It was common in the ancient Near East for kings to claim to be the image of a god. The king ruled on behalf of the god, ordering their kingdom on earth their god’s good way.
Over time, some kings claimed to be gods and made images of themselves. These images were often large statues; like the Assyrian lamassu, a large stone carving with the body of a donkey or bull, expansive wings, and the head of the king.
These images represented the god-king in places far from the king’s palace, marking them as territories of his kingdom where his rule and reign extended.
Temples were often built to worship a god. Once it was constructed, an image of the god would be placed inside and then the god would be said to “rest”, meaning the god approved of his new house of worship and would be, in some sense, present there.
Whatever was done to the image of god was done to the god himself. If offerings and incense were laid at the feet of the image these gifts were being given to the god. The person who took a hammer to the face of the image was punished as if they’d attacked the god.
In Genesis 1, God is portrayed as the King of the Universe ordering the chaos into good – “Let there be…”
And it was.
Then the King crafted an image of Himself – his representatives to order the world His good way on His behalf.
“Let us make humans in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule…In the image of God he created them; male and female God created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.”Genesis 1:16-28
And God rested.
But that’s only the beginning. More to come.
For Further Study
- The Liberating Image by Richard Middleton: https://amzn.to/2IEhkYK
- Social Justice in Ancient Israel and in the Ancient Near East by Moshe Weinfeld: https://amzn.to/2VtwLIg