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The creation : a commentary on the first five chapters of the book of Genesis online

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wishes to do, and would do, if the Seed of the woman stood not
directly in his way.

Ver. 15. And I will put enmity betioeen thee and the looinan,
and between thy seed and her seed.

Tliese are the things which are spoken expressly and properly
to Satan. And they contain his judgment. While in these
same words of Ids judgment, there is set before the godly their
strong consolation. The things above spoken are historical, as I
have said, and apply to the serpent ; which, because through the
abuse of Satan, it aided in effecting the sin of Adam and Eve,
bears, as his part of the punishment, his ejection from the com-
mon life, as it were, and from tlie society of the other animals of
the creation ; being made so different from them, that he dares
not eat the same food, nor live in any way like them.

252 CHAPTER III. 15.

The present passage might also be brought under an allegori-
cal interpretation. But the allegories used would be far less
appropriate ; and they would not stand firm in the defence of
the truth. For as to the facts of the case, they are these : Satan,
on account of his sin, was cast out of Heaven and condemned ;
and no longer goes about in his original form, as an ox, or a
hind does, but creeps on the ground ; which may signify that he
does not attack the godly by open force, but uses wiles and de-
vices for their harm and destruction : which devices, neverthe-
less, the godly when they look into the Word, see and under-
stand ; and by them they perceive how vast his deformity is ;
and so, dread and abhor him. And most certainly his creeping
on the ground, and not walking upright, may well indicate that
his tyrannical power is broken and destroyed ; so that he cannot
do so much harm to the chui'ch, as he otherwise would do.

These allegories, we repeat, may be used in the interpretation
of the present text : but they do not explain the meaning of
Moses therein : and therefore they are improper. Wherefore,
when we have to speak of Satan, let us ever follow the other
testimonies of Scripture upon the subject : for they are proper,
certain, and sure : such, for instance, as the following : — " The
devil was a mvirderer from the beginning, and abode not in the
truth ; because there is no truth in him :" and also, " When he
speaketh a lie he speaketh of his own" (John 8. 44) ; and, again,
" Yovir adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about
seeking whom he may devour" (1 Pet. 5. 8) : and, also, where
Clirist saith, " The prince of this woi'ld is judged" (John 16. 11).

In a word, wdio does not plainly see, that the testimony of the
present passage applies properly to Satan ; and that it is to him
that the Son of God is here opposed, expressly to prevent him
from making any attack upon us with open violence, as if he had
no certain Antagonist ! The church, therefore, under this pro-
tection, is perfectly safe. And not only is Satan deprived of the
power of attacking the church with any open violence, but his
power and desire of harming any thing or person else, are also
destroyed. Were it not so, he would not suffer a single tree to
grow to matiu'ity. He would impede and crush all things that
spring forth in the earth ; and would prevent, not the bii'th of
men only, but the bringing forth of all beasts ; and would de-


stroy the safety of everything. This his insatiable desire to hami
and to destroy is fully manifest from his inability to attack by
open violence, and from his doing whatever he does by the means
of craft, guile, and snare.

We should here, moreover, carefully observe, that these things
are not spoken of God, for the devil's sake. For God does not
deign to condemn Satan, on his own account, by these His
words ; but He deems it sufficient to leave Satan to be condemned
by his own conscience. All the things which God speaks to
Satan, He speaks for the sake of Adam and Eve ; that they may
hear this judgment of God upon him, and may comfort them-
selves, by thus hearing and seeing that God is the Adversary to
the nature of him, who had inflicted such a wound on man. For,
out of these very words of God to Satan, there begin to shine
forth grace and mercy : yea, out of the very midst of that anger,
which sin and disobedience had so righteously kindled. It is
here, in the very midst of the heaviest tlireatenings, that the
mind of the Father discloses itself; of a Father, not so angry as
to cast away his Son, but holding out salvation, yea promising
victory, over that enemy, who had thus deceived and conquered
human nature.

