Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” Genesis 3:1-13
Last session we dealt with the Covenant of Creation. That included not only Adam’s probationary period of not eating the forbidden fruit, but the general covenants of Labor, Sabbath, and Marriage. This session we are picking up immediately after Adam and Eve ate the fruit and caused all of mankind to fall into darkness. We are going to look at the way in which God communicated to each of the parties involved. To satan, to the woman, and to the man; each in the order of their defection. What we are going to observe is that God pronounces cursing for breaking the covenant of creation; and yet promises blessings, and ultimate victory in the covenant of redemption that he establishes.
THE BIG IDEA is that the very words that pronounce the curse of the covenant creation also inaugurate the covenant of redemption.
I. The Word to Satan vv. 14-15
II. The Word to the Woman v. 16
III. The Word to the Man vv. 17-19
I. The Word to Satan
vv.14-15 The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. 15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
A. The cursing to the serpent.
v. 14 deals with the serpent specifically. No doubt that this serpent was a instrument in the hands of Satan here. God still punishes him nonetheless. Some commentators such as G. von Rad, and Sigmund Mowinckel have explained this passage as mankind writing into history the cause for our dislike towards serpents.
They said that ancient man used mythological language and fictional narratives in order to explain the war between mankind and snakes. It is true that there is a poetic nature to the Genesis account. More recently, Rob Bell has emphasized this in numerous places. His book Love Wins being the latest. I would say that his attempts are specifically aimed at undercutting the authority of Scripture, because there is no attempt on his part to emphasize the truthfulness of the account. Genesis does have poetic structure to it. But that doesn’t mean that it fails to communicate true events. There was a real serpent, that was used by Satan in order to secure the fall of mankind. The snake’s instrumental participation in this deception is what was the cause of his cursing. 1) God sentences the snake to perpetual cursing above all other animals.“Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field;...” Calvin says “...it is not only hateful to us, as the chief enemy of the human race, but, being separated also from other animals, carries on a kind of war with nature”
You can witness this in some of the great nature programs that we have access to now. There seems to be a sort of symbiotic relationship with many animals on earth. Snakes, however, see to be sort of loners when it comes to building relationships with other animals.
2) God says “...on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.” Contrary to the blessing spoken to man in v. 19 where he eats bread, the serpent only eats dust. This curse seems to extend far into the future state according to Isaiah 65:25 “The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent's food.” Robertson says “As tool of Satan he bears in himself the symbolic reminder of ultimate defeat.”
B. The curse extends to Satan himself.
v. 15 deals with Satan specifically, yet there’s still this imagery that alludes to both parties. I’ll try to point out when I’m alluding to one or the other.
1) God says “I will put enmity between you and the woman” God here is sovereignly administering a war (enmity) between Satan (and the serpent) and the woman. Even though man (Adam and Eve) sided with Satan, in opposition to God, Providence will ensure a perpetual war between Satan and the woman. Regarding this allusion to serpents, there seems to be an intangible and even subjective hatred that most people have of snakes. I say that “there seems to be” because the reality is that it is actually established in this objective curse. It may be silly to point out, but you can see echoes of this curse even in Hollywood. What animal did Indiana Jones hate the most? While I was in Africa a few years ago they had a snake there called the Black Mamba. But they didn’t call it that. They called it the “two step,” because if it bit you, you would only take two more steps before dropping over dead. It’s no wonder that Calvin says in this place “...the serpent shall be vexatious towards men, and men shall be intent on the destruction of serpents.”
Regarding this allusion to Satan, if that serpent is the symbol, then Satan is the reality. God ensured that this enmity between man and Satan would be more real than any material war. Ephesians 6:12 says “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood...” The real battleground is between the spiritual kingdom of darkness and the spiritual kingdom of light.
2) God continues in the second part of v. 15 “...and between your offspring and her offspring” So this enmity extends beyond our first parents and Satan to the woman’s offspring and his offspring. First, let’s look at this generally first and then specifically in the last part of the verse. Robertson asks an important question here regarding this general point of view “...who is meant by the “seed” of the woman?”
