Image and Likeness Bearers Tzelem צֶלֶם and Demoot דְּמוּת

David Mitts

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


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Where is Your Treasure?


Our authority in life comes from how we see ourselves, what the scripture calls, our image and likeness.  Today, I want to look at these two words in ancient Hebrew and see what they may reveal to us to assist us in walking into our destiny.

The first word is tzelem, which comes from the root tzal which means a reflection of a shadow of a source.  It is the same root word for an idol so it becomes especially important to grasp the reality of the word.

The second word for likeness is even more significant, demmot which comes from the root dam which means blood. 

Combining these 2 words tells us that we are a reflection of our Creator, both as male and female and that we carry His blood line.

Moving ahead to Genesis 5:1-3, we see that God created Adam as a type of being:

This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day when God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them Man in the day when they were created. When Adam had lived one hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, according to his image, and named him Seth. (Gen 5:1-3 NASB)

The word “man” is the word Adam, like a species like would say “dog” or “cat”. The species of man, Adam is created in the tzelem or image or reflection of God and this defines us as a species, like other characteristics defines cats as cats or dogs as dogs. In our case it is the God image, tzelem, that defines us.

Image reflects the whole soul… it’s what is in your heart and your thoughts. We have the gift, if we choose to accept it, to be image-bearers of God, and that means living and behaving like God intended us to.

In Genesis 1 we read that we were intended to be subduers of the earth and rulers over everything that moved. God had hoped for us to be benevolent caretakers of the planet, in His image, just like He would have done. It is our image-nature to care for our environment.

Rather than accepting the very generous gift of being God’s image bearers on earth, we decided that we wanted to be gods ourselves. We broke away from God’s image. We devised our own plans and made our own definition of good and evil. Instead of gently guiding the planet so it could flourish as God intended it to, we opted to steal from the planet. We took advantage of its resources to bolster our own wealth. We turned on each other and destroyed other potential image bearers to further our own gain.

Not surprisingly, by the time Noah is on the Biblical scene an amendment has to be made to address the issue of murder:

And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. "The fear of you and the terror of you will be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky; with everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into your hand they are given. "Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant. "Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. "Surely I will require your lifeblood; from every beast I will require it. And from every man, from every man's brother I will require the life of man. "Whoever sheds man's blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man. "As for you, be fruitful and multiply; Populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it."(Gen 9:1-7 NASB)

The likeness of Adam, man is in the demoot, the blood. The gift of life is in the blood. This is why God did not allow His image bearers to eat the blood. The blood carried life, the likeness of the animal. In this way blood represents what makes an animal what it is alive. The life of the animal was God’s and He required it. It was holy to Him, set apart to represent life itself. We can and do eat the flesh but not the blood. This prefigures the sacrifice of Yeshua whose blood we are to partake of because it is pure likeness of the Father, pure image and it is given to us to make us holy.

Murder, the taking of life was punishable by the losing of one’s life. This established the atonement that the shedding of Yeshua’s life voluntarily would complete the cycle of life and death, bringing us into eternal life.

In some manner or another, directly or indirectly, we have all shed blood. The Messiah came and died to redeem humanity and restore the image of God to each soul who chose to follow YHWH. This was meant to be a living faith, and although death was part of it, it was never to be taken lightly.

The word tselem highlighted a significant distinction between the living faith of the Hebrew people, and the religions of the cultures that surrounded them.

YHWH announced humans to be His living image. No other religion, at the time, gave humanity such high honour. Pagan religions made stagnant images out of things of the earth, such as stone or wood. Rocks and forests were God’s creation, not gods themselves:    

Then the LORD spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan opposite Jericho, saying, "Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, 'When you cross over the Jordan into the land of Canaan, then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their figured stones, and destroy all their molten images and demolish all their high places; and you shall take possession of the land and live in it, for I have given the land to you to possess it. (Num 33:50-53 NASB)

By the time of the Babylonian threat, the Hebrew people had completely forgotten that they were image bearers of their Creator. Instead, they turned to the pagan way of making tactile, home-made, image-bearing gods to worship, just as the Canaanites had. This was despicable to YHWH. The Hebrew people had promised to never worship idols, but over and over they broke that promise:

'They transformed the beauty of His ornaments into pride, and they made the images of their abominations and their detestable things with it; therefore I will make it an abhorrent thing to them. 'I will give it into the hands of the foreigners as plunder and to the wicked of the earth as spoil, and they will profane it. 'I will also turn My face from them, and they will profane My secret place; then robbers will enter and profane it.(Eze 7:20-22 NASB)

Worshipping other home-made gods was bad enough, BUT worshiping other gods while still claiming to worship God was abhorrent to YHWH, and He spoke vehemently against it:

"I hate, I reject your festivals, Nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies. "Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them; And I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings. "Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps. "But let justice roll down like waters And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. "Did you present Me with sacrifices and grain offerings in the wilderness for forty years, O house of Israel? "You also carried along Sikkuth your king and Kiyyun, your images, the star of your gods which you made for yourselves. "Therefore, I will make you go into exile beyond Damascus," says the LORD, whose name is the God of hosts. (Amo 5:21-27 NASB)

Jesus, as this Messiah, was the living sacrifice for our sin of image-breaking. We broke ourselves off from our purpose of being YHWH’s image bearers. Jesus restored our right to bear the image of God. If we were to follow Yeshua (Jesus) and the example he had set, we could once again be YHWH’s reflection on earth. We were made to be stewards of this planet, respecting all living things, and issuing good practices to protect and promote the God-given goodness of this earth. Jesus’ death allowed us to reboot our purpose.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.(Col 1:15-20 NASB)

Yeshua made it very clear that our role as image bearers had nothing to do with the possessive things of this world, but rather everything to do with the spiritual well-being of creation:

Then they *sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Him in order to trap Him in a statement. They *came and *said to Him, "Teacher, we know that You are truthful and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to pay a poll-tax to Caesar, or not? "Shall we pay or shall we not pay?" But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, "Why are you testing Me? Bring Me a denarius to look at." They brought one. And He *said to them, "Whose likeness and inscription is this?" And they said to Him, "Caesar's." And Jesus said to them, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." And they were amazed at Him. (Mar 12:13-17 NASB)

It wasn’t just Caesar’s likeness, it was Caesar’s image… his behavior, which included the desire for wealth and power. We were not meant to spend our lives seeking wealth and material possessions. That always comes at the expense of others. Money is just an image bearing idol.

As image bearers of YHWH, we are meant to reflect the glory of God. Yeshua’s death on the cross restored our ability to reflect God. We broke our image-bearing opportunity, but with Jesus’ sacrifice we can, once again, be transformed into His image.

This is what we affirm when we worship God. When we worship mammon, we worship the image and blood line of the world. When we offer up our love to God and honor the sacrifice of Yeshua we affirm in our being the reestablishment of the image and likeness.

When we accept the Messiah as the One who brings salvation to us, we begin the process of transforming back into His image, once again. We become the unveiled reflection of God. We are His image in Spirit and in truth. Paul wrote that, “Just as we have borne the image of the earthly, we will also bear the image of the heavenly” [1 Corinthians 15:49].

We are guardians of the planet, caretakers of this beautiful earth, and we need to take that role seriously. But our main purpose, as God’s image bearers, is to be sharers of the gospel, the good news that we are redeemed through the Messiah. Our bodies will decay from an earthly death, but our Spirit is our true image, and that carries on forever! Being made in God’s image means guiding humanity through this generous world and onwards, into the Promised Land… where we will bear the image of the heavenly, shining like the noonday sun!

Activation: Close your eyes and see yourself as a child of God. What do you look like? Ask God to help you see!



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