For though both had sinned, Satan especially, and man also,
by Satan, in the fall ; yet the judgment now pronounced upon
Satan, and upon man, are widely difl'erent. God does not join
them together in one and the same punishment ; as He might
righteously have done. He makes the widest distinction between
them. For although He is angry with man also, who obeyed
the enemy of God, disregarding God Himself, yet the Divine
indignation against Satan is by very far the greater. Satan
God plainly convicts and condemns, in tlie sight of Adam and
Eve ; that Adam and Eve, from this very condemnation of their
enemy, might have a little time to recover their breath ; and
might feel how much more blessed their condition was, than that
of Satan. — The first j)art of the great consolation here graciously
given, lies in this ; — that the serpent was accused and cursed,
and, together with the serpent, Satan also, for Adam and Eve's
sake! Not so much for Satan's judgment and damnation, as
for Adam and Eve's comfort and salvation.

Wherefore, by this judgment of Satan, that sun of consolation,

254 CHAPTER III. 15.

which had been just before hidden, as it were, behind the dark-
ness of certain heavy clouds, now rises above those clouds, and
shines with its most heavenly light, on the affrighted hearts of
Adam and Eve. For they not only do not hear themselves
cursed, as the sequent was, but they hear God declare, that He
has put them into the ranks of a constituted army against their
condemned foe : and that, too, with the hope of an almighty
help, which the Son of God, the Seed of the woman, should
bring unto them. Hereby, therefore, the remission of their sins,
and their full reception into grace, were plainly revealed to Adam
and Eve ; who were thus perfectly fi'eed from their sin and
guilt, redeemed from death, and delivered from hell, and fi'om
all those terrors, under which they were all but utterly sinldng,
in the sight of God.

Such is the great consolation which arises from the fact so
carefully to be observed by the godly, — that God did not curse
Adam and Eve, as He did the serpent. All that God did to
Adam and Eve, was to put them into an army of continual fight
with this enemy, that they might not live a life of ease and in-
dolence. This very thing, therefore, turned out for the good of
man. But the chief part of the great consolation here vouch-
safed was, that although this enemy should ever war by subtlety
and snares ; yet that a seed should be born, which should bruise
the serpent's head. For hereby is set forth the final destruction
of the t}Tanny of Satan : although that tyranny will never come
to its end, without a most terrible conflict ; a conflict which
must be fought out by man. But only reflect upon the unequal-
ness of the conflict ! It is the " heel" only of the man that is
in danger ; his head is safe and invincible. On the other hand,
it is not the tail, nor the belly, but the " head" itself of the ser-
pent, that is to be bruised and crushed under foot by the seed of
the woman. And this victory is given also to us all ; as Christ
plainly declares, when He says, that after the strong man armed
shall have been overcome, the sjaoils shall be divided. For the
Chi'istian is by faith at once made conqueror over sin, the law,
and death ; so that the very gates of hell cannot prevail against

This first great consolation, therefore, our first parents and
their, posterity searched into and learned with all diligence; as


being the original fountain and tlie spring head, as it were, of all
tlie promises. For they saw, that had they been left without
this promise, the blessing of goieration would have indeed re-
mained witli men, as with all otlier animals of the creation ; but
which generation would only have been a begetting and a being
born unto death. That great blessing bestowed of God upon
human nature is here highly increased, yea consecrated : seeing
that the hope hereby added to the blessing of generation, is such
that tln-ough it, the head of Satan shall be utterly crushed ; and
that not only his tyranny shall be destroyed, but that human
nature itself, thus made subject to death through sin, shall attain
unto eternal life. For Moses is now no longer dealing, in his
narrative, with the natural serpent ; he is now speaking of the
devil, whose " head" is formed of death and sin ; as Christ de-
scribes him when He saith (John 8. 44), that he was " a mur-
derer from the beginning, and a liar, and the father of it."
Therefore, wliensoever, and wheresoever his power is destroyed ;
that is, when sin and death are taken away by Christ, what
remaineth, but that the children of God shall be saved !

It was in this manner, therefore, that Adam and Eve under-
stood this text, and comforted themselves against sin and despair,
by tlie revealed hope of this future crushing of the serpent's
head, by Christ the seed of the woman. And through this, their
hope in the promise tlivis given unto them, they shall also rise
again, at the last day, unto life eternal.

