Barry Newman's Blog

May 22, 2011

Science and Genesis 3: 1 – 24 (part XIII)

Filed under: Genesis,Science — barrynewman @ 4:11 am

Yahweh Elohim and his judgement on the serpent (cont)

The second part of God’s judgement on the serpent is concerned with its relationship with the woman and the relationship between its offspring (seed) and the woman’s offspring (seed).  This second aspect could be considered to be still part of the curse though a “waw” (and) continues the judgement and this part of the judgement does not concern other creatures of the animal world.  Even if not strictly part of the curse, it is a description of God’s intent for the serpent, an intent that shall come to pass and that shall create turmoil for the serpent.

Walton points out that while the ancient world did not think of a woman as having her own seed, that a man gave her seed is sufficient explanation for the reference being to “her” seed (p. 225).  He refers to Gen 16: 10 and 24: 60 where the account mentions Hagar’s and Rebekah’s seed respectively.  He also argues that given that “seed” is a collective noun one cannot argue from the singular “you” in “your head” and “you will strike” that the reference can only be to an individual. It could just as equally be a reference to the “seed.”  (pp. 235, 236) He cites Gen 28: 14 where there is a reference to Jacob being informed that “your” seed will be numerous and that “you” (singular) will spread out over the earth.  In the present text, since the enmity is between both the woman and the serpent and the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, the “you” in “your head” and in “you will strike” should probably be understood as a reference to both the singular entities – the woman and the serpent, and the collective “seeds”.  At one level, what God speaks of, is an enmity that shall be realised for this woman and this serpent.  Walsh poignantly remarks, “The relationship of trust he (the serpent) so painstakingly effected (with the woman) will become undying enmity.” The irony is obvious.  However, at another level it shall be an undying enmity between all her offspring and all the offspring of the serpent.

Walton argues that the words translated, “crush” and “strike” come from the same root and that the translation involving these words should be something like, “He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel” (p. 226).  While remarking on the fact that not all serpents are venomous and that the only venomous one in northern and central Israel is the viper, Walton contends that the threat of a harmful bite is sufficient to attach the idea of danger to serpents in general.  Similarly one could argue that while not all humans will attack all serpents, the potential threat to serpents could also be viewed as constituting danger for serpents in general.  As Walton argues, the situation that is involved in the judgment of God upon the serpent is one that threatens the mortality of both the serpent (and its seed) and the woman (and its seed).  The text itself does not seem to hold any promise of a resolution to this enmity.  It is simply enmity with the potential of death being an outcome, through and through, for both sets of parties.  Indeed both head of serpent and heel of human will be struck.  There is no doubt about it.

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