The First Good News

first good news (2)

b) Gen 3:15: This is one of the most famous verses in all of Scripture.[1]

Early Christian commentators, beginning with Justin Martyr (ca. 160 AD) and Irenaeus (ca. 180 AD), called this inaugural Old Testament messianic prophecy the Protoevangelium (“first good news”).[2]

The Lord said to the serpent, “And enmity I will put between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed. He will strike your head and you will strike his heel.”

In his grace, the Lord intended to convert Eve’s inclinations toward Satan to righteous desire for himself (Cf. Gen 3:1–6).[3]

God’s counterattack started with the woman, where the serpent’s assault began.[4] Therefore, the Lord ordained conflict between the serpent’s seed and the seed of the woman.[5]

As in English, “seed” (zera) can be either singular or plural. It refers to an immediate descendant, distant offspring, or a collective group of descendants.[6] Here Moses developed and merged all three nuances.[7]

The serpent and his descendants shall share the same fate.[8] Seed of the serpent consists of people living in rebellion against God (Matt 12:34; Matt 23:33; John 8:44).[9]

It does not denote physical snakes or demons, for angels—even fallen ones—do not procreate (Matt 22:30). Instead, everyone who unites against the Lord will fight against God’s people. This struggle forms a major theme of the remainder of Genesis.[10]

As the serpent symbolized sin, death, and malevolence, the curse upon him envisaged a long struggle between good and evil, with redeemed humanity triumphing.[11]

While the seed of the woman incline their hearts toward God, hostile unbelief characterizes the seed of the serpent (Matt 13:24–30, 36–43). The unspoken question to the reader is, “Whose seed are you?”[12]

In order to accomplish God’s plan of redemption announced in Gen 3:15, the Lord allows the serpent to test the faithfulness of each generation. This teaches God’s covenant people to vie against Satan and his followers. It also fits with the nuance of the “seed” as a plural.[13]

However, the oldest Jewish interpretations understood this verse as the serpent being vanquished by a single messiah. For example, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible utilized a singular noun (spermatos) to describe him.[14]

Therefore, while all of God’s people participate in the fight, this would ultimately result in a battle of champions,[15] much as David and Goliath each represented their armies in single combat (1 Sam 17:8–10, 48–50).

Regarding what they would do to each other, both verbs are the same word (shuph), appearing in a form which implies repeated attacks by both sides.[16] Thus, their enmity would be ongoing, with repeated skirmishes.[17]

Among the translation options for this verb are “bruise,”[18] “crush,” “snap at,” “snatch at,”[19] and “strike at.”[20]

Since the parallelism employed dictates translating these words the same way,[21] the most suitable option is, “He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.”

While not all serpents produce venom,those which do tend to be the most aggressive. Thus, people in the Ancient Near East considered an attack by a snake a potentially mortal blow.[22]

Indeed grievous wounds would afflict the messiah (Isa 53:4–5),[23] even to death. Both the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent would attack the most vulnerable part of the other.[24]

Based upon the body parts involved, it appears that the serpent would strike as the seed of the woman stepped on him, resulting in both injuries occurring at once.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

 

Read Gen 3:15. What is the difference between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent? How would you characterize yourself? Why? What happens to someone whom a viper strikes on the heel?

 

 

 

 

Go to The Accuser

 

[Related posts include Serpents in the Ancient Near East (Gen 3:1); A World-Altering Conversation (Gen 3:2–5); Sin Lies Stretched Out (Gen 4:6‒7); Cain Arose against His Brother (Gen 4:8); Noah Found Favor (Gen 6:8); Righteous and Blameless (Gen 6:9–10); God Establishes a Covenant (Gen 6:18); A Most Cruel and Ignominious Punishment (Matt 27:26–37); The Death of God (John 19:28–30); Satan Vanquished (Rom 16:20);  New Creatures in Christ (2 Cor 5:17); Receiving Christ’s Righteousness (2 Cor 5:21); and Greek Translation of the Old Testament]

 

[Click here to go to Women and Marriage Throughout Redemptive History; or to Chapter 7: The Seed of the Serpent and the Seed of the Woman (Genesis 3:14–15)]

 

[1] Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 197.

[2] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 81.

[3] Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 93.

[4] Kline, Kingdom Prologue: Genesis Foundations for a Covenantal Worldview, 133.

[5] Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 198.

[6] Brown, Driver, and Briggs, “זֶ֫רַע” (zera), BDB, 282–3, https://archive.org/stream/hebrewenglishlex00browuoft#page/282/mode/2up.

[7] Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 93.

[8] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 79.

[9] Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 93–4.

[10] Sailhamer, The Pentateuch as Narrative: A Biblical-Theological Commentary, 108.

[11] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 7980.

[12] Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 93–4.

[13] Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 93.

[14]Rick Brannan, et al., The Lexham English Septuagint (Bellingham, WA: Lexham, 2012), Gen 3:15, https://archive.org/stream/InterlinearGreekEnglishSeptuagintOldTestamentPrint/Interlinear%20Greek-English%20Septuagint%20Old%20Testament%20-%20print#page/n9/mode/2up.

[15] Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 94.

[16] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 80.

[17]Marten H. Woudstra, “Recent Translations of Genesis 3:15,” CTJ 6, no. 2 (November 1, 1971): 194–203, 200–1, https://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/ted_hildebrandt/otesources/01-genesis/text/articles-books/woudstra_gen3_15_ctj.htm.

[18] Brown, Driver, and Briggs, “שׁוּף” (shuph), BDB, 1003, https://archive.org/stream/hebrewenglishlex00browuoft#page/1002/mode/2up.

[19] Holladay, “שׁוּף” (shuph), CHALOT, 364.

[20] Woudstra, “Recent Translations of Genesis 3:15,” 202, https://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/ted_hildebrandt/otesources/01-genesis/text/articles-books/woudstra_gen3_15_ctj.htm.

[21] Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 197.

[22] Matthews, Chavalas, and Walton, IVPBBCOT, Gen 3:15.

[23] Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 94.

[24] Walton, Genesis, 226.