Genesis 3:15 — “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.” [ESV]
“What is this that you have done?”
Verse 13: “Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this that you have done?’”
What a wonderful concern does God express in this expostulation! “What a deluge of misery have you brought upon yourself, your husband, and your posterity? What is this that you have done? Disobeyed your God, obeyed the devil, and ruined your husband, for whom I made you to be a helpmate! What is this that you have done?”
God would here awaken her to a sense of her crime and danger, and therefore, as it were, thunders in her ears: for the law must be preached to self-righteous sinners. We must take care of healing before we see sinners wounded, lest we should say, Peace, peace, where there is no peace. Secure sinners must hear the thunderings of mount Sinai, before we bring them to mount Zion. They who never preach up the law, it is to be feared, are unskillful in delivering the glad tidings of the gospel. Every minister should be a Boanerges, a son of thunder, as well as a Barnabus, a son of consolation.
There was an earthquake and a whirlwind, before the small still voice came to Elijah: We must first show people they are condemned, and then show them how they must be saved. But how and when to preach the law, and when to apply the promises of the gospel, wisdom is profitable to direct.
And the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?”
“The serpent deceived me…”
“The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” She does not make use of so many words to excuse herself, as her husband; but her heart is as unhumbled as his. “What is this,” says God, “that you have done?”
God here charges her with doing it. She dares not deny the fact, or say, I have not done it; but she takes all the blame off herself, and lays it upon the serpent. “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” She does not say, “Lord, I was to blame for talking with the serpent; Lord, I did wrong, in not hastening to my husband, when he put the first question to me. Lord, I plead guilty, I only am to blame, O let not my poor husband suffer for my wickedness!”
This would have been the language of her heart had she now been a true penitent. But both were now alike proud; therefore neither will lay the blame upon themselves:
“The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
“The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”
I have been the more particular in remarking this part of their behavior, because it tends so much to the magnifying of Free-grace, and plainly shows us, that salvation comes only from the Lord.
Let us take a short view of the miserable circumstances our first parents were now in: They were legally and spiritually dead, children of wrath, and heirs of hell. They had eaten the fruit, of which God had commanded them that they should not eat. And when arraigned before God, notwithstanding their crime was so complicated, they could not be brought to confess it.
What reason can be given, why sentence of death should not be pronounced against the prisoners at the bar? All must own they are worthy to die. Nay, how can God, consistently with his justice, possibly forgive them? He had threatened, that the day wherein they eat of the forbidden fruit, they should “surely die.” And, if he did not execute this threatening, the devil might then slander the Almighty indeed. Yet mercy cries, “Spare these sinners, spare the work of Your own hands!”
Behold, then, wisdom contrives a scheme how God may be just, and yet be merciful. Be faithful to his threatening, punish the offense, and at the same time spare the offender.
An amazing scene of divine love here opens to our view which had been from all eternity hid in the heart of God! Notwithstanding Adam and Eve were thus unhumbled, and did not so much as put up on single petition for pardon, God immediately passes sentence upon the serpent, and reveals to them a Savior.
An amazing scene of Divine love
Verse 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.’” He should be in subjection, and his power should always be limited and restrained. “His enemies shall lick the very dust,” says the Psalmist.
Verse 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.”
Before I proceed to the explanation of this verse, I cannot but take notice of one great mistake which the author of The Whole Duty of Man is guilty of in making this verse contain a covenant between God and Adam, as though God now personally treated with Adam, as before the fall.
For, talking of the second covenant in his preface, concerning caring for the soul, says he, “This second covenant was made with Adam, and us in him, presently after the fall, and is briefly contained in these words, Gen. 3:15 where God declares, ‘The seed of the woman shall break the serpent’s head; and this was made up, as the first was, of some mercies to be afforded by God, and some duties to be performed by us.” This is exceeding false divinity: for those words are not spoken to Adam; They are directed only to the serpent.
Adam and Eve stood by as criminals, and God could not treat with them, because they had broken his covenant. And it is so far from being a covenant wherein “some mercies are to be afforded by God, and some duties to be performed by us,” that here is not a word looking that way. It is only a declaration of a free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord.
God the Father and God the Son had entered into a covenant concerning the salvation of the elect from all eternity, wherein God the Father promised that, if the Son would offer his soul a sacrifice for sin, he should see his seed. Now this is an open revelation of this secret covenant, and therefore God speaks in the most positive terms, “He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
The First Adam and the Second Adam
The first Adam, God had treated with before; he proved false. God therefore, to secure the second covenant from being broken, puts it into the hands of the second Adam, the Lord from heaven. Adam, after the fall, stood no longer as our representative; he and Eve were only private persons, as we are, and were only to lay hold on the declaration of mercy contained in this promise by faith, (as they really did) and by that they were saved.
I do not say but we are to believe and obey if we are everlastingly saved. Faith and obedience are conditions, if we only mean that they in order go before our salvation, but I deny that these are proposed by God to Adam or that God treats with him in this promise, as he did before the fall under the covenant of works. For how could that be, when Adam and Eve were now prisoners at the bar, without strength to perform any conditions at all?
The truth is this: God, as a reward of Christ’s sufferings, promised to give the elect faith and repentance, in order to bring them to eternal life; and both these, and every thing else necessary for their everlasting happiness, and infallibly secured to them in this promise; as Mr. Rastan, an excellent Scots divine, clearly shows, in a book entitled A View of the Covenant of Grace.
This is by no means an unnecessary distinction; it is a matter of great importance. For want of knowing this, people have been so long misled. They have been taught that they must do so and so, and though they were under a covenant of works, and then for doing this, they should be saved.
Whereas, on the contrary, people should be taught that the Lord Jesus was the second Adam, with whom the Father entered into covenant for fallen man. That they can now do nothing of or for themselves, and should therefore come to God, beseeching him to give them faith, by which they shall be enabled to lay hold on the righteousness of Christ; and that faith they will then show forth by their works, out of love and gratitude to the ever blessed Jesus, their most glorious Redeemer, for what he has done for their souls.
This is a consistent scriptural scheme; without holding this, we must run into one of those two bad extremes. I mean Antinomianism on the one hand, or Arminianism on the other, from both which may the good Lord deliver us!
The seed of the woman, and the seed of the serpent
But to proceed: By the seed of the woman, we are here to understand the Lord Jesus Christ; who, though very God of very God, was, for us men and our salvation, to have a body prepared for him by the Holy Ghost, and to be born of a woman who never knew man, and by his obedience and death make an atonement for man’s transgression, and bring in an everlasting righteousness, work in them a new nature, and thereby bruise the serpent’s head, i.e. destroy his power and dominion over them.
By the serpent’s seed, we are to understand the devil and all his children, who are permitted by God to tempt and sift his children. But, blessed be God, he can reach no further than our heel.
To be continued…