The Parties Arraigned and Sentenced: Page 4 of 9 (series: Lessons on Genesis)
by John Lowe
God’s judgment on the serpent was separate from, or in addition to, the general judgment of man and the world (all of creation). The serpent is certainly not the slithering creature that we think of today. He was different at the beginning; charming but deadly and represents opposition to God, and now God has pronounced this judgment upon him. God also pronounces a judgment upon Satan which has a tremendous effect upon man; but, God does not distinguish between the serpent and Satan, who is later revealed as the animal’s motivating intelligence—“And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (Rev 12:9; KJV).
The tempter is not asked why he deceived the woman; he cannot roll the blame over on any other; and it is natural for him, because he is full of hate, to deceive and destroy all he can. He does not make any excuses for himself, and therefore God begins to pronounce sentence on him first. The Judge passes sentence: first, on the MATERIAL SERPENT, which is cursed above all creatures. From being a model of grace and elegance in form, it has become a creature that is odious, disgusting, and low; it is now branded with villainy and avoided with horror; next, on the SPIRITUAL SERPENT, the seducer. Already fallen, he was to be still more degraded and his power entirely destroyed by the offspring of those he had deceived.
Because thou hast done this,
In order to show His anger against sin, and His resentment for the injured honor of Adam and Eve, God places a curse and disgrace upon the serpent (See Rom. 8:20). The devil’s servants must share in the devil’s punishments. That is why the bodies of the wicked, though only instruments of unrighteousness, must partake of everlasting torments along with the soul, the principal offending agent. Here we begin to see how much God hates sin, and especially how much he is displeased with those who persuade others to sin.
thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field;
The serpent was cursed “ABOVE” (more than) “ALL CATTLE” and every beast of the field. When God made them, they were blessed by him—“And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth” (Gen 1:22; KJV)—but sin turned the blessing into a curse. The serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field (v. 1), and here it is cursed above every beast of the field—thou shalt be considered the most contemptible of animals; upon thy belly shalt thou go—thou shalt no longer walk erect, but mark the ground equally with thy hands and feet; and dust shalt thou eat—though formerly possessed of the faculty to distinguish, choose, and cleanse thy food, thou shalt feed henceforth like the most stupid and abject quadruped, all the days of thy life—through all the innumerable generations of thy species. God saw fit to manifest his displeasure against the agent employed in this sad affair; and this curse is due to the part which the intelligent and subtle serpent took in the seduction of our first parents. We see that he was capable of it, and have some reason to believe that he became a willing participant.
There were several effects of the curse:
1. The serpent will always be looked upon as a vile and despicable creature, and a fitting object of scorn and contempt: "Upon thy belly thou shalt go, no longer upon feet, or half erect, but thou shalt crawl along on thy belly,’’ an expression of a very hopeless and miserable condition; "and thou shalt not avoid eating dust with thy meat.”
2. He will be both feared and hated by man. His crime was that he tempted Eve to eat that which she should not; his punishment was that he was by necessity forced to eat that which he would not: Dust thou shalt eat. This denotes not only a vile and despicable condition, but a poor and pitiful spirit; it is said of those whose courage has departed from them that they lick the dust like a serpent—“They shall lick the dust like a serpent, they shall move out of their holes like worms of the earth: they shall be afraid of the LORD our God, and shall fear because of thee” (Micah 7:17; KJV).
upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:
As a result of man’s sin, God said to the serpent, “UPON THY BELLY SHALT THOU GO, AND DUST SHALT THOU EAT ALL THE DAYS OF THY LIFE.” The serpent would crawl upon his belly for all time, having previously stood
erect (Luther), or having been possessed of bone (Josephus), or being capable of standing upright and twining itself round the trees (Lange), or, at the very least, having undergone some external transformation with regard to form (Keil and Delitzsch). It is quite possible, however, that the language of this verse indicates nothing more than the humiliation of the serpent, once exalted as the most subtle beast of the field, it has been reduced to a position in which it must slither through the grass. It is to be forever looked upon as a vile and despicable creature, and a proper object of scorn and contempt: "UPON THY BELLY THOU SHALT GO,” no longer upon feet, or half erect, but thou shalt crawl along, thy belly cleaving to the earth, an expression of a very miserable condition, "and thou shalt not avoid eating dust with thy meat.’’
God cursed the serpent and the ground, but He did not yet curse Adam and Eve. The consequences of man’s fall are all around us, and we suffer because of them. The ultimate judgment is death. Man can overcome a difficult environment to some extent, but he can do nothing about “the last enemy,” death—“The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:26; KJV). The only way man can have victory over death is through faith in Jesus Christ—“Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:25–26). Christ is the resurrection (He raises those who are dead in sin) and the life (He gives to them eternal life). Those who believe in Christ, though they may die physically, shall live. Beyond that, those who really have Christ’s life shall never die.
15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
And I will put enmity between thee and the woman,
He is to be eternally looked upon as a venomous deadly creature, and an object of hatred and loathing: I WILL PUT ENMITY BETWEEN THEE AND THE WOMAN. Since the inferior creatures were made for man, it was a curse upon any of them to be turned against man and man against them; and this is part of the serpent’s curse. The serpent is harmful to man, and often bruises his heel, because it cannot reach much higher. But man is victorious over the serpent, and bruises his head, that is, gives him a mortal wound, aiming to destroy any serpent he comes across. The effect of this curse upon the serpent is that, though that creature is subtle and very dangerous, it could not prevail (as it would if God wished it to do so) and destroy mankind. This sentence pronounced upon the serpent is fortified by that promise of God to his people, “Thou shalt tread upon the lion and the adder” (Ps. 91:13) and that promise Christ made to his disciples, “They shall take up serpents” (Mk. 16:18).
In this verse, God declares war on Satan and gives the first promise of the Redeemer. Satan would bruise Christ’s heel, but Christ would bruise Satan’s head and defeat him—“Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out” (John 12:31; KJV). The greatest curse is placed upon the serpent, that is, upon that old serpent, the devil. To Satan the Lord God promises, I WILL PUT ENMITY BETWEEN THEE AND THE WOMAN, AND BETWEEN THY SEED AND HER SEED; IT SHALL BRUISE THY HEAD, AND THOU SHALT BRUISE HIS HEEL. Here is the first messianic prophecy in the Bible. It is the first time the gospel is expressed in any known form. It recognizes the very important conflict between Satan and the Lord and indicates that this conflict will also involve the people of God and the followers of Satan, a conflict that is also mentioned in the following verses:
• John 8:44 (KJV) “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.”
• Acts 13:10 (KJV) “And said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?”
• 1 John 3:10 (KJV) “In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.”