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By In Theology

The Seed and the Serpent: Genesis 3:15 fulfilled in Exodus, Part 1

Guest Post by Jacob Gucker

If Moses wrote the Pentateuch and it is one continuous story, readers might expect the prophecy of Genesis 3:15 concerning the seed of the woman bruising the serpent’s head to be fulfilled some time before the end. This post argues for a near fulfillment of this prophecy in the birth of Israel as a nation and the crushing of Pharaoh in the Red Sea. Part one will deal with the “seed of the woman” facet of the prophecy and part two will deal with “crushing the Serpent’s head.”

Exodus is primarily about the birth of God’s son. Israel is the national son of God born out of slavery in Egypt at Passover and into the house of Yahweh. Passover was an exchange of “sons of the herd” for firstborn sons, and Israel is the firstborn of a planned new creation. Whereas Genesis has a theme of birth despite barrenness, Exodus begins with outright fruitfulness, though it is overshadowed by the dragon who waits to devour.

Keith Bodner’s An Ark on the Nile shows from Exodus 1-2 that Moses’ rescue from the Nile is a recapitulation of Noah’s Ark. It looks back to Noah’s rescue from the primordial waters of the flood even as it foreshadows Israel’s rescue from the waters of the Red Sea. Noah’s Ark was not built for seaworthiness but as a floating temple that anticipates the Mosaic Tabernacle that will go with Israel through the wilderness.[1]

Bodner highlights the important role of women who are the only protagonists in the beginning to go up against Pharaoh. Moses’ father is silent and the elders of Israel take no action. There are the vigorous Hebrew women who give birth quickly, the midwives who resist Pharaoh’s decree to throw every Boy into the Nile, Moses’ mother who hid her good son for three months, Moses’ sister who stationed herself to watch what would become of her brother, Pharaoh’s daughter who seems to be willing to defy her father, and the maidservants who go with her to bathe. They share in drawing Moses from the waters of the Nile in his little Ark. They are a corporate woman bringing forth a singular “seed” to be the covenantal head of the nation that will be born. In bringing Moses forth from the waters they participate in bringing the nation forth from bondage.

Bodner argues that Miriam and Pharaoh’s daughter play more significant roles than modern readers might think. He posits that Miriam is a shrewd mediator who speaks so as to suggest to Pharaoh’s daughter that an adoption is in order. He notes that Miriam is referred to here as an Almah, indicating that she too is capable of bearing children. He suggests that she is a “rhetorical midwife” in Moses’ new birth[2]. Taking the initiative here, Miriam seems to guide Pharaoh’s daughter and will have a similar role with the women of Israel at the Red Sea.

The naming of Moses brings the Egyptian princess into the tradition of phonetic naming that began with Eve naming Cain. She names him Moses because it sounds like the Hebrew word for “to draw out.” But there is more to his name because it is etymologically Egyptian, based upon the verbal stem msy which means “to be born” and the noun ms means “son.”[3]  Pharaoh’s daughter is participating in bringing forth the seed of the woman. This anticipates God including gentile women at numerous points in the long story of bringing forth the Messiah. Although Mary is the special maidservant chosen to bear the Son of God, all of the women in the Messianic genealogy are participants.

The serpent crippled Israel by hard labor and by Pharaoh’s heinous decree, but this seed will crush the serpent’s head. Part two will show how Pharaoh, the head of Egpyt, is the embodiment of the serpent in the book of Exodus.

Jacob Gucker is a librarian at BMA Theological Seminary in Jacksonville, Texas. He lives with his wife and baby daughter at Preacher’s End Farm where she raises vegetables and pastures chickens and he looks up from his books to help out.

[1] Keith Bodner, An Ark on the Nile: Beginning of the Book of Exodus (Oxford University Press, 2016).

[2]Bodner, Keith. “The Waters of Chaos.” In An Ark on the Nile: Beginning of the Book of Exodus. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016. Oxford Scholarship Online, 2016. doi: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198784074.003.0005.

[3]Ibid.

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By In Theology

Family Solidarity & Genesis

The Bible encourages love and community in families, and sees that love as a way to spread harmony in wider society, but it doesn’t assume family solidarity is natural.

