Editor’s Note: This material was first published in book form in
1989 by the John Ankerberg Evangelistic Association (now known as
the Ankerberg Theological Research Institute).
So the Lord God said to the
serpent, "Because you have done this,… I will put enmity between you and
the woman, and between your seed and her seed. He will bruise your head,
and you will bruise his heel."
(Gen. 3:14, 15)
The Context of
The context of
this passage is the temptation and Fall of Adam and Eve by the deception
of "the serpent." Who is "the serpent"? Revelation 12:9 and 20:2
identifies him as "the serpent of old, who is
the devil or Satan."
For those who
accept only the Hebrew Scriptures as authoritative, the serpent in Genesis
3:14 cannot be just an animal. The serpent must be a
person. The word "enmity" in the Hebrew Scriptures always
refers to hatred between persons.13
It is never used between an animal and a
In this passage
Satan has already deceived Adam and Eve. All three are now addressed by
God. What God says is astonishing!
of the Text
examining this text, we find a number of things:
God is speaking to the serpent, who is
not an animal and is identified in the book of Revelation as "Satan."
God says He will put enmity
(irreconcilable hatred) between the serpent [Satan] and the woman.
God says this enmity will spread to the
serpent’s seed and the woman’s seed. Again, the word "enmity" is a very
specialized word. It is never used between an animal and another animal
or between an animal and people. It only describes a condition of hatred
But then God suddenly speaks
specifically of "one" of Eve’s seed, a "he," a male descendant. God
announces this One, "He," will someday bruise the head of the serpent
(Satan), and Satan will bruise his heel.
The King James
Version (KJV) has made a mistake in translation here. The translators
ignored the third person masculine, singular pronoun found in the text and
instead of translating the pronoun "he," they mistranslated the pronoun as
"it." But the grammar clearly indicates "he." The KJV wrongly says, "It
shall bruise thy head;" the Hebrew says, "He will bruise thy head."
So there are
five participants spoken of in this verse:
2. The woman
4. The woman’s
from the woman’s seed, the "he" who bruises Satan’s head but is bruised
in the heel by Satan.
Among these five
participants, God says there will be, first of all, conflict that takes
place and reaches into the future. The conflict will result from enmity
(hatred) between Satan and the woman. Second, this hatred will extend to
Satan’s seed and the woman’s seed. Third, someday the woman’s seed, One
specifically—a "he"—will victoriously defeat Satan by bruising his head;
yet Satan will bruise his heel.
What does it
mean for the male descendant of the woman to "bruise" Satan’s head?
Translators have rendered the Hebrew word "bruise" as "crush."15
This is because it more clearly fits both the meaning of the word and the
context. The actual Hebrew word means to "break or smite in pieces;
greatly to injure or wound."16
Though the same
Hebrew word is used (both the head and heel are "crushed"), we see that
one of the wounds is irreversibly fatal, the other is not. Why? The reason
is the location of the crushing. The crushing of the head is
irreparable—it is too vital an organ to survive being crushed. But this is
not true for the heel. To crush someone’s heel is to inflict a serious but
not irreparable wound.
If a man steps
on a snake’s head, it will be irreversibly crushed—thus the
imagery points to the serpent’s wound as being fatal. On the other hand, a
crushed heel may be nursed back to health. This is why the great
Hebrew scholar Franz Delitzsch has said this verse is teaching "the
definite promise of victory over the serpent because it suffers the deadly
In brief, God is saying the male seed of the woman will be victorious over
Satan—because he (the serpent) will be mortally wounded.
Does the male
descendant here refer to the Messiah? Yes. Many Jewish rabbis have stated
so down through the ages. (See the next subheading.) For Adam and Eve it
represented a future Person who would conquer the one who had deceived
them and led them into sin.
But does Eve’s
male descendant in this verse refer to the person of Jesus Christ? It is
clear that it must refer to some future man and as we will see, God
Himself will add other identifying signs to answer this question. Jesus
does fit the requirements spoken of here. Jesus Himself said that He had
come to destroy the works of the devil (Jn. 12:31; 16:11, cf. Heb. 2:14; 1
Jn. 3:8). Has anyone else in human history ever made such a claim? When
Jesus died on the cross, He provided and made available salvation for all
mankind (Jn. 3:16). He broke the power Satan had exercised over all
humanity, and now provides victory over sin and the devil. Because of
Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection, He inflicted a fatal blow
to the devil’s domination over man (Acts 10:38; 26:15-18; Eph. 4:8; Col.
2:15; Js. 4:7). In the future, at Jesus’ second coming, He will
permanently defeat the devil by removing him from the earth and casting
him into hell forever (Rom. 16:20; Rev. 20:10).
The text also
talks of the seed (offspring) of the serpent and the seed (offspring) of
The offspring of
Satan would refer to the demons (fallen angels who followed Satan in his
rebellion). All through Scripture we are told "Satan’s seed" tries to
destroy humanity (Jn. 8:44; Rev. 12:9; 16:14). The "seed of the woman"
obviously would refer to all her children, to all humanity.18
the scope of the conflict. It will involve all future generations
"between your [Satan’s] seed and her [the woman’s] seed"
(1 Pet. 5:8-9; 1 Jn. 5:19).
in deceiving Adam and Eve resulted in their spiritual separation from God
(Gen. 3:8, 21-24). Satan will continue to deceive and wreck havoc on the
seed of the woman and all humanity (Rev. 12:9; 20:2,3). Yet in the future,
God promises a male descendant of the woman will crush and defeat Satan
and his seed.
Is not this the
Gospel message? Didn’t Jesus say he had come to give His life a ransom for
many and to destroy the works of Satan (Mt. 20:28; Jn. 12:31; 16:11), to
proclaim release to the captives, to set free those who are downtrodden (Lk.
4:18)? In other words, this text is already speaking of Jesus, the Savior,
who would come to reverse the destructive works of Satan on all of
Was Genesis 3:15
Recognized by the Jews as Messianic?
Was this text
recognized by the Jews as a Messianic prophecy? The answer is "yes." The
words themselves forced Jewish scholars to a Messianic application.
Feinberg, Professor of Semitics and Old Testament at Talbot Seminary, has
documented that, "There has never been a time, from ancient days to the
present, when the Messianic interpretation of Genesis 3:15 has not had its
In the Jewish
community, the Targum Pseudo-Jonathan on Genesis 3:15 stands as proof that
the ancient rabbis (at least at the time of this Targum) believed the
words in this verse referred to "the days of the King, Messiah."20
The same can be said for the
Jerusalem Targum.21 (The Targumim (pl.) are ancient Aramaic
paraphrases of the Hebrew Bible. The best known are the Targum Onkelos
[3rd century A. D., on the Torah, the first five books of
Moses, the Targum Jonathan [4th century A. D., on the
Prophets], the Targum Pseudo-Jonathan [650 A.D., on the
Torah] and the Jerusalem Targum [700 A.D.,
on the Torah].)22 And other scholars have "demonstrated
beyond a shadow of a doubt, on philological [language] grounds, ‘that the
Jewish community—at least the one in Alexandria, interpreted this passage
as Messianic well before [in 247 B.C.] the birth of Christ.’"23
Exposition of Genesis, the renowned Old Testament scholar H. C.
Leupold observes that, "The Jewish church, according to the Targum,
regarded this passage as Messianic from a very early day."24
Identify the Messiah
Messiah is, He must fit the following description:
a male child (the Hebrew text specifically uses a 3rd person, singular,
masculine pronoun—"he"), will be born of the seed of the woman.