EDITOR’S NOTE: This groundbreaking series is being offered in celebration of a previously top-secret project and now unprecedented new 3-Volume book series (over 10-years in the making) from best-selling scholar Dr. Thomas Horn and acclaimed biblical history and theology majors Donna Howell and Allie Anderson: THE MYSTERY OF JESUS FROM GENESIS TO REVELATION—YESTERDAY, TODAY, AND TOMORROW
The word “genesis” means “beginning,” and the first book of the Bible is so named because it records the literal beginning of all things in existence—the planet, along with the animals, plants, and ecosystem, etc. It also details the creation of the first man and woman—the first intelligent beings of free will—and the misuse they make of that gift. The reality of the first sin that took place when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit recognizes mankind’s need for a Savior as early as Genesis 3:6. Jesus comes into the picture as that very future Savior in verse 15, which reads: “And I [God] 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.” The “it” said to bruise the serpent’s head here is the Hebrew hu’, which does translate to “it,” but it is a demonstrative pronoun of the third person (singular), so it equally could translate to “he” (or “she”) depending on the context. In this sentence, since it’s a prophecy of a male in the offspring line of Eve who will defeat the enemy, the word obviously becomes “he.” Many at this point jump to the (precious and correct) conclusion and acknowledge they already know this pronoun refers to Jesus. But don’t lose the power in the moment by assuming you’ve heard all this before.
Many folks who read Genesis feel the impact of the first sin. Upon hearing the title of the book, the first image that pops into mind is the fruit in Eve’s hand—something beautiful, nearly irresistible, but carnal and depraved; a prohibition, broken from the lust for illicit indulgence; perfect innocence defiled; and the closest relationship with God that mankind has ever known traded for a taste of forbidden knowledge. We see a tree with two completely nude, yet guiltless and pure, people standing under it, listening to the deceitful and misleading words of the enemy who will in only moments trick them into ushering the first evils into the world…upon which their handsome nudity will be made perverse and illicit, stripped of its otherwise innate beauty through virtuous Creation. We see a colorful garden paradise, branches drooping low with every kind of organic, nutritious fruit within reach, tending to itself and reproducing without any human toil—then we see the fiery swords of the angels who stand guard at its gate lest any stained man or woman ever again attempts to enter this utopia.
But this doesn’t need to be our first or only thoughts about this book. We should be able to think “Genesis” and hear the words of our Father, during the edict of His salvation plan, directed to us, today: “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.” The very moment that we, the kiddos God created and loves like a papa, got into trouble for the very first time, He intervened with a plan to save us all! We’re careful to steer clear of ever overusing the “daddy” idea of God, because it can quickly start to sound too casual, but take a second to think about this paramount, historical moment: God formed people, male and female, even in His very own image, which He was gracious enough to share with mere mortals (Genesis 1:26). This was done for His glory (Isaiah 43:7; Romans 11:36), as He finds pleasure in the humans He made (Revelation 4:11), and wants to be near us whenever we need and seek Him (Acts 17:27). He would now watch us enjoy life and multiply (Genesis 1:28), so He might see His workmanship walk in goodness upon the earth—a goal He ordained for His people from the beginning (Ephesians 2:10) so we all might be exalted in due time because He cares about us so much (1 Peter 5:6–7). And all of this arrangement He acknowledged as very, very good (Genesis 1:31)!
Adam and Eve really blundered a beautiful thing, didn’t they?
Well, yes, they goofed. In fact, they more-than-goofed. This was a cosmic sneeze that would blow the world off course forever—a toe-stubbing of epic proportions humanity would never stop limping from. But before we grip the pitchfork and blame every historical woe upon these two folks, consider the circumstances behind their actions and try to see them as God would have seen them: as tragic victims of the foulest trickery most of us today can’t identify with when we stumble over far smaller blocks of sin.
