The Agora
The Serpent and the Woman's Seed (Gen 3:15)

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The Psalms

Psalm 8

The subscription of Psalm 8 (mistakenly given in most Bibles as the superscription of Psalm 9) links this psalm with 1Sa 17. "Muth-labben" signifies "the death of the champion", or "the death of the man who stands between (the camps)", with an obvious link to 8:2:

"...that Thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger."
Goliath was the champion of the Philistines and the enemy of Israel. Standing between the two camps, he defied the living God. David, who slew him with a Spirit-directed stone, was by contrast no more than a "babe" or "suckling" (v 2):

"When (Goliath) saw David, he disdained him: for he was but a youth" (1Sa 17:42).
Psalm 8 appears to be the rejoicing of David after a long and arduous day, as he gazes upon the moon and stars of heaven and realizes that the God who created such wonders has also ordained the strength of his arm and crowned him with glory and honor. What day (or more especially, what night) might this have been? The account in 1Sa 17 provides some clues.

After David's victory over Goliath, the revitalized army of Israel proceeds to rout the Philistine host, pursuing them as far as the gates of their own cities. No doubt David participated in this chase. It is logical that they did not return until the evening, when David was ushered into Saul's presence (v 57). (It looks as though Saul, sad and melancholy, had not even led his army in the evening campaign!) Saul would reaffirm the promise that the man who slew Goliath would receive great riches and his own daughter to wife.

So in one momentous day, from sunrise to sunset, the lowly shepherd boy David vaulted from obscurity to glory and honor and dominion (Psa 8:5,6). His faith in upholding the most excellent name of Yahweh against the blasphemies of the Philistine (Psa 8:1,9; 1Sa 17:45,46) was now rewarded. He stood once more over the body of the vanquished "champion" -- whom God had put in subjection under his feet (Psa 8:6)! Goliath had threatened to give David's flesh to the fowls of the air and the beasts of the field, (1Sa 17:44), but that which he thought to do to David had been done to him (cp. Psa 8:7,8)!

The echoes of Genesis are plain in this psalm. God is seen as the Creator of the heavens (v 3) and of man (v 4). God has created man a little (or for a little time?) lower than the angels, so that he might undergo a period of probation (v 5). Yet man was the crowning glory of God's creation; so God had given him dominion over all His other works (v 6; Gen 1:28). Implicit in David's thoughts is Adam's tragic loss of that dominion because of sin. Instead of benevolent rule over the animals there would be perpetual fear, uncertainty, and -- in the case of the serpent especially -- enmity (Gen 3:14,15).

The only remedy for the fall would be a special "seed", who would be ordained by God to "still the enemy", to gain ascendancy over the "serpent" of sin, and thus recapture that dominion and preeminence over all creation that Adam had lost. David's victory over Goliath takes on a timeless aura in Psalm 8; it provides the pattern for Christ's conquest over sin. It links David's typical conquest with both Genesis (Eden lost) and Revelation (Eden recovered) through the eternally effective redemptive work of the seed of the woman.

The New Testament links with Psalm 8 (and thus indirectly with Gen 1:28 and 3:15) are many: Mat 21:16; 28:18; John 16:33; 17:1,2; 1Co 15:24-28; Eph 1:20-23; Phi 2:5-11; 3:20,21; Col 1:15-23; Heb 2:8-16; 1Pe 3:22; Rev 5:5,12-14. Some of the more obvious ones will be considered in later chapters.

Psalm 144 bears a strong resemblance to Psalm 8, especially in vv 3,4. It extols God, Who "teaches my hands to war" (v 1); and it asks deliverance from the "sons of the alien" (vv 7,11). It appears to be the song and prayer of David, which he composed (what a time to be composing a new song!) as he prepared to face Goliath. Its counterpart, Psalm 8, is the song celebrating that victory.

Psalm 22

These well-known words of David are indisputably prophetic of Jesus. Our Saviour, as he hung on the cross, quoted the opening words of the psalm:

"My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" (Mat 27:46; Mark 15:34).
Among the extreme trials of crucifixion, Jesus experienced the shame and humiliation of nakedness. This is implied in the counting of his bones (Psa 22:17) and the parting of his garments (v 18). The women who witnessed his crucifixion stood "afar off" (Mat 27:55; Luke 23:49), possibly due to a natural modesty at the sight.

As he hung there, all the signs of corruption became a part of him -- many being echoes of the curse of Genesis 3: the sweat (Gen 3:19), the dust (Gen 3:19 again), and the nakedness (Gen 3:7).

"Thou art He that took me out of the womb" (Psa 22:9) is a faint echo of the promise in Gen 3:15 -- the special "seed of the woman" conceived by the power of God's Holy Spirit. True to the Edenic curse, the woman was to have sorrow in conception (Gen 3:16); Mary knew such sorrow -- a sword piercing her own soul also (Luke 2:35). But her sorrow would finally dissolve into joy, when her son was "born" from the tomb to new and glorious life (John 16:20-22).

The crucified Saviour finds his enemies encircling him like bulls (Psa 22:12), dogs (vv 16,20), and lions (vv 13,21). All God's "creatures" were his enemies, but by his obedience (where the "first Adam" had failed) he would re-establish man's promised dominion over them (Gen 1:28).

"Thou hast brought me Into the dust of death" (v 15) is a conscious remembrance of the curse of Eden; "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return" (Gen 3:19).

