There is a speech in the 2nd act of Shakespeare’s Hamlet in which Shakespeare puts into the mouth of Hamlet a description of man that is matched in greatness only by the words of Psalm 8. He asked:
What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world. The paragon of animals. And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me. No, nor woman neither.
Of course, Shakespeare knew his Bible well. The Genesis account of creation is so full of theological riches that it seem impossible to mine them all. The Holy Spirit teaches us that man, as God’s image bearer, was both distinguished, dignified and dependent–differentiated and dust–in his original state. At creation, man was both a finite creature and the “lord of the lower world.” God created man out of the same place and from the same materials from which he made the animals and He invested man with faculties that other creatures do not enjoy; He gave man responsibilities to which other creatures will never attain. Here are some observations about the nature of man drawn out of Genesis 1 and 2:
1. The creation account teaches us about the unique and special place that man holds in God’s world. God created the world and its fulness prior to creating man in order to show that He was acting as a father in providing for His offspring (Acts 17:29). He made man the crown of His creation. Calvin noted that God “first filled the earth with good things and riches, for everything…is for man’s use.”1
2. Man is the center of God’s creation. In Genesis 1 everything moves to the creation of man–it mounts up to the creation of man. In Genesis 2, man is placed in the Garden and shown to be the center of God’s creative work. We do not have two different creation accounts. We have two angles from which the same account is explained. Genesis 1:1-2:4a shows the preparation and provision of God for making a habitable world in which man would be the crown of His creation. In Genesis 2:4b on we have a record of God’s special dealings with man in the paradisiacal Garden and then in the sin-cursed world, throughout the history of redemption, after the fall.
3. God spoke to the other creation when He called it into existence. He deliberated with Himself when he came to make man. The creation of man takes place by means of a distinctive Divine counsel. “We hear the voice of God speaking, not into the universe, but into the confines of heaven.” This serves to teach us how special man is as a creature. Even the Angels–who are greater in power and glory–do not receive the special honor that man receives at creation.