A while ago I was listening to an expert on twin studies as an effort to come to some conclusions on the problem of “nature v. nurture.” She said something I didn’t expect and yet immediately reminded me of the Bible. She said there is no such thing as “identical twins.” Yes, that’s the name we give twins who are genetically identical. But in the womb, she stated, they don’t get equal access to limited resources. By the time they are born, they are already showing developmental differences.

Naturally, I immediately thought of Jacob and Esau.

 

In the Bible, family solidarity is often invoked as the key to social peace. When the tribes offered to be subject to David, they appealed to it: “Behold, we are your bone and flesh.”

But it is a mistake to assume this means that family solidarity is natural or in any way easy. Laban said the same thing to Jacob, yet that family connection meant exploitation and competition for limited resources. Jacob’s struggle in the womb with his twin brother became a struggle to get out of slavery and poverty against his father-in-law and his brothers-in-law.

I’ve understood the start and finish of Genesis as being significant. It starts with the exalted Adam who loses his kingdom when he seizes what is forbidden. It ends with Joseph who refuses to touch forbidden “fruit” though he is a slave, and is exalted to rule a kingdom as a result.

But thinking about twins has led me to another observation.

The first two brothers mentioned in the Bible, and indeed the first brothers in human history, are also the characters in the first homicide. The second Fall in Genesis is the story of Cain and Abel. Adam was driven out east of Eden, but Cain was driven further east to the land of Nod.

Genesis tells us that the first homicide was a fratricide.

The last story in Genesis is also about brothers. All Joseph’s brothers hated him. The majority of his brothers wanted to murder him. One of the brothers schemes to save his life but that plan is partially thwarted when an opportunity arises to profit by selling Joseph to slave traders.

The rest of the story of Joseph depends on that event: brothers acting in murderous hatred against a brother much like Cain and Abel.

Between those two stories, Genesis has several other stories recording God’s covenant to save humanity. The majority of those stories are about domestic strife. If they don’t feature sibling rivalry, they present us with other conflicts such as father against son, mother against father’s son, father-in-law against son-in-law, and father against daughters. Reading Genesis, one would think the kingdom of God depends on a soap opera. Perhaps Jesus was thinking of Genesis when he said

For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:52-53; ESV)

But why should this surprise us?

All the temptations and anxieties of life that would cause a person to selfishly try to exalt himself over others are concentrated in the family. Siblings compete for real and imagined rewards, whether financial resources or honor in the sight of their parents. Parents love their children but, in seeing their children as blessings, can impose themselves on their children, not even realizing how selfish they are being. Isaac and Laban have different motives but both exploited Jacob.

All the trials a person will face in outside life are there in his or her family relationships. If anything, the problems in the family as a society are more intense.

Perhaps that is why Genesis seems to spend so much space on soap-opera-like stories.

Family solidarity isn’t natural, but it is a great blessing to society. If one can master oneself in the way one functions in the family, one will be an asset in other relationships. If an entire family can do this, they will be a city on a hill.

 

Genesis starts with fratricide. It ends with the solution to fratricide: faith in God’s providence and forgiveness:

So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. (Genesis 45:4-8; ESV)

And then it repeats the lesson later, as a second witness that this is what the story of Joseph teaches us, as the climax of the stories of family conflict in Genesis.

When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.”

Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. (Genesis 50:15-21; ESV)

Jesus our brother says the same thing to us.

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By In Theology

The Tree(s) of Life

When we come to the end of the Bible, there are some things that are intriguingly similar to the beginning. In the beginning, God created the man and placed him in a garden that he had planted in the land of Eden, telling him to be fruitful and multiply. This garden had a river that ran through it and split into four different rivers outside of the garden. In the midst of the garden were two trees: the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Man was invited to come to the Tree of Life but forbidden to partake of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. In the midst of the garden, at this Tree of Life, God would communicate his life to man. Man would enjoy communion with God there at this Tree, being nourished in every way to be what his Father had created him to be.

When man sinned, God exiled him from the garden in order to keep him from eating of the Tree of Life (Gen 3.22-23). From that time forward man was forbidden to partake of the Tree. God provided means of communion, communicating his life to man through various means, but full access to the Tree of Life was not a reality.

