The Case for Jesus the Messiah – Incredible Prophecies that Prove God Exists/Part 5

By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©{{{copyright}}}
Genesis 3:15—Who Is the Seed (Offspring) of the Woman Who Crushes the Head of Satan?

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).

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The Biblical Text

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 Passage

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.[1] It is never used between an animal and a person.

In this passage Satan has already deceived Adam and Eve. All three are now addressed by God. What God says is astonishing!

The Explanation of the Text

Carefully 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 between persons.[2]
• 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:

1. Satan
2. The woman
3. Satan’s seed
4. The woman’s seed
5. Finally, 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.”[3] 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.”[4]

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 tread.”[5] 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 woman.

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.[6]

God describes 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).

Satan’s success 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 humanity.

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.

Dr. Charles 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 able advocates.”[7]

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.”[8]

The same can be said for the Jerusalem Targum.[9] (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].)[10] 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.’”[11]

In his 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.”Cite error: Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag

Clues to Identify the Messiah

Whoever the Messiah is, He must fit the following description:

Clue #1—He, a male child (the Hebrew text specifically uses a 3rd person, singular, masculine pronoun—”he”), will be born of the seed of the woman.

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  1. H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Genesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1978), p. 164.
  2. Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., The Old Testament in Contemporary Preaching (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1973), p. 39; William Wilson, Wilson’s Old Testament Word Studies (McLean, VA: MacDonald Publishing Company, n.d.), p. 145.
  3. Leupold, Genesis, p. 166.
  4. Wilson’s Old Testament Word Studies, p. 57.
  5. Delitzsch and Gloag [Part 1—Franz Delitzsch, The Messianic Prophecies in Historical Succession (Lectures delivered at the Institutum Judaicum, 1887)], p. 36.
  6. There is also reference to the conflict between the human followers of Satan or Christ who have either one or the other as their respective spiritual heads (Mt. 23:33; Jn. 8:44; Gal. 3:26-29; Eph. 4:15; 1 Jn. 3:1, 8; 5:19.
  7. Charles Lee Feinberg, Is the Virgin Birth in the Old Testament? (Whittier CA: Emeth Publications, 1967), p. 22.
  8. John Bowker, The Targums and Rabbinic Literature (London: Cambridge University Press, 1969), p. 122.
  9. Edersheim, Life and Times, Vol. 2, p. 711; Feinberg, Virgin Birth, pp. 22-23.
  10. Although the Targums are dated A.D., Ellison makes an important observation in his The Centrality of the Messianic Idea for the Old Testament: “Early [pre-Christian] rabbinic Messianic interpretation merits re-examination. Very much of their interpretation of Messianic prophecy is, allowing for the difference created by the rejection or acceptance of Jesus as Messiah, the same as that of the New Testament and early Church…. Because the influence of Hebrew Christian propaganda, which must have been felt for at least two centuries after the resurrection, has been underestimated by most modern scholars, we have failed to realize how impossible it will have been for the rabbis to adopt Christian interpretations of prophecy, unless indeed they had been there all the time…. By the middle of the third century Hebrew Christianity had lost its dynamic power and was rapidly becoming a sect despised by Jew and Gentile Christian alike. It was therefore possible to allow traditional interpretations of prophetic scripture once again to be taught.”— (H. L. Ellison, The Centrality of the Messianic Idea for the Old Testament (Tyndale, 1953), p. 15.)
  11. Kaiser, The Old Testament in Contemporary Preaching, p. 42.

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