We live in a culture that’s largely blind to spiritual realities. It’s earth bound and physical sense driven. Modern people think that the early chapters of Genesis are ancient ideas about geology and biology, so dismiss them as naїve myth. In fact they’re teaching from God about spiritual truths presented in partly poetic/symbolic literary forms. This verse isn’t about why there’s hostility between men and snakes! It’s teaching us crucial spiritual realities.
First the book of Genesis depicts the goodness of God’s creation. Then a dark character emerges in chapter 3 – the snake. This is Satan, or the Devil. It seems from elsewhere in scripture that he was a leading angelic being who rebelled against God, demons being his fallen angel servants. At the start of chapter 3 he uses lying and distortion to manipulate our ancestors into disobeying God. It seems Satan’s plan was to drag man down with him. He appeared partly at least to have succeeded.
At this point God could have condemned man with Satan and the fallen angels, but the amazing thing we find, no doubt to Satan’s shock, is that God doesn’t quite do that. Satan probably thought he was gaining a ‘friend’, an ally against God, albeit one he could play with in a deceiving and manipulative way. But God declares he now has an enemy; specifically God states ‘“I will put enmity between you and the woman.”’ Of course it’s not just the woman who becomes Satan’s enemy, but God declares war between Satan and Eve’s offspring – i.e. mankind: ‘“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring.”’ Note the war is not just between mankind and the devil; we’re up against the devil’s offspring too. This obviously refers to the demons, but also to that part of mankind who remain largely under the devil’s control. In the book of Acts Elymas is one such example. We find him working against the gospel in Cyprus. Paul rebukes him as ‘“Full of all deceit and all cunning, you son of the devil”’(Acts 13:10).
The spiritual war declared in Genesis runs throughout the Bible. We cannot properly understand life until we see these spiritual realities. We must heed Peter’s advice, ‘Your adversary, the devil, walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Withstand him steadfast in your faith, knowing that your brothers who are in the world are undergoing the same sufferings.’(1 Peter 5:8-9) and Paul’s ‘Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil’(Ephesians 6:11). These schemes are many, including temptations, and counterfeit religions that lead people astray. Paul fears false religious teachers might influence the Corinthians such that ‘as the serpent deceived Eve in his craftiness, so your minds might be corrupted’(2 Corinthians 11:3). Atheism is just as much the devil’s trick – essentially deceiving modern man that there is no spiritual reality.
But the crux (literally) is the end of verse 15. Suddenly God is talking about a single offspring of Eve, ‘“He will bruise your head, and you will bruise his heel”’. This depicts Jesus’ work on the cross. Jesus’ life would be the decisive campaign, climaxing in the cross. The gospels show how He faced attack from the beginning of His ministry through temptation to the very end through betrayal and crucifixion, then rose victorious. As Satan attacked God’s son ‘born to a woman’(Galatians 4:4) with deadly venom on the cross, God dealt the serpent a crushing blow, redeeming mankind ‘that we might receive the adoption of children’(Galatians 4:5); He died, taking our punishment, that we might be forgiven and become God’s children. Thus in Genesis 3:15, just nine verses after the fall, God announces the gospel. It’s as if He couldn’t wait to show the full extent of His grace and love – and once man had fallen He could. ‘For since death came by man, the resurrection of the dead also came by man. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.’(1 Corinthians 15:21-22). And since in Christ we have this victory we can have confidence in our battles, as Paul encouraged the Romans ‘the God of peace will quickly crush Satan under your feet.’(Romans 16:20)
The story ends with a new Genesis (beginning) foretold in John’s semi-symbolic/poetic book of Revelation. The serpent burns in Hell as God’s children enter a new eternal paradise, complete with tree of life.