The Curse of Satan, Including a Blessing to Man–Effects of the Fall
Ver. 15. By all that had hitherto been said and done, God appears to have concealed from man who was his tempter; and for this reason, among others, to have pronounced the doom on Satan under the form of a curse upon the serpent. By this we may learn that it is of no account, as to the criminality of sin, whence it comes, or by whom or what we are tempted to it. If we choose it, it is ours, and we must be accountable for it.
But mark the wisdom and goodness of God: as under the form of cursing the serpent he had pronounced a most tremendous doom on the tempter, so under the form of this doom is covertly intimated a design of mercy the most transcendent to the tempted! If man had been in a suitable state of mind, the promise might have been direct, and addressed to him: but he was not; for his heart, whatever it might be afterwards, was as yet hardened against God. It was fit, therefore, that whatever designs of mercy were entertained concerning him, or his posterity, they should not be given in the form of a promise to him, but of threatening to Satan. The situation of Adam and Eve at this time was like that of sinners under the preaching of the gospel. The intimation concerning the woman’s Seed would indeed imply that she and her husband should live in the world, that she should bring forth children, and that God would carry on an opposition to the cause of evil: but it does not ascertain their salvation; and if there appear nothing more-in their favour in the following part of the history than what has hitherto appeared, we shall have no good ground to conclude that either of them is gone to heaven. The Messiah might come as the Saviour of sinners, and might descend from them after the flesh, and yet they might have no portion in him.
But let us view this famous passage more particularly, and that in the light in which it is here represented, as a threatening to the serpent. This threatening does not so much respect the person of the grand adversary of God and man as his cause and kingdom in the world. He will be punished in his person at the time appointed; but this respects the manifestation of the Son of God to destroy his works. There are four things here intimated, each of which is worthy of notice. 1. The ruin of Satan’s cause was to be accomplished by one in human nature. This must have been not a little mortifying to his pride. If he must fall, and could have had his choice as to the mode, he might rather have wished to have been crushed by the immediate hand of God; for however terrible that hand might be, it would be less humiliating than to be subdued by one of a nature inferior to his own. The human nature especially appears to have become odious in his eyes. It is possible that the rejoicings of eternal wisdom over man were known in heaven, and first excited his envy; and that his attempt to ruin the human race was an act of revenge. If so, there was a peculiar fitness that from man should proceed his overthrow. 2. It was to be accomplished by the Seed of the woman. This would be more humiliating still. Satan had made use of her to accomplish his purposes, and God would defeat his schemes through the same medium; and by how much he had despised and abused her, in making her the instrument of drawing her husband aside, by so much would he be mortified in being overcome by one of her descendants. 3. The victory should be obtained, not only by the Messiah himself, but by all his adherents. The Seed of the woman, though it primarily referred to him, yet, being opposed to “the seed of the serpent,” includes all that believe in him. And there is little or no doubt that the account in Rev. 12:17, has allusion to this passage: “And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, who keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” Now if it were mortifying for Satan to be overcome by the Messiah himself, considered as the Seed of the woman, how much more when, in addition to this, every individual believer shall be made to come near, and as it were set his feet upon the neck of his enemy! Finally, Though it should be a long war, and the cause of the serpent would often be successful, yet in the end it should be utterly ruined. The head is the seat of life, which the heel is not: by this language, therefore, it is intimated that the life of Christ’s cause should not be affected by any part of Satan’s opposition; but that the life of Satan’s cause should by that of Christ. For this purpose is he manifested in human nature, that he may destroy the works of the devil; and he will never desist till he have utterly crushed his power.
Now as the threatenings against Babylon conveyed good news to the church, so this threatening against the old serpent is full of mercy to men. But for this enmity which God would put into the woman’s seed against him, he would have had every thing his own way, and every child of man would have had his portion with him and his angels.
From the whole, we see that Christ is the foundation and substance of all true religion since the fall of man, and, therefore, that the only way of salvation is by faith in him. We see also the importance of a decided attachment to him and his interest. There are two great armies in the world, Michael and his angels warring against the dragon and his angels; and, according to the side we take, such will be our end.
