In the previous article, we discussed how Adam and Eve squandered their unique familial relationship with God. All the horrors and tragedies of human history flows from that singular loss. It follows therefore, that the restoration of that relationship which means reconciliation with God as Father is our salvation. If all that is bad flows from its loss, than all that is good will emerge from its restoration. Put in simple terms, we are saved when we again become part of God’s family, when we can again call Jehovah, Father. (Ro 8:15) For this to be accomplished, we do not have to wait for world-changing events, like the war of the great day of God the Almighty, Armageddon. Salvation can happen on an individual basis and at any time. In fact, it has already happened countless times since the days of Christ. (Ro 3:30-31; 4:5; 5:1, 9; 6:7-11)
But we are getting ahead of ourselves.
Let’s go back to the beginning, to the time when Adam and Eve were tossed out of the garden which their Father had prepared for them. Jehovah disinherited them. Legally, they were no longer family, with no right to the things of God, including everlasting life. They wanted self-rule. They got self-rule. They were masters of their own fate—gods, deciding for themselves what was good and what was bad. (Ge 3:22) Though our first parents could claim to be children of God by virtue of their creation by Him, legally, they were now orphans. Their offspring would thus be born outside of God’s family.
Were countless offspring of Adam and Eve doomed to live and die in sin with no hope? Jehovah cannot go back on his word. He cannot break his own law. On the other hand, his word cannot fail. If sinning humans must die—and we are all born in sin as Romans 5:12 states—how can Jehovah’s unalterable purpose to populate the earth with his children from the loins of Adam come to pass? (Ge 1:28) How can a God of love condemn the innocent to death? Yes, we are sinners, but we did not choose to be, any more than a child born of a drug-addicted mother chooses to be born addicted to drugs.
Adding to the complexity of the problem is the central issue of the sanctification of God’s name. The Devil (Gr. diabolos, meaning “slanderer”) had already sullied God’s name. Countless humans would also blaspheme God down through the ages, blaming him for all the suffering and horror of human existence. How would the God of love resolve that issue and sanctify his own name?
The angels were looking on as all these events in Eden transpired. While made superior to humans, it is only to a small degree. (Ps 8:5) They possess great intelligence, no doubt, but nothing sufficient to unravel—especially at that early stage—the mystery of God’s solution to this seemingly irresolvable and diabolical conundrum. Only their faith in their Father in heaven would assure them that He would find a way—which he did, and right then and there, though he chose to keep the details hidden in what came to be called the “Sacred Secret”. (Mr 4:11 NWT) Imagine a mystery whose resolution would unfold slowly over centuries and millennia of time. This is done according to the wisdom of God, and we can only marvel at it.
Much has now been revealed about the mystery of our salvation, but as we study this, we must be careful not to allow pride to color our understanding. Many have fallen prey to that woe of Mankind, believing they have it all figured out. True, due to hindsight and the revelation given us by Jesus, we now have a much fuller picture of the outworking of God’s purpose, but we still do not know it all. Even as the writing of the Bible drew to its close, the angels in heaven were still peering into the mystery of God’s mercy. (1Pe 1:12) Many religions have fallen into the snare of thinking they have it all worked out, which has caused millions to be misled with false hope and false fear, both of which are even now being used to induce blind obedience to the commands of men.
The Seed Appears
The theme text for this article is 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.” (Ge 3:15 NASB)
This is the first prophecy recorded in the Bible. It was uttered immediately following the rebellion of Adam and Eve, showing God’s infinite wisdom, for scarcely was the deed done, than our heavenly Father had the solution.
The word here rendered “seed” is taken from the Hebrew word zera (זָ֫רַע) and means ‘descendants’ or ‘offspring’. Jehovah foresaw two lines of descent standing in continuous opposition to each other down through time until the end. The serpent is here used metaphorically, referring to Satan who is elsewhere called the “original” or “ancient” serpent. (Re 12:9) The metaphor is then extended. A snake slithering on the ground must strike low, in the heel. However, a human killing a snake goes for the head. Crushing the brain case, kills the serpent.
It is noteworthy that while the initial enmity begins between Satan and the woman—both seeds not yet having come into existence—the actual fight is not between Satan and the woman, but between him and the woman’s seed or offspring.
Jumping ahead—no need for a spoiler alert here—we know that Jesus is the offspring of the woman and that through him, Mankind is saved. This is an oversimplification, granted, but it is enough at this stage to raise a question: Why the need for a line of descendants? Why not just drop Jesus out of the blue into history at the appropriate time? Why create a millennia-long line of people under constant attack by Satan and his offspring before finally presenting the world with the Messiah?