Ver. 15. It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

Who is not filled with wonder, yea, rather with execration, at
the malicious design of Satan, in having attempted to transfer
this divine text, so full and running over with consolation, con-
cerning the Son of God, to the Virgin Mary ! For in all the
Latin Bibles, the pronoun ipse, is put in the feminine gender,
ijysa, — " She shall bruise." And Lyra, who was by no means
unacquainted with the Hebrew language, was carried away by
this error, as by the violence of an overflowing and resistless
stream, into the same impious sense, given to this text : so that,
in the face of its plain meaning, he interpreted the passage, as
applying to the blessed Virgin ; making her the person, by whom

256 CHAPTEK III. 15.

the power of Satan should be broken, through the mediation of
her Son. And he apphes to the Virgin also that passage in the
Song, * Thou art terrible as an army with banners.' And,
although Lyra professes to hold this interpretation of the present
passage, as received from others, yet his sin is great in not refut-
ing it. Many afterwards followed him. And all the more recent
interpreters have abused this most holy passage, to idolatry;
finding no one to stop or resist them.

All this, however, has arisen either from the ignorance, or
negligence, of the rulers in the church. Because these did not
set themselves against idolatry, sound doctrine was by degrees
suppressed, and became extinct. And since we have now, by
the blessing of God upon us, restored the sound doctrine, these
disgraceful beasts, given to the belly, plainly show, that they care
not for religion, but for then' own benefices only. And because
such idolatry promotes the interests of these men, they even
show their indignation at men being taught the truth. But
these blind beings do not see, tliat the gospel is a doctrine of that
Divine nature, that those who receive it lose nothing by it, but
their sins and eternal death ; and that tliey gain, in their stead,
deliverance from all idolatry, and from the dominion of Satan.

Wlierefore let us render thanks to God, that we have this pas-
sage also restored to its full integrity. Not that thereby any
honour, due to Mary, might be taken from her ; but that all
idolatry might be shut out. For as to men saying that Mary
crushed all the power of Satan by giving birth to Christ ; — if
that be the true state of the case, does not that same honour be-
long equally to all the other women who preceded Mary, in the
same line of genealogy ? Nay, a part of this same honour per-
tains to all the husbands also, in Mary's line, and to all her
ancestors. For, had she not descended from all these, as her
forefathers, she herself could not have had existence. For she
was born by marriage, according to the common order of nature.
If, therefore, Mary, by the act of giving birth to her Son, bruised
the head of Satan, all the ancestors of Mary must of necessity
be ranked in the same degree of dignity and honour.

The Scripture, however, teaches us veiy differently, when it
saith, that Christ " died for our sins and rose again for our justi-
fication" (Rom. 4. 25) ; and when it saith, " Behold the Lamb


of God, which taketh away the sin of the world!" (John 1. 29.)
Wlierefore, let the blessed Virgin hold her place of due honour,
as the woman whom God adorned with that high privilege above
all other women, — that she, as a virgin, should bring forth the
Son of God. Tliis honour, however, ought by no means so to
be bestowed upon her, as in any way to take from her Son, our
Lord, the glory of our redemption, and of our deliverance from
sin and death.

Moreover, the peculiar expression of the Holy Scripture, in
this passage, is by us most carefully to be held and guarded, as
affording a truly wonderful light, which opens unto us the depth
of the Divine goodness, revealed to us in the present sacred text ;
wherein we are taught concerning that enmity which God put
between the serpent and the woman ; such an enmity, as that
the Seed of the woman should crush the serpent with all his
powers. This crushing, Satan perfectly well understood at the
time ; and, therefore, it is that to this day he rages with so much
hatred against this human nature of oiu'S. Adam and Eve, on
the contrary, raised up by the promise of this crushing, conceived
the hope of theii* restoration, in all its fulness, in their souls. And
being thus filled with faith, they saw that their salvation would
assuredly be God's peculiar care : seeing that God had expressly
testified, that the male Seed of the woman should utterly defeat
and crush this their enemy. For the words are divinely put
together with a wonderful emphasis.

The Divine expression here is, '■'■Her Seed." As if God had
said. Thou Satan, by means of the luoman, didst attack and seduce
the man, that thou mightest by means of sin be the head and
lord over them. I therefore, in return, will execute my secret
purposes against thee, by means of the very same instrument.
I will take hold of the woman ; and by her I will produce a Seed ;
and that Seed shall bruise thy head. Thou, by means of sin,
didst corrupt and make subject to death the flesh of the human
nature. I will produce from that same flesh such a Man, who
shall crash and utterly defeat both thee and all thy powers.

