(Gen. 3:15) Is this the first prophecy of Jesus?

CLAIM: Paul applies this passage to Jesus (Rom. 16:20). Specifically, he applies this to the entire Body of Christ (the church), which is an extension of Jesus on Earth (Col. 1:18; 1 Cor. 12:13; Lk. 10:16; 1 Pet. 4:11; Acts 9:4). However, critics debate over whether this passage predicts the work of Jesus.

RESPONSE: Jesus defeated Satan’s accusations on the Cross (Col. 2:14-15; Heb. 2:14-15; Jn. 12:31), and he will ultimately destroy Satan in the historic future (Rev. 20:10). This passage predicts the work Christ in defeating Satan for a number of reasons:

This passage is surely a predictive prophecy. The verb tenses are all future, and this battle never occurs in Eve’s lifetime. Therefore, we are within our interpretive rights to see this as a predictive prophecy.

First, the “seed” is a major theme throughout Genesis[1] and the entire Bible. The mention of the “seed” recurs throughout the text of Genesis because he is the solution to the Fall, and he will be the one who brings a “blessing” to all nations (Gen. 12:1-3). God promised David, “I will set up your seed [zera’] after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Sam. 7:12-13). Therefore, this is not a throwaway concept, but the crux of this text.

Second, this passage predicts a singular person, who would defeat the work of the Serpent. “His heel” is masculine singular in Hebrew.[2] While this prophecy is vague, it must be prophetic of someone, because there were only two people living in the Garden at this time.

Third, it occurs immediately after the moral Fall. Arnold Fruchtenbaum correctly observes, “It is no surprise that the very first messianic prophecy should occur within the context of the Fall. If sin had not entered the world, there would never have been a need for a redeeming Messiah.”[3] If God was really all-knowing, as the Bible claims (Ps. 147:5; Heb. 4:13), then he would be ready to predict the coming of Christ immediately after the Fall occurred.

Fourth, this passage describes the descendant of a woman—not a man. This also fits with the birth of Jesus. Indeed, this language is strange because the Jews were a patriarchal society—not matriarchal. Therefore, it is odd that the text would mention the seed of a woman—not a man. Fruchtenbaum writes,

There are many genealogies in Scripture… virtually all of them are lists of men’s names. Legal descent, national and tribal identity, were always taken from the father, never from the mother (the sole exception to this is found in Ezra 2:61 and Nehemiah 7:63). It is very rare that a woman’s name would be included at all unless she figured very prominently in Jewish history, and even then she would warrant only a passing reference.[4]

The Jewish people were a patriarchal society—not matriarchal—so it’s odd that this prediction would exclude Adam’s descendants, but include Eve’s; unless, of course, this messianic figure would be born without the help of a human father. This prophecy comes into focus when we remember that Jesus had no human father—only a human mother (Mt. 1:18, 23; Gal. 4:4). Scholar Duane Lindsey notes, “It is significant that there is no mention of Messiah’s human father in the Old Testament.”[5]

Therefore, this passage might predict the virginal conception. Consider how different this prediction would be, if it said that Jesus would be from the seed of a man. This would imply that Jesus was the offspring of a human father, which he wasn’t (Mt. 1:23). The fact that it mentions the seed of a woman makes sense in light of the virgin birth. While this prophecy is vague, it would be the first of many that describe the person and work of Christ.

Fifth, the Serpent’s seed are not literal. After all, Cain surely represents the Serpent’s seed, but he was a biological descendant of Eve. Jesus calls people in rebellion to God to be sons of “your father the devil” (Jn. 8:44).

Sixth, ancient rabbis understood the “seed” to be the Messiah. The earliest commentaries understood this to refer to the Messiah.[6] The Targum Pseudo-Jonathan states that the people will crush the Serpent by obeying the Torah. This will occur “in the days of the King Messiah.” The Targum states, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between the offspring of your sons and the offspring of her sons: and it shall be that when the sons of the woman observe the commandments of the Torah, they will direct themselves to smite you on the head, but when they forsake the commandments of the Torah you will direct yourself to bite them on the heel. However, there is a remedy for them but no remedy for you. They are destined to make peace in the end, in the days of the King Messiah.”[7] This is quite similar to Paul’s interpretation: Both the people of God and the Messiah will crush the Serpent (Rom. 16:20; Rev. 20:10; cf. Fragmentary Targum to the Pentateuch).

Regarding Seth in Genesis 4, one rabbi wrote, “[Eve hinted at] that seed which would arise from another source, viz. the King Messiah.”[8] Another rabbi wrote, “It is written For God that appointed me another seed (Gen. 4:25), that is, seed from another place, referring to the Messiah.”[9]

[1] Genesis 12:7; 13:15-16; 15:13,18; 16:10; 17:7-10,12,19; 22:17-18; 24:7; 26:3-4, 24; 28:4, 13-14; 32:13; 35:12; 48:4.

[2] Walter C. Kaiser, The Messiah in the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub., 1995), 39.

[3] Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Messianic Christology: A Study of Old Testament Prophecy concerning the First Coming of the Messiah (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 1998), 14.

[4] Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Messianic Christology: A Study of Old Testament Prophecy concerning the First Coming of the Messiah (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 1998), 14.

[5] F. Duane Lindsey, “The Commission of the Servant in Isaiah 49:1-13.” Bibliotheca Sacra (April-June, 1982), 132.

[6] Wenham writes, “The oldest Jewish interpretation found in the third century BC Septuagint, the Palestinian targums (Ps.-J., Neof., Frg.), and possibly the Onqelos targum takes the serpent as symbolic of Satan and look for a victory over him in the days of King Messiah.” Gordon Wenham, Genesis 1-15 (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998), 80.

[7] Tom Huckel, The Rabbinic Messiah (Philadelphia, PA: Hananeel House, 1998), Ge 3:15.

[8] Midrash Rabbah, Genesis XXIII, 5. Cited in Tom Huckel, The Rabbinic Messiah (Philadelphia, PA: Hananeel House, 1998), Ge 4:25.

[9] Midrash Rabbah, Ruth VIII, I. Tom Huckel, The Rabbinic Messiah (Philadelphia, PA: Hananeel House, 1998).