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On the 6th day of the Creation, G-d consults angels (see my other question) and presents them with what looks like His vision of Man's goal on Earth:

וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹקים נַעֲשֶׂה אָדָם בְּצַלְמֵנוּ כִּדְמוּתֵנוּ
וְיִרְדּוּ בִדְגַת הַיָּם וּבְעוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם וּבַבְּהֵמָה וּבְכָל־הָאָרֶץ וּבְכָל־הָרֶמֶשׂ הָרֹמֵשׂ עַל־הָאָרֶץ׃

And God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And they shall rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the cattle, the whole earth, and all the creeping things that creep on earth.” Genesis.1.26

(In my understanding of the phrase, "and" presents the goal of an act, like in "let's build a house and we can live in it" - live in the house is the goal of building it, "let's have kids and they will take care of us" - taking care is the purpose of having kids.)

I would expect God to reveal something far nobler, like "and he will bring this world to perfection" or "and he will serve Me devotedly and make a dwelling for me on Earth".

Why was the presented purpose of man's creation so "dull"?

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  • The נעשה אדם בצלמנו would imply a higher purpose. I think it's wrong to focus on "and they'll (incidentally) be ruling over the animals" etc. – bondonk Oct 26 '19 at 20:50
  • @bondonk That answers on "what Man will we create" but not "what for", after all we don't share the same purpose with angels. – Al Berko Oct 26 '19 at 20:57
  • @AlBerko point taken. But it doesn't say 'purpose', it says צלמנו ודמותנו. That's not the same. – bondonk Oct 26 '19 at 21:04
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    Why would your understanding of modern Hebrew have any impact on the Bible? – wfb Apr 7 at 18:45
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Perhaps the answer lies in challenging the initial assumption. The OP writes:

G-d consults angels...and presents them with what looks like His vision of Man's goal on Earth

Where do you see that he is presenting a vision of Man's goal in life with the latter part of the sentence?

I think that if G-d is presenting such a vision, it is with the first part of the sentence:

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֔ים נַֽעֲשֶׂ֥ה אָדָ֛ם בְּצַלְמֵ֖נוּ כִּדְמוּתֵ֑נוּ

G-d is creating a being in His image and likeness. Avoiding the exact question of what that means (a much broader discussion), it clearly is extending some sort of greatness and "Godliness" to mankind. In fact, Rav Hirsch comments that the name אדם "Adam" comes from the term הדום, a footstool. Mankind is created to be the footstool of Hashem, a resting place for Him in this world. Man's purpose is to make this world a G-dly world.

Put this way, the entire first part of the sentence is in fact expressing G-d's vision for mankind.

So what is the function of the rest of the verse? G-d is establishing a hierarchy among the creation. The pinnacle of all creation will be Man, who will rule over everything which came before it. Rav Hirsch points out that the whole world supports mankind, who in turn "supports" G-d in this world. (He says that the word אדמה, land, really means לאדם, for Man, since a ה at the end of a word can equal a ל at the beginning.)

(This fits well with Rashi's comment:

וירדו בדגת הים. יֵשׁ בַּלָּשׁוֹן הַזֶּה לְשׁוֹן רִדּוּי וּלְשׁוֹן יְרִידָה; זָכָה, רוֹדֶה בַחַיּוֹת וּבַבְּהֵמוֹת, לֹא זָכָה, נַעֲשֶׂה יָרוּד לִפְנֵיהֶם וְהַחַיָּה מוֹשֶׁלֶת בּוֹ

The term וירדו can imply either dominance or descendance. If Mankind merits it, we will dominate over the rest of creation. That means that we will be able to utilize everything to the fullest extent, to help us accomplish our role of being the Divine footstools. The second part of the verse will come true when we are living up to the first part.

If we don't live up to our task, then we will be subdued and controlled by the animals. We won't merit to be Divine footstools, so we won't be able to control and utilize the world either.

According to this, the verse reads very precisely.

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  • What was the downvoter for? – Binyomin Apr 8 at 0:36
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I think you've missed something somewhere. You said:

I would expect God to reveal something far nobler, like "and he will bring this world to perfection" or "and he will serve Me devotedly and make a dwelling for me on Earth".

My response is that God said exactly that, but not in as straightforward a way. This is how I read the verse:

Let us make man in our image - the image of God, holy, benevolent, loving to all creatures/creations, just, a leader worthy of praise and full of compassion.

