Salvation in the midst of judgment is a common theme in the early chapters of Genesis. Just as God provided hope in the midst of punishment for Cain after murdering Abel by giving him a mark to protect him (Genesis 4:15).
When God judged the world (Genesis 6:18) the Lord spared Noah and his family. Additionally, the judgment of the city of Babel (Genesis 11:1–10) when God established the nations was followed by the call of Abram (Genesis 12:1–9) to establish His own nation, Israel, once again offering hope despite judgment.
It can therefore be expected that in the Bible’s first pronouncement of judgment at “The Fall“, God would offer the hope of salvation in the midst of judgment. I think the scriptural evidence shows that the following Scripture is messianic.
“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 essential messianic view is that Genesis 3:15 ultimately predicts the coming of a future individual (a “seed”) who will have victory over the serpent (Satan) through His own death.
A foundational element of that view is that the serpent must be identified as something other than just a mere snake. It appears to be, in the words of C. John Collins, “the mouthpiece of a Dark Power, whom later texts would call Satan.” A number of factors lead to this observation. For example, snakes cannot talk, even in Genesis. Moreover, a mere serpent from the good creation, apart from an evil force animating it, would have no reason to challenge God’s words or tempt humanity. Additionally, it is not the serpent’s seed that will be crushed by the woman’s seed after a long conflict but the serpent itself, indicating longevity, not normal for mere snakes.
Significantly, later biblical writers identified Satan with the serpent of Genesis
“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” Romans 16:20
“And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.” Revelation 12:9
Although in Gen. 3:14 the Lord addresses the actual serpent, in the following verse (Genesis 3:15), He appears to address the dark power. As well, some have proposed that in Gen. 3:15 there is an alleged prediction of the virgin birth because of the use of the phrase “her seed” not a man’s seed.
The messianic view as espoused here posits that Gen. 3:15 teaches that the seed of the woman, although being struck, will also strike the serpent and his seed and thereby win victory for humanity. This text is just the beginning of the story. As John Sailhamer says, “More is at stake in this brief passage than the reader is at first aware. A program is set forth. A plot is established that will take the author far beyond this or that snake and his ‘seed.’
The verse shifts the meaning of seed from a collective group to a particular individual descendant of the woman. The evidence for this is that a singular pronoun and a singular verb are used to refer to the seed. In Gen. 3:15, the biblical author uses singular pronouns and verb forms in reference to the seed, so he plainly has a specific offspring in view.
When the original readers considered Genesis 3, they would have recognized that its author wrote of more than a mere serpent. As such, they would have expected not a long conflict between snakes and humanity, but a battle between a terrible dark force and a divinely powered deliverer. The problem of identifying the serpent was resolved in Jewish theology “by the doctrine that the serpent of Eden was the mouthpiece of the devil.” As a result, ancient Jewish interpreters also viewed the woman’s seed as the messianic victor over the serpent. This messianic reading of Gen. 3:15 is evident in the Septuagint and the rabbinic literature of the Targumim Pseudo-Jonathan, Neofiti, Onqelos, and the midrash Genesis Rabbah 23:5.27
God’s pronouncement of judgment (Gen. 3:14) is directed to the serpent proper—meaning the actual animal and not the dark force behind it. Since a serpent from the animal kingdom is an amoral being, it is surprising that the animal itself would be cursed. The purpose of cursing the animal is for it to become a perpetual reminder of the devastating destruction caused by the role of the serpent in the sin of Adam and Eve.
In the Millennium we read in Isaiah 65:25, “In Israel, the wolf, and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but the serpent’s food will be dust!” During Jesus Millennial reign the curse has not been totally lifted but in Israel, the curse on animals has been partially lifted but the curse on the serpent will remain. In this way, the serpent will remain an eternal outward symbol of the spiritual defeat of the dark force behind the fall.
In an apparent midrash on Gen. 3:15, the author of Hebrews writes:
“so that through his [Jesus’] death He might destroy the one holding the power of death—that is, the Devil—and free those who were held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death” Hebrews 2:14–15
Abraham is also promised that his seed will bless the nations (Gen. 22:17–18). In Baalam’s second oracle, he describes Jacob’s seed as “His king” who “will be higher than Gog (Antichrist)” and whose “kingdom will be exalted.” Just as Genesis develops that the woman’s seed would spring from a royal dynasty, this oracle identifies the seed as the end-time messianic king who will defeat the enemies of Israel and rule over an exalted kingdom. In the very next oracle in Num. 24:17–19, the promise of the future messianic king (“A star will come from Jacob, and a scepter will arise from Israel”) makes a thematic allusion to Gen. 3:15. Although Num. 24:17 uses different words than Gen. 3:15 for both the blow struck and the head that is crushed, the thematic literary allusion is plain. The expectation is that when the messianic king arrives, he will crush the heads of Israel’s enemies, reminding the readers of the promise that Eve’s offspring would crush the head of the enemy.
The rest of the Hebrew canon makes extensive direct and thematic allusions to Gen. 3:15, firmly identifying the woman’s seed as a royal and messianic figure. Perhaps the most significant way that later biblical writers develop the “seed” theme is in the Davidic covenant. David is promised a “seed” who will have an eternal house, kingdom, and throne (2 Sam 7:12–16), reminding readers of the promise of the royal seed described in (Genesis 3:15; 17:16; 35:11; 49:9–10). There are many more “seed” theme references and Micah 7:17 predicts that in the eschatological future, the enemy nations will submit to the Lord and “lick the dust like a snake.” Speaking of that same future time in an intertextual reference to Gen. 3:15, Ps 8:6 proclaims that the messianic king will have “everything under his feet.” The same image of the ultimate defeat of the nations is found in Psalms 110:1, where the messianic king is promised that God will make His enemies a footstool for His feet.
It is appropriate therefore to conclude that the evidence supports Genesis 3:14-15 as the first messianic prophecy of the Bible. The fact that the “seed” theme is carried through the Bible by different authors over an extensive period of time is proof positive the Bible is the inspired word of God. Fulfilled prophecies are also proof positive that the many prophecies about Jesus’ second coming that are not already fulfilled (Israel established as a nation again) will be fulfilled.
“They (Saints) came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.” Revelation 20:5-6