by Jacob Preece
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. 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.”
– Genesis 3:14-15
The curse against the serpent is recognized by Adam and Eve as more than just a physical curse against an earthly animal. After all, they had seen snakes before, Adam having named it, and they knew that snakes, with the rest of the animal kingdom, didn’t talk or reason or have personality. It’s more likely, however, that they realized that something supernatural was happening as they conversed with this serpent. They were aware of angels as much as they were of God, that they too were created with personality while having a role and form distinct from man’s, but the exact role of angels at this time and their interaction with the first couple is unknown. Suffice it to say that angels at least had access to the garden, and their presence, like God’s, was known more to man at that time.
From the overall context of Scripture, we now can confidently identify this “serpent of old” as Satan himself (Eze. 28:13; Job 38:7; 2 Cor. 11:3; Rev. 12:9, 15; 20:2). Had Satan fallen yet? Or was this act of deceit his fall? If Satan had fallen in the spiritual realm, then maybe that’s why he decided to veil himself through the serpent, which is what I’m loosely proposing. Regardless of either possibility, the curse was understood by the two as a judgment against some angelic being opposed to God and His creation, namely man.
Here is how the promise, then, in the last two lines of the verse, is understood by the despairing couple: one of Adam’s sons will defeat this evil angelic foe! This explains too why they decide to have Seth after the death of Abel, referring to Seth as the “appointed” replacement for their son slain by Cain’s hands (Gen. 4:25; Seth is lit. translated appointed). Moses, writing the genealogy of God’s people, elevates Seth above the other sons and daughters of Adam (Gen. 5:4) because he recognized that Seth was chosen of God and faithful to the teachings of his father (Gen. 5:3), and that it is only through the descendants of Seth that the serpent-crusher would come.
From Seth to Noah is roughly 926 years (Gen. 5:1-28). When Noah was born, his father Lamech gave him his name saying, “This one will give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands arising from the ground which the LORD has cursed.” (Gen. 5:29). Over a thousand years, the details of what happened in the garden were still not only talked about, but hoped for by faithful men. Lamech truly believed and hoped for the one who would deliver them from the curse and crush the serpent, bringing them back into an Edenic state with God. Victory over this angelic foe would reverse the effects of the curse itself as a type of consummate redemption.
By way of closing, I want to review some implications concerning the person of the Serpent-Crusher:
1. He would be a male, human descendant of Adam, and by extension, Seth.
2. He would defeat an angelic being opposed to God and suffer some harm in doing so.
3. His victory would not just extinguish the threat of the angelic foe, but also undo the effects of the complete curse on mankind and the cosmos.
Some follow up questions I think maybe people at that time wrestled through:
1. How could a man defeat an angelic being? What kind of man would this man be? Would he also be some sort of angel/man? What kind of harm will come to him?
2. What man has the power to undo the curse? Who could let us back into Eden? Or does God do these things by way of his victory?