In thousands of verses in scripture, singular pronouns are used in reference to God. In four verses, a plural pronoun is used. Why? Is this a contradiction? Why would God speak in the singular so often and then suddenly speak in the plural? Let’s look at Genesis 1:26-27 and see who God is referring to when He said ‘Let Us’.
Genesis 1:26-27 26 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.
Notice that after God said the phrases ‘Let us’, ‘our image’, and ‘our likeness’, the next verse says ‘his own image’, ‘he him’, and ‘he them’. The very next verse uses singular pronouns.
If Genesis 1:26 is referring to a plurality of persons sharing one image, why does Genesis 1:27 say ‘his own image’ instead of ‘their own image’?
If Genesis 1:26 is referring to persons then we have a contradiction in scripture because Isaiah 44:24 says the LORD created the heavens and the earth by Himself.
Isaiah 44:24 Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself;
Malachi 2:10 tells us there is one Creator.
Malachi 2:10 Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us?
The traditional Jewish interpretation is that God was speaking to angels (Bernard, p. 149). This does not mean that angels helped in creation. God could have been including the angels in the same way we include others when we speak. Many times I’ve said ‘let’s go buy…’ when I’m the only one that’s going spend money. I don’t mean that the person I’m talking to is going to help me pay for what I’m buying. I’m including the person I’m talking to in going alone for the ride, but I’m the one spending money. The other person is there for company. God could have been including them so they could offer their opinions. We see this take place in 1 Kings 22:19-22.
1 Kings 22:19-22 19 And he said, Hear thou therefore the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left. 20 And the LORD said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramothgilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner. 21 And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the LORD, and said, I will persuade him. 22 And the LORD said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so.
The angels were there when God created the earth, so this is a perfectly reasonable explanation.
Job 38:4-7 4 Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. 5 Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? 6 Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; 7 When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
Another explanation is that God was working after the council of His own will (Bernard, p. 149). Ephesians 1:11 says that God does this.
Ephesians 1:11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:
Most of us have said ‘let’s see’, meaning ‘let us see’. Basically we are thinking out loud to ourselves. There’s no reason that God can’t also speak this way.
Another explanation is the majestic plural (Bernard, p. 149). This is when a writer or speaker refers to himself in the plural. One example of this in scripture is Daniel 2:36. Daniel is speaking of himself in the plural.
Daniel 2:36 This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king.
Another example is King Artaxerxes.
Ezra 4:18 The letter which ye sent unto us hath been plainly read before me.
Ezra 7:24 Also we certify you, that touching any of the priests and Levites, singers, porters, Nethinims, or ministers of this house of God, it shall not be lawful to impose toll, tribute, or custom, upon them.
There is no reason to believe that God would not speak of Himself in majestic plural.
Another explanation is that God was speaking prophetically (Bernard, p. 149). Jesus was the lamb slain from the foundation of the world. In the mind and plan of God, Jesus had already been slain even though he had not even been born until Bethlehem.
1 Peter 1:19-20 19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: 20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,
Revelation 13:8 And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
God calls things that are not as though they are.
Romans 4:17 (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.
God could have been speaking to the son through time prophetically (Bernard, p. 149). We do see in scripture that God speaks of the son prophetically, and God does call things as though they were already in existence. The complexities of God would allow Him to speak to the son in the same way that the son was slain from the foundation of the world. This is the same way that God made the worlds by the son even though Jesus wasn’t born until Bethlehem.
Hebrews 1:1-2 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
God created the worlds with the son in mind because He knew that He would be manifest in the flesh as the son to become our sacrifice for sins.
Genesis 1:26 does not require or indicate a plurality of persons in the Godhead. If that were so, we would have a contradiction in scripture starting with the very next verse. All of the explanations we’ve looked at in this study can offer a scriptural explanation of the phrase ‘let us’. The other three verses, Genesis 3:22, 11:7 and Isaiah 6:8 can be answered with most of these explanations.
Most likely, the verses in Genesis are referring to angels.
Genesis 3:22 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:
Genesis 11:7 Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.
Isaiah is probably referring to the righteous.
Isaiah 6:8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.
The doctrine of the trinity isn’t required to explain the four plural references in scripture. Letting scripture be our example, we have several explanations that are scripturally and doctrinally sound. These explanations do not contradict scripture in any way, and they further ground that truth that there is one God – just like several thousand scriptures proclaim.
Bernard, David K. (1983) Oneness of God, The.
Hazelwood: Word Aflame Press
David K. Bernard The Oneness of God