14 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.
15 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 ESV
Adam and Eve refused to accept responsibility for their actions, choosing instead to cast themselves as innocent victims. Their desire to “like God, knowing good and evil” had not turned out quite the way they had expected. Their newly acquired “intuition,” or what they had believed would be god-like insight, had only left them feeling ashamed, dealing with guilt, and attempting to hide from their Creator.
But their efforts to avert God’s wrath by passing blame and avoiding His presence would prove ineffective. God was not fooled. He knew exactly what had taken place and the role that each participant had played. And He began the deliverance of His righteous retribution by focusing on the one who had instigated the entire affair: The serpent. Addressing the serpent for its role in Eve’s rebellion and Adam’s willful compliance, God pronounced the first of three curses. But before looking at the nature of these curses, it’s important to note that they have a direct correlation to the three blessings that God had pronounced earlier upon His creation.
So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that scurries and swarms in the water, and every sort of bird—each producing offspring of the same kind. And God saw that it was good. Then God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply. Let the fish fill the seas, and let the birds multiply on the earth.” – Genesis 1:21-22 NLT
So God created human beings in his own image.
In the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.” – Genesis 1:27-28 NLT
So the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them was completed. On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation. – Genesis 2:1-3 NLT
On three separate occasions, God had blessed His creation. He had repeatedly deemed it good and pleasing to His sight. With the forming of the man and woman, God had declared His creation to be “very good.” But in one moment of time, through the deceptive lies of the enemy, God’s good creation had become marred by sin. With Eve’s self-willed decision to become like God, she allowed the darkness of sin to enter her heart and diminish her image-bearing and glory-reflecting capacity as a child of God. And like a contagious disease, her decision had infected her husband and would eventually spread throughout the creation. In a sense, what God had blessed, Adam and Eve had cursed. What had been a purely selfish decision would turn out to have long-lasting and far-spreading implications for the rest of the creative order.
“…morality makes sense only when it is grounded in the personhood of the triune God and the subsequent relationship that his image-bearing creatures have with him. Adam’s sin drove a wedge first and foremost between God and man. Then it severed the harmony between man and man, as well as man and creation.” – Scott Christensen, What About Evil: A Defense of God’s Sovereign Glory
According to Herman Bavinck, sin is a “fundamental reversal of all relationships, a revolution by which the creature detached himself from and positioned himself against God, an uprising, a fall in the true sense, which was decisive for the whole world and took it in a direction and on a road away from God” (Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics).
When God had told Adam, “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat” (Genesis 2:17 ESV), He had meant it. The Creator had given His creation a clear-cut command that He expected to be followed. And it had come with a warning of serious consequences if disobeyed.
“…for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” – Genesis 2:17 ESV
Perhaps Adam had no way of processing God’s words. He had no mental category for processing the concept of death because He had never experienced it. Adam was surrounded by living creatures and lived in a garden filled with nothing but signs of abundant life. There is no indication that he had ever seen anything die. It would seem that, in those halcyon days of the pre-fall creation, death played no role. Everything had been blessed by God so that it might be fruitful and multiply. Death is nothing more than the expiration of life.
“There is no such thing as cold, only lower degrees of heat (or the complete lack of it).…Death is not the opposite of life, but its privation. A cloth can exist without a hole, but the hole cannot exist without the cloth.…A shadow in nothing but the obstruction of light – not light, no shadow.” – Randy Alcorn, If God Is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil
Satan, disguised in the form of a beautiful and beguiling serpent, had directly refuted the word of God. Adam had clearly heard God say what would happen if he ate the forbidden fruit: “you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17 ESV). But Satan declared God to be a liar by promising Eve, “You shall not surely die” (Genesis 3:4 ESV). Satan’s denial of God’s word and his denunciation of any punishment for disobeying it would prove to be costly for all the parties involved. And God’s indictments started with him.
“Because you have done this, you are cursed
more than all animals, domestic and wild.
You will crawl on your belly,
groveling in the dust as long as you live.” – Genesis 3:14 ESV
First, God curses the serpent for its role in the fall. Whether this creature had been possessed by Satan or the enemy had somehow taken on the form of a serpent, God held it accountable. There are some who believe that, according to this passage, snakes must have had created with legs, but were doomed to crawl on their bellies because of this curse. For the original readers of Moses’ book, the idea of groveling in the dust was intended to convey the idea of humiliation and subjugation. This same imagery is used elsewhere in the Scriptures to convey a defeated and demoralized people.
For our soul is bowed down to the dust;
our belly clings to the ground. – Psalm 44:25 ESV
The nations shall see and be ashamed of all their might;
they shall lay their hands on their mouths;
their ears shall be deaf;
they shall lick the dust like a serpent,
like the crawling things of the earth… – Micah 7:16-17 ESV
But God had far more than humiliation in mind for the serpent. This is where Satan’s nefarious behind-the-scenes role is exposed. He had been the one behind the whole affair, and he would pay dearly for his actions.
“And I will cause hostility between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring.
He will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.” – Genesis 3:15 NLT
There has never been a love affair between snakes and humanity. But there is far more to this curse than a mutual and perpetual disdain between these two species. God is addressing Satan, and warning him of a future form of retribution that will result in his demise. This passage has been called the protoevangelium or first gospel. In delivering this curse upon Satan, God was declaring His intention to bring about a future seed of the woman who would fulfill the role that Adam had failed to carry out. Adam’s participation in the eating of the fruit had brought death to humanity. But there would be a second Adam, who would ultimately defeat death and destroy the enemy. The apostle Paul would later reveal the far-reaching implications of Adam’s sin.
When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. – Romans 5:12 NLT
But Paul clarifies that will be a second Adam, another man, who will bring forgiveness and replace the condemnation of death with the hope of eternal life.
Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come. But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. – Romans 5:14-15 NLT
Adam and Eve listened to the lies of the enemy and rebelled against their good and gracious creator, and their capacity for sin was passed down to their descendants. And sin resulted in separation from God – both spiritually and physically. And yet, according to the protoevangelium, God already had a remedy in place.
For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.
Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. – Romans 5:17-18 NLT
The book of Genesis records the story of how sin entered the world. But as dark and depressing as these opening chapters of God’s Word may appear, they are marked by hope. God was not done. He had not been caught off guard or taken by surprise. The actions of Adam and Eve did not cause God to come up with Plan B. The “offspring” of Adam and Eve had been the plan all along. God had always planned to send His Son to pay for the sins of mankind. Even before He had made the world, God had intended to send His Son to be the Savior of the world. The apostle Peter reminds us of the preordained nature of God’s redemptive plan when he writes:
For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but now in these last days he has been revealed for your sake. – 1 Peter 1:18-20 NLT
Satan thought he had thrown a wrench into God’s plans, but he was wrong. The fall was inevitable because humanity was incapable of remaining faithful to its calling. But God had a plan in place that would restore order, renew His fallen creation, and redeem His disobedient children. And it would all take place through “Christ’s one act of righteousness” (Romans 5:18 NLT). The apostle Paul describes the difference between the first and last Adam.
“The first man, Adam, became a living person.” But the last Adam—that is, Christ—is a life-giving Spirit. – 1 Corinthians 15:45 NLT
Jesus was destined to deliver fallen humanity from death to life, from cursed to blessed, and from the role of the enemy to that of an heir. And the third stanza of the Christmas carol, Joy to the World, sums it up well.
No more let sins and sorrows grow
nor thorns infest the ground;
he comes to make his blessings flow
far as the curse is found,
far as the curse is found,
far as, far as the curse is found.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.