The Seed of The Woman
Conversations between individuals have often turned the tide of history. A conversation between Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill decided the fate of millions in post-war Europe. Conversations between a former President and his aides, recorded on tape, led to his resignation and the blot on American history called “Watergate.” We all would be surprised if we knew how our everyday lives are affected by the conversations of powerful individuals in the highest levels of national and international caucuses.
How tragic and far-reaching have been the results, however, of a brief encounter in a beautiful garden many years ago. The conversation is recorded for us in Genesis 3, one of the most important of all the many important chapters in the Word of God. And yet, out of the darkness of that episode involving a serpent, a woman, a man and God shines forth a beacon of hope to a lost world. That beacon, found in the simple but profound words of verse 15, has been called by theologians the “protevangelium,” that is, the first announcement of the good news of the gospel. The words addressed by God to the Satanic power behind the serpent are:
And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; he shall bruise thy head, and thou shall bruise his heel.
To fathom the depths of meaning embedded in those few words, let us take a brief look at the preceding events which prompted this momentous promise.
The man and the woman had been placed in an ideal environment with only one restriction – don’t eat from one tree (Gen. 2:16-17). That command actually had been given to the man before the woman was created. It was his responsibility to communicate God’s words correctly to his wife. This fact must be recognized to fully understand the woman’s response to the serpents question in Genesis 3:1-2.
The Conversation with the Woman (3:1-5)
Employing the instrument of a serpent, Satan launched a twofold attack on the woman (remember that she was not named “Eve” until after the fall, cf. Gen. 3:20). First, Satan attacked the Word of God: “And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” (Gen. 3:1). He sought to cast doubt in her mind about what God had actually said. Such attacks on the veracity of God’s Word have been one of Satan’s favorite methods ever since that fateful day in the garden. He is delighted if he can cast doubts about God’s Word into the minds of God’s creatures. The woman’s response sounds good at first, but she added something:
But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die (Gen. 3:3).
Evidently the man had not communicated God’s Word faithfully to his wife. Sadly, he had added the matter about not touching the tree.
Satan’s next thrust was to attack the wisdom of God:
And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die; For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil (Gen. 3:4-5).
Now the enemy launched a frontal attack by calling God a liar. Furthermore, God’s motive was impugned – actually, the serpent said God did not want any creatures to have the kind of knowledge which He alone possessed. The word translated as “gods” in the Authorized Version is “elohim,” the same word translated as “God” earlier in the verse, and which should be rendered “God” in its second occurrence as well. Will the woman stand her ground and obey God in light of this twofold attack on the Word and wisdom of God?
The Committing of the Sin (3:6)
And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat (Gen. 3:6).
The fruit had threefold appeal to the woman, corresponding to the threefold appeal of the world in 1 John 2:16. The tree was (1) “good for food” (ie., “lust of the flesh”); (2) “pleasant to the eyes” (ie., “lust of the eyes”); and (3) “desired to make one wise” (i.e., “pride of life”). It is by one of these three human desires that the tempter has always approached God’s creatures.
Amazingly, he used the same threefold approach in tempting the second “Adam,” the Lord Jesus, in Matthew 4:1-13. There Satan asked Jesus to turn stones into bread (i.e., “lust of the flesh”); to cast Himself down from the Temple before a marveling crowd (i.e., “lust of eyes”); and to receive the world’s kingdoms through worshiping the “prince of this world” (ie., “the pride of life”). Had the woman responded as Jesus had, by citing the Word of God, she would have been able to thwart the tempter. However, she and her husband succumbed and satisfied their desires. They sacrificed the permanent on the altar of the immediate. And we who are their descendants have fared no better.
The Consciousness of the Sin (3:7-8)
The results were immediate. Whereas previously they each had enjoyed a harmonious personality free from guilt, they now attempted to cover their shame with fig leaves. One rabbinic commentator suggests that the unnamed “fruit,” so often referred to mistakenly as an “apple” in popular thought, was most likely a fig since its leaves were used to cover their nakedness. No matter the kind of fruit our parents ate, fig leaves were inadequate to remove their guilt. Later in the chapter, the Lord covered the humbled pair with skins from slain
animals, indicating that sinners are restored by blood and not by their own meritorious deeds.
Their consciousness of sin extended not only to themselves but also to God. Whereas previously they had enjoyed close fellowship with the Lord, their new attitude was different.
And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden (Gen. 3:8).
The lesson is simple: sin produces shame. One cannot be practicing sin and at the same time enjoy that sweet fellowship of unbroken communion with God.
