The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily those of the PThU.
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Why did God make humans?

8 June 2023

Why God made humans is an intriguing question. Strangely enough, the Bible doesn't say much about it. And churches don't talk much about it, either. It seems to be difficult to find a convincing answer. So should we simply concede this is something we can only speculate about?

Paul Sanders
Assistant professor Old Testament

Why did God want humans?

How come there are humans and animals, and there is land and not just water, and why are the sun and moon and stars there? The Bible gives a clear answer to those questions: it's all there thanks to God. The first chapters of Genesis tell us God put an end to the chaos and created a place where animals and humans could live. But why God wanted that isn't clearly stated.

Ancient myths about why we're here

Why are we here? Why is the earth here? These are age-old questions. People have always asked them, even long before the Bible was written. They also tried to answer them. One of those ancient answers is interesting, because it's an answer we don't find in the Bible.

According to some Read this passagestories from Mesopotamia (now Iraq), the gods couldn't do without the earth. Why not? Because like humans, the gods need food. They wouldn't die without food, because gods can't die. But they would go mad with hunger. Where could they get their food from? From the earth, because there was the flesh of animals to be found, and all kinds of crops grew there. So the gods needed the earth.

According to these ancient stories, in the beginning, there were no humans on earth. The highest gods let the lesser gods do the work: hunt, grow the food, and harvest the crops. After a while, the lesser gods had had enough and revolted, leaving the higher gods with a problem. As a solution, the gods decided to create a new kind of beings: humans. From then on, humans had to do the heavy lifting. They had to offer meat, grain and fruits to the gods. As a result, the gods now had enough to eat without having to do anything themselves.

God doesn't need anything

In those ancient myths, there is a clear reason why humans are there: to work hard for the gods and to provide those gods with food. This means that it was of great importance that humankind continued to exist.

If you are familiar with the Bible, you'll probably know we won't find this idea in it. The Bible has a different view on God and humans. According to the Bible, God can do without the world and humans. His reason for creating us isn't because he would get hungry or otherwise get into trouble without the world. God doesn't need food, nor does he need humans to provide him with anything (see for example Psalm 50:12-13 and Acts 17:25).

God rejoices in people

And yet God Read this passagemade the world and humans. Why? The answer to that question isn't clearly stated anywhere in the Bible. But we can turn to a few passages in the Old Testament for a possible answer. According to the Old Testament, there is something God would certainly miss if there were no more people: he would be upset that no one would notice his faithfulness and his love.

We encounter this interesting view in a few prayers by people on the brink of death. They address God and tell him: “Imagine I won't be here. Wouldn't you miss me?"

Wouldn't you miss me, God?

One such prayer is found in Psalm 30. The poet tells how he described his misery to God:

To you, LORD, I called; to the LORD I cried for mercy:
“What is gained if I am silenced, if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness?
Hear, LORD, and be merciful to me; LORD, be my help.”

The poet makes it clear that God will miss something when he is no longer there: he will no longer be able to praise God and to tell about God's faithfulness. Then something remarkable happens. Evidently, God is persuaded by the poet's complaint, for the psalm tells us that immediately God alters his decision:

You have turned my wailing into dancing for me;
you have removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
LORD, my God, I will praise you forever.

Apparently, God realises that he loses something when people pass away. The very same idea appears in other prayers of people in fear of death. Those who pray tell God that if he lets them die, he will - as it were - shoot himself in the foot. They will no longer be able to mention his name and to praise him for his faithfulness and goodness (Psalm 6:5-6 and Psalm 88:11-12; see also Psalm 115:17-18 and Isaiah 39:18-19).

Made in the image of God

According to the creation story, humans are the only beings who resemble God. They were created “in the image of God” (see Genesis 1:26-28). Since humans resemble God, communication is possible between God and humans. According to the creation story, God looks for a relationship with humans.

Created by God and for God

What does the Bible intend to say? That God can't do without humans, the way the gods of the Mesopotamian myths couldn't do without food? No, the Bible certainly doesn't see God as that dependent. God is actually independent. But the Bible also makes it clear that God can only fully be God if people are aware of what he wants to mean to them. If there are no people to see his goodness and to praise him for it, God suffers. Psalm 22 even says that God is enthroned on the praises of Israel (Psalm 22:3). That means people's songs of praise are of enormous value to God.

God wants to show his goodness

All of what I have described above remains speculation, because God himself is the only one who knows why he created humans. But God may well have created us because he needs to show his goodness. If there were no humans to whom he could mean something, he would, as it were, feel wretched. He created us because he wants a relationship with us.

He can do without us, but apparently he doesn't want to do without us.