taking counsel here with Himself, not with angels, since man was to be made in the image of God, not of angels. “Our image,” therefore, implies human likeness to the triune Godhead. Plants possess a body, and animals a body and consciousness. Man was not only to have a body (of the created “earth”) and a consciousness (of the created “soul”), but man was also to possess a third created entity, the image of God, an eternal spirit capable of communion and fellowship with his Creator.
1:26 likeness. Man was not only created in God’s spiritual image; he was also made in God’s physical image. His body was specifically planned to be most suited for the divine fellowship (erect posture, upward-gazing countenance, facial expressions varying with emotional feelings, brain and tongue designed for articulate symbolic speech–none of which are shared by the animals). Furthermore, his body was designed to be like the body which God had planned from eternity that He Himself would one day assume (I Peter 1:20).
1:26 dominion. The “dominion” man was to exercise was to be over both “the earth” and also all the other living creatures on the earth. Such dominion obviously was under God as a stewardship, not as autonomous sovereign. Man was to care for the earth and its creatures, developing and utilizing the earth’s resources, not to despoil and deplete them for selfish pleasure.
1:27 male and female. Note that “man” is here (and often in Scripture) used in a generic sense to include both man and woman. Both male and female were created (the details of their physical formation being given in Genesis 2) in God’s image. Thus both possess equally an eternal spirit capable of personal fellowship with their Creator. Shared equally by man and women are all those spiritual attributes not shared by animals–moral conscience, abstract thought, appreciation of beauty, emotional feelings, and, especially, the capacity for worshipping and loving God.
1:28 replenish. God’s first command to man was that of producing abundant progeny sufficient to fill the earth (not “replenish,” a misleading translation of the Hebrew word male). Perhaps the animals had been created in large numbers of each kind, but the human population began with only two people. The function of subduing the earth and having dominion over it would necessarily require a long time–first, for the growth of a large enough population to fill the earth, and second, for the acquiring of enough knowledge and skill to enable man to bring it under full control and development.
1:28 have dominion. This primeval commandment to conquer and rule the earth has been called the dominion mandate, though a better term might be the primeval commission to mankind. It has never been abrogated, but was specifically renewed and extended after the Flood (see notes on Genesis 9:1-7). The military terminology in no way implies hostility and resistance from the earth, for it was all “very good” (Genesis 1:31). It suggests, rather, intensive study of the earth and its creatures (that is, “science”) and then application of that knowledge (that is, technology and commerce) for the optimum benefit of mankind and the animals, and for the glory of God.
Note that no instruction was given to exercise dominion over other men, but only over the earth and the animals. Had man not rebelled against God’s Word, all would have remained in perfect fellowship with God and, therefore, with one another. There was no initial need for the so-called social sciences and technologies, but only the natural sciences and their implementation. This situation was radically changed at the Fall, and God’s commandment accordingly expanded officially after the Flood.