Teaching series from Genesis

God's Rescue Operation Begins

Genesis 3:14-15

Teaching t07299

Introduction

Last week, Patrice covered the consequences of humanity’s rebellion against God (4 ALIENATIONS?). But in the midst of this bad news, God speaks a word of hope. In 3:14,15, we have the first revelation of God’s rescue plan . . . 

You remember that this mess began because Eve listened to the Serpent and because Adam listened to Eve—neither one of them listened to God!

So God starts with Adam (3:11), who blames Eve (3:12). God addresses Eve, who blames the Serpent (3:13). So God addresses the Serpent in 3:14 (read).

The curse on the Serpent

Biblical scholars have interpreted this verse in two different ways. Some understand it to be a judgment on the snake through which Satan spoke. In this view, God curses the snake’s anatomy in 3:14, and then goes on to curse the person behind the snake (Satan) in 3:15.

I have no problem with the possibility of Satan indwelling other creatures (DEMON POSSESSION; JUDAS; ANTICHRIST), or with God introducing morphological changes as a judgment (3:19 – human bodies are now subject to disease and death)—I just don’t think this is what 3:14 is about.

Others (including myself) understand this verse to be a judgment on Satan alone. Let me explain why I think this and what the judgment is.

First of all, the passage itself seems to distinguish the Serpent from normal animals. The definite article (“the”) is used throughout, suggesting this is his title. The grammar of 3:1 (partitive) indicates that the Serpent was qualitatively different from the animals rather than simply the smartest of the animals.

Second, as we saw two weeks ago, the rest of the Bible clearly identifies the Serpent as Satan with no reference to a host snake (Rev. 12:9).

Third, the judgment of 3:14 is “because you have done this.” Since animals are not freely choosing, morally responsible agents, it doesn’t make sense that God would specifically blame a snake for what happened.

Fourth, Gen. 1:24 suggests that snakes (“creeping things”) were already legless, and that God viewed this as “good” rather than as a curse. 1

Lastly, the language in 3:14 seems to be figurative rather than literal. This is Hebrew poetry, which employs conceptual parallelism. Therefore, if we take “on your belly you shall go” literally, we must also take “dust you shall eat” literally. But as we all know, while snakes move about on their bellies, they do no have a dirt diet. Therefore, it is preferable to take both phrases figuratively, meaning “you will be totally defeated.” Other Old Testament passages use this phrase in just this way (see Ps. 72:9; Isa. 49:23) to describe the fate of God’s enemies.

Therefore, God declares in this verse the certain doom of Satan because he tempted Adam and Eve. Although Satan was gloating over the victory he had just won, God says the day will surely come when he will be completely and eternally (“all the days of your life”) defeated. Though he is the highest created being, he will be sentenced to a fate far worse than the most common field animals.2 The beasts’ curse (living in an abnormal nature) is nothing compared to the Serpent’s curse.

This also helps us understand 3:15, which is addressed to the same person, and explains how God will bring about the defeat of Satan that he declared in 3:14 . . . 

3 Enmities

3:15 is a capsule summary of the history of humans from God’s perspective. It is one of the most important verses in the entire Bible, the abstract of God’s rescue plan which the rest of scripture unfolds. Read 3:15. God will not simply annihilate Satan, nor will he defeat him through a direct, face-to-face confrontation. Rather, since the devil launched a war against God through the human race, God will counter-attack through the human race. God speaks of three pairs of enmities, hostilities, antagonisms, conflicts through which he will defeat the Serpent. These enmities begin with the current situation and stretch out into the distant future. They sketch the course of human history and explain the stages in which God will bring Satan to his knees.

Enmity #1

Read 3:15a: “ . . . and I will put enmity between you and the woman . . .” This is not saying that women from now on will be snake-phobic. Women don’t hate snakes any more than men do; and some women (just like some men) hate spiders but love to work with snakes.

Rather, the “you” refers in context to Satan, and “the woman” refers in context to Eve. There weren’t too many other women running around at this point.

Eve regarded Satan as a morally neutral creature up to this point—she took him seriously and had no inclination to be suspicious of him. This would change from this point on. No longer would she be an unwitting pawn in his hands. From now on, she would cooperate with the Lord in opposing the Serpent. The little that we know about Eve from this point on seems to indicate that she quit listening to the Serpent and returned to listening to the Lord.

In 4:1, she regards the birth of her first child as something in which God was intimately involved, rather than as something that she pulled off by her own power. More on this verse later . . . 

In 4:25, she sees Seth’s birth as God’s appointed replacement for Abel, through whom God would raise up a godly line. Again, more on this later . . . 

Eve turned back to the Lord, and served the Lord, and was used by God to oppose the works of Satan. There was indeed enmity between Eve and the Serpent.

Enmity #2

This enmity between humans and Satan, which began with Eve, was to continue and branch out. Read 3:15b: “ . . . and between your seed and her seed . . .” It seems obvious that God is not referring to Satan’s biological children locked in mortal combat with all of Eve’s descendants (i.e., all humans). Angels do not procreate (Matt. 22:30?). Rather, God predicts a great division within humanity into two camps: those who follow Satan in his rebellion against God (“your seed”), and those who follow Eve in her return to and trust in God (“her seed”).