Ver. 16–19. The sentence of the woman, and of the man, which follows, like the rest, is under a veil. Nothing but temporal evils are mentioned; but these are not the whole. Paul teaches us that, by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation; and such a condemnation as stands opposed to justification of life, Rom. 5:18. See on chap. 4:11, 12, p. 21. The woman’s load in this life was sorrow in bearing children, and subjection to her husband. The command to be fruitful and multiply might originally, for aught I know, include some degree of pain; but now it should be “greatly multiplied:” and there was doubtless a natural subordination in innocency; but through sin woman becomes comparatively a slave. This is especially the case where sin reigns uncontrolled, as in heathen and Mahomedan countries. Christianity, however, so far as it operates, counteracts it; restoring woman to her original state, that of a friend and companion. See on chap. 2:18–25. The sentence on man points out to him wherein consisted his sin; namely, in hearkening to the voice of his wife, rather than to God. What a solemn lesson does this teach us against loving the creature more than the Creator, and hearkening to any counsel to the rejection of his! And, with respect to his punishment, it is worthy of notice, that as that of Eve was common to her daughters, so that of Adam extends to the whole human race. The ground is cursed for his sake—cursed with barrenness. God would, as it were, take no delight in blessing it; as well he might not, for all would be perverted to and become the food of rebellion. The more he should bless the earth, the more wicked would be its inhabitants. Man also himself is doomed to wretchedness upon it; he should drag on the few years that he might live in sorrow and misery, of which the thorns and thistles which it should spontaneously produce were but emblems. God had given him before to eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; but now he must be expelled thence, and take his portion with the brutes, and live upon the herb of the field. He was allowed bread, but it should be by the sweat of his face; and this is the lot of the great body of mankind. The end of this miserable state of existence was that he should return to his native dust. Here the sentence leaves him. A veil is, at present, drawn over a future world; but we elsewhere learn that at what time “the flesh returns to dust, the spirit returns to God who gave it;” and that the same sentence which appointed man “once to die” added, “but after this the judgment.”
It is painful to trace the different parts of this melancholy sentence, and their fulfilment in the world to this day; yet there is a bright side even to this dark cloud. Through the promised Messiah a great many things pertaining to the curse are not only counteracted, but become blessings. Under his glorious reign “the earth shall yield its increase, and God, our own God, delight in blessing us.” And while its fruitfulness is withheld, this has a merciful tendency to stop the progress of sin; for if the whole earth were like the plains of Sodom in fruitfulness. which are compared to the garden of God, its inhabitants would be as Sodom and Gomorrah in wickedness. The necessity of hard labour, too, in obtaining a subsistence, which is the lot of the far greater part of mankind, tends more than a little, by separating men from each other, and depressing their spirits, to restrain them from the excesses of evil. All the afflictions of the present life contain in them a motive to look upward for a better portion; and death itself is a monitor to warn them to prepare to meet their God. These are things suited to a sinful world; and where they are sanctified, as they are to believers in Christ, they become real blessings. To them they are “light afflictions,” and last “but for a moment;” and while they do last, “work for them a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” To them, in short, death itself is introductory to everlasting life.
Ver. 20. Adam’s wife seems hitherto to have been known only by the name of woman; but now he calls her Eve, that is, life, living, or the mother of all living. He might possibly have understood from the beginning that the sentence of death would not prevent the existence of the human race, or if not, what had been said of the woman’s seed would at least satisfy him on the subject.
But it is generally supposed, and there seems to be ground for the supposition, that in calling his wife life, or living, he intended more than that she would be the mother of all mankind; that it is expressive of his faith in the promise of her victorious Seed destroying, what Satan had succeeded in introducing—death, and that thus she should be the means of immortal life to all who should live in him. If such was his meaning, we may consider this as the first evidence in favour of his being renewed in the spirit of his mind.
Ver. 21. By the coats of skins wherewith the Lord God clothed them, it seems to be implied that animals were slain, and as they were not at that time slain for food, it is highly probable they were slain for sacrifice, especially as this practice is mentioned in the life of Abel. Sacrifices therefore appear to have been ordained of God to teach man his desert, and the way in which he must be saved. It is remarkable that the clothing of Adam and Eve is ascribed to the Lord God, and that it appears to have succeeded the slender covering wherewith they had attempted to cover themselves. Is it not natural to conclude that God only can hide our moral nakedness, and that the way in which he does it is by covering us with the righteousness of our atoning sacrifice?
Ver. 22. This ironical reflection is expressive of both indignation and pity.—Man is becoming wonderfully wise! Unhappy creature! He has for ever forfeited my favour, which is life, and having lost the thing signified, Jet him have no access to the sign. He has broken my covenant: let neither him nor his posterity henceforward expect to regain it by any obedience of theirs.*
Ver. 23, 24. God is determined that man shall not so much as dwell in the garden where the tree of life grows, but be turned out as into the wide world. He shall no longer live upon the delicious fruits of Eden, but be driven to seek his food among the beasts of the field; and, to show the impossibility of his ever regaining that life which he had lost, “cherubim and a flaming sword” are placed to guard it. Let this suffice to impress us with that important truth, “By the deeds of the law shall no flesh living be justified;” and to direct us to a tree of life which has no flaming sword to prevent our access! Yet even in this, as in other threatenings, we may perceive a mixture of mercy. Man had rendered his days evil, and God determines they shall be but few. It is well for us that a life of sin and sorrow is not immortal.
Excerpt from: “The Curse of Satan, Including a Blessing to Man–Effects of the Fall,” Genesis 3:15-24, in Expository Discources on the Book of Genesis, Exposition VI.
Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Expositions—Miscellaneous. (J. Belcher, Ed.) (Vol. 3, pp. 15–18). Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications.