There seems to be a common notion that this cannot be a physical likeness because God is spirit. However, I would like to present a different perspective and suggest that this image represents God's spiritual yet visible form.
MANKIND WAS MADE TO LOOK LIKE GOD VISUALLY.
An image is something that looks like something else. The image can be imaginary (seen in the mind) or physical (seen physically).
In this case, given the fact that in this verse God is forming this image out of clay, it is obviously a physical image he is creating. But, the origin does not need to be physical, just visible.
Let me begin my supporting this with some examples of other things that have no physical mass but may b represented by images:
-Sound does not have mass, and would not be considered physical, yet we can generate an image of its waves.
-Light does not have mass and would not be considered physical, but a simple google search generates multiple images of the light spectrum.
-Visions and Dreams and memories have no mass and would not be considered physical, and yet we can represent them with images.
A ghost/spirit has form and can be seen but is not physical
Some Scriptural accounts of people seeing God/Spirit in a form:
1) The LORD appeared to Abraham in the planes of Mamre.
--Abraham saw three men, one of whom he addressed as LORD.
2) Jacob saw God face to face and lived.
3) Moses is covered under the cleft of the rock and allowed to see his back.
4) the spirit alighted upon Jesus in the form of a dove (MT 3:16).
CONCLUSION: God, who is Spirit may not be physical in nature, yet He can appear in form. And He has an image in which mankind is made. We were made to *look like Him physically.*
Here is some supporting linguistic information available concerning the Hebrew word translated image accessed in the on-line, Blue-letter Bible H6754
Literally this word means "a shadow" from an unused root meaning to shade.
Strong's Number H6754 matches the Hebrew צֶלֶם (tselem ),
This word occurs 17 times in 15 verses in the Hebrew concordance of the KJV
These uses more strongly support suggest that the word is used to mean a picture of what something looks like rather than metaphorically to represent some invisible nature/character/quality of that which it represents.
And God said, Let us make man in our image, H6754 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.
So God created man in his own image, H6754 in the image H6754 of God
created he him; male and female created he them.
And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own
likeness, after his image; H6754 and called his name Seth:
Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in
the image H6754 of God made he man.
Then ye shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before
you, and destroy all their pictures, and destroy all their molten
images, H6754 and quite pluck down all their high places:
Wherefore ye shall make images H6754 of your emerods, and images
H6754 of your mice that mar the land; and ye shall give glory unto the
God of Israel: peradventure he will lighten his hand from off you, and
from off your gods, and from off your land.
And they laid the ark of the LORD upon the cart, and the coffer with
the mice of gold and the images H6754 of their emerods.
And all the people of the land went into the house of Baal, and
brake it down; his altars and his images H6754 brake they in pieces
thoroughly, and slew Mattan the priest of Baal before the altars. And
the priest appointed officers over the house of the LORD.
Then all the people went to the house of Baal, and brake it down, and
brake his altars and his images H6754 in pieces, and slew Mattan the
priest of Baal before the altars.
Surely every man walketh in a vain shew: H6754 surely they are
disquieted in vain: he heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall
As a dream when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when thou awakest, thou shalt
despise their image. H6754
As for the beauty of his ornament, he set it in majesty: but they made
the images H6754 of their abominations and of their detestable things
therein: therefore have I set it far from them.
Thou hast also taken thy fair jewels of my gold and of my silver,
which I had given thee, and madest to thyself images H6754 of men, and
didst commit whoredom with them,
And that she increased her whoredoms: for when she saw men pourtrayed
upon the wall, the images H6754 of the Chaldeans pourtrayed with
But ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch and Chiun your images,
H6754 the star of your god, which ye made to yourselves.