The traditional Jewish interpretation of Isaiah's prophecy was
along these lines: that a virgin would marry and then conceive (in the natural
way) a son who would become the Messiah-but not literally the Son of God. But
the visit of Gabriel to Mary, and the conception of Jesus in accordance with his
words, leave no doubt as to how God intended to fulfill-and did fulfill -- the
prophecy of Isa 7:14:
"The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall
overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee
shall be called the Son of God... for with God nothing shall be impossible"
Mary's response -- "Behold the handmaid of the Lord" (v 38) --
revealed her awareness of the rather obscure passages in Psalms (86:16; 116:16)
that, like Gen 3:15, implied Messiah was to be the "seed of a woman" but not the
"seed of a man".
The special name -- "Immanuel", or "God with us" -- stressed
that God would be actively employed in the redemption of mankind; it would not
be something that just "happened". Though Adam and Eve brought death upon
themselves by their own actions, their children would not be left to their own
devices to find deliverance. Short of divine intervention, "no man can redeem
his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him" (Psa 49:7). Genesis 3:15 and
Isaiah 7:14 emphasize, therefore, that God would be "in Christ, (actively)
reconciling the world unto Himself" (2Co 5:19), and that God would be "manifest
in the flesh" for the unfolding of the mystery of godliness and justification
and salvation (1Ti 3:16).
Of the actual conception of Jesus the gospel accounts tell us
nothing, and we must conclude that such precise knowledge is too sacred for
mortals. How was this miracle accomplished? In the jargon of modern science,
what was the "genetic code" begotten of such a union? Prudence cautions us to
explore no further along these lines than Scripture expressly allows. But
perhaps Psalm 139 gives us an insight or two into this greatest of all mysteries
-- "God with us":
"For Thou didst form my inward parts,
Thou didst knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise Thee, for Thou art fearful and wonderful.
Wonderful are Thy works!
Thou knowest me right well;
My frame was not hidden from Thee,
When I was being made in secret,
Intricately wrought in the depths of the earth.
Thy eyes beheld my unformed substance;
In Thy book were written, every one of then,
The days that were formed for me,
When as yet there was none of them.
How precious unto me are Thy thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!"
(vv 13-17, RSV).
Sometimes the continuity of theme in Scripture is lost to us
if we rigidly adhere to the daily reading schedule of the "Bible Companion".
Such a system has great merit in encouraging a steady diet of the Word of God.
But one not-so-desirable byproduct is that thoughts designed by God to be seen
side-by-side are artificially separated by several days, and by the
interposition of readings from other portions of the Bible. This seems to be the
reason why the obvious connection between Isaiah 7:14; 9:6,7; and 11:6,8 is
often lost sight of.
The words of Isaiah describe a scene of complete tranquility,
when all the savagery of the beasts of the field has been removed:
"The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with
the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little
child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones
shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the
sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp and the weaned child shall put
his hand on the cockatrice' den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy
mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the
waters cover the sea" (Isa 11:6-9).
It is certainly a picture -- in broad, general terms -- of
man's reclamation of dominion over the earth, and his subjugation of the animal
kingdom (Gen 1:28). But it is more than that; it is a picture -- in specific
terms -- of Christ's victory over sin and death. And this is precisely what a
failure to link together the Scriptures may cause us to miss. Since Christ is
the son born of the virgin in 7:14, and since he is also the child born "unto
us" in 9:6, then he is just as surely the "little child" in 11:6, and the
"sucking child" and finally the "weaned child" in 11:8. So the beautiful vision
of these verses is not impersonal, but rather it centers on Christ!
Verse 6 shows Christ as the "little child" because of his
perfect trust in God (Mat 19:13,14); he is the "babe" ordained in strength (like
David) to still the enemy and to have dominion over all creation (Psa
Verse 8 shows Christ as the "sucking child" and then the
"weaned child" -- feeding first on the "milk" and then on the "meat" of the
word, growing in spirit and wisdom and grace (Luke 2:40). Both "asp" and
"cockatrice" belong to the "seed of the serpent" (Gen 3:15; Mat 3:7; 23:33).
Jesus, under the nurture and admonition of his Heavenly Father, steadily grew in
spiritual strength, and steadily faced one by one the trials of the "adversary"
in his flesh. He had nothing to fear from the power of the serpent, for he faced
it and overcame it with a greater power -- faith in God's word and promises.
And, finally, in the kingdom age, the "den" of the serpent will hold no fear
whatsoever for Christ, or for those who like him have become "little children"
"In that day the Lord with his sore and great and strong sword
shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked
serpent; and He shall slay the dragon that is in the sea."
