14 The Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
cursed are you above all livestock
and above all beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”
16 To the woman he said,
“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be contrary to your husband,
but he shall rule over you.” [i]
We live in a culture of victimhood. Politicians don’t lose elections, they’re victims of conspiracies. Students don’t fail tests, they’re victims of the mean teacher who hates them. Employees aren’t fired for poor performance, they’re victims of a horrible boss. People can and do become victims in a world populated by sinners. But claiming victim status is one of our strongest self-defense strategies for refusing to see our own sin. That’s not my philosophy, it’s what Moses tells us happened in the garden-temple of God. Adam and Eve broke God’s Covenant of Works (COW) and exercised their own judgment about what was good and what was evil. The very first sin was committed in the only perfect church that has ever existed on this planet when the very first pastor failed to condemn the evil one for his blasphemy. The result was a culture of victimhood.
Buck-passing replaced worship and perfect fellowship because sin permeated every part of Adam and Eve’s nature. As one of our elders likes to say, “You don’t know you’re deceived until you’re not.” The condition of sin curves us inward upon ourselves and convinces us that our greatest problems are outside of us. In fact, our greatest problem is inside of us. Adam believed his greatest problem was a cheap God who created a poor product when he made Eve. Eve believed her greatest problem was a cheap God who created a sneaky talking snake.
If you’re listening right now, really listening, you might be thinking to yourself, “Oh Yeah, pastor? You don’t know my spouse. You don’t know my kids. You don’t know my parents. You don’t know my boss. You don’t know about the terrible situation I’m in because THAT is my greatest problem!” But your argument isn’t with me; it’s with God and Moses. Our being born into Adam and Eve’s sinful condition makes us believe the lie that we are in charge of our own lives and that if we can “fix” this person or situation confronting us, then we can make things better for ourselves. That’s the knowledge of good and evil we acquired from our fist parents. We call ourselves and our wants “good” and the people and things around us that aren’t performing according to our wants “bad.” We fail to see our sin and we blame the people and things around us when, in fact, we’re really blaming the sovereign God who ordains everything in our lives.
God allowed Satan to enter the garden-temple in Eden so his prophet-priest-king Adam could pronounce the final judgment upon the enemy’s rebellion against God. But God’s great plan for humanity was NOT for us to gain eternal life in Adam. Had Adam kept God’s covenant of works, we would all be living in a perfect world-wide garden-temple and praising our still-living ancestor Adam for our great salvation. But God is in the business of glorifying himself in and through Messiah Jesus. In that moment when Adam failed to judge the great serpent-dragon, Adam was exercising the most perfectly-free will human beings would ever experience on this planet. Adam had a perfect nature. He lived in a perfect environment. He had perfect fellowship with God and with Eve.
Adam freely chose to break covenant with God. And yet from eternity past before he ever spoke one quark into existence, God purposed to allow Adam his free choice to rebel in order that [Christ, the Last Adam] might be the firstborn among many brothers.[ii] In other words, God’s plan for the First Adam was a part of God’s greater plan to glorify the Last Adam who kept the Covenant of Works perfectly and yet still willingly took upon himself our covenant curse of death. What could have been mankind’s final and favorable judgement in the garden-temple of Eden became mankind’s dismal judgment when God pronounced the curses of the COW upon the serpent-dragon, Adam, and Eve.
JUDGMENT AND GRACE
When we began our study of Genesis 1-11, we noted that judgment and grace are two separate but inseparable things. They go side-by-side, but they never mix. There is absolutely no grace in the Covenant of Works. It is a contract. Adam would have earned his wages of eternal life and fellowship with God if he had judged the serpent-dragon. When Adam failed, he earned death – being cut off from perfect life with God. The COW is a give-to-get relationship. The COW is pure law: do this and live; do that and die. God cannot be gracious to Adam as long as Adam is living according to the COW because Adam is earning his wages of perfect life and perfect fellowship. Grace can ONLY exist when man can no longer earn the wages of life. It only exists after man has broken the COW and earned the wages of sin. Paul writes in Romans 6:23, “23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” [iii] What you earn is not a gift. A free gift is something you cannot, in any part, earn or merit.