Psalm 41:9

The circumstances that gave rise to Psalm 41 were, almost certainly, Absalom's rebellion and the traitorous behavior of Ahithophel, David's counselor. But v 9 is cited in John 13:18 as applicable to Judas Iscariot in his betrayal of Christ:

"He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me."
This is, of course, an allusion to Gen 3:15, but with a peculiar twist! Judas is put in the place of the woman's seed, lifting up his heel to crush a dangerous "serpent" underfoot -- and that "serpent" is Jesus! Surely this tells us, by implication, something about the motives of Judas: that he had at least begun to accept the reasoning of Israel's leaders, that the troublesome Jesus was an evil that must be gotten rid of!

The climax was that the "serpent" was indeed crushed in the death of Jesus, but certainly not in the way the leaders of Israel (and Judas!) expected. God used these wicked men to accomplish His righteous purpose -- the condemnation of sinful flesh. Peter explained this to these men on the day of Pentecost:

"Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death; because it was not possible that he should be holden of it" (Acts 2:22-24).
The "heel"

The allusion to "heel" in Psa 41:9, coupled with Gen 3:15, suggests an interesting word study:

"AQEB", or "heel", appears for the first time in Gen 3:15. "Aqeb" is the root word in the name Jacob, since Jacob took his brother by the heel when they were "born (Gen 25:26; Hos 12:3). Figuratively, then, to take by the heel signifies to trip up and to supplant -- which, of course, Jacob did to his older brother Esau (Gen 27:36) in appropriating the blessing and birthright.

The antitype is Jesus, the "last Adam", who has supplanted the first Adam in receiving the blessing and dominion which he lost. (Notice that Esau's other name is Edom -- virtually equivalent to "Adam"!)

The other Scripture occurrences of "aqeb" are not numerous, but some are quite suggestive:

  1. Gen 49:17: In Jacob's prophecy, Dan ("Judgment") is called a serpent that bites the horse heels, causing its rider to fall backward. Perhaps Dan is given the serpent role because this tribe sponsored the introduction of idolatry among the twelve tribes (Judges 18; 30) -- the reason, perhaps, also for Dan's omission from Rev 7. The "idolatrous" influences (of a different sort!) in Israel at the time of Christ caused his bruising in the heel.
  2. Gen 49:19: "Gad, a troop shall overcome him, but he shall overcome at the last "(literally, 'at the heel')." This is certainly typical of Jesus, overcome by a mighty "troop" in his death, yet finally himself overcoming his enemies "at the heel" -- an obvious allusion to Gen 3:15!
  3. Jos 8:13: In order to conquer the Canaanite city of Ai, Joshua set "liers in wait" nearby (literally, "at the heels" of the city!). By serpent-like subtlety, he drew the men out of the city, which was then captured by those who waited "at the heels", and the power of Ai was broken!
  4. Job 18:9: Bildad pictures, among the calamities that would befall the "wicked" Job, that "the gin (trap) shall take him by the heel ('aqeb')". But the "gin" of God's judgment that took Job by the heel finally proved out to his vindication, and to Bildad's condemnation! The enemies of Christ set a snare for his heels also; but in the climax they found they had tripped up themselves (Pro 1:16-18)!
  5. Psa 49:5: "Wherefore should I fear in the days of evil, when the iniquity of my heels shall compass me about?" But consider this alternate translation as suggestive of Christ: "Why should I fear in the days of evil, when my wicked supplanters (or those wicked ones who would trip up my heels) shall compass me about?" Jesus had nothing to fear from such men, for he knew that even when they "tripped him up" in death, God would "lift him up" out of the grave to vindication and glory.
  6. Psa 56:5,6: "Every day they wrest my words: all their thoughts are against me for evil. They gather themselves together, they hide themselves, they mark my steps ('aqeb'), when they wait for my soul." But..."In God have I put my trust; I will not "be afraid what man can do unto me... Wilt not Thou deliver my feet from falling?" (vv 11,13).
  7. Psa 89:50,51: "Remember, Lord, the reproach of Thy servants; how I do bear in ray bosom the reproach of all the mighty people; wherewith thine enemies have... reproached the footsteps ('aqeb') of Thy Messiah."
  8. Song 1:8: When the Shullamite inquires where her beloved is to be found, she is counseled to follow the footsteps (or heels) of his flock. If we would follow in Christ's "heels", we will of course do as best we can what he did: use our "heels" to crush the head of the "serpent" Sin!
Psalm 72:9

A beautiful picture of the Kingdom age, modeled after the imperfect type of Solomon's reign. When Christ shall have dominion (Gen 1:28) from sea to sea, and from the rivers to the ends of the earth (Psa 72:8), then they that dwell in the wilderness will bow down before him, and his enemies (the "seed of the serpent") will lick the dust (Gen 3:14)!

Psalm 91:13

This was a passage recognized even by Christ's tempter as prophetic of the Messiah, since vv 11,12 are quoted as justification for his casting himself down in the sight of all men (Mat 4:6; Luke 4:10). But Jesus understood that, while the prophecy applied to him, it could not be perfectly fulfilled until he had proven himself obedient unto the death of the cross. By a life of perfect obedience, and by a perfect sacrificial death, Jesus would "tread upon the adder" of sin (v 13). Thereafter, God would give His angels charge of Jesus (v 11), to bear him up from the grave (v 12); God would deliver him and exalt him to heaven (v 14) and show him His salvation (v 16).

In addition to obtaining salvation, Jesus would also receive dominion over all the wild beasts (v 13) -- indeed, over all creation (Col 1:15-23).

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