At this time in the Genesis narrative, the first two humans are creatures of free will, while they were not yet creatures of experience. Without a human history for them to relate to, there was no record compelling them to fear repeating the raw, infantile decision to go against something God said. All Christians, who often sin every single day (even if “only” in our thoughts [Matthew 5:28; Proverbs 24:9]), should look upon Adam and Eve with grace and forgiveness for this original sin, especially because the enemy’s words were partly true and, therefore, held far more power to deceive. American theologian Albert Barnes, in his Barnes Notes on the Whole Bible commentary, agrees:
Let us remember that this was the first falsehood the woman ever heard. Her mind was also infantile as yet, so far as experience was concerned. The opening mind is naturally inclined to believe the truth of every assertion, until it has learned by experience the falsehood of some.
There was also in this falsehood what gives the power to deceive, a great deal of truth combined with the element of untruth. The tree was not [immediately] physically fatal to life [as the serpent said], and the eating of it really issued in a knowledge of good and evil [as he promised it would].[i]
If Barnes, alongside countless scholars and several psychologists who have weighed in on this moment, are accurate in understanding what this first-human naivety would have been like up against the purest of all evil persuasions in world history, then we should admit most of us would have made the same mistake under those circumstances. This wasn’t just a bully behind a dumpster at the back of the playground offering his buddies a cigarette because all the cool kids are doin’ it. Adam and Eve were confronted with the temptation to commit the ultimate, supremely intelligent original sin while they were more morally green and untested than any humans have been since.
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With that in mind, we can see the genius of the deceiver in all he stole from them in that moment, and with compassionate sympathy we reconsider the weight they must have felt after the irreversible deed was done. It wasn’t just that they, because of taking a bite of a knowledge-tree fruit, suddenly became aware a thing called “evil” existed, as God had already told them it did when He had warned them to stay away from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the first place (Genesis 2:17). That tree could have been named the “tree of the experience of good and evil,” because partaking what was forbidden yielded the experience of evil; in other words, disobeying God and going against His will always produce evil. Barnes likewise understood the unique relationship in this initial interlock between knowledge and experience, profoundly stating “it did not make [Adam and Eve] know good and evil altogether, as God knows it, but in an experimental sense, as the devil knows it. In point of knowledge, they became like God; in point of morality, like the tempter.”[ii]
That “in point of morality, like the tempter” status is what the rest of us inherited from the sin nature after the Fall. In that, we are like Adam and Eve. Many easily admit this is because we’re born into the consequences of the grave-separation error they made in the garden, while many others don’t even consider whether we would have taken a bite also, had we been there, had our minds been as new and vulnerable, and had we been as titillated by the most convincing and tempting deceiver ever known. Either way, under far less powerful temptation and often as a matter of convenience, there are sins we commit on the daily that we don’t consider a big deal—and, regardless of the form of the temptation and what voice is pitching it as a good idea, we do far more than eat off-limits fruit. The most fair-minded and unbiased approach to this story is that we do—by nature and by free will—share in the sin of Adam and Eve, making us “in point of morality, like the tempter.”
Yikes. We all are in need of this Savior! Let’s therefore place ourselves in the narrative alongside Adam and Eve going forward.
So here’s God, only moments prior to the Fall, rejoicing over the beautiful world He has made and the sweet people He delights in. We can see Him in our imagination, filled with joy overflowing to join us in Eden, walk with us like companions through the gorgeous flora, take in the jubilant sounds of the water in the nearby brook that splash off the rocks like laughter bubbling up from the ground, and look out over the animals with us as they peacefully graze on the surrounding greenery. Everything is perfectly peaceful. God engineered countless brilliant species, brought life to all of them, and rested, seeing that all of what He had done was good: just good always; nothing bad or ugly, ever. Purity, light, joy, fun, wonder, rapture…just goodness everywhere.
Then in one instant—one invisible, horrible, tragic, and staggeringly upsetting instant—we humans choose to go against our closest and greatest Friend because we believe a lie…and nothing we do can reverse the mistake. We’re doomed, forever, to separation from His presence because He is all holiness and can’t coexist in the same space as someone or something that has been spotted by evil.
