What is God Like?

The early parts of Genesis talk a great deal about how man is created by, and in the image of, God. I remember when I was young I thought that meant that people looked like God. Like, somehow people had been given the body and face of God. In my more recent, and more intense, readings of this chapter I’ve come to understand this passage entirely differently.

In the creation story of Genesis 1 God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures.” All of these creatures are made, seemingly, of nothing more than earthly materials. By this, they possess nothing more than earth, or water, or air. This is not so with the creation of man.

In Genesis 2:7 “the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”

This implies to me that God has passed a part of the spirit of Himself into man. A soul. This soul is what distinguishes man from all other life. This soul is what makes man like God.

The thought that mankind was made to be “like God” raised a question for me. What is God like?

I think that God is vengeful.

After the creation of man, God tells Adam that he may not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil “for in the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:17b)  This, to me, means that if Adam eats the fruit it will be the beginning of his death, as Adam has eternal life during this time.

Then, in the story of the Fall of Man, after Adam and Eve eat the fruit, God curses each of them with physical pain. I see this as vengeful because God has the choice at this time to simply cast them from the Garden of Eden (and away from the Tree of Life Eternal), but instead chooses to also pain them for their sin.

Then, when Adam and Eve’s first two sons are grown, Cain kills his younger brother Abel. When God curses Cain for his sin, Cain claims that the curse is too great and that strangers shall surely kill him as a wanderer of the land. But, God says that “if anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken upon him sevenfold.” (Genesis 4:15a)

I think that God is unsympathetic.

In the story of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4), Abel provides an offering to God of sheep, and Cain offers vegetables and fruits to God. God is happy with the offering of Abel but is displeased with Cain’s offering for Cain has not followed a rule that God does not in fact say until after the flood (Genesis 6-8).

Then we come to Abram/Abraham and Sarai/Sarah. When they travel Abram commands Sarai to say that she is his sister because Abram thinks that he will be killed for being the husband of such a beautiful woman. So, in Egypt the Pharaoh takes Sarai as his own wife and God plagues him for taking Sarai from Abram. Then, later they travel to the city of Abimelech, and again Abraham claims Sarah is his sister. Then when Abimelech takes Sarah as his wife, God threatens to kill him for sleeping with Abraham’s wife. Abimelech says to God that he did not know and God says that he knows that Abimelech has “done this in the integrity of [his] heart”. (Genesis 20:6) So, even knowing that Abimelech was innocent, God was willing to kill him simply because Abraham was one of His prophets.

I think that God is egocentric.

The first time I saw this trait was in Genesis 3 when God curses Adam, He curses him for listening to the voice of his wife over the voice of God. Then, later, when all of mankind spoke one language they banded together to build the Tower of Babel to be remembered by. When God saw they were building a monument that was not in His name, He created new languages to confuse them and stop the construction of the tower.

I think that God is loyal.

God promises Abram that his offspring will be as innumerable as the stars, and promised him that he would have a son. Abram bore a child with a servant, which was not the plan of God. But, God blessed the unplanned son, Ishmael, because of the promise he made to Abram. God then also allowed Abraham to bear a son with his wife and blessed that son, Isaac, too. Then, when Abraham cast Ishmael out of his house, God stayed with Ishmael and protected him.

I think that God is demanding.

After He decides to flood the earth, He commands Noah to build an ark. He tells Noah exactly how to build this ark and what to bring onto the ark to survive His flood. After the flood, Noah is told what sacrifice all men must make for their lives.

Then, God commands Abraham to circumcise all his descendants. And then God commands Abraham to kill his “only son”, Isaac. He asks this of Abraham so that Abraham may prove the depth of his faith in God.

I think that God is malleable.

When God told Abraham that He planned to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham begged him to spare the city if there were innocent people in the city. God agreed that He would not destroy the cities if He could find 10 innocent persons there, only because Abraham asked.

Then, in Sodom and Gomorrah, it seemed to me that God never really looked for innocent people there. He saw the people there for one night and destroyed the cities.  However, He does see the good deeds of Lot and sends Lot and his family away to be saved. And, when Abraham is about to sacrifice the life of his son upon God’s command, God sends an angel to stop Abraham. Thus the life of Isaac is saved.

God seems to me to be a multi-faceted character who is both confused and confusing. God is constantly changing His mind; He’s still not sure which expectations He has, and He’s still trying to figure it all out.

Honestly, I kind of feel like (in Genesis) God is a little kid who just got His first dog. He’s not sure how much to feed it or when. He’s not sure what tricks the dog already knows and what tricks He has to teach it. He’s not sure if He wants say “down” or “get down” and so He just keeps using both which is simply confusing the dog. But, God is also young enough that He doesn’t understand the mistakes that He’s making. And when the dog doesn’t listen (because it’s confused, because He’s confused), God gets mad and punishes the dog.



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