The scene at the end of Revelation is one that describes this city in which the Tree of Life is not only present but accessible. Some things have changed drastically. The walled garden has become a walled city; a culture full of life. The rugged beauty of a pristine creation has become a developed, glorified creation under the dominion of the last Adam. Man has been fruitful and multiplied, and the garden has grown up into a city. Nevertheless, the New Jerusalem is the old garden, complete with the Tree of Life. Christ’s work has granted us access to the Tree of Life. All those who have their robes washed, who enter the gates of the garden-city, are granted access to the Tree of Life (Rev 22.14). Because Christ has passed through the flaming sword of the cherubim, he has made the way open to the Tree of Life. Because we pass through that same death being united with Christ in baptism, we now have access to the Tree of Life. We enjoy full and close communion with God in the church, the garden of God.

We are given this access, not only for personal privilege but so that we might become what we eat. In Christ Jesus, we are made trees of life planted by the river that runs through the midst of the garden-city (cf. Ps 1). The fruit of the Spirit that we bear is to be nourishment for those around us. The leaves that we produce are to be for the healing of the nations. We come to the Tree of Life, receiving life from God so that through us life might be enjoyed by others.

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By In Theology, Worship

10 Questions Preachers Should Ask Before Sunday Morning

I have been a pastor for almost a decade. I spend between 12-15 hours each week thinking, researching, and writing before I deliver the first words in my Sunday sermon.a The process of writing my sermon goes through a lengthy journey each week. I contemplate several questions from Monday to Friday which force me to edit and re-edit my manuscript. There is no perfect sermon, but a sermon that goes through revisions and asks import questions has a much better chance of communicating with clarity than the self-assured preacher who engages the sermonic task with nothing more than academic lenses.

I have compiled a list of ten questions I ask myself each week at some point or another.

Question #1: Is this language clear? When you write a manuscript ( as I do) you have an opportunity to carefully consider the language you use. I make a habit of reading my sermon out loud which leads me to realize that certain phrases do not convey the idea clearly. A well-written sermon does not necessarily mean a well-delivered sermon. Reading my sermons out loud causes me to re-write and look for other ways to explain a concept or application more clearly.

Question #2: Is there a need to use high theological language in this sermon? Seminary graduates are often tempted to use the best of their training in the wrong environment. People are not listening to you to hear your theological acumen. I am well aware that some in the congregation would be entirely comfortable with words like perichoresis and Arianism. I am not opposed to using high theological discourse. Words like atonement, justification, sanctification are biblical and need to be defined. But extra-biblical terms and ideologies should be employed sparingly. Much of this can be dealt in a Sunday School class or other environments. High theological language needs to be used with great care, and I think it needs to be avoided as much as possible in the Sunday sermon.

Question #3: Can I make this sermon even shorter? As I read my sermons each week, I find that I can cut a paragraph or two easily, or depending on how long you preach, perhaps an entire page. This is an important lesson for new preachers: not everything needs to be said. Shorter sermons–which I strongly advocateb–force you to say what’s important and keep some of your research in the footnotes where it belongs. Preachers need to learn what to prioritize in a sermon so as not to unload unnecessary information on their parishioners. (more…)

  1. Thankful for great interactions before this article was published. It helped sharpen my points  (back)
  2. By this I mean sermons no longer than 30 minutes  (back)

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By In Culture, Theology

No Adam, No Christ

Here are some quotes from J.P. Versteeg’s book Adam in the New Testament

In this first quote, he is addressing the argument that Paul thought Adam was historical, but now we know he was not. He shows that despite claims to the contrary, this idea unravels Christ’s work as a historical event. 

Therefore, if in the case of Adam the intention of Paul in his own time is divorced from its significance for us today, that must also have consequences with respect to Christ. For the redemptive-historical correlation between Adam and Christ entails that if what Paul says about Adam no longer holds for us [i.e. that Adam was a historical figure standing at the beginning of the human race], it is impossible to see why what he says about Christ in the same context must still hold for us. What is the sense of an antitype, if there is no type? What is the sense of fulfillment, if there is nothing to fulfill? The redemptive-historical correlation that Paul sees between Adam and Christ means that no longer honoring Paul’s intention when he speaks about Adam must entail no longer honoring Paul’s intention when he speaks about Christ…To no longer honor Paul’s intention when he speaks about Adam entails that the framework in which Paul places Christ and his work, collapses.

Versteeg again, quoting another author:

And suppose that Paul…did indeed believe in the historicity of the first Adam but that is this is no longer relevant for us…because we are only interested in the function of Adam as a ‘teaching model’ why should we…not take the same view regarding the last Adam?