By these Divine words, therefore, both the promise and the
threat were expressed with the most perfect plainness. And yet
they were most obscure. For they left the devil in such a state
of doubt and suspense, that he held under suspicion all the women


258 CHAPTER III. 15.

which brought forth from that time ; fearing lest they should give
birth to this Seed ; though one woman only was designed to be
the mother of this blessed offspring. Therefore, as the Divine
threatening was expressed in a general term, " Her Seed," Satan
was so mocked thereby, that he feared this Seed from every
woman who brought forth.

In the same proportion, on the other hand, the faith of all man-
kind was confirmed. For, from the hour in which the Divine
promise was made, all men expected that promised Seed, and
comforted themselves against Satan. Hence it was that Eve,
when she brought forth her first-born, Cain, hoped that she had
now "gotten" that bruiser of the head of Satan. And though
she was deceived in that hope, yet she saw that the promised
Seed would assuredly at length be born at some time or other from
her posterity. And thus, with respect to all mankind also, this
promise was most clear, and at the same time most obscure.
Isaiah threw some degree of light upon this glorious promise,
when he said, " Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son"
(Is. 7. 14). For it was then made certain, that this Seed would
not be born from the union of a man and a woman. But the
prophet added other certain particulars, by which he still involved
his prophecy in obscurity. In such oliscurity, therefore, this
most clear promise still remained, until ]\Iary had brought forth
her Son. Of this birth, then, angels themselves were witnesses ;
and after the angels, the shepherds and the wise men ; until, by
the apostles, this birth was proclaimed abroad throughout the
whole world.

This obscurity, therefore, tended to increase the concern and
suspense of Satan to the highest degree. So that, accordingly
as it had been said, ' I will put enmity between thee and the
woman ;' so Satan suspected, and held as his enemy, every
woman alike, who gave birth to a child, from the time that word
was spoken, until Christ was revealed. On the other hand, with
respect to man, this same obscurity increased and strengthened
out their faith. So that, though each woman saw that she was
not the mother who gave birth to this Seed, yet they all beheved
and were fully assured, that this Seed would be born fi-om some
other woman. — God having thus spoken individually or person-
ally (if I may so express it), that very manner of expression


tended most effectually to mock and rack Satan, and to console
the godly, and to raise them up to faith and hope. Thus women
continued to bring forth, until the Flood ; and afterwards, also,
until the time of Mary. But the seed of none of those women
could truly be said to be the Seed of the woman, but might the
rather be said to have been the seed of the man. But that
wliich was born from Mary was conceived of the Holy Ghost,
and was the true Seed of Mary, the appointed woman. This
the other promises also testify, which were made to Abraham
and to David : according to wliich promises, Christ was called
' the Son of Abraham' and ' the Son of David.'

This meaning of the original promise here given, Isaiah first
opened, when he prophesied ' that a virgin should conceive and
bear a Son' (Is. 7. 14). Afterwards, a more clear explanation
and confirmation of it was made by the angel, in the New Testa-
ment. Wherefore, I doubt not that there w^ere many saints,
under the Old Testament, who did not understand this mystery,
but who nevertheless fully expected that Christ would be born
into this world of a woman, and that He would be the Deliverer
of the human race : though they knew not what would be the
particular manner and circumstances of His birth. With this
general knowledge they were content, and by this knowledge
they were saved; even though they knew not the manner in
which Christ would be conceived and born. For this knowledge
was reserved for the New Testament ; to be thereby revealed,
as by the clearer and brighter light. And it was set forth, in
the first age of the Church, with a greater obscurity, purposely,
on account of Satan ; whom God willed to be mocked and
racked, in this manner, that he might thereby have the less rest,
and be the more filled with fear, on every side.

