The fact that “the image of God” is represented by both male and female reminds us that God is neither gender. The Bible does consistently use masculine imagery (and verbs of which God is the subject are always conjugated in the masculine form), but this is more due convention and the confines of language than a theological position. When it is appropriate, God and his traits (e.g., wisdom) are described in feminine forms. Fundamentally, however, God transcends gender. Where he is complete and perfect, we are partial representations that require fulfillment in order to approximate his likeness.
This passage also emphasizes that we are to be partners with others in this life. The first man and woman were not created in isolation, but in a relationship with one another. Notice also that this relationship is not purely sexual. They are called to “be fruitful,” but also to work together in order to oversee the world and its care. Each have individual traits and characteristics which are most effective when in harmony with the other.
There is also no inherent hierarchy in this account. Man and woman are created at the same time and are given the same directive. Some who write on this topic refer to this as the “complementarian” model. Each brings different talents and has a different role to play. These roles, however, are not explicated here. Instead Gen. 1 presents us with a true equality of man and woman; created in the same instant the combination of both uniquely represent the image of God.
If Gen. 1 teaches us anything at all about the relationship between husband and wife, wife and husband, it is that they are equal partners in the divinely appointed task of reflecting God’s image and obeying his commands. Together we are to be fruitful, not just in procreation, but in all our works; we are to govern, not as a despot, but following the divine model of a caring and conciliatory king.
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