Versteeg brings up an interesting point regarding the guilt of man if we deny a historical Adam. Christians have held that sin entered the world because our representative head, Adam, chose to eat of the fruit in the garden. In Adam, we all sinned. There has been debate about how this works itself out, but the basic structure is essential to Christian orthodoxy. What happens when there is no historical Adam (and Eve) to sin? Here is what Versteeg says:

If Adam only lets us see what is characteristic of everyone because Adam is man in general so that the sin of Adam is also the sin of man in general, and if on the the other hand Adam may no longer be regarded as the one man through whom sin has come into the world, it is apparent that in a certain sense sin belongs to man as such. Sin thus has become a given “next to” creation…In Romans 5 Paul intends to say how sin has invaded the good creation of God. The concept “teaching model” cannot do justice to [Romans 5]. If Adam were only a teaching model, he would only be an illustration of man in whom sin is inherent. The concept “teaching model” eliminates the “one after the other” of creation and fall, and leaves only room for the “next to each other” of creation and sin. In essence, then, one may no longer speak of the guilt of sin…Where evil thus becomes a “practically unavoidable” matter, sin loses its character of guilt. 

I had not thought of the historicity of Adam from this angle before. Normally, I think of Adam in reference to Christ and salvation, not man and sin. But of course, these cannot be separated. If we mess with Adam, we mess with Christ, sin, redemption, man, and—as Richard Gaffin argues in his foreword—the resurrection, in the process. Where do sin and guilt come from if there was no Adam? Have they always been? Is sin inherent in man? Did God create man sinful? How can man be guilty if sin has always been? If sin has not always been, when did it enter? Who/what brought it in? 

I am convinced that a denial of a historical Adam leads naturally and logically to heresy. As Versteeg says:

To be occupied with the question of how Scripture speaks about Adam is thus anything but an insignificant problem of detail. As the first historical man and head of humanity, Adam is not mentioned merely in passing in the New Testament. The redemptive historical correlation between Adam and Christ determines the framework in which—particularly for Paul—the redemptive work of Christ has its place. That work of redemption can no longer be confessed according to the meaning of Scripture, if it is divorced form the framework in which it stands there.

Not all who deny the historical Adam become or are heretics, but given their framework, there is no reason they couldn’t be. To capitulate here is to begin unraveling the basics of Christian orthodoxy, and most importantly, to strip away the glory of Christ’s work in redeeming fallen man.

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By In Theology

What Happens the Day Before Easter?

The Passion Week provides vast theological emotions for the people of God. Palm Sunday commences with the entrance of a divine King riding on a donkey. He comes in ancient royal transportation. The royal procession concludes with a Crucified Messiah exalted on a tree.

The Church also celebrates Maundy Thursday as our Messiah provides a new commandment to love one another just as He loved us. We then proceed to sing of the anguish of that Good Friday as our blessed Lord is humiliated by soldiers and scolded by the unsavory words of the religious leaders of the day. As he walks to the Mount his pain testifies to Paul’s words that he suffered even to the point of death. But hidden in this glaringly distasteful mixture of blood, vinegar, and bruised flesh is the calmness of the day after our Lord’s crucifixion.

After fulfilling the great Davidic promise in Psalm 22, our Lord rests from his labors in the tomb. Whatever may have happened in those days prior to his resurrection, we know that Christ’s work was finished.

The Church calls this day Blessed Sabbath or more commonly, Holy Saturday. On this day our Lord reposed (rested) from his accomplishments. Many throughout history also believe that Holy Saturday is a fulfillment of Moses’ words:

God blessed the seventh day. This is the blessed Sabbath. This is the day of rest, on which the only-begotten Son of God rested from all His works . . .(Gen. 2:2)

The Church links this day with the creation account. On day seven Yahweh rested and enjoyed the fruit of his creation. Jesus Christ also rested in the rest given to him by the Father and enjoyed the fruits of the New Creation he began to establish and would be brought to light on the next day.

As Alexander Schmemann observed:

Now Christ, the Son of God through whom all things were created, has come to restore man to communion with God. He thereby completes creation. All things are again as they should be. His mission is consummated. On the Blessed Sabbath He rests from all His works.

Holy Saturday is a day of rest for God’s people; a foretaste of the true Rest that comes in the Risen Christ. The calmness of Holy Saturday makes room for the explosion of Easter Sunday. On this day, we remember that the darkness of the grave and the resting of the Son were only temporary for when a New Creation bursts into the scene the risen Lord of glory cannot contain his joy, and so he gives it to us.

