In Genesis 1 the Bible quotes God as saying, “Let us make man in our own image.” The next verse says, “So God created man in His own image.” Why does God speak of Himself in the plural but other places in the Bible refer to Him in the singular? This is seen in other places in Genesis. In Genesis 3 God said, “ Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil.” In Genesis 11 God says, “Let us go down, and there confound their language.” Why does God sometimes refer to Himself in the plural when the Bible says there is only one God?
Two answers can be suggested for this question. First, God is using the “royal we.” Kings and Queens sometimes referred to themselves in the plural. Wikipedia gives an example of this, “Now, we, Edward, by the grace of God, King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain. . .” Queen Elizabeth once proclaimed, “Know you that it is Our will and pleasure . . .” The royal we also shows up in literature. In the book Prince Caspian King Peter proclaims, “It is our pleasure to adventure our royal person. . .” This formal way of speaking could be the reason God is referred to in the plural, but it does not seem likely.
The Bible contains few plural references to God, though it contains many direct quotes from God in which He refers to Himself in the singular “I”. If God was using the royal we in Genesis, readers would expect to find it appear in later Scriptures and more frequently throughout the Bible. The small number of plural references to God suggests another reason for God saying “we” and “us” in Genesis.
The other suggested answer to this question is that God is both singular and plural. Which is what the Bible teaches. God is One God who is Three. He is One God in Three persons. This is known as the doctrine of the Trinity. The Bible teaches that God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are each fully God and each are three separate persons, distinct from one another in their being, work and intellect. The Bible does not teach that God is three Gods, or a three part God. The Bible teaches that God is One, who is made up of three persons. This is a incredibly difficult concept to understand, but the Bible’s teachings are clear. There is One God, who is Three.
The Bible teaches that God is One God. “Hear O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord.” (Deuteronomy 6:34) “There is one God, and there is none other but He.” “I am God, and there is none else; I am God and there is none like me.” (Isaiah 46:9) “There is one God; and there is none other but He.” (Mark 12:32) “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men.” (1 Timothy 2:5)
The Bible also clearly teaches that the Father is God. “There is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things.” (1 Corinthians 8:6) The Bible teaches that Jesus is God. “I and My Father are one.” (John 10:30) “In the Beginning was the Word (Jesus), and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” The Bible also declares the Holy Spirit is God. “But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost . . . thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.” (Acts 5:3-4) Scripture says there is One God and there are Three who are God. This is not a contradiction, but a declaration that God is a Trinity- One who is Three.
The God who created the universe is God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit. Genesis records that the Spirit of God hovered over the waters, creating the land and all that is on it. Colossians, John and Hebrews declare that Jesus, God the Son, created all things. Isaiah, Psalms and Jeremiah proclaim that the Father created all things. When God said, “Let us make man in our own image” He was speaking to Himself. These plural pronouns for God in Genesis are not proof of the Trinity, but when read in light of the Biblical doctrine of the Trinity it becomes apparent that God’s plurality and singularity is reflected in the pronouns in Genesis. God refers to Himself as “us” because He is One God in Three Persons.