In the idyllic setting of ch 2, there had been just one prohibition, v16f.
3:1 – there is an enemy in the garden. The serpent exaggerates the prohibition, minimises the threat of punishment, and tempts the woman, “Go on – have some”. And she takes it and eats it.
Meanwhile, the man has been watching and listening. The woman offers him some of the forbidden fruit, and he too takes and eats.
Before they can wipe the juice from their mouths, they know themselves to be sinners. They are overcome by feelings of guilt and shame. They try to hide.
God goes looking for them: “Where are you? What have you done?” The man protests: “That woman you gave me – it’s her fault.” The woman pleads: “It’s not my fault, the serpent made me do it.”
Judgement is pronounced first on the serpent. Then on the woman and the man, focusing on the key tasks of childbearing and work. Their relationship with one another will be disrupted. They are banished from the garden, the way back blocked by cherubim and a flashing, flaming sword.
Hang on: a talking snake, a magic tree, a God who takes an afternoon stroll in the garden, angels standing on sentry duty, a flaming sword. Dripping with symbolism. How can we say what it all means? By cheating! By looking the answers up in the back of the book. See Lk 24:25-27 – “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”
Focus on v15.
1. The prospect of an ongoing conflict
v15a “I will put enmity between you (the serpent) and the woman, and between your offspring and hers”.
Who is the serpent? ‘That ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan,’ Rev 12:9.
Who is the woman’s offspring? The human race, and one member of that race in particular. Gal 4:4 ‘When the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman’.
Attempts by Satan to stop Jesus’ mission in its tracks:-
- Herod’s plot to kill Jesus, Mt 2:16.
- The temptation of Jesus (cf. Lk 4:13 ‘When the devil finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time’).
- Jesus’ encounter with various demonised people (note Lk 8:30 ‘”Legion”, because many demons had gone into him ’).
- Certain Jews who were determined to kill Jesus, Jn 8:42-47, prompting our Lord to say, “You belong to your father, the devil…he was a murderer from the beginning…he is a liar and the father of lies.”
- Peter’s attempt to persuade Jesus not to go to the cross, Mk 8:32f. (“Get behind me, Satan!”)
- The betrayal of Jesus by Judas Lk 22:3 (’Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot.’)
- The words of Jesus to those who came to arrest him: “This is your moment, the time when the power of darkness reigns,” Lk 22:53 (New Living).
The serpent delivers his final crushing blow. He sees to it that ‘the offspring of the woman’ is tried on trumped-up charges, condemned, and executed. Dead and buried.
2. The promise of a decisive victory
Gen 3:15b – ‘He (the woman’s offspring) will strike your head, and you (the serpent) will strike his heel’. The difference is between a fatal blow, and a non-fatal one.
Amazing irony: as the serpent delivered his final blow, it was at that precise moment, in that very act, that ‘the offspring of the woman’ made his decisive strike against ‘the serpent’.
Now was the time for judgement on this world; now was the time that the prince of this world would be driven out, Jn 12:31f. The very reason the Son of God appeared was ‘to destroy the devil’s work’, 1 Jn 3:8. Having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross’, Col 2:15. ‘At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.’ Cherubim.
We can never think of Christ’s death on the cross without thinking too of his resurrection from the grave. In his death he bore God’s judgement. In his resurrection he broke Satan’s strongest weapon: death. He ‘was handed over by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and the people of Jerusalem, with the help of wicked men, had him put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead…because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him,’ Acts 2:23f.
Here in v15 – the spring from which this mighty river flows; the motif from which the entire symphonic movement will be developed; the embryo from which the entire organism will grow.
This puts Satan in his place. He has been fatally wounded, and he knows it. Still dangerous – sometimes ‘[prowling] around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour’, 1 Pet 5:8; at other times ‘masquerading as an angel of light’, 2 Cor 11:13. We must ‘put on the full armour of God so that we can take our stand against the devil’s schemes,’ Eph 6:11. And ‘the God of peace will soon crush Satan under our feet,’ Rom 16:20. Finally will come the day when ‘the devil, who deceived them, [is] thrown into the lake of fire,’ Rev 20:10.
It puts God in his place. He sits on a throne of grace as well as of judgement. Adam has led the human race into rebellion. But in the same breath that God pronounces the sentence, he promises redemption. In fact, he works through humanity to save humanity. He sent his Son to ‘share in [our] humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil,’ Heb 2:14f.
It puts me in my place. As a member of Adam’s fallen race, I was once ‘without hope, and without God in the world,’ Eph 2:12. But now I am ‘in Christ’, and in him I have gained far more than I ever lost in Adam, Rom 5.
So we come to share in a simple meal during which we will ‘take and eat’. Not forbidden fruit, but the tokens of the body and blood of Christ. He died to open up the way back to God. And he lives to welcome us ‘into the glorious freedom of the children of God,’ 1 Pet 3:18; Rom 8:21.