Genesis 1 contains a mystery.
1.26 reads, “Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.'”
Who is this “we”?
The answer(s) is simple, right?
For Christians, it is the Trinity. God is speaking to the Son and the Holy Spirit, although we never see this replicated, even in the New Testament.
For some, this is simply the so-called Royal We used by people like Queen Victoria.
The ArtScroll edition of the Tanak I have makes it into a question of Moses’s recognition of monotheism.
Academics point to this, mirror it with Babylonian usages and certain passages from Psalms to suggest Elohim is speaking to the divine court (sons of God, angels, etc…). I am inclined to agree with this.
But, one Rabbinical interpretation has it that God is speaking to the animals. After all, on the fifth day the first living creatures were brought forth. These living creatures populated the waters and the air (fish and fowl). On the beginning of the sixth day, God brings forth, again, living creatures but this time, on land.
And God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.’ And it was so. (Genesis 1.24)
If Adam is a living soul (Genesis 2), then perhaps God is speaking to the living creatures — which makes the scene in the Garden (before Eve) look worse than it did before. After all, if “helper” is better translated as “correspondent” and after Adam could not correspond with any animal, God had to make an almost-man… well, you get my drift.
Anyway, fast forward to the flood, or rather, after the flood. There is a covenant made between God and Noah and Noah’s sons. Yet, that is not all. The covenant is not merely between Noan and all of his descendents, but…:
‘As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. (Genesis 9.9–10)
The covenant between God and Noah is not merely with God and Noah, but included all animals. The language is similar to the original Creation accounts (Genesis 1 and Genesis 2–3).
By the way, the Noah story is actually another creation account.
So, maybe God is speaking to the animals when He says “let us…” (which, again, expands the scene in Genesis 2, doesn’t it?)
How closely are we connected to the animals (or, perhaps, the environment?)