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By In Politics, Worship

Lent and the Serpent’s Curse

As we approach Holy Week and prepare ourselves to re-enter that brutal narrative of Jesus’ final days before death, I want to discuss one profound accomplishment of the cross of Jesus. Generally, discussions about the cross focus on the covering of sin Jesus provides in his sacrifice, but another element that should receive attention concerns the paralyzing blow that Jesus’ death has on the serpent, the Devil. The serpent is the root and symbol of deception. And so, the story of the Bible means the undoing of Satan’s deception to the world. This blow is given to us in Genesis 3.

Yahweh 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.

The serpent was cunning above all, so he is cursed above all. To be cursed is to be banished or isolated.[1] This is why when God send his people into exile it is a form of curse. The meaning of Genesis 3 is that the serpent is now cut off from being a part of the cattle and the beasts of the field. He is separated from the animals.[2] In Leviticus 11, there is a description of clean and unclean animals, and among them are listed the creatures that break the boundary of a human life and invade a human house.[3] Anyone who touches these animals is considered unclean. Out of the eight mentioned, six are animals that move on their belly. The serpent became an unclean animal, precisely because it invaded the human house—the Garden—and made it unclean. This curse in the Torah is a reference to the deception of the serpent and consequently the curse that followed that deception.

Another element of the curse is that the serpent would “eat dust all the days of its life.” The author is not referring to dry dirt. The idea of “dust” expresses “the deepest form of degradation.”[4] This is the picture of humiliation. This is a curse, but for us this is a promise that the enemies of God will lick the dust, as Psalm 72 states.[5] It is also a promise of final victory over the devil. Our Messiah defeated the evil serpent at his death, but he will defeat the devil and his demons once and for all at the end of history.[6] The reason Lent is so important for us is because through death he destroyed the one who has the power of death (Heb. 2:14). The promise of the curse is the promise that at the death of our Lord—fulfilled many centuries later– we will witness by the success of the gospel the utter humiliation of the devil. In fact, we live in the age of the serpent’s humiliation. Death, resurrection, and ascension sealed the fate of the evil serpent. In this curse the progress of the gospel implies the enemies of Yahweh licking the dust just like their father, the devil.

Verse 15 forms the famous proto-euangelion passage; the first gospel. This is an expansion on the curse of verse 14 detailing the way in which the serpent will be destroyed.[7]

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.”

Think for a moment that throughout this curse, the tempter is absolutely silent. There are no smart retorts; no subtle attempt to trick Yahweh; simply silence. And the separation God puts into place is this antagonism between Lucifer and humanity, to prevent humanity from blindly following Satan to destruction.[8]

The implication here is that the serpent has offspring who will war with the offspring of the woman.

Then we come to the final element of this curse, which seals the future of the serpent. As the serpent quietly sits listening to the curse he hears that his head will be crushed. The Book of Judges brings this theme to the forefront when it lists several examples of enemies of the gospel whose heads were crushed. You may remember most notably Jael crushing Sisera’s head with a tent peg (Judges 5:24-27). This is all, of course, a little reminder that the promise of Genesis 3:15 is alive and well. Again, not the precious moment imagery if we were expecting a sanitary Bible. The Bible is extremely violent. Yahweh does not allow his justice to go unanswered. He destroys and brings justice far as the curse is found. The devil has received this temporary blow at the death of Jesus. Lent culminates in the seed of the woman crushing the head of the serpent at the cross (Rom. 16:20). This curse on the serpent signifies blessings for God’s people.

 

[1] Trees and Thorns. JBJ. See also Cassuto’s comments on this text. The nature of exile can also be added to this concept. Exile is a form of death. The Israelites died in the wilderness both physically and spiritually, since they lived exilically.

[2] E.J. Young. 97

[3] The implications of this text are many. The unclean/clean motif is remarkably potent in the Bible.

[4] E.J. Young.

[5] Verses 8-9 -May he have dominion from sea to sea,

and from the River to the ends of the earth!

May desert tribes bow down before him,

and his enemies lick the dust!

(Psalm 72:8-9 ESV)

[6] See Revelation’s description.

[7] I have preached an entire sermon on this verse.

[8] Trees and Thorns.

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