Have you ever wondered, “What is the meaning of Genesis 3:15?” and wanted someone to explain it to you? Or have you ever considered what “Advent” means and why we use it to describe the period before Christmas, during which we anticipate Christ’s coming to earth by remembering His miraculous birth?
Are you now wondering what Genesis 3:15 has to do with the “Advent” of Jesus Christ? This post will provide a commentary on Genesis 3:15 and explain its meaning, which includes God’s first prophecy of Christ’s coming to earth as a man to defeat the Devil.
Our Genesis 3:15 commentary will begin with an explanation of its meaning.
And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel. (Gen 3:15 / NKJV)
In determining the meaning of any Bible passage, it is important to consider its context.
Genesis 3:15 is part of God’s judgment of Adam, Eve and the Serpent in the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve sinned by eating the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:8-19).
The context begins with God questioning Adam as to why he hid from Him and whether he had eaten the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:9-11). Adam confessed his sin but blamed it on the woman God had given him (Genesis 3:12).
God then asked the woman what she had done. Eve also acknowledged eating the forbidden fruit but said nothing about her part in Adam’s fall. And like Adam, Eve tried to pass the blame, saying the serpent (a creature God created) deceived her (Genesis 3:13).
God knows everything. He knew exactly what Adam and Eve had done and why they had done it. By questioning them, God gave them the opportunity to confess their sin. While they both confessed eating the forbidden fruit, they did not really take responsibility for their sin. Instead they tried to pass the blame to others (including God Himself).
It is interesting to note that God did not interrogate the serpent. Satan, the spiritual power who used the snake, had chosen to sin on his own. There was no excuse for Satan’s fall. He just wanted to be like God and steal His throne.
So, God pronounced judgment on the four participants in mankind’s fall, starting with the actual snake. God told the snake that he and his serpent kind were cursed above all other animals, both wild and domestic (Genesis 3:14). It should be noted that this declaration indicates that all animals were now cursed.
Not only did Adam die spiritually the moment he sinned by violating God’s command (Genesis 2:17), but all of creation became subject to the curse of death. And just as Adam’s sin passed to all people so we are all sinners subject to death (Romans 5:12), so, all animals were now cursed, especially the snake.
The serpent received an extra curse. The sinister snake (and its serpent kind) would now slither on its belly eating dust.
Our passage of interest (Genesis 3:15) falls in the midst of judgment. After condemning the fleshly snake, the context continues with God pronouncing judgment on Satan, Eve and Adam in the order in which they fell into sin. It is significant to note that the judgment of Satan (the spiritual serpent) contained a hint of redemption for humanity, before Adam and Eve were even judged.
To understand the Genesis 3:15 meaning, we need to understand the meaning of the words and phrases it contains.
“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.” (Gen 3:15 / NKJV)
And in the King James Version:
“And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel.” (Gen 3:15 / KJV)
“I will put” = A simple 1st person singular active verb with an “imperfect” tense, which in Hebrew indicates an incomplete / future action. The word means to put, set, place, cause to occur, ordain
“Enmity” = A noun meaning: enmity, animosity, hostility, blood feud (a feeling or condition of hostility; hatred; ill-will; animosity; antagonism) the feeling one naturally has toward an enemy
“Seed” / Offspring = A singular noun meaning: Seed, offspring, descendants, children, posterity
“He” / It = A 3rd person, masculine, singular personal-pronoun): He
“Bruise” = A simple active verb with an “imperfect” tense, which in Hebrew indicates an incomplete / future action: Bruise, batter (repeatedly), crush
“Your” / Thy = A 2nd person, masculine, singular, possessive pronoun, meaning: Your
“Head” = A noun meaning: Head, person, source, top, beginning
“His” = A 3rd person, masculine, singular, possessive pronoun, meaning: His
“Heel” = A noun meaning: Heel, hind part, back of the foot
Now that we have examined the context of Genesis 3:15 and the meaning of significant words contained in the passage, we can explain what it means.
