Teaching series from Genesis

The Beginning of God's Rescue Plan

Genesis 3:14-15, 20-21

Teaching t14064


Review “beginnings” theme of Genesis; our world, humans, sin and death (briefly review 4 ALIENATIONS).  But in the midst of this bad news, God speaks a word of hope.  In this same chapter, we have the beginning of God’s rescue plan – in the form of a prediction (3:14,15) and a type or foreshadowing (3:20,21).  Like seeds, they grow from here into mighty trees as God adds detail after detail in subsequent revelation.

A prediction: God will defeat the Serpent

You may remember that this mess began because Eve listened to the Serpent and because Adam listened to Eve (neither one of them listened to God!).  God queries Adam (3:11), who blames Eve (3:12), who blames the Serpent (3:13).  So God confronts 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.  The Bible speaks elsewhere of Satan indwelling other creatures (GARASENE PIGS), and of God introducing morphological changes as a judgment (3:19 – human bodies are now subject to disease and death).

Others (including myself) understand this verse to be a judgment on Satan alone.

First of all, 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).

Second, 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.

Third, Gen. 1:24,25 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 clearly 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 should also take “dust you shall eat” literally.  But as we all know, while snakes move about on their bellies, they do not 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.  Satan was probably gloating over the victory he had just won, but God says the day will surely come when he will be completely and permanently (“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]  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 (read 3:15). 

How God will defeat the Serpent - 3:15 is a capsule summary of God’s rescue plan which the rest of scripture unfolds.  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/conflicts between persons), 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 down.

ENMITY #1: “. . . 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.  In 3:1-6, Eve had no inclination to be suspicious of the Serpent.  But 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 (briefly explain 4:1,25 – more on this later).  Eve turned back to the Lord, and followed 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.  “. . . 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 apparently 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 realm 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 in two weeks, this enmity continues through Cain’s godless line and is counteracted by Seth’s godly line.

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 Jews not God’s children, but rather children of the devil?  In that they were in revolt against God.  See also Jesus in Matt. 13:38ff., and John in 1 Jn. 3:8,10.

This spiritual conflict is a key dynamic of subsequent human history, and all humanity stands on one side or another in this conflict.  The “seed of Satan” are used (willingly or unwittingly) by him to perpetuate his revolt, while the “seed of Eve” have the privilege of voluntarily pursuing the will of their Father.

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.”  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 (“him”) and Satan himself.  These two will square off against one another in a battle to the death.  Satan will land a painful (but not mortal) blow, but “he” will decisively defeat Satan (as predicted in 3:14). 

Who is “he?”  This male descendant is the Messiah.  The rest of the Old Testament progressively traces the identity of this “seed” down from all humanity to a single individual (“FUNNEL” SLIDE: Gen. 3:15; 12:3; 26:3,4; 28:13,14;  49:8-10; 1 Chron. 17:11-14; Matt. 1:1) – to Jesus of Nazareth.[3]

Why the two bruisings (SLIDE)?  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.

Jesus came the first time as a suffering servant to receive this blow.  Satan entered into Judas to deliver this blow (Jn. 13:2,27), and it seemed like a mortal blow.  But by offering Himself up in our place, Jesus paid the penalty for our sins.  Though it looked like He was defeated, God vindicated Him by raising Him from the dead.

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

So God not only gave Adam and Eve the first prediction of humanity’s rescue; He also provided them with the first foreshadowing of this rescue . . .

A foreshadowing: God will provide a covering for sinful humans

Read 3:20.  Adam’s choice to name his wife Eve (“living”) seems to be a response of faith in God’s promise to defeat Satan through Eve’s male descendant.  Then God provides Adam and Eve with a different set of clothes – read 3:21.  Of course, this was a practical provision because they were going to need sturdier clothes once they left the Garden.  But the full significance of this provision probably goes beyond practical utility.  It is also a foreshadowing picture of how God forgives our true moral guilt.

They clothed themselves as a result of their sense of shame after they revolted against God (3:7; SLIDE).  God here affirms their need for a covering, but provides a new covering that required the death of an innocent victim (BLAKE PAINTING). 

“This indicates, I believe, that man could not stand before God in his own covering.  Rather, he needed a covering from God – a covering of a specific nature – a covering that required sacrifice and death, a covering not provided by man but by God . . . It is my opinion that this was the beginning of the Old Testament sacrificial system looking forward to the coming of the One who would crush Satan’s head . . . God himself provided this picture.”[4]

This principle that God atones for (“covers”) our guilt through the death of His substitute is developed in the Old Testament sacrificial system.  Each year, God extended His mercy to sinful Israelites on the basis of the death of His chosen substitute, which “covered” their sins (the “mercy seat”).

This Old Testament sacrificial system was itself a prophetic picture of God’s chosen Servant who would one day voluntarily die for our sins (Isa. 53).  This is who Jesus claimed to be (Mk. 10:45).  This is why Paul says (read Gal. 3:13a).  Jesus took on the curse of the Law (i.e., God’s decree of death in Gen. 2:17) – and thus redeems us (“buys us back”) to God.   

The only condition is that we place our faith in Jesus (Gal. 3:26,27).  What does this faith look like?  Remember the picture of Gen. 3:21 – by imitating Adam and Eve. 

Like them, you have to take off your “fig-leaf” clothing – i.e., lay down your ways of hiding our guilt and validating yourself before God (e.g., your moral efforts, your superior political views or cultural tastes, your religious observances and spiritual self-development, your educational and career accomplishments, etc.).  Take all of this off, and acknowledge that you need God’s mercy.

Like them, you have to put on the “garment” God provides for you.  Rely on Christ’s death alone to validate you before God.  Have you made this decision?  You can make it today . . .


NEXT WEEK: Gen. 4:1-16 – “The Beginning of the Two Humanities”

QUESTION & COMMENTS: In what ways do we as Christians still put “fig leaves” on top of our new “clothing?”

[1] The only time in the Old Testament when this word (remes) is used negatively (Ezek. 8:10), specifying that such creatures were associated with idolatrous worship.  See Ps. 148:10 for another positive reference.

[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.

[3] 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.”  The pre-Christian Jerusalem Targum paraphrases thusly: “There shall not cease kings from the house of Judah . . . until the time that King Messiah shall come, whose is the kingdom.  To him are all the kingdoms of the earth to be subjected.”  Therefore, they linked Gen. 3:15 with Gen. 49:10.

[4] Francis A. Schaeffer, Genesis in Space and Time, The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer, Volume 2, p. 75.