I’m sure there are many reasons. I’m equally sure we don’t know them all yet—but we will. We should be mindful of Paul’s words to the Romans when he was discussing just one aspect of this seed.
Or as the NWT renders it: “the past tracing out” of His ways.
We now have thousands of years of historical hindsight, yet we still can’t fully trace out the past to discern the totality of God’s wisdom in this affair.
That being said, let us venture one possibility for God’s use of a genealogical line of descent leading to the Christ, and beyond.
(Please remember that all the articles on this site are essays, and as such, open to discussion. In fact, we welcome this because through the research-based comments of readers, we can arrive at a fuller understanding of truth, which will serve as a solid foundation for us moving forward.)
Genesis 3:15 speaks of enmity between Satan and the woman. The women is not named. If we can figure out who the woman is, we might better understand the reason for a line of offspring leading to our salvation.
Some, most notably the Catholic Church, contend that the woman is Mary, the mother of Jesus.
And Pope John Paul II taught in Mulieris Dignitatem:
“It is significant that [in Galatians 4:4] St. Paul does not call the Mother of Christ by her own name, “Mary,” but calls her “woman”: This coincides with the words of the Protoevangelium in the book of Genesis (cf. Gen. 3:15). She is that “woman” who is present in the central salvific event that marks the “fullness of time”: This event is realized in her and through her.”[ii]
Of course, the role of Mary, “the Madonna”, “the Mother of God”, is pivotal to the Catholic faith.
Luther, in breaking away from Catholicism claimed that “the woman” referred to Jesus, and his seed referred to the word of God in the church.[iii]
Jehovah’s Witnesses, intent on finding support for the idea of organization, both heavenly and earthly, believe the woman of Genesis 3:15 represents Jehovah’s heavenly organization of spirit sons.
“It would follow logically and in harmony with the Scriptures that the “woman” of Genesis 3:15 would be a spiritual “woman.” And corresponding to the fact that the “bride,” or “wife,” of Christ is not an individual woman, but a composite one, made of many spiritual members (Re 21:9), the “woman” who brings forth God’s spiritual sons, God’s ‘wife’ (prophetically foretold in the words of Isaiah and Jeremiah as cited in the foregoing), would be made up of many spiritual persons. It would be a composite body of persons, an organization, a heavenly one.”
(it-2 p. 1198 Woman)
Each religious group sees things through glasses colored by its own particular theological bent. If you take the time to research these different claims, you will see that they appear logical from a particular point of view. However, we want to remember the principle found at Proverbs:
“The first to speak in court sounds right—until the cross-examination begins.” (Pr 18:17 NLT)
No matter how logical a line of reasoning may appear, it has to be consistent with the whole of the Bible record. In each of these three teachings, there is one consistent element: none can show a direct connection to Genesis 3:15. There is no scripture that says that Jesus is the woman, or Mary is the woman, or Jehovah’s heavenly organization is the woman. So rather than employ eisegesis and impose a meaning where none appears, let us instead let the Scriptures do the ‘cross-examining’. Let the Scriptures speak for themselves.
The context of Genesis 3:15 involves the fall into sin and the resulting consequences. The entire chapter spans 24 verses. Here it is in its entirety with highlights relevant to the discussion at hand.