The divine curses of the COW God issued in the garden-temple ended paradise for mankind. Depravity and death now ruled. But the curses of the COW paved the way for paradise to be regained by the COG, the Covenant of Grace – which appears beginning here in verse 15 right alongside the curses of the COW. So, grace and judgment are two separate-but-inseparable things. Like oil and water, they cannot be mixed.
The first curse God pronounces is upon the serpent as a creature, “Because you have done this, /cursed are you above all livestock /and above all beasts of the field; /on your belly you shall go, /and dust you shall eat /all the days of your life.” [iv] This is NOT a curse of the Covenant of Works because God made that covenant with man alone, not with creatures who do not bear his divine image. In verses 9-13, God addressed the sin of the man (vv. 9–11), the sin of the woman (v. 12), and the sin of the serpent (v. 13). But his curses follow a reverse order, judging the serpent first. [v] Each of the curses involves aspects of life and relationships.
Why would God curse the snake when it was merely a tool of Satan? “The cursing of the snake is consistent with the fate of other animals in Scripture that caused injury to humans and were therefore put to death. Exodus 21: 28 states, ‘When an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox shall be stoned.’ Beasts used for immoral purposes were also put to death, not because they were [morally] accountable, but because they were used to abuse men and women made in the image of God (cf. Leviticus 20: 15, 16). 2 Every animal was made for man and was subject to him as its head.” [vi] Any abuse or perversion of the order of creation called for strict judgment.
The serpent’s life is now one of crawling upon the dust. These words do not imply serpents had not been reptiles before the fall (much less that they had legs).The crawling is from that moment on symbolic (cf. Isa. 65:25)—just as in 9:13 a new significance, not new existence, will be decreed for the rainbow.[vii] He who tempted Eve to eat now himself will eat dust. He who is ʿārûm, subtle, is now ʾārûr, banned (you shall go). The most subtle of all the animals now becomes the loneliest and oddest of the animals.[viii] Moses clearly intends the curse of crawling and dust-eating to be metaphorical expressions of humiliation and subjugation (as in Ps. 72:9; Isa. 49:23; Mic. 7:17).
Satan, the serpent-dragon is also cursed in his relationship to mankind (3:15). This is not a curse against the snake as an animal but against Satan himself who has used the animal to forge his union with mankind. “15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, /and between your [seed] and her [seed]; /he shall [crush] your head, /and you shall [crush] his heel.” [ix] There is no evidence in the Hebrew text to support divergent readings of the same word translated “bruise” in the ESV. It is not “crush” when addressed as the curse to Satan and “bruise” when spoken of the “seed” as many English translations wrongly translate it (AV, RSV, NAB, NEB, NIV).
The curse is that Satan will not have dominion over all humanity. God will preserve his own offspring to oppose the evil one. Here, in Genesis 3:15 God defines two distinct “seeds.” One seed belongs their father Satan. The other seed belongs to God. Jesus used that bedrock theology in addressing the unbelieving Jews seeking to kill him, the Promised Seed:
38 I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”
39 They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, 40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. 41 You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.[x]
In Revelation, we see a picture of the ongoing struggle between the two seeds:
And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. 5 She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, 6 and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days. [xi]
This curse upon the evil one, here in Genesis 3:15, is the beginning of a theme that runs through the book – the two offspring. It begins with Cain and Able as we witness the downward spiral of life under the curse of sin. We will delve more into 3:15 next week because this isn’t merely a promise that Satan will not prevail against God’s children, it contains the means by which God will see the enemy’s head crushed.
As we noted earlier, the curses of the COW involve both life functions and relationships. So, Eve was cursed with difficulty in the life function of child birth. That’s a theological way of saying, “It would really, really hurt and take a lot of physical effort to give birth.” Second, her relationship with her husband would be difficult. We saw that after they partook of Satan’s sacramental meal of the tree of judgment. Immediately, they were too ashamed to be naked in front of each other and fashioned itchy fig leaf coverings to hide themselves from one another and from God. Then, when they heard God’s voice, they both ran off and hid separately – showing a total lack of concern for the other. Remember how Adam used Eve as his lab rat to see if she would actually drop dead from eating the fruit? Total self-absorbed separation is sin’s result.
