Who is "us" in Genesis 1:26?
In Genesis 1:26 it says, “Then God said, Let us make man in our image…” Who is “us?” Was God talking to himself or someone else?
The context is the creation of man. God’s creation of the rest of the natural world was complete and now He turns His hand to the creation of His grandest work upon the earth. We read in Psalm 8:5 that man was made “a little lower than the angels.” Man is, therefore, the highest work of the physical creation and God in attending to this creation wants to ensure that it is done properly. So there is a pause between the creation of the rest of the natural world and the now higher work of creating man. During this pause, God states these words, “Let us make man in our image.”
Some have suggested that God was speaking to His spiritual creation–the hosts of heavenly beings that surround His throne. Several passages in the Old Testament refer to these beings such as 1 Kings 22:19, Psalm 89:8, Daniel 10, and in the book of Ezekiel. The Ark of the Covenant itself was topped with two spiritual beings referred to as cherubim and Isaiah talks about beings called seraphim in Isaiah 6. Was God speaking to these of His spiritual creation? Not likely. God says that He wanted to make man in “our image” and then in verse 27 we read, “in the image of God created he him.” So, it can’t be that God was speaking to the heavenly hosts of creation.
A second suggestion has been made that God was speaking of himself in plural number such as members of the royal family do. If you have ever heard the Queen of England speak, she never says, “I” and “me” but always, “we” and “us.” Certainly it can be said of God that he is royal. He is described in Isaiah as the King of the nation of Israel (Isaiah 44:6). When the children of Israel desired a king, God told Samuel that they had not rejected him but “Me, that I should not reign over them.” (1 Samuel 8:7). The implication is that God was acting as their King. So certainly God could use “we” in this sense if He wanted to. However, the word for God in Hebrew is “elohim” which in and of itself has a plural ending, but is singular in understanding. Additionally, we see that the first chapter of Genesis talks about God creating, but His Spirit moving upon the face of the deep. How could God be everywhere in the creation and His Spirit be in one particular place? It appears as if there is more than one divine person working in the creation and when we look at John 1:1, it is confirmed.
In John 1:1-3 we read, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” So here, we see that the “Word” was instrumental in the creation–that all things were made by him. That would certainly include the creation of man. We see in verse 14 that the word became flesh and dwelt among us. Who is the “Word?” He is the only begotten of the Father. So we have involved in creation three personalities, the Spirit of God, the Son of God, and God the Father. This is the “us” of Genesis 1:26. God the Father was speaking to both the Spirit and the one who would become the Son.