Dr. James T. Naismith is a beloved physician and Bible teacher who resides in Peterborough, Ont. This is his third study from his book on Personalities in Genesis.
Copyright by Everyday Publications; used by permission.
The name of Satan does not appear in Genesis, but there is no doubt that he is the principal actor in the tragedy enacted in the third chapter, the prime cause of the Fall of man. Many see his influence even before this — as early as the second verse of the book.
Since “Satan is alive and well on planet earth” and remains the archenemy of God’s people, it is important that we should not be “ignorant of his devices” (2 Cor. 2:11), but aware of his nature, alert to his methods, and assured of his doom. God has recorded in detail his first incursion into human history, and in Genesis 3, his nature, methods and doom are clearly exposed. The lessons taught here are reiterated and expanded through the pages of the Bible. In his first encounter with man, Satan won a resounding victory, and he has won countless battles since. He is still the god and prince of this world, though he has been conquered and his doom is assured.
In Genesis 3, he used a “serpent” as his agent, the instrument by which he attacked Eve, and through her, Adam, and so brought about disobedience to God and the Fall of man. We accept this record, not simply as an allegory, still less as a myth, but as a divinely inspired record of actual fact, with important lessons for all time. Later, Satan used a man — Judas — as his instrument to accomplish his greatest crime (John 13:27).
1. His Nature
Genesis 3 illustrates many characteristics of Satan, that old serpent, as he is called in the last book of the Bible (Rev. 12:9; 20:2) —characteristics that are described in other parts of the Bible, especially in the New Testament and particularly in the writings of John. He is described as a:
MURDERER, John 8:44. The Lord Himself knew his character from personal experience and said about him, He was a murderer from the beginning. He deprived man not only of physical life but of spiritual life, for God had said, In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die (Gen. 2:17).
LIAR, John 8:44. His denial of the Word of God in Genesis 3:4 is perhaps the supreme example of our Lord’s words that he abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him … he is a liar and the father of it.
SINNER, 1 John 3:8. The devil sinneth from the beginning. This may refer back further than Genesis 3 to Satan’s prior defiance of God and rebellion against Him, but certainly Genesis 3 is included. 1 John 3:4 states that sin is the transgression of the law, i.e., disobedience to God’s revealed command. In the garden of Eden, Satan asserted his will against God’s, and his own word against God’s, and enticed Eve to disobey God’s command.
DECEIVER, Rev. 12:9; 20:2, 3, 7-10; cf. 2 Cor. 11:3. These passages teach that his deception, which began at the very start of human history, and which has become universal — deceiveth the whole world — will continue until Satan is cast into the lake of fire. Genesis 3 is the account of the first subtle deception — and how successful it was! (1 Tim. 2:14). This is still his characteristic (2 Cor. 11:14, 15).
ADVERSARY, Rev. 12:9; 20:2; 1 Pet. 5:8. The name “Satan” means “adversary” and expresses his opposition to God and man — seen in Genesis 3 and also to Christ. He is still your adversary, the devil.
SLANDERER or ACCUSER. This is the meaning of the word, “devil”: he accuses men to God (see Job 1:6-11; 2:1-5), but in Genesis 3, his slander is levelled against God, in the hearing of man.
2. His Methods
The first six verses of Genesis 3 reveal clearly the subtle methods Satan used — and still uses — to accomplish his ends. His plan of attack included:
1. Doubting God’s Word, v. 1, “Hath God said?” i.e. “Did God really prohibit you from eating?”
2. Denying God’s truth, v. 4, “Ye shall not surely die,” i.e. “It is not true that you shall die, as God said.”
3. Distorting God’s purposes, v. 5, in which he inferred that God, by his prohibition, was depriving them of a real benefit, because He did not want them like Him and therefore rivals to His position; i.e. God’s purposes were selfish and not for man’s best good.
4. Discrediting God’s character. In two short utterances in verses 1, 4 and 5, Satan impugned God’s truthfulness, goodness, honesty, etc.
5. Deceiving God’s creatures. Verse 6 shows how completely he succeeded in accomplishing this objective.
3. His Doom
In this bleak chapter, one of the first in human history, there is a ray of light and hope — Satan will not always be triumphant; his doom is sealed. God’s judgment upon him in verses 14 and 15 contains the first in a line of great Bible prophecies that culminate in the coming of the Messiah and His ultimate triumph over Satan. Later in our studies, we shall consider the application of the prophecy to Christ. Here we are concerned with the sentence of Satan.
Verse 14, The Serpent — the instrument of Satan is cursed to experience the degradation of grovelling in the dust. Whether we can infer from this that the serpent had been an upright and glorious creature is uncertain. It is certain, however, that henceforth it would be degraded and despised — doubtless symbolic of the deeper punishment upon Satan who used the serpent as his agent.
Verse 15. Satan is crushed. God put enmity between Satan and his seed (presumably demons) and the seed of the woman (humanity) —especially between Satan and the particular seed of the woman, the Lord Jesus Christ. At Calvary His heel was bruised by Satan. Literally, His feet were nailed to the cross; spiritually, He was bruised for our iniquities (Isa. 53:5); and metaphorically, bruising of the heel is a much lesser injury than bruising of the head, which is a vital spot. At Calvary also Satan’s head was bruised when through death Christ destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil (Heb. 2:14). Destroyed here means rendered powerless.
The ultimate effect of this will be seen when Satan is bruised under the feet of the saints (Rom. 16:20), and cast into the lake of fire for ever and ever (Rev. 20:10).
As already indicated in our study of God, the Creator, there are many Bible expositors who believe that the condition of the earth described in this verse is the result of Satan’s pride, rebellion and fall, described in Isaiah 14:12-15 and Ezekiel 28:14, 15. Sin entered the universe long before God created man — and Satan was its originator then. In consequence of that sin, many believe, “God, therefore, spoke the Word of judgment and the material world —in fact, the whole domain of Satan —was blasted to chaos with a single breath from God … This is the event which occurred between the first and second verses of Genesis. The world, waste and empty, without form and void, was the result of this Word of judgment spoken by Almighty God.”