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Beginnings: The Serpent’s Curse (Gen. 3:14-15)

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We often speak of the consequences man faced when they sinned in the garden, but we often miss the magnitude of the consequences the serpent faced for his deception. It is easy to read verses 14-15 and give a cursory interpretation based on a traditional understanding of this text where Satan bruises Christ’s heel in death, but Christ crushes Satan’s head through his resurrection. I believe this is very limited in its scope and is without scriptural evidence. My goal this evening is to freshly approach this text by seeking its meaning in light of passages that reference this event. When God curses the serpent he sends the message that his deception was no small matter. My hope is for us to gain a greater appreciation of God’s plan to destroy his works and to see how we fit into that plan.

Cursed Are You

When the serpent deceives Eve and causes mankind to disobey God, his guilt is assumed. The serpent is given no opportunity to defend himself; he is the only one in this situation who has no shame in his rebellion against God. Genesis 3 seems to emphasize that to Adam and Eve this was a mere serpent. He is the craftiest animal (3:1), was cursed above all livestock (3:14), and must now slither on the ground (3:14). While he seemed like a mere serpent, the rest of the Bible refers him as much more. The most explicit reference to this serpent’s true identity is in Revelation 12:9, “And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world…” God’s prophecy in verse 15 warns of the danger of underestimating this serpent by predicting the continuation of turmoil between the serpent and the woman throughout their generations. We can see in hindsight through Revelation why all this happens. This is no mere animal; it is Satan, the one who would be responsible for deceiving the nations.

The enmity is predicted to continue with strife between the woman’s offspring and serpent’s offspring. But who are these offspring? This Hebrew word “zera” is a collective singular noun usually translated as “offspring” in the ESV and “descendents” in the NASB. “Flock” and “herd” are both examples of collective singular nouns – one group with many individuals within it. This prophecy could very easily refer to a plurality of individuals belonging to each offspring. This would potentially mean that offspring refers to two opposing families at war, not two individual offspring. In some ways, it only makes sense to interpret this as two families battling each other. Traditionally, we interpret “offspring” as a single person with the woman’s offspring being Christ. If we say the offspring of woman is a single person, then we have to say the same for Satan’s offspring. Who would that be? Hopefully you see the problem of trying to identify one specific offspring of Satan as the great enemy – we know of no such follower of Satan. By extension, we must also question our traditional conclusion that Christ alone is this offspring.

The Offspring Crushes

Paul makes the most direct reference to the picture of the offspring crushing Satan. In Romans 16 Paul exhorts the congregation to watch out for divisive people and then references this Genesis 3 scene. Romans 16:17-20, “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”The description of divisive people sounds extremely similar to a description of Satan. Paul connects Satan and these evil people in verse 20 by speaking of Satan’s eminent destruction. Notice how it is under these saints’ feet that Satan will be crushed. Pairing this with our knowledge from Genesis 3:15, we can see how these deceptive people could be called the offspring of the serpent while saints are the offspring of the woman who crushes them.

This is not out of character to refer to people as offspring of the serpent. In Matthew 3:7, John the Baptist calls the Pharisees and Saducees a “brood of vipers.” Jesus does the same thing in Matthew 23:33, “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar.” And in John 8:44, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” The offspring of the serpent Satan are those who act like their father did in the garden. They are deceitful liars and murder the people of God. The reference to Abel shows us that Cain is considered the first offspring of Satan. From the beginning God’s messengers have suffered terribly at the hands of the serpent’s offspring. Even the religious leaders of Israel are named as his children. But in Romans 16 Paul declares that God will crush Satan under the saints’ feet. Then he says, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”

The Last Enemy

But how will God and the grace of Jesus crush Satan and his offspring under the saints’ feet? This age where people in the kingdom of God prevail over serpents is spoken of in Messianic prophecies. 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. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,’ says the LORD.”The wolf, lion, and serpent used to kill, but that will change. Psalm 91:13, “You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.” God’s word is not so shallow as to be referring to literal animals; this is a reference to the powers of Satan being destroyed. Notice what happens when Jesus comes to Earth in Luke 10:17-20, “The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!’ And he said to them, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.'”They refer to the demons being subject to them, but Jesus equates that with Satan’s loss of power and the authority to tread over serpents, scorpions and over all the powers of the enemy. Notice how Jesus says he gives them the authority to do this in verse 19. The “offspring of woman” are not able to do this on their own; it is only through the power of Christ that they have authority over the powers of the enemy.