We, his kiddos, have ruined it. We hurt Him when we mar the beautiful things He has made. (The Word makes it clear in Genesis 6:5–6 that, when humanity eventually became only evil always, it broke His heart. We’re aware the context involves a dark and sinister evil related to the Nephilim of Genesis 6:4. That is the subject of another book entirely, but the essence of God’s pain in Genesis 6:6 is a result of a wicked humanity. Therefore, if God is immutable—that is, if His nature and characteristics are consistent—then the grief He feels in 6:6 would logically be present in 3:6, the moment Eve’s teeth sink into the fruit, instantly separating Holy God from sinful man.)
Again, we’re all for the responsible use of theological anthropomorphism (describing God with relatable, human traits) because it helps us understand His otherwise incomprehensible nature. Old-Testament writers attribute God, who is technically a Spirit (John 4:24), as having human body parts and movements for this same reason. The psalmists said He crushed Rahab and scattered His enemies with His “mighty arm” (Psalm 89:10), and that His “eyes” are on the righteous and His “ears” listen for their cry (24:15). Even God, Himself, said He would deliver His people from the Egyptians with His “outstretched arm” (Exodus 6:6). Yet, we try not to feel too comfortable thinking of Him in “daddy” terms, as stated before, because we never want to over-humanize or make casual how we view the Almighty. But in this narrative, when humanity is fresh, new, and perfect, then so suddenly soiled by the perversion of sin, we see God as a papa looking over His children, His loving, fatherly heart tearing in two—not out of surprise or shock, for God the Omnipotent sees and knows all, but out of despair for the closeness with Him we steal from ourselves when we sin, and what we humans, on this fateful day, have taken from Him.
Many books, classes, Bible studies, movies, programs, and other media formats out there take a long look at what happened in the Garden that day. Most focus on the Fall of Man, what that meant theologically, what occurred in the supernatural, and how, from every angle, it has affected mankind from that day to this: Why do we go through what we do as a result of the Fall? What did we lose in the Garden? How we should feel about it? Too few resources encourage readers to consider what God went through that day. What about Him? What about His loss? He showed us nothing but love and the greatest care in forming us, then He befriended us in a literal paradise, yet we turned against Him at the first sign of temptation.
We broke His heart.
To put it in childlike-faith terms: We hurt Him really, really bad. In the midst of this—the worst, most hurtful form of catastrophe inflicted against God—instead of owning what we did and showing remorse…we hid.
And then, when it looked like Papa had every right to declare us unredeemable, blow up the world, scrap it all, start over, kill us all, or punt-kick the planet into the universe in rage and watch it ping-pong about the cosmos like a magnificent pinball table in space, He suddenly didn’t.
What did He do?
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He informed the two sinners that He was going to reverse the mistake by sending His one and only Son through the womb of a virgin to declare victory over the consequences of their sin. He would make a way through whatever sin would block mankind from the presence of God!
Behold, the Christ of Genesis! Yes!
See, Genesis does give us bad news about sin. But for those who miss the phenomenal promise of restoration in the narrative, a closer look is in order. For just as one act of disobedience in the Garden caused all of us to be sinners, ironically, one act of divine obedience by the Son made all righteous (Romans 5:19).
This is the first time in human history and in the Bible God mentions a salvation plan, the beneficiaries of which are human. (Actually, it’s the first prophecy in the Word of God.) The theological term for this mention of the salvation plan is “protevangelium” (sometimes “protoevangelion”), or what commentator and Old Testament scholar Derek Kidner calls “the first glimmer of the gospel.”[iii] Right here, just a skip over from the creation of humanity, we see God’s intervention in the damnation of humans.
