And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.
Genesis 3:15 occupies a unique place in Scripture. This verse is perhaps one of the first verses in Scripture that directly anticipates the person of Jesus Christ and His work of salvation. It is not surprising that one of the 17th century Reformed confession cites this verse as the prooftext of the ‘gospel’ revealed “to Adam in the promise of salvation by the seed of the woman.”1 Therefore, we would not be making an unwarranted hermeneutical leap to say that Genesis 3:15 anticipates the blessed events of what we call ‘Good Friday.’ But the question is: how does it do so?
Genesis 3:15 And The Lord Of History
First, Genesis 3:15 presents God’s purposeful decree as the basis of history. God is the one who is both introducing enmity and determining how the enmity plays out in history. So, the Friday that Jesus dies on the cross is not a tragic, unexpected event. Rather, it is a day of God’s promise made a reality, because the death of Jesus Christ was under the “determined purpose and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23). Every person involved in the plot against Jesus, every blow struck on His back, every thorn that pierced His brow, every insult to His face, every wound on His flesh by the nails were all determined by the sovereign hand and foreordained purpose of God (Acts 4:28).
Thus, as we look at Good Friday through the lens of Genesis 3:15, we can say with confidence that God’s ordaining of all things is ‘good.’ Indeed “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). The ordaining of history by God in Genesis 3:15 culminates in the ‘good’ of Good Friday.
Genesis 3:15 And The Casualties Of The Cosmic War
Secondly, just as God is sovereign over history, God has also determined the casualties of the war between the Seed of the woman and the serpent. Genesis 3:15 has God declaring that the head of the serpent would be bruised by the Seed of the woman. At the same time, the heel of the Seed of the woman would be bruised by the serpent. It is strange that God ordains a wound on the Destroyer by the very hands of the one who is being destroyed, yet, it was necessary. The ‘bruising of the heel’ in the death of the Son of God (Jn. 3:14) was the antidote for the snakebite of sin (1 Cor. 15:56) and a deathblow to the serpent. The bruise of the Son brings healing for the church from the bite of the serpent (Isa. 53:5). Thus, when we look at the events of that blessed Friday through the lens of Genesis 3:15, we see the ‘good’ in Good Friday in the bruise of the Son for the (collective) seed of the woman. And this ties in with a third way that Genesis 3:15 points us to Good Friday.
Genesis 3:15 And The Church’s Spiritual Battle
Just as Eve is called “the mother of all living” (Gen. 3:20) so the church is the mother (Gal. 4:26) of all those who have been resurrected from being spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1, 4-5). They are the collective seed of the woman.2 Likewise, the seed of the serpent, i.e., the devil (Rev. 20:2), are those who sin (1 Jn. 3:8a), those who hate Jesus and disobey the gospel (Jn. 8:44), and those who willfully and actively deny the Triune God and the incarnation of Jesus Christ (1 Jn. 2:18, 23, 4:3; 2 Jn. 7).3 Given these typological identities, we see the enmity between the woman and the serpent culminating in a cosmic war.4 But, the war has already been won because Jesus, the Seed of the woman, has bruised the head of the devil through His death (Heb. 2:14). Yet, between the seed of the spiritual woman, i.e., the church (Gal. 3:29, 4:26, 28), and the seed of the devil (Eph. 6:12) the spiritual battle still rages on (Rev. 12:17).
Thus, Genesis 3:15 highlights the spiritual battle of the church against the devil and his offspring. Yet, in light of Good Friday, the verse assures us that the death of the Seed of the woman guarantees victory for the seed of the woman.5
To sum up, Genesis 3:15 points to Good Friday in several ways. We have considered three of those, namely that:
- The foreordaining of the bruising of the heel of the Seed culminates in the foreordained death of the Son of God.
- The bruising of the heel of the Seed of the woman is a picture of the victory-through-death of Jesus Christ.6
- Though victory has been accomplished through the death of Christ, the enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent continues in the spiritual warfare of the Church against the devil and his forces.
In light of this, the Church has no reason to fear being swallowed in death by the serpent of old since we belong to the One who has swallowed death up in His victory (1 Cor. 15:54). Thus, the promise of victory in Genesis 3:15 is fulfilled through the death of Jesus Christ (Heb. 2:14; 1 Cor. 15:57; 1 Jn. 3:8b) on the ‘great’ Friday of history.
1 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith 7.3.
2 John Calvin identifies the ‘seed’ not as Christ but as the Church in John Calvin, Commentary on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis, trans. John King, 2 vols. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 170-71. John Walton and John Sailhamer too see a ‘collective’ identity here in their commentaries: the NIV Application Commentary (John Walton) and The Pentateuch as Narrative (John Sailhamer).
3 The seed of the devil may include a broader category than just reprobate humanity. For example, the Venerable Bede says that “the seed of the devil is the rebellious angels, who are corrupted by the example of his pride and wicked rebellion,” in Bede the Venerable, “Commentary on Genesis: Book I,” in Commentaries on Genesis 1-3, ed. Michael Glerup, trans. Carmen S. Hardin, Ancient Christian Texts (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2010), 155.
4 Cf. Beale’s commentary on Revelation 12, especially verses 1-2, 6, 13-14, 17 in Gregory K Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2013).
5 This reference to a double understanding of the ‘seed’ of the woman is not unique to me. I am drawing on the biblical example of a dual usage of the word ‘seed’ as seen in Galatians 3. Paul identifies the ‘seed’ of Abraham as singular (referring to Christ) in v16 and in that very chapter identifies the ‘seed’ of Abraham as plural (referring to the church) in v29.
6 As John Sailhamer says, “Though wounded in the struggle, the woman’s ‘seed’ will be victorious,” in John Sailhamer, The Pentateuch as Narrative: A Biblical-Theological Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992). 108.