Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." Genesis 1:26
Alice C. Linsley
The writer of Genesis links being made in the image and likeness of God to dominion over all the earth. Adam was to have been that ruler and his righteous descendants after him. All the men listed in Genesis 4, 5 and 10 and 11 were indeed of the ruler caste. In fact, the name Cain (Kahn) means king. The female version is Kandake (rendered "Candace" in English Bibles). Cain is the first after Adam to establish dominion over a territory. If Adam is the first man in biblical parlance, Cain is the first ruler. The Bible reluctantly grants him this status as is evident from a study of what Cain symbolizes in Scripture. Jude warns those who might abandon Christ because of their suffering in this life. He uses three men as examples: Cain the ruler, Balaam the prophet, and Korah the priest. These were the three most sacred offices among Abraham’s people and they were often filled by people corrupted by the world.
Adam did not have to work for his dominion. God gave it to him, but he was not permitted to remain in the territory that God established for him. The "fall" did not remove the image and likeness of God, nor did it remove the will to rule. Adam's descendants spread abroad and they ruled over territories from Africa to India and beyond.
The phrase "image and likeness" suggests a royal seal which holds the image or likeness of the king. There is a sense of divine appointment. Adam and his line are the appointed rulers on earth and they are to reflect the righteous rule of God in heaven. This idea is found in other places in the Bible, Consider Ezekiel.
"Son of Man, raise a lament over the king of Tyre and say to him: Thus says the Lord God: You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and flawless beauty. You were in Eden, in the Garden of God; every precious stone was your adornment... and gold beautifully wrought for you, mined for you, prepared the day you were created." (Ezekiel 28:11-18)
Ralph W. Klein, in his paper on Ezekiel at the End of the Century, observes, "Dexter E. Callender gives his attention to the lament on the prince of Tyre in Ezek 28:11-19. The bulk of his discussion is given over to the interpretation of two words translated "signet of perfection" in the NRSV. The NRSV translation revocalized the first word as a construct singular noun instead of a Qal participle as in the MT. Callender goes one step farther and vocalizes it as an absolute singular noun. In neither case is there any change in consonants. The second word is more difficult, but Callender proposes a slight consonantal emendation, from tknyt to tbnyt, primarily on the basis of the ancient versions. Hence he suggests two nouns in apposition: "You were a seal, a likeness." This clause is best understood in view of the reference to the creation of the first human in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26). The picture is that of an authoritative, royal representative of Yahweh. The figurative use in Gen 1:26 and Ezek 28:11-19 is taken more literally in descriptions of royal statues in the Tell el-Fakhariyeh inscription and the Tukulti Ninurta Epic.
Hence the king of Tyre and all other foreign kings were considered executors of the divine will as manifested in Yahweh. Analogous usage can be found in Jeremiah’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar and Second Isaiah’s understanding of Cyrus. The King of Tyre also displays characteristics of the Primal Human, and Ezekiel therefore adumbrates the kinship of humanity."
Even the best rulers in the Bible failed to present the image or icon of God who is invisible. David was one of the most righteous and he failed. The demand of Israel to have a king shows that the people missed their calling as humans who were to reflect the divine image. They were to be a nation of holy priests, pure and undefiled, but they failed. Yet God did not cast them away or abandon his eternal purpose. He sent the Son to be born of their royal priestly lines and He is the perfect icon of God. Through Him the divine image is restored and the divine appointed fulfilled. As Father Thomas Hopko points out, to be made in the image and likeness of God is to be like Jesus, and we receive this through His grace and the suffering that is ours to pour out as an oblation on His passion.
Related reading: Why Jesus Visited Tyre; Symbols of Authority Linked to Cain and Seth; The Holy One Hidden and Revealed; The Kingdom of God in Genesis; Righteous Rulers and the Resurrection; Horite Deified Sons