(BTW, Other translations use the word “seed” instead of the ESV’s use of the word “offspring”) I think that this “seed” of the woman, doesn’t ultimately apply to all of mankind, because Cain was said to be“of the evil one” in 1 John 3:12. His seed was from Satan. This “seed” or “offspring” that God is pronouncing must be those who God has sovereignly chosen to be his remnant. God’s remnant is this “seed” or “offspring” of the woman.
So what about this “seed” or “offspring” of the serpent? Who is this “seed” of Satan? Well if God’s remnant is seed of the woman, then that would leave everybody else to be the “seed” or “offspring” of Satan. Those who don’t belong to God are of Satan’s “seed.” The fallen angels are referred to as “his angels” in Matt 25:41 and Rev. 12:7-9. In Luke 3:7, the term “brood of vipers” was used to describe those opposing John the Baptist. Jesus said that his adversaries were children of the devil-John 8:44. So generally speaking the “seed” or “offspring” of the woman are those whom God has sovereignly elected; and the “seed” or “offspring” of Satan is everybody else.
3) Now on to the specific. The last part of v. 15 says “...he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” In both cases it has narrowed from “offspring” or “seed” to “he” and “you.” This is one on one warfare, the “he seed” of the woman and Satan. This warfare of “bruising” carries with it the idea of crushing or breaking. Robertson says this “Each antagonist attacks with the same determination of purpose. One strikes at the head, the other strikes at the heel, but each has the settled purpose to destroy.”
When God pronounced this curse in Genesis 3:15, before one word was spoken to the man and woman, he inaugurates the covenant of redemption. Remember that’s the big idea-the very words that pronounce the curse of the covenant creation also inaugurate the covenant of redemption. This inauguration predicts one “seed” of the woman who will rise and do battle with Satan. One hero who although his heel will be bruised, will ultimately conquer. He will take that up that bruised foot and crush Satan’s head with it. Christ who was bruised in the crucifixion, from the scheming of Satan, with that same device, bruised and crushed Satan’s head. Jonathan Edward from his sermon The Excellency of Christ says
“...Christ never so effectually bruised Satan's head, as when Satan bruised his heel. The weapon with which Christ warred against the devil, and obtained a most complete victory and glorious triumph over him, was the cross, the instrument and weapon with which he thought he had overthrown Christ, and brought on him shameful destruction. Col. 2:14-15 ".. canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him." In his last sufferings, Christ sapped the very foundations of Satan's kingdom, he conquered his enemies in their own territories, and beat them with their own weapons as David cut off Goliath's head with his own sword. The devil had, as it were, swallowed up Christ, as the whale did Jonah-- but it was deadly poison to him, he gave him a mortal wound in his own bowels. He was soon sick of his morsel, and was forced to do by him as the whale did by Jonah. To this day he is heart-sick of what he then swallowed as his prey. In those sufferings of Christ was laid the foundation of all that glorious victory he has already obtained over Satan, in the overthrow of his heathenish kingdom in the Roman empire, and all the success the gospel has had since; and also of all his future and still more glorious victory that is to be obtained in the earth.”
In summary Christ defeated Satan with the very thing that Satan thought he gained the victory with. This was the first promise that God gave after the fall. This is the covenant of redemption. Notice here how we can call this a covenant. God is sovereignly administering this future event, and he is guaranteeing the terms to be fulfilled apart from man’s cooperation. It is a bond-in-blood because it is guaranteed at the bruising of the woman’s “seed.” It’s guaranteed through the crushing of Christ.
As a footnote to this section there is a sense that we, as Christians will trample on the head of Satan as well. Romans 16:20 “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” But notice it is God that will put Him under our feet Himself, and this is only accomplished for those who are in that seed, Christ.