The great conflict between God and Satan that already raged in the invisible heavenlies would now be made visible in the history of human affairs. We see this enmity unfolded in the succeeding chapters of the Bible:

As we will see next week, the enmity between Cain and Abel was ultimately not physical or economic or educational, but spiritual—the posture they took toward God.

As we will see next week, this enmity continues through Cain’s godless line (4:16-24) and is counteracted by Seth’s godly line (4:25-5:32).

Why has there been so much enmity between Israel and the rest of the world? Is it a historical accident that the Jewish people have been persecuted more than any other people-group? No, this is part of the enmity (Rev. 12:1-4).

Jesus reminds us that this enmity doesn’t flow purely along ethnic or racial lines; it cuts across these divisions. Read Jn. 8:39-44. In what sense were these people not God’s children, but rather children of the devil? In that they were in revolt against God. Here is the enmity, and it grew to such an extent that they killed God’s Son.

This is the true meaning of human history, the theme that makes it all understandable. Not MARXISM, FREUDIANISM, NATIONALISM, etc.—but a spiritual conflict. And all humanity stands on one side or another in this conflict. Those who are of the seed of Satan are unwittingly used by him to perpetuate his revolt, while those who are of the seed of Eve have the privilege of voluntarily pursuing the deeds of their Father.

See Matt. 13:38ff. This conflict will grow to a great culmination, which the rest of the Bible describes . . . 

Enmity #3

But God speaks of a third enmity—read 3:15c: “ . . . he will bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” Suddenly, God speaks of a single male human (“he”). This enmity will reach its climax, not between one descendant of Eve and one “descendant” of Satan. Rather, just as the conflict began between one human individual (Eve) and Satan himself, so it will reach its climax between one of Eve’s male descendants and Satan himself. Like two titans, these two will one day square off against one another in a battle to the death. Satan will land a painful (but not mortal) blow, but “he” will drive his sword right down Satan’s head and split it in half (as predicted in 3:14).

Who is “he?” This male descendant is the Messiah.

The rest of the Old Testament traces the identity of this “seed” down from all humanity to a single individual. See Gen. 12:3 & 22:17,18; 49:10; Isa. 9:6; Matt. 1:1. This “seed” is the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. (NOTE OTHER PREDICTIONS FULFILLED BY HIM – Faith Makes Sense.)

NOTE: This identification of the “seed” with the Messiah is not a distinctively Christian interpretation. Jewish scholars had the same interpretation centuries before Jesus was born. The LXX (circa 200 BC) translates Gen. 3:15 with a singular (rather than collective) understanding of “seed.”3 The pre-Christian Jerusalem Targum paraphrases thusly: “There shall not cease kings from the house of Judah nor scribes teaching the law from his children’s children until the time that King Messiah shall come, whose is the kingdom. To him are all the kingdoms of the earth to be subjected.”4 Therefore, they linked Gen. 3:15 with Gen. 49:10.

Why the two bruisings? What God only hints at here he elaborates upon in the rest of the Old Testament and New Testament. These two bruisings refer respectively to the two comings of the Messiah, both of which were predicted by the Old Testament prophets (see 1 Pet. 1:10,11).

Jesus came the first time as a suffering servant to receive this blow. Satan entered into Judas to deliver this blow, and it seemed like a mortal blow. By offering himself up in our place, Jesus paid the penalty for our sins (Isa. 53 verses). Though it looked like he was defeated, God vindicated him by raising him from the dead. This was the “beginning of the end” for Satan. It’s almost as though the sword rebounded off Jesus’ heel into Satan’s head. No longer could he hold humans in death because of their sins (Heb. 2:14,17).

But the day will come when Jesus will return, this time to rule and reign and vanquish the Serpent forever (read Rev. 20:10; Rom. 16:20). Then, what was predicted moments after Adam and Eve fell will be fulfilled. Then, Satan will be “on his belly, eating dirt . . . all the days of his life”—done in by the Seed of Eve.

So what?

This is the entire history of salvation, all squeezed into one verse! This is one of the reasons why I am a Christian. Having examined the other “scriptures,” I found that no others have a comprehensive plan for human salvation, a plan that is fulfilled in history over thousands of years predicted by dozens of human authors, authenticated by hundreds of detailed predictions. This is unique!

Which humanity are you part of?

“From this time on in the flow of history there are two humanities. The one humanity says there is no God, or it makes its own gods in its own imagination, or it tries to come to God in its own way. The other humanity comes to the true God in God’s way. There is no neutral ground.”5

Since the Fall, we are all born into the humanity that is in opposition to God. But you don’t have to stay there. God is giving you the opportunity to come to him through his Son Jesus Christ. You can do this by simply receiving Christ as your Savior. What is your decision?

Footnotes

1 Note that in Ezek. 8:10, this word (remes) seems to indicate creatures associated with idolatrous worship (snakes?).

2 “ . . . cursed are you more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field . . .” is a comparative. The Serpent is distinguished from animals and cursed like no other animal. The min” is a particle of distinction and imminence.

3 The LXX “Greek boldly used the masculine independent pronoun autos, which failed to agree with the Greek neuter antecedent “seed” (sperma).” This is especially striking, since the other 103 times in Genesis autos is used, it always agrees with the gender of its antecedent. See Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Toward an Old Testament Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978), p. 36.

4 Reference presently unavailable.

5 Francis Schaeffer, Genesis in Space and Time (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1972), p. 115.

Copyright 1998 Gary DeLashmutt