Interestingly, though most of the genealogy passages in the Bible (and in ancient culture) are ever focused on seed and offspring as being passed through males, in this instance, God notes that it is through a woman that this future bruiser-of-the-heel would come. The Hebrew word translated “seed” here is zera, a masculine noun, with one of its definitions as “semen.” We see it used that way in several places in the cleanliness laws of Leviticus 15, where it refers to the act of procreation, as does the use of “seed” near “woman” in Numbers 5:28. Yet in Genesis, while God is speaking to Adam and Eve about the someday Savior of all the world, a woman has a seed. How is that so?
Today, because we have the rest of Scripture and, we’re not surprised by this outcome. But to any student of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible, traditionally believed to have been written by Moses) any time prior to approximately 740–730 BC (the period including events recorded in the book of Isaiah), this would have sounded exceedingly odd. Many must have pondered to themselves: Why in the world wouldn’t God instead tell us about the man He will use to father this future child? Why did He just pass straight over Adam in this moment? Is he not standing right there? And why does “woman” suddenly have “seed”?
The literal fulfillment of the Genesis 3:15 prophecy of the crushing and bruising between seed lines can be ambiguous outside the context of the Hebrew and without the explanation the New Testament innately gives. Because our goal is to briefly visit all sixty-six books of the Bible, specifically examining how each one relates to or involves Christ (the “crusher” in this prophecy), the big-picture fulfillment will be throughout this work. So, briefly, the question that arises for some is why the enemy, or his seed line, would ever have the power to bruise Christ, and what exactly that injury becomes later.
Surprisingly, the Hebrew sup is used for both “crush” and “bruise” here (which is why some translations have “bruise” twice), and the term is complicated enough that not all scholars agree on what it describes, though one common conclusion is that it is a verb indicating a pressing or hitting against the skin to the point of injury. Some alternative words suggested by Hebrew linguists include “bite” or “strike,” or even “batter,” which denotes a repeated striking motion—which, here, would indicate a back and forth between two parties, good and evil. If the latter is true, then the word picture in Genesis 3:15 could be of two forces fighting a continual war throughout the ages, which is certainly true of good and evil and the chief characters over each. Initially, an injury to the point of death is not implied in this violent term, but once the location of the wound in this context is brought into the equation—the “heel” against the “head”—it seems pretty obvious that head injuries can be a great threat to mortality.
When this narrative is brought into a clearer perspective with the events described in the Gospels and in Revelation, we can more easily see why scholars largely agree on the translation of the Hebrew sup to indicate a fatal crushing wound to the serpent’s head through Christ’s foot, while Christ only suffered a bruise to His heel in stomping out the enemy. After all, though Christ will always be the ultimate victor over evil (Revelation 20:7–10), He also did suffer injury and die, as recorded in the Gospels. Symbolically, this would be the “bruising” of Christ, but in that very act, things suddenly didn’t bode well for the serpent.
Therein lies the entire Gospel narrative from Genesis 3:15 alone: Eve’s lineage, continuing through Abraham (Genesis 12:1–3; 15:5), produced a human being who would not and could not stay in the grave. Through the very wound the evil one inflicted upon the Christ, the serpent’s head was crushed by the Christ, who raised up and out of that grave undefeated and unfazed. No harm upon Jesus could be enduringly fatal, while the whole defeat of the serpent and his lineage is made clear and complete by the end of the book of Revelation.
Damnation started with Adam and Eve, who “took” and “ate” what God the Father had forbidden them to touch lest they die. Redemption started with Christ, who instructed us to “take” and “eat” of His body, something God has sent us so we might live forever (Mark 14:22–25, Luke 22:18–20, 1 Corinthians 11:23–25).
The complete reversal of what was caused in the Garden, as well as the restoration of what was lost, began right here, in the protevangelium, in the first book of God’s Word.
…and it carries on in the second book.
NEXT UP: Jesus In Exodus?
[i] Barnes, Albert, Barnes Notes on the Whole Bible (E4 Group, Kindle Edition), Kindle locations 2030–2035; emphasis added.
[iii] Kidner, Derek, Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary: Volume 1 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1967), 75.