But what are the powers of the enemy? Jesus points them to this in verse 20. The point is not that they have power over unclean spirits. This point is that Satan is falling and their names are written in Heaven! Zechariah prophesied about this in Zechariah 13:1-2, “On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David… to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness …And also I will remove from the land the prophets and the spirit of uncleanness.” Zechariah is prophesying that one sign the fountain is opened to cleanse from sins is that the unclean spirits will be removed from the land. The Messiah’s rule is being established, the kingdom is coming, and those in his kingdom are beginning to prevail. The prophecy is being fulfilled as the offspring of woman begin to crush the offspring of Satan.

Hebrews 2:14-15 speaks specifically of the powers that Satan is losing. “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” Satan’s power is death and it is through Christ that he is rendered powerless. Paul shows how this power of Satan is the last enemy to be destroyed through the Messiah’s kingdom in 1 Corinthians 15:24-26, “Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”This is passage is vital to a correct understanding of the serpent’s curse in Genesis 3. We would love to be able to point to a specific point in time when the serpent’s head was crushed. But that hasn’t happened yet. The last enemy is death, and that still happens every day. The picture is that the kingdom has come and Christ as king is subjugating all his enemies, putting them under his feet.

But how is Christ able to conquer the power of death? Hebrews says that it is through his death. We often say the Genesis prophecy is fulfilled in Satan “bruising Christ’s heel” when Christ died, but Hebrews says his death is what renders Satan powerless. When mankind lost access to the Tree of Life, physical death became a fearful reality that drove mankind to seek the pleasures of sin while they still have life. Hebrews confirms this, “all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” But Christ shared in our flesh and blood by going to the cross and proving his power over death through his resurrection. Physical death no longer carries the fear it once carried. The offspring of Christ live on.

Revelation 12 connects how Christ and the saints conquer this serpent together, Revelation 12:11,“And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.”Limiting Genesis 3:15 to Christ alone destroying the serpent misses the full picture. It is the saints who conquer the serpent through the blood of the lamb. They conquer because they trust the blood of the lamb and do not value their lives when physical death is threatened because they have seen the lamb’s resurrection. The picture throughout Revelation is that the true saints are enduring suffering at the hands of their persecutors, but they eventually defeat the serpent and are dressed in white robes. The serpent’s promised defeat becomes a reality. In the same way Satan can bruise our heals and threaten us with physical death, but we attack the head of the serpent and nullify his and his offspring’s power to kill when we love not our lives, even if it means our physical deaths.

Application

The Offspring of Woman Attacks: This lends to a massive outpouring of encouragement to us as the offspring of woman. God has promised from the beginning with serpent’s curse that Satan and his offspring will be destroyed. Though we are in a time of relative peace, the true children of God have lived in turmoil at the hands of the offspring of Satan from the beginning of time. His offspring murdered Abel as they murdered the Son of God. When you become discouraged and feel as though Satan and his offspring are triumphing, take courage. The offspring of woman will overcome as surely as Christ overcame the grave. The power of the enemy is being crushed underneath our feet.

The Serpent Continues Attacking: We must recognize that his deception is still alive today. If Adam and Eve failed with the Tree of Life in plain view as they ate the forbidden fruit, how much more can we too fall into deception when the Tree of Life seems so far away. The path to true life is opened once again, but Satan wants us to believe he holds the key to true living. Through the curse God is warning us, “He is trying to kill you!” As I consider the power that the serpent exerts over my family and friends, it is utterly depressing. People are being bitten left and right, and don’t even notice. What scares me more is that the serpent is lying in wait for each one of us right now, and I’m nervous we may not take that seriously. God has promised that through the blood of the Lamb we can overcome the serpent, but God cannot force us to consider Satan as our enemy. We must not allow apathy of others and Satan’s deception to cause us to think that sin is nothing. 1 John 3:8, “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” Sin is everything God is trying to destroy. God came to seek and save the lost, not those who enjoy fellowship with the works of the devil. Let us not make war with the purposes of God. We are called to hate sin and stomp it out, not embrace it! Be transformed by God’s love, not by the serpent’s empty promises. Scoff at the pleasures of this life and love the glory of the next. Join in the cosmic battle God has sworn we will win. Be a part of it by crushing Satan’s works in your life, and letting God’s nature live in you.

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