The third chapter of Genesis covers what’s generally known as the fall of man. After Adam and Eve are forbidden to eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil within the garden of Eden, Eve is tempted by Satan (in the form of a serpent) to eat that fruit. Adam quickly follows suit, and then everything goes sideways. When God confronts the pair with their actions, he curses them.
Yet if you read through the chapter too quickly, you might miss the central importance in the middle of His curse: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15). Let’s look at each of the sections of this particular curse to understand why it essentially prophesies the entire Bible in just a few phrases.
Satan’s seed will rise up against Eve’s seed.
Not only will hatred (“enmity”) exist between the serpent and Eve (Genesis 3:14), hatred will also exist “between thy seed and her seed.” This particular phrase needs more parsing than the opening phrase of Genesis 3:15. Who exactly is the seed of the serpent, and who exactly is the seed of Eve?
In this instance, “seed” means “offspring” or “descendant.” The prophecy is no longer speaking about the snake itself either, but rather about the powerful being inhabiting the serpent, Satan. With those ideas in mind, the verse says that God will put hatred between Satan’s offspring and Eve’s descendant.
When you come across a confusing phrase in the Bible, you can always call your pastor and ask what it means. But a better idea is to let Scripture interpret itself. Of course, this means dedicating yourself to Bible study and learning enough of the Bible so that you can perform such a study. The inspired Word of God offers an incredible insight to believers who show themselves to be diligent students of the Bible.
For instance, where else in the Bible might the seed of Satan and the seed of Eve have enmity between them? In the book of Revelation, John captures a terrifying vision of a woman giving birth to a child and then a dragon (a.k.a. an over-sized serpent). The woman is the nation of Israel, the collective offspring of Eve. The dragon is the Antichrist, the ultimate offspring of Satan. The dragon desires to devour the child, but when He is taken to heaven, the dragon turns toward the woman. So the seed of Satan is not Ahab, Jezebel, Herod as evil as such people may have been. Nor is the seed of Satan any modern-day terrorist, as bad as they may be. The descendant of Satan that Genesis 3:15 refers to is “the man of lawlessness,” the Antichrist.
In the future, enmity will exist “between thy seed and her seed.”
Jesus will crush Satan.
Such enmity will only be for a time. Ultimately, the one descendant of Eve, who can right the wrongs of the world, will triumph over Satan. Yet the phrase that the author of Genesis uses, “It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel,” is certainly strange and requires unpacking. Furthermore, the fact that these three phrases are all tied together in one verse yet all describe different entities makes for confusing reading.
In this last phrase, “it” ought to be a masculine noun, but the well-meaning English translators of the King James Version used “it” as a reference to “seed,” which has no gender. However, “it” refers to a singular man. In fact, “it” refers to the most singular man history has ever known. With “it,” the verse is no longer referring to the seed of Eve, i.e., the nation of Israel, but rather to one descendant of Eve: Jesus.
Likewise, the verse is no longer referencing the seed of Satan, but rather Satan himself. In other words, the seed of Satan will go after the seed of Eve, but that one specific offspring of woman will crush Satan.
But Jesus will be injured in the crushing.
To further understand the immense importance of this short phrase, we need a better understanding of why the author chose the word “bruise.” After all, when we get a bruise, it certainly may hurt, but it’s not enough to kill us, or even cause us much trouble after a few days. However, in the context of the Bible, this kind of bruising was much different and much more life-threatening.
In Hebrew, the word used for “bruise” in this verse means “to grip so hard as to destroy.” The essence of that word is used two more times in the Bible:
- “For he breaketh me with a tempest, and multiplieth my wounds without cause” (Job 9:17, emphasis added).
- “If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me” (Psalm 139:11, emphasis added).
Within these verses, both “breaketh” and “cover” imply an overwhelming weightiness that threatens to crush an individual. It’s unbearable to the point of death. With the feel of such heaviness on our shoulders, let’s read that last part of Genesis 3:15 again: “Jesus shall grip Satan’s head so hard as to destroy him, to break him, to relentlessly, fully, and forever overcome him.”
It’s worth noting the location of the snake’s crushing. As one who often used to drive country roads, I would often see snakes on the road, especially at night when the air was cool and the road was warm. I would run over those snakes on a regular basis, but I doubt I ever killed one. They’re incredibly durable—unless you crush their heads. To kill a snake unto full “deadness,” more often than not, its head must be crushed.
But if you’re giving this verse a close read, an inquisitive student of the Bible would be right to ask, “If Jesus is going to ‘bruise’ Satan, and that means he’s going to kill him, why does the verse then say that Satan is going to ‘bruise’ Jesus?” That second instance of “bruise” does indeed hold the same connotation as its first usage: “to grip so hard as to destroy.” But consider the location of that latter bruising: “thou shalt bruise his heel.” Now ask yourself, “Would I rather have my head crushed, or my heel?”
One you can hobble away from, the other not so much.
Genesis 3:15 – The Bible in One Verse?
With this better understanding of a central though often overlooked verse, can you see how the entirety of the Bible might actually be wrapped within just this verse?
The preceding post is an adapted excerpt from my upcoming book, 30 Things You Need to Know about Your Bible (If You Claim to Know Your Bible).