So how did God implant his image in people? The Biblical text indicates two unique events concerning the creation of humans that the rest of creation does not share. This helps discern what differentiates humanity from animals, and thereby explain what people received from God that animals did not receive.
The creation account relates that God made humans on the final day of creation (1:26–31). This day receives special attention, creating an apex to the creation account. No other being receives the “image of God.” No other day receives God’s declaration of being “very good” (1:31). Humanity also receives the regal function of ruling creation (1:26, 28). No other day or created being receives such honor and dignity. In fact, this day becomes so important that Genesis 2:4–25 further develop day 6. That is, humans receive almost an entire chapter so that one can see a clear emphasis on the importance of humans. So something about humanity as honored beings leads to the conclusion that at creation God transferred his image to them.
Another curious event clarifies how people gained the “image of God.” Genesis 2:7 explains that as God created man, he breathed into him. The text reads, “then 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.” Deliberately so, the text used this anthropomorphic image to report man’s creation. The same imagery is not used for other creatures, even if they were created similarly. Something unique about man’s creation yielded a need to explain it in terms of God breathing into man’s nose. Perhaps this was the vehicle by which God’s image was imparted? Since the text does not make this connection, the best one can say is that humans play a prominent, even a glorious role in God’s universe. Whatever else that means, it, at the very least, means God’s image affords humanity this honored role.
So what? Why does any of this matter? Tomorrow I answer “why” understanding the image of God is important. Until then!
*edit* by “tomorrow” I mean Monday.