I had left christianity for almost 10 years, shedding slowly the way in which it had clouded my view of the text of the Jewish Bible, amongst other things. You’d think after such a time a person would have got rid of a vast amount of that worldview. But recently, I had been investigating claims about our economy that was unsettling me and forcing a change in my mind. For some reason, I looked back at what christians claimed to be the first messianic prophecy, Genesis 3:15. I looked at it and looked again. And then something hit me!
No, it wasn’t a parked car.
But something further refocused my view on it.
I had gone through all the so-called messianic prophecies years ago, but for some reason, even now I thought Genesis 3:15 was not messianic, but it was a prediction, a prophecy. Why? Because it used the future tense to refer to things that would happen.
And I [God] will put enmity between you [the snake] and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; they shall bruise your head, and thou you shall bruise their heel. (Genesis 3:15)
It’s easy to see that based on context that this was by no means a messianic prophecy as there was absolutely nothing in the textual context that referred to any aspect of what a messianic king would do or be. It just speaks of the hatred between humans and snakes. That’s it!
But I was still thinking that this was a prophecy of some sort. You see, in part of my interpretation I had taken the verse out of context, as christians do, and saw the future tense as pointing to the future in the same way that a prediction does.
But along came context …
But then I started to think about it. I thought about the chapter, reading it from the beginning to the end and I saw that I was unequal in my use of this verse in comparison to the surrounding. Genesis 3 talks about man disobeying God’s command. From verses 14-19, there is God’s response to the disobedience. What is important in this interpretation is the difference between punishment and prediction. A judge gives punishments, not predictions. A judge sees a crime and then hands down the penalty to the guilty party. A prophet predicts things that are generally unforseeable by natural means. Even a weatherman, when he predicts the weather, is using calculation and knowledge to use probability to get a general impression of what the weather will be like. But God is not doing prophecy or prediction in this passage. The passage deals with the penalty. Here, let me show you my thought patterns by quoting each verse of God’s response, but I will leave Genesis 3:15 out, to show how the prediction notion sticks out like a sore thumb.
Genesis 3:14a “And the LORD God said to the snake: ‘Because you have done this, you are cursed from among all cattle, and from among all beasts of the field;” Punishment with immediate effect
Genesis 3:14b “upon your belly you shall go about” Punishment with immediate effect
Genesis 3:14c “and dust you’ll eat all the days of your life.” Punishment with immediate effect
Genesis 3:16a “To the woman He said: ‘I will greatly multiply your pain and your travail;” Punishment with immediate effect
Genesis 3:16b “in pain you shall bring forth children; Punishment with immediate effect”
Genesis 3:16c “and your desire shall be to your husband, and he shall rule over you. Punishment with immediate effect
Genesis 3:17a “And to Adam He said: ‘Because you obeyed the voice of your wife, and ate of the tree, of which I commanded you, saying: You shall not eat of it; the ground is cursed for your sake;” Punishment with immediate effect
Genesis 3:17b “in toil you shall eat of it all the days of thy life.” Punishment with immediate effect
Genesis 3:18a “Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to you” Punishment with immediate effect
Genesis 3:18b “and you shall eat the herb of the field.” Punishment with immediate effect
Genesis 3:19a “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, until you return to the ground; for out of it you were taken;” Punishment with immediate effect
Genesis 3:19b “for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” Punishment with immediate effect
Every single one of these is a natural effect, a penalty that has effect from that time onwards and only in the natural world. Again, I’m only working from the text. None of this is some prediction of a future time. From the time that God spoke those words onwards, this punishment and penalty would be in effect.
Now seeing the consistent theme of this whole passage, how can Genesis 3:15 be lifted from this and refer to some distant future? It doesn’t! Each part of it is a continuation of God’s pronouncement and punishment upon man with immediate effect, not some distant prophecy or prediction.
It’s amazing to me that I only just see this now.