“Now the serpent was the most cautious of all the wild animals of the field that Jehovah God had made. So it said to the woman: “Did God really say that you must not eat from every tree of the garden?” 2 At this the woman said to the serpent: “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden. 3 But God has said about the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden: ‘You must not eat from it, no, you must not touch it; otherwise you will die.’” 4 At this the serpent said to the woman: “You certainly will not die. 5 For God knows that in the very day you eat from it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and bad.” 6 Consequently, the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was something desirable to the eyes, yes, the tree was pleasing to look at. So she began taking of its fruit and eating it. Afterward, she also gave some to her husband when he was with her, and he began eating it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked. So they sewed fig leaves together and made loin coverings for themselves. 8 Later they heard the voice of Jehovah God as he was walking in the garden about the breezy part of the day, and the man and his wife hid from the face of Jehovah God among the trees of the garden. 9 And Jehovah God kept calling to the man and saying to him: “Where are you?” 10 Finally he said: “I heard your voice in the garden, but I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid myself.” 11 At that he said: “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree from which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said: “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, so I ate.” 13 Jehovah God then said to the woman: “What is this you have done?” The woman replied: “The serpent deceived me, so I ate.” 14 Then Jehovah God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, you are the cursed one out of all the domestic animals and out of all the wild animals of the field. On your belly you will go, and you will eat dust all the days of your life. 15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and her offspring. He will crush your head, and you will strike him in the heel.” 16 To the woman he said: “I will greatly increase the pain of your pregnancy; in pain you will give birth to children, and your longing will be for your husband, and he will dominate you.” 17 And to Adam he said: “Because you listened to your wife’s voice and ate from the tree concerning which I gave you this command, ‘You must not eat from it,’ cursed is the ground on your account. In pain you will eat its produce all the days of your life. 18 It will grow thorns and thistles for you, and you must eat the vegetation of the field. 19 In the sweat of your face you will eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken. For dust you are and to dust you will return.” 20 After this Adam named his wife Eve, because she was to become the mother of everyone living. 21 And Jehovah God made long garments from skins for Adam and for his wife, to clothe them. 22 Jehovah God then said: “Here the man has become like one of us in knowing good and bad. Now in order that he may not put his hand out and take fruit also from the tree of life and eat and live forever,—” 23 With that Jehovah God expelled him from the garden of Eʹden to cultivate the ground from which he had been taken. 24 So he drove the man out, and he posted at the east of the garden of Eʹden the cherubs and the flaming blade of a sword that was turning continuously to guard the way to the tree of life.” (Ge 3:1-24)
Notice that prior to verse 15, Eve is referred to as “the woman” seven times, but is never called by name. In fact, according to verse 20, she was only named after these events transpired. This tends to support the idea of some that Eve was deceived shortly after her creation, though we cannot state this categorically.
Following verse 15, the term “the woman” is again used when Jehovah is pronouncing punishment. He would greatly increase the pain of her pregnancy. Further—and likely as a consequence of the imbalance that sin brings about—she and her daughters were going to experience an unfavorable skewing of the relationship between man and woman.
All in all, the term “the woman” is used nine times in this chapter. There can be no doubt from the context that its use from verses 1 to 14 and then again in verse 16 applies to Eve. Does it seem reasonable then that God would inexplicably change its use in verse 15 to refer to some hitherto undisclosed metaphorical ‘woman’? Luther, the Pope, the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others, would have us believe so, since there is no other way for them to weave their personal interpretation into the narrative. Are any of them right to expect this of us?
Does it not seem both logical and consistent for us to first see if a simple and direct understanding is supported by Scripture before abandoning it in favor of what could well turn out to be the interpretation of men?
Enmity between Satan and the Woman
Jehovah’s Witnesses discount the possibility of Eve being “the woman”, because the enmity lasts down to the end of days, but Eve died thousands of years ago. However, you will notice that while God put enmity between the serpent and the woman, it is not the woman who crushes him in the head. In fact the bruising in the heel and the head is a fight that occurs not between Satan and the woman, but Satan and her seed.
With that in mind, let’s analyze each portion of verse 15.
Notice that it was Jehovah who “put enmity between” Satan and the women. Up to the confrontation with God, the woman likely felt hopeful anticipation, looking forward to ‘being like God’. There is no evidence she felt animosity toward the serpent at that stage. She was still fully deceived as Paul explains.
She had believed Satan when he told her that she would be like God. As it turned out, that was true technically, but not in the way she had understood. (Compare verses 5 and 22) Satan knew he was misleading her, and to make sure of it, he told her an outright lie, that she would surely not die. He then smeared God’s good name by calling him a liar and implying that he was hiding something good from his children. (Ge 3:5-6)
The woman did not envision losing her garden-like home. She did not foresee that she would end up farming laboriously on hostile land alongside a domineering husband. She couldn’t have anticipated what severe childbirth pangs would feel like. She got every punishment that Adam got and then some. To top it all off, before dying she experienced the effects of aging: growing old, losing her looks, getting weak and decrepit.
Adam never saw the serpent. Adam wasn’t deceived, but we know he blamed Eve. (Ge 3:12) It is impossible for us as reasonable people to think that as the years went by she looked back on Satan’s deception with fondness. Likely, if she had one wish, it would have been to go back in time and smash that serpent’s head herself. What hatred she must have felt!