II. The Word to the Woman
v. 16 To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”
In God’s word to the woman, we see both blessings and cursing. Blessing provided under the covenant of redemption, and cursing for breaking the covenant of creation. First to the blessing we see that God ordains that she bring forth children. This seems to be more specific than just for the sake of children alone. Connecting with the previous verses, she’s given a “seed” so that he can war against the “seed” of Satan. In Gal 4:4-5 we find the ultimate fulfillment of this promise “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”
But the woman was also cursed because of the fall. First in the way she brings children into the world. Apparently God’s original design didn’t include a lot of pain in the childbearing process. God told her that “...I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.” Every birth on this planet is painful as a result of the fall of our first parents. This event several thousand years ago still reaches it’s treacherous tentacles into our present time.
Secondly God cursed her in relationship to her husband. He said “...Your desire shall be for your husband,” This desire is not that she will desire him sexually; or that she would desire his authority over her; in fact just the opposite. This desire that fallen woman has, is that she would rule over her husband. When God said “...Your desire shall be for your husband,” we can pull from the phrase the Hebrew word tesh·ü·kä' That’s the key word for understanding this verse. Fortunately for us, it’s found in the very next chapter when God deals with Cain. After Cain kills Abel, the Lord says to him in Genesis 4:7 “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire [tesh·ü·kä' ] is for you, but you must rule over it." Your Bible will often have a footnote right after that phrase “Its desire is for you” and that footnote will say “or against you.” In other words, sin’s desire was against Cain. Likewise in Genesis 3:16 to the woman God basically said ‘Your desire will be against your husband. Against the original order of being his helpmate, instead you will desire to rule over him.’ Fallen woman’s desire, as part of the curse, is to take over and subvert the roles. She wants to command, to master and to rule her husband.
God continues in the curse to the woman by saying “...and he shall rule over you.” In spite of this cursed desire, woman will be ruled by her husband. Now it was part of God’s original design that man was the head of woman. Even in Christian marriage where God restores relationships, He tells Christians how they should act, he says that “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her...” Ephesians 5:22-25 So even in a restored and sanctified relationship the husband is still the head of the wife. So I want to differentiate between this curse and the restored relationship in Ephesians 5. The curse given here is more representative of man’s sinful dealings with his wife. Woman’s natural proclivity will be to want to rule her husband; and man’s natural proclivity will be to deal harshly and tyrannically with his wife. Robertson ends this section by saying “The curse of marital imbalance settles into the woman’s life-style. As she perpetually attempts to possess her husband, he responds by dominating excessively.”
III. The Word to the Man
vv. 17-19 And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
First to the blessing, God will continue to feed and take care of man. God provides here both plants and bread for him to eat. This should not be taken for granted since the only thing that God owed Adam was instant death. However this came with a curse. These plants that will provide sustenance for the human race come with cursed soil, “...thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;” And this bread that man would eat comes from the currency of “the sweat of your face.” In fact not only do we see man suffering from the effects of the fall, but also all of creation. Romans 8:20-22 says “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.” This curse given to Adam corrupts the entire the planet.
The worse part of the curse resides in the last verse “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” God’s original intent was that man would not die. The conditions set forth in the covenant of creation threatened death only if Adam did not obey. If he would have obeyed, Adam would have lived forever and dominated the earth for God’s glory. As a result of his sin, now the earth would dominate him for he would return to dust. This is the antithesis of God’s image. God is. To die is to not be. The full extent of Adam’s sin is felt when he ceased to be, because he could no longer image forth God. Adam did indeed die on the day that he ate the fruit just like God promised in Genesis 2:17. He died spiritually which is the supreme death.
In this Covenant of Commencement we see both the horrible news that all men and all women will return to the dust in death because we are sinners by both nature (from our first parents) and by nurture (because we love and practice sin). But thank God that we also see the gospel when God spoke to Satan by saying “...he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” The singular “seed” of the woman would be bruised, for it pleased the Lord to crush him; and yet that very bruising will result in the crushing of Satan’s head. Romans 5:19 says “For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.”
Quotes taken from O. Palmer Robertson pg. 91 The Christ of the Covenants Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co. 1980