By: William Finck ©2005