The Confronting of the Sinners (3:9-13)
The Lord God then confronted each of the actors in this momentous drama. He first questioned the man concerning his whereabouts and asked if he had eaten of the forbidden tree. God did not ask these questions to gain knowledge of which He was ignorant. He wished to elicit a response from Adam. The man, however, responded with the oft-quoted excuse, “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat” (3:12). Thus began the long history of one of the favorite pastimes of fallen humanity – blame shifting.
The woman, however, was no better. When confronted with the same question, she blamed her actions on the serpent who had “beguiled” her (3:13). It is said that President Harry Truman had a sign on his desk proclaiming, “The Buck Stops Here!” Adam and his wife, however, were the founders of the infamous “The Buck Stops There” society. And, alas, its members are still among us today!
The Consequences of the Sin (3:14-24)
The rest of this chapter can be summarized in three parts: (1) The Pronouncements of Judgment (3:14-19); (2) The Provision of Covering (3:20-22); and (3) The Precaution Against Eating (3:23-24). What will concern us in this article, however, is the series of sentences pronounced on the three guilty parties. The man must toil in physical labor (3:17-19) while the woman must toil in maternal labor (3:16). Before these pronouncements, however, the Lord promises judgment on the serpent:
And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life. And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel (3:14-15).
Embedded within these ominous words of doom is mankind’s only hope – the seed of the woman, the Deliverer, the Savior, the Messiah. That coming one will not arrive, however, before a fierce conflict develops. Here is not only a promise of hope but also of warfare – a battle between followers of the Lord and of Satan. Ultimately, the conflict will focus on two individuals. The word “seed” in Hebrew (i.e., zerah) has both a collective and an individual meaning – just like its English equivalent. The singular pronoun used in the promise,
“he [KJV, “it”] shall bruise thy head,” indicates that a male member of the human race will deliver a fatal and final blow to the serpent. This crushing blow will not come, however, without the woman’s seed also receiving a wound, although not a fatal one, on His heel.
Until modern times, Jewish commentators saw a prophecy of the coming Messiah in this verse. Consider, for example, this comment from Bereshit Rabba 23, a rabbinic commentary on Genesis: “Eve had respect to that seed which is coming from another place. And who is this? This is Messiah the King.” In the light of later revelation in the Hebrew Bible and its fulfillment in the New Testament, the general and rather mysterious truths of this presence shine brightly to the eye of faith. Basically, this verse teaches that Messiah will suffer in the process of defeating Satan. The concept of a suffering Messiah, although unfamiliar to many Jewish people, can be traced back to this ancient promise. Isaiah further developed this theme with his teaching about the suffering servant. Consider Isaiah 53:5b: “he was bruised for our iniquities,” and Isaiah 53:10a: “Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him.”
Although Satan was defeated on a cross outside Jerusalem nearly two thousand years ago, his ultimate destruction is portrayed as yet future, in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10). It is then that his head will be “bruised” in the long-awaited fulfillment of Genesis 3:15.
In conclusion, what basic truths can be deduced about the Messiah from Genesis 3:15? First, Messiah will be of unique birth – He will be the seed of the woman. Although we should not be impatient with someone who has difficulty seeing the truth of the virgin birth in these veiled words of God, there is implied that the deliverer will be of unique origin. Else, why is He called the seed of the woman and not the seed of the man? Second, Messiah will be supernatural – He will defeat Satan, a supernatural being. Only one who has power beyond that of mere man can defeat him who is called “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2). Thus, Messiah’s deity is implied. Third, Messiah will be of the human race – from a woman, not an angel or a visitor from another world. Thus, the ultimate mystery begins to unfold – Messiah will be both God and man – a theme later developed by the prophets (Isa. 9:6; Jer. 23:5-6; Mic. 5:2).
It must be kept in mind that this promise is only the beginning of a long series of messianic prophecies. As revelation unfolds, more information will come forth and Messiah’s credentials will progressively narrow the focus on one who is a descendant of Shem (Gen. 9:26), of Abraham (Gen. 12:3), of Isaac (Gen. 26:3), of Jacob (Gen. 35:11-12), of Judah (Gen. 49:10), of David (2 Sam. 7:12-16), of Zerubbabel (Hag. 2:23), and who will be born in Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2) before the Temple is destroyed (Dan. 9:24-26; 70 A.D.). Like an inverted pyramid, this portrait of Messiah rests on the only One who could fit these and the many other prophecies concerning Him – Jesus of Nazareth, born of a woman (Gal. 4:4) who vanquished Satan and sets free all those who are in Satanic bondage (Heb. 2:14-15).