Image of the King

What does setting up an image have to do with rule?

It’s sometimes argued that ancient kings would set up images of themselves in the lands they ruled as a reminder to all the people of who the king was–especially if he was not physically present.

I’m not sure that this is historically accurate; however, it is suggestive in a couple of helpful ways as we come to the creation of humanity in God’s image in Genesis 1.

First, even if the kings of the Ancient Near East did not so place their images around their empires, we know that later kings did. I am reminded of statues of Augustus, or inscriptions such as the one found at Priene that celebrates Augustus’ birthday as the beginining of the good news that has come to the world through him. Part propaganda, part not-so-subtle reminder, the images of the “god” Augustus remind the people to whom they owe their life and loyalty.

Second, as I heard this idea discussed in a sermon last night, my mind’s eye couldn’t help flashing to scenes such as these:

Saddam Husseiin's Birthday Statue
War Propaganda Poster
The Decorated Hero

The images of the ruler remind the people, in not so subtle ways, who is in charge, who is their protector, whom they serve.

All of this made me think, third, that such “presence of the ruler through an image” captures well the idea of humans as made in God’s image, and thereby given rule over the earth.

We are supposed to be the visible reminders to the world that it is God who is sovereign over all. We are to be acting as faithful agents of the rule of a loving God who has provided for all creatures in all of creation.

What do we see when we see a fellow human being? An agent of God, sent out into the world to make God’s reign known.

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