At the pinnacle of God’s creation is mankind. Humans are exclusive among all other creatures in that they are created in the image and likeness of God.
Genesis 1:26-28 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
There has been much debate over what the “image” and “likeness” of God are. Image has to do with resemblance and likeness has to do with similar traits. Neither should be understood as relating to physical characteristics because God in His essence is spirit. (John 4:24) Rather, mental and spiritual attributes are likely the meaning.
Unlike plants, animals, and inanimate parts of God’s creation, mankind alone was made to communicate with God, as is evident throughout the Bible. In addition, humans obviously have mental capacities far beyond other creatures. Finally, humans share certain attributes with God, known as “communicable attributes”. These include spirituality, freedom of will, love, grace, creativity, and goodness. However, mankind does not possess these attributes in perfection and consistency as God does.
Humans were created to have dominion over God’s creation. All things including animals and the Earth itself are placed under human control as verse 26 states. This is a stewardship relationship and does not designate ownership. Everything belongs to God and He grants mankind limited authority over it.
The image and likeness of God as well as dominion over creation is given to both men and women as verses 27 and 28 show. There is no difference between male and female with regard to essence, quality, and character. There are differences in function, but not in value. Men and women are created equal.
Like other parts of God’s creation, mankind was commanded to reproduce and fill the Earth. But humans receive other commands: “subdue it” and “have dominion”. Humans are to bring the world into subjection to them because they alone possess the image and likeness of God, Who created it all.