And they shall rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the cattle, the whole earth, and all the creeping things that creep on earth. - and they (humans) shall rule my creations like I would, for in My image was man made, and they shall rule the animals like I would: Through holiness, benevolence, loving to all, just, and a leader worthy of praise. Just like God would never cheat, murder, eat, steal, abuse, lie to, manipulate any of his creations, He expected the same from us. I don't know if it would be a perfect utopia, but it would certainly be closer to a utopia than what we have now.

And just like creating a utopia seems like an impossibly high bar, it seems to me God's expectations of us were no less lofty. Imagine how difficult it would be to rule the world as a reflection/emissary of God's image on earth. We didn't even make it to Chapter 3 before we failed. We failed because we allowed ourselves to be tempted by one of our citizens (the serpent), we failed because instead of admitting our mistakes and trying to set things right like a holy and just leader, we fled and hid in a cave hoping our mistakes would never come to light. We failed because we accepted no responsibility even when confronted by our creator. We failed because within a few generations we were murdering our brothers and eating our citizens that were entrusted to us by God Himself.

It seems to me that when one reads the verses the way I've shown that the point of Maimonides becomes more clear.

Guide, III, 13, p. 452

It should not be believed that all things exist for the sake of the existence of man. On the contrary, all other beings too have been intended for their own sakes and not for the sake of something else.

All other beings were created for their own sake, but not mankind. Because God didn't need to create man, God could have ruled the earth on His own. But He decided to create man and entrust the responsibility of Earth and all life within it to us. God created everything else for its own sake, but He created us with a responsibility. And until we recognize that the Earth isn't here for our sake, but rather that we are here for the Earth's sake, things will only get worse.

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    Thank you. 1. I think you repeat Binyomin's answer, presenting "in our image" as a goal of its own. I don't see any support of your claim in Judaism, IMHO Adam was not created to be god and rule the Earth. 2, Where did you learn "the image of God, holy, benevolent, loving to all creatures/creations, just, a leader worthy of praise and full of compassion." from? I don't see it in the text. – Al Berko Apr 8 at 10:14
  • @AlBerko Adam was not created to be god and rule the earth and I never said so. Rather Adam was supposed to be like Noah, steward of life, who shared the food that the animals ate like God commanded Adam in the garden. Unfortunately we see Noah fall from his place of righteousness within a few chapters of the flood. A global wiping out of life was probably too much for him to handle. – Aaron Apr 8 at 16:15
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It may seem dull because man is not the sole purpose of creation. This is the view of Maimonides, and Maimonides takes a strong stance against anthropocentrism. He writes, "Every ignoramus imagines that all that exists exists with a view to his individual sake." [1]

"'It is thought [by the ignorant] that the finality of all that exists is solely the existence of the human species so that it should worship G-d."[2]

"It should not be believed that all things exist for the sake of the existence of man. On the contrary, all other beings too have been intended for their own sakes and not for the sake of something else."[3]

Thus, G-d did not create the world only for humans, but for plants, vegetative life, animals, birds, fish, and inanimate objects.

[1] Guide, III, 12, p. 442.

[2] Ibid., III, 13, p. 451.

[3] Ibid., p. 452.

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  • Keep reading and you'll see that this is at best misleading and at worst wrong. "G-d did not create the world only for humans" – true – "but for plants, vegetative life, animals, birds, fish, and inanimate objects" – false. G-d did not create the world for anything. G-d created the world because it was His Will to create the world. That's Maimonides' conclusion of chapter 13. – DonielF May 27 '20 at 19:32
  • @DonielF Actually, it is impossible to know why G-d created the world. At best, it can be ascertained that it was not only for humans but for all life. Thus, do we conclude that it was His will, but G-d's will is not [and cannot], according to Maimonides, be analogous to human free will. G-d's Will is perfect and spontaneous and is not subjected to natural law, as is human will. In essence, we agree. – Turk Hill May 27 '20 at 19:44
  • What I think Maimonides means to say is that G-d did not only create the world for humans, since it can be shown that other forms of life exist. G-d created the world because He wills it. – Turk Hill May 27 '20 at 19:50
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    Don't know why this was downvoted. – Aaron Apr 7 at 21:06
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    @mbloch That's an interesting view to consider. Thank you for sharing the view of the Ramchal. – Turk Hill Apr 9 at 3:19
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I think Maimonides answered this well. The Rambam says that the world probably wasn't created for people so people should take care of the earth and be careful not to pollute it. This interpretation suggests that animals are also important to G-d. We should show respect for animals because animals also have feelings. This is the meaning of the 7th law of Noahides.

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    Where does he say that? – Al Berko Oct 26 '19 at 19:03
  • I cannot remember the source as it has been years since last I check, but the idea is certainly there. In the intern, I will try to look for it. – Turk Hill Oct 26 '19 at 21:48

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