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A Promise Sealed in Blood (Lesson 2.7)

We've been looking at Genesis 3:14-19 and considering the judgments that God pronounces upon the serpent, the woman, and the man, because of their respective roles in disobeying the command God had given to Adam. But here we want to focus in on what is one of the most beautiful texts in all the Bible. It is the first promise Scripture records of the coming of the Messiah and the redemption He would accomplish for His people. And it is the inauguration of what we call the Covenant of Grace. It is the seed of the gospel, because from this seed promise spoken in Genesis 3:15 would sprout and grow all the promises that Scripture would make about Christ and the redemption He would accomplish for His people. They would all grow out of and be traced back to this first promise, recorded in Genesis 3:15.

So, lets read together Genesis 3:15. God said: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.”

1. The SUBSTANCE of the promise:

A) Enmity Between the Serpent and the Woman:

The Lord said to the serpent: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman. . .” What do we make of this? Well, Romans 8:7 says that, “the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God.” Every single person, since the fall of man, was born into this condition—hostility toward God—enmity toward God. And the reason every single one of us is born into this condition, is because when Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, it was into this condition that they plunged themselves (and all humanity along with them). Adam and Eve's sin brought them into a state of being at enmity with God. But here the Lord is telling the serpent that now He will put enmity between the serpent and the woman. In other words, the Lord is promising here to reverse what Satan had done: “Adam and Eve had aligned themselves with Satan. But now the Lord would put enmity between the woman and the serpent.”1 Eve had been at war with God—now she would be at war with Satan. She had fallen into sin, but that would not be the end of the story. Eve had known the Lord as her Creator—now she would come to experience Him as her Redeemer.2

This is what God does when He saves us. He doesn't just forgive our sins—He gives us a new heart with new desires. The sin that we used to love, we now hate. Our sin used to be like an old friend—now it's our worst enemy. Why? Because we made a decision to follow Jesus? No. Because God made a promise: “I will put enmity between you and the woman. . .” Scripture is making it crystal clear here in Genesis 3:15 that “salvation is God's initiative.”3 It is God alone that would do this work in the woman and in us: “This is what God promises to man. . .that, by the insurmountable efficacy of his power he would perform and bring [this] about.”4 So if you have a new heart with new desires; if you find that you hate the sin you used to love—it's not because you made a decision to choose God. It's because God made a promise to redeem you.

Another quick word of application here: Don't be discouraged because of your struggle with sin. Your struggle with sin isn't a sign of spiritual death or even decay. Quite the contrary: It's actually a vital and necessary sign of spiritual life. There ought to be enmity between you and your sin if you belong to Jesus. If you're at peace with your sin there's something wrong: “It is when I am trying to deny that I have sin to deal with that I am in trouble, not when I am grieving over the continual fight against sin. . .This kind of warfare is the very evidence of life and grace.”5

B) Enmity Between the Seed of the Serpent and the Seed of the Woman:

The Lord continues, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. . .” What's God saying? Who is the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman?

I) The Seed of the SERPENT: Here the Lord is not referring to the serpent itself, but to the seed of the serpent: “I will put enmity. . .between your seed and her seed. . .” Who is the seed of the serpent? The seed of the serpent are the children of the serpent—the children of the devil—all those who are at peace with Satan (though they might never say that—or even think that). In 1 Samuel 2:12 we read a description of Eli's sons: “Now the sons of Eli were worthless men; they did not know the Lord;” but the literal Hebrew reads, “sons of Belial” (another name for the devil). John the Baptist called the Pharisees a “generation of vipers” (Matthew 3:7). Christ himself spoke of them in John 8:44, saying, “You are of your father the devil, and do the works of your father” (cf. John 8:38,41). So who are the seed of the serpent? The children of the devil.

II) The Seed of the WOMAN: Who is the seed of the woman? It wouldn't make sense to say the woman's seed is everyone who would come forth from the woman, as many of them are of the seed of the serpent. Even the woman's very first child, Cain, was said to be of the evil one (1 John 3:12). Cain was physically the offspring of Eve—but spiritually the offspring of the serpent.

In one sense, the seed of the woman is referring to believers—those whom God has chosen among the woman's seed who, by God's grace, would be turned from enmity with God to enmity with Satan.6 We have an analogy of this in Revelation 12, where we read of a woman and a great red dragon who hated her. The woman was about to give birth to a unique child (representing Christ), and the dragon wanted to devour that child. But when he couldn't, we read: “So the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” (12:17).

So, there are two seeds7 — and there's only two — the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. And this is exactly what we see played out in Genesis 4-5: two lines; two seeds. The seed of Cain—who was of the seed of the serpent, and the seed of Abel—who was of the seed of the woman (and after Abel was murdered by his brother,8 the seed of Seth). Then in Genesis 4 we have a record of the genealogy of the unbelieving seed of Cain; and in Genesis 5 we have a record of the genealogy of the believing line of Seth, from whom eventually Noah would come.

Why is it that some men receive the offer of the gospel, while others sitting right next to them reject that offer? The ultimate answer is found in Genesis—some are of the seed of the woman; but others are of the seed of the serpent. This is the reason our Savior gave for why some responded to His preaching and others didn't. Jesus said to the Jews, “you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish. . .” (John 10:26-28). Only those who are regenerated through the power of the Holy Spirit will respond to the call of the gospel.9

So, in one sense, the seed of the woman is referring to believers. But in the truest and most proper sense, the seed of the woman is Christ. We know this because the last clause in verse 15 understands the seed of the woman to be referring to a singular individual: “He shall bruise you on the head. . .”10 So, in the most proper sense, the seed of the woman is Christ. And enmity between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman is the enmity of the sons of the devil against Jesus Christ. The children of the serpent will ever be at war with Jesus (see Psalm 2).

C) Enmity Between the Seed of the Woman and the Serpent:

Returning once again to our text, we read in Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” How are we to understand the last clause here in this verse?

It's speaking of the one particular seed of the woman who would defeat Satan: Jesus, the unique seed of the woman, would come to destroy the serpent—He would crush the devil—but in doing so, He would be bitten on the heel.11 This is a reference to the cross. Christ would accomplish victory, but He would suffer a blow from Satan in the process. Christ would accomplish redemption for His people, but it would come at a great cost. Satan would “bruise” the promised Messiah, even as He dealt the crushing blow to Satan through His atoning death and resurrection.

There's an allusion to this verse in Romans 16:20: “The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.” In Genesis 3:15 the seed is referring explicitly to a single individual, but the victory that Christ accomplishes in crushing the head of the serpent is on behalf of a great multitude of the seed of the woman. Christ triumphs, but we reap the benefits of His victory.

So, we see how this promise in Genesis 3:15 is the seed of the gospel. As another put it: “This promise of Christ, the woman's seed (verse 15), was the gospel; and the only comfort [of the Old Testament people of God].”12 Old Testament believers weren't saved because they had a faith in God in just a general sense. Adam and Eve, and Abel, and Seth and Enoch, Noah, and the patriarchs, and all who would come after them were saved just as we are: By grace alone through faith alone in the Messiah—the Messiah whom God had promised to send them in Genesis 3:15.

2. The BREADTH of the promise:

So, we can learn at least this much from Genesis 3:15: “In this promise was revealed, [that]: 1) Man's restoration [un]to the favor of God, and his salvation; [was] not to be effected by man himself, and his own works, but by another. . . 2) That this Savior was to be incarnate, to become man, 'the seed of the woman' . . . 3) That he [would have] to suffer; his heel, namely his humanity, to be bruised to death. . . 4) [and] that by his death he should make a full conquest over the devil. . .and so recover the captives out of his hand, 'he shall bruise thy head'. . .This encounter was on the cross; there Christ treading on the serpent, it bruised his heel, but he bruised its head. . .”13 Praise be to God.

3. The RESPONSE to the promise:

We read in Genesis 3:20, “Now the man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living.” What's the significance of what we read here in Genesis 3:20? Well, it could be that Adam's merely making the statement that all humankind would come forth from Eve. Now, even if this is all that is meant here, that alone is something of massive significance. Why? Think about all the things he could have named his wife after what had just happened. He could have named her “Gullible,” or “Susceptible,” or “Conspirator.” But he doesn't. He names her “Eve,” which means “living,” or “life.” In the name he gives her, Adam is dealing kindly with her; he is looking past her part in the offense; he is showing her respect and honoring her (cf. 1 Peter 3:7).14 Even if he was merely referencing life in the physical sense, he could have taken that honor upon himself—after all, he was the father of all the living as much as she was the mother of all the living—but he gives the honor to her. And in that, I believe, we see the first evidences of God's grace at work in Adam.

But it's very possible that in this new name, Adam's referring to more than just physical life. He had already given her the name “woman” in Genesis 2:23; why give her another name now? And why would Adam name her “Eve” — what significance would the meaning have now that it didn't before?

It's likely that Adam is referring back to the promise God had made in Genesis 3:15 when he names his wife Eve. Because of their sin, Adam and his wife expected (and deserved) nothing but death. But instead of giving them over to death, God gave them a promise of life. And so, it seems that Adam “called his wife Eve, from his faith in God's promise, believing, according to the word of God, that no man should have true life, but what would be derived from her.”15 Eve would be the mother of all the living, because from her would come forth the One who would bring life to all the world.