“I will put enmity between you and the woman.” From the context, we know that God is speaking to Satan, the spiritual power indwelling the snake. Notice that it is God who will put enmity between Satan’s seed and the woman’s seed. Satan may have initiated the hostility, but God ordained that it would continue.
Even though Adam, Eve and Satan all chose to sin using their free will, God is in control. With His foreknowledge, God knew what they would do before He created the world. It was all predestined; part of God’s pre-determined plan.
It is significant that the animosity and hostility would not just be between Satan and Eve (the woman he deceived). The feud would continue long after Eve died and would involve her seed / offspring. And this feud is not just between Eve’s descendants (everyone who has ever been born) and Satan. It involves hostility between Satan’s seed and the woman’s seed.
This begs the question as to exactly what is meant by the word “seed” (or offspring). The Hebrew word is singular, so it could refer to a single individual. It can also refer to a collective group composed of multiple individuals (as in “Israel,” “the Church,” and “the children of the devil”).
I believe the antagonism of the devil’s seed against the woman’s seed in the first half of the verse refers to the ongoing spiritual battle raging between the ungodly children of Satan (John 8:38-44) and the godly seed of the woman (those who fear God, obey His Word and love others – 1 John 3:1-10).
The second half of the verse becomes more personal. It clearly refers to a battle between Satan himself and one specific man from the woman’s many offspring (identified simply as “He”).
He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.
As noted in the word study, the Hebrew word translated “shall bruise” conveys an incomplete future action (or repeated actions). It can also mean “strike” or “crush.”
The same Hebrew verb is used twice in this sentence, so it is difficult to make a strong case for translating the verb two different ways. Most English versions use the same English word (bruise or strike) to translate the verb both times.
The anatomy of where the blows land is significantly different though. Much like a snake, Satan will strike a low blow at the man’s foot from behind, thereby only bruising His heel. The man, however, will strike the serpent’s head. This implies the man will deliver Satan a death blow from above.
The NIV conveys the meaning of this passage by translating it as, “He shall crush your head, and you will strike His heal” (Genesis 3:15b / NIV).
This interpretation seems to be supported by Romans 16:20, “And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly” (NKJV). (While the KJV uses “bruise” as it did in Genesis 3:15b, all other English translations I checked use the word “crush” because the Greek verb, συντρίβω, means to crush, shatter, break into pieces).
Hebrews 2:14 also supports the interpretation of the woman’s seed “crushing” Satan by delivering a deadly blow. “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil”
Having begun his campaign to supplant God’s authority, Satan probably understood the prophetic meaning of his judgment. It is not clear how well Adam and Eve understood the promise it held for them and their seed though.
This prophecy would have been difficult to understand during Old Testament times because of the limited revelation they had. It appears that Satan’s role as a fallen angel and the enemy of both God and mankind was not well known.
Today we benefit from having the whole Bible to aid our understanding. We can also look back on the fulfillment of this promise in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, who was both a seed of the woman and the Son of God.
You may still be wondering what Satan’s judgment in Genesis 3:15 has to do with Advent. This section will discuss how this passage revealed the first Advent prophecy recorded in the Bible.
The English word, “advent” comes from the Latin word, “adventus” which means, “coming.”
Within Christianity, Advent refers to the weeks before Christmas, during which many churches and Christians remember and prepare for the first coming of Jesus Christ to earth, born of a virgin woman, to “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:18-23).
Before God even pronounced judgment on Adam and Eve for their sin, He revealed His plan to defeat the devil through one unique man who would be of the woman’s seed. This special man would be wounded by Satan’s attack, but not defeated. As Isaiah prophesied, “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
Theologians call Genesis 3:15 the protoevangelium (or first gospel) because these words spoken by God contain the first promise of redemption in the Bible, and hint at the incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Therefore, Genesis 3:15 contains the first advent prophecy of Christ’s coming.
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