Wherefore, after this great original promise had been thus set
forth generally in the beginning, and had by degrees been more
circumstantially particularized ; and then confined to the seed
of Abraham ; and then further restricted, by means of the patri-
arch Jacob, to a certain tribe, — the tribe of Judah ; — after this,
the devil became unconcerned about other peoples and tribes,
and persecuted this one line of generation M'ith marvellous cruel-
ties and stratagems : until, about tlie time of Christ, it had been
reduced to the extremest poverty, and had become a hopeless


trunk-root, from which no one could hope for either fruit or
leaves. And hence it is that the Scripture terms that line of
succession a " stem," or bare root, as it were, of Jesse (Is. 11. 1) ;
signifying thereby a decayed trunk, from which nothing what-
ever could be expected.

This hatred and this fury of Satan are the effects produced on
him, which the Lord here predicts, when He warns that Serpent
of the enmity which He had put between his seed and the Seed
of the woman. For Satan primarily sought this Seed of the
woman, with hostile hatred, through all the peoples, and families,
and lines, throughout the whole world. When the promise was
transferred to Abraham, and restricted to his posterity, we see
from history by what various means Satan attempted to hinder
its fulfilment. And when this glorious promise was further
transferred to the line of Judah, and restricted to that tribe, we
behold with what horrible calamities it was oppressed and agi-
tated ; until at length it seemed to be wholly subverted and era-
dicated. So that, at the time of the birth of Christ, the poor
Mary was living at a long distance from Jerusalem, in the little
and insignificant town of Nazareth ; and Jeinisalem itself was
possessed and governed by wicked heathens. Wherefore, most
correctly and beautifully was this tribe of Judah compared to a
dead and hopeless " stem" of Jesse. But as God cannot lie, this
" root," so much decayed and despaired of, at length blossomed

Satan, however, did not, even then, cease from his cruelty, and
hatred, and enmity against the Seed of the woman. While He
lay in the cradle, Satan sought Him out, by the instrumentality
of Herod. So that the new-born Christ was compelled to live
among the ( i entiles, in Egypt. After this, also, Satan adopted
and tried all possible means to destroy Him ; until finding Him,
and seizing Him, he threw Him into the hands of the Jews, and
nailed Him to the cross. No ! nor could his inexhaustible hatred
be satisfied even then. He feared Him, even as He la}- in the
tomb : so desperate was the enmity which was " put" between
him and the Son of God ! Nay, even now, when Satan sees
the Seed of the woman sitting at the right hand of God, and, .
according to the old proverb, e^w ^ekwv (' out of gun-shot'), he
vents his fury, in every possible way, against His Church, and the


poor helpless members of His body. — Of all these sufferings and
perils the clauses of the Divine passage, now before us, were
prophecies. From these same words, nevertheless, in meditating
upon which we ought to employ our whole souls, we derive a con-
fidence in the Son of God, — that He will bruise Satan, utterly.

But to return to the text. — This promise, as I have already
said, is at the same time most clear, and yet most obscure. For
since God, as I have also observed, here uses the expression,
^ The Seed of the woman,' generally, He does it that He might
cause all women alike to be suspected by Satan ; that He might
thus rack the Serpent with perpetual suspense and dread. The
expression, therefore, is a wonderful synecdoche (' condensation
of instruction'). It bears a general reference to all individual
women, apd yet contains a direct reference to one individual
woman only ; to INIary, and to her Seed ; who was to become
a mother, without any intercourse with the male sex. For God,
I repeat, thus willed all women to be suspected by Satan ; while,
on the other hand. He willed that a most sure hope should be
left to the godly, which should lead them to expect this salvation
from all parents, until, in the fulness of time, the true mother
should be revealed. As, therefore, the first clause of the passage,
" I will put enmity between thee and the woman," refers to all
women, in general : so this second clause, " Her Seed," refers,
with a special individuality (if I may so express myself), to that
Seed which should be born of Mary, of the tribe of Judah, who
was espoused unto Joseph.

This text, therefore, contains that glorious promise which re-
vived. Adam and Eve, and raised them again fi'om death unto
that life, which they had lost by their sin : though the life to
which they were thus raised again, was rather a life hoped for,
than a life possessed ; as Paul also frequently speaks, when he
uses the language, " We die daily." For although we do not
wish to call the life which we live here, death ; yet it is, in truth,
nothing more or less than a continual living on to death. For

Online LibraryMartin LutherThe creation : a commentary on the first five chapters of the book of Genesis → online text (page 28 of 49)