First, one of the great joys of Eve’s life would be shot through with pain.
The pain of childbirth, unrelieved by modern medicine, is a bitter pill. Maternity and suffering became coextensive. And her pain was not limited to the physical because pain here means ‘painful toil’ and refers to the emotional as well as the physical. Mothering itself, with its attendant joys, was also a source of painful labor.[xii]
Watching the sinful struggles of her children would be a painful reminder of her betrayal of her Covenant Creator God.
Second, marriage would be a painful struggle. “Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” [xiii] Eve’s desire would be very much like the desire of sin to master Cain because the same word is used in 4: 7, where God says to Cain, “Sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you.” The woman would now desire to control her husband, but she would fail because God had ordained that man should lead.[xiv] A woman might win the power struggle, gaining the upper hand and calling the shots, but in doing so she would damage or destroy the marriage. I’m not saying all marriage problems are the fault of the daughters of Eve, only that the relationship curse of the COW for women was their desire to dominate the marriage. That is so because sin curves us inward upon ourselves. We are self-centered and self-interested and self-motivated by nature. The curse of the COW turned humanity upside-down so that our new normal is what WE want – not what God wants.
In the issuing the curses of the COW, God reaffirms his view of the created order. The serpent again became subject to the woman. The serpent-dragon will not take over all humanity but will have to war with the women’s offspring. Despite her struggles to dominate her marriage, God reaffirms she is to be subject to the man. And all humanity will still be subject to God who will glorify himself in the Promised Seed. Grace and judgment, separate and distinct as they are, will exist side-by-side in this fallen, upside-down world.
One evidence of grace alongside the curses of the COW is the sense of unease and dissatisfaction in what should be the most comforting things in life.
Bliss, perfect peace, is no woman’s lot in this world. And as we shall see, the center of the man’s life will also know the same striving. …Marriage alone will give no woman all she wants. Mothering is fraught with pain from birth onward. To be a mother is to experience a new and ongoing index of pain.[xv]
But the judgment of dissatisfaction with imperfection is used by God to drive the Holy-Spirit-led soul to seek its sense of perfection in the person and work of the Promised Seed, the Lord Jesus Christ. In his book, Confessions, Augustine looked back upon his quest for some sense of satisfaction in life, writing, “Your goad was thrusting at my heart, giving me no peace until the eye of my soul could discern you without mistake.”[xvi]
It was midnight in the great garden-temple of Eden. Covenant curses rained down. Paradise was lost. But alongside the curses of the COW, the unmerited mercy of the Covenant of Grace (COG) shined like a beacon of hope. God’s curse upon Satan meant that his unique Son would one day become a curse for us. Satan would strike his heel, but the wound received would mean that the Son would strike a deathblow to Satan. Grace is rooted in the victory of Messiah Jesus. Because of the curses of the COW fell on the center of Eve’s life, nothing would ever satisfy her but God. All her life would be a struggle.
To all who sense the brokenness of life under the curses of the COW, to all who struggle to manage their sin and grasp those fleeting moments of happiness, Jesus makes his gracious offer:
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. [xvii]
[i] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 3:14–16.
[ii] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ro 8:29.
[iii] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ro 6:23.
[iv] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 3:14.
[v] Hamilton, 196.
[vi] Hughes, 84. Kindle Edition.
[vii] Kidner, 75.
[viii] Hamilton, op. cit.
[ix] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 3:15. Bracketed trans. mine.
[x] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Jn 8:38–44.
[xi] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 12:4–6.
[xii] Hughes, 88. Kindle Edition.
[xiii] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 3:16.
[xiv] Hughes, op. cit.
[xvi] Saint Augustine, Confessions, trans. R. S. Pine-Coffin, Book VII, 8 (London: Penguin, 1961), p. 144.
[xvii] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 11:28–30.