Is it likely she imparted that hatred to her children? It is hard to imagine otherwise. Some of her children, as it turned out, loved God and continued her feelings of enmity with the serpent. Others, however, came to follow Satan in his ways. The first two examples of this split are found in the account of Abel and Cain. (Ge 4:1-16)
The Enmity Continues
All humans descend from Eve. So the offspring or seed of Satan and of the woman must refer to a lineage which is not genetic. In the first century, the scribes, Pharisees and Jewish religious leaders claimed to be Abraham’s children, but Jesus called them the seed of Satan. (John 8:33; John 8:44)
The enmity between Satan’s seed and the woman’s began early with Cain killing his brother Abel. Abel became the first martyr; the first victim of religious persecution. The lineage of the seed of the woman continued with others like Enoch, who was taken by God. (Ge 5:24; He 11:5) Jehovah preserved her seed through the destruction of the ancient world by preserving eight faithful souls alive. (1Pe 3:19, 20) Throughout history there have been faithful individuals, the seed of the woman, who have been persecuted by the seed of Satan. Was this part of the bruising in the heel? Certainly, we can have no doubt that the culmination of Satan’s heel bruising came about when he used his seed, the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, to kill God’s anointed Son. But Jesus was resurrected, so that wound was not mortal. However, the enmity between the two seeds did not end there. Jesus foretold that his followers would continue to be persecuted. (Mt 5:10-12; Mt 10:23; Mt 23:33-36)
Does the bruising in the heel continue with them? This verse might lead us to believe so:
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Lu 22:31-32 ESV)
This in no way detracts from the bruising that Jesus experienced. That is in a class by itself, but his bruising on the torture stake is set as a standard for us to reach for.
“Then he went on to say to all: “If anyone wants to come after me, let him disown himself and pick up his torture stake day after day and keep following me. 24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake is the one who will save it.” (Lu 9:23, 24)
Whether the bruising in the heel pertains only to the killing of our Lord, or whether it encompasses all the persecution and killing of the seed from Abel down to the end is not something we can be dogmatic about. However, one thing seems clear: Till now it has been a one-way street. That will change. The seed of the woman waits patiently for God’s time for it to act. It is not Jesus alone who will crush the head of the serpent. Those who inherit the kingdom of the heavens will participate as well.
“Do YOU not know that we shall judge angels? . . .” (1Co 6:3)
“For his part, the God who gives peace will crush Satan under YOUR feet shortly. May the undeserved kindness of our Lord Jesus be with YOU.” (Ro 16:20)
Notice also that while the enmity exists between the two seeds, the bruising is between the seed of the woman and Satan. The seed of the woman does not crush the seed of the serpent in the head. That is because there is the possibility for redemption for those making up the seed of the serpent. (Mt 23:33; Acts 15:5)
God’s Justice Revealed
At this point, we might return to our question: Why even bother with a seed? Why involve the woman and her offspring in this process? Why involve humans at all? Did Jehovah really need humans to take part in resolving the issue of salvation? It might seem that all that was really needed was a single human female through whom to engender his sinless only-begotten Son. All the requirements of his law would be satisfied by that means, would they not? So why create this millennia-long enmity?
We have to bear in mind that God’s law is not cold and dry. It is the law of love. (1Jo 4:8) As we examine the outworking of loving wisdom, we come to understand just that much more about the wondrous God we worship.
Jesus referred to Satan not as the original murderer, but the original manslayer. In Israel, a manslayer was not put to death by the state, but by the relatives of the one slain. They had the legal right to do so. Satan has caused us untold suffering starting with Eve. He needs to be brought to justice, but how much more satisfying that justice will be when he is brought to nothing by those whom he victimized. This adds a deeper meaning to Romans 16:20, does it not?
Another aspect of the seed is that it provides a means down through the millennia of sanctifying the name of Jehovah. By remaining faithful to their God, countless individuals from Abel forward have demonstrated love for their God even to the point of death. All these sought the adoption as sons: the return to the family of God. They prove by their faith that even imperfect humans, as God’s creation, made in his image, can reflect his glory.
“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into His image with intensifying glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2Co 3:18)
However, there is apparently another reason that Jehovah chose to use the seed of the woman in the process that results in the salvation of Mankind. We will deal with this in our next article in this series, All in the Family.
[i] Berean Literal Bible
[ii] See Catholic Answers.
[iii] Luther, Martin; Pauck, translated by Wilhelm (1961). Luther: Lectures on Romans (Ichthus ed.). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press. p. 183. ISBN 0664241514. The seed of the devil is in it; hence, the Lord says to the serpent in Gen. 3:15: “I will put enmity between your seed and her seed.” The seed of the woman is the word of God in the church,
[iv] BLB or Berean Literal Bible