To get the most out of Genesis 3, it is important to recognize what happens prior to the events of this chapter. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Then God created light with a mere word. He followed with the creation of the lights in the heavens, plants, and animals. He topped this creation with Adam, formed of the dust. God made man in His image and breathed life into him, both physical and eternal. Adam was His greatest creation. Because Adam did not have a suitable partner, God created Eve using a rib from Adam’s side. Adam and Eve were perfect for each other. Despite all these blessings, Adam and Eve listened to the serpent. They chose of their own free will to disobey God.
Read Genesis 3:14–15 (ESV):
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.”
- If you read earlier verses, you notice that God confronts Adam and Eve in exactly the opposite order that you would expect. Eve was the first to disobey God, but our Lord confronted Adam first. This indicates how Adam had failed to fulfill his calling with Eve. He was Eve’s spiritual head. This headship was not intended to be tyranny over Eve, but rather leading, supporting, and caring for her spiritually. Notice that Adam passes the responsibility onto Eve. He does exactly what he was not to do. Eve then follows suit; instead of accepting her responsibility, she passes the responsibility onto the serpent, the devil.
- The penalty for the devil is to eat dust all the days of his life. He is cursed above all creatures. The importance of eating the dust is humiliation. In the ancient Near East, it was common for conquered enemies to be forced to eat dust on the ground. To put one’s face to the ground is symbolic of complete surrender. What is more, the Israelites and other tribes considered feet to be the most repugnant of body parts.
- Perhaps the most important teaching in this passage of Scripture is the enmity between the serpent and the woman, between his offspring and hers. The offspring of the devil is anyone who does not believe in Jesus, particularly those who should know better and instead teach false doctrine. The offspring of Eve would be the believers who trust God’s promise. Most important, this will be Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary—the seed of Eve, Jesus Christ, will win victory over the devil on the cross.
Law and Gospel
- Make sure that students do not mistakenly assume that Adam and Eve have some sort of guilt that is worse than their own. Although it is true that we inherit our sinful nature originally from Adam and Eve, each person on earth has also disobeyed God. As we say in Confession and Absolution, all of us have sinned in thought, word, and deed. Without salvation through faith in Christ Jesus, we stand under God’s wrath. First, help students to understand that they cannot blame their parents for bringing them into the world with a sinful nature. Second, emphasize that we should not repeat the mistake of Adam and Eve in blaming the devil for our sinful state.
- Help students to understand that Jesus Christ has crushed the head of the serpent through His innocent suffering and victorious resurrection. When we think of the serpent bruising the foot of Eve’s offspring, we are to recall that Jesus had to suffer in our place. Even though He had no sin, He had to take the punishment for us. He suffered and died for our sins, and in doing so, He crushed the head of the serpent. So, although we are tempted by the devil and we give in to this temptation daily, we have the final victory through Jesus Christ.
Tips for Teaching
Prepare an image of a tree on an 8 x 11 piece of paper. Help students to list the names of their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and so on, as far back as they know. Teach them that all our ancestors, all the way back to Adam and Eve, need salvation. You might also include important people in the Old Testament, namely the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Then explain that the sins of all people were paid for when Jesus crushed the head of the serpent.
Lead a discussion on this passage, using these questions:
1. Why is it tempting to blame others for our sins? Read Romans 3:23.
2. Today’s passage talks about bruising the heel and bruising the head. Why do you think the writer would use these images to talk about the suffering of Christ and His victory over the devil?
3. Jesus paid for all our sins on the cross. Yet God allows the devil to continue to tempt us. Why do you think this is so?
4. Sinners are saved by grace through faith in Christ. We are forgiven fully in Christ, but God desires that we make our best effort with the Holy Spirit to live in obedience to God. How does the Good News of salvation in Jesus encourage us to do so?
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