Leviathan, serpent, and dragon are figurative terms
representative of the sin-powers of the world in their latter-day political and
military aspects. The figure of speech is based upon Gen 3:15 and Lev 11:42,
which broadens the "serpent" class of cursed beasts to include all reptiles, or
creeping things. (The dragon's identify with the serpent is also proven by Rev
12:9 and 20:2.) Both leviathan and dragon appear to designate the crocodile,
which was a symbol of Egypt (Eze 29:3; 32:2, mg) and Babylon (Jer
It hardly needs stressing, then, that the "Sword of the Lord"
will be Christ, "the seed of the woman" designated to crush the many-headed
"serpent" of sin in all its manifestations upon his return in glory.
Though the Hebrew words are different, the connection between
these verses and Gen 3:15 is perfectly obvious;
"He was bruised for our iniquities... it pleased the Lord to bruise
The bruising, or crushing to death, of Jesus was the means of
fulfilling the promise of Eden. It was, we well know, the final act of obedience
in a perfectly obedient life. It was the ritual condemnation of sin in the flesh
(Rom 8:3) by a righteous God (3:25). And it was, as it were, the final "nail in
the coffin" of that "old serpent" Sin! And God, Who set in motion the plan of
redemption, Who foresaw even from the fall the "lamb of God" (1Pe 1:19,20), was
"pleased" to "bruise" His Son, the "seed of the woman"! He was "pleased" to do
so, not because He took delight in the sufferings of any man, much less His
beloved Son -- but because He so loved us that He was willing even that His own
Son might die on our account (Isa 53:5; John 3:16: Rom 8:32).
The word "viper" in v 5 (Hebrew "epheh") is from a root
meaning "to hiss") it emphasized the tongue's evil power, since it was by verbal
communication that the Edenic serpent Implanted "the lie" in the mind of Eve, If
it had been otherwise (or if the serpent in Genesis 3 were a symbol only!) there
would be no real force to Paul's allusion in 2Co 11:3,4: "... As the serpent
beguiled Eve... (so) he that cometh preacheth another Christ." It was the power
of speech in both cases, says Paul, that brought temptation and sin!
The word "epheh" appears only two other times in
- Job 20:16: "The viper's tongue shall slay him." From this we learn the
viper was deadly, as is the tongue of the wicked speaking lies. It was
recognized as a miracle that Paul escaped death after being bitten by one (Acts
- Isa 30:6: The viper inhabits "the land of trouble and anguish" --
ie, the wilderness of Sinai. So we see that those who are "bitten" by it are led
at last to the "wilderness of death".
"He that eateth of their eggs dieth, and that which is crushed breaketh out into
Isaiah 59:5 lays stress on the "eggs", or the "seed" of the
viper -- directing us, of course, to Gen 3:15. We are all by nature a part of
the serpent brood. The "lusts of the flesh" are an integral part of the mental
make-up of Adam's descendants. If we have any desire toward God's service, then
we will attempt to destroy these lusts within us. Figuratively, we will try to
"crush the eggs of the viper" (v 5)!
But we fail, dismally, inevitably. We may crush the eggs
beneath our feet, but always the vipers -- a hardy breed! -- break out with
renewed strength. There is no escape; our iniquities have separated us from God
Is God's arm "shortened" that He cannot save? (v 1). "He saw
that there was no man (cp Psa 49:7), and wondered that there was no intercessor"
(Isa 59:16). Not a single man could crush the viper's eggs, and destroy the
serpent's power, without himself "perishing" from the serpent's "bite" --
So God ordained a special man: "His arm" to "bring salvation"
(v 16), a "man made strong for Himself" (Psa 80:15,17); in short, the special
"seed of the woman" divinely empowered, though himself a man, to bruise the head
of the "viper"! Thanks be to God!
A glorious picture of the garden of Eden restored: "a new
heavens and a new earth" (v 17), no more sorrow (v 19; cp Gen 3:16,17), no more
the "child" (like Abel?) that dies an untimely death because of another's
"For as the days of a tree are the days of my people" (v 22)
-- the "tree of life" in the midst of the garden, its fruit free for the taking
(Rev 2:7; 22:2)!
"They shall not labor in vain, nor bring forth for trouble" (v
23) -- the removal of the "labor" curse of Genesis 3.
"And dust shall be the serpent's meat" (v 25). One thing will
not change in the Kingdom Age. The serpent will still be cursed to eat the dust
-- a graphic figure of sin cast down forever, without remedy!
When God delivers His people, the nations "shall lick the dust
like a serpent." And God, through Christ, will "subdue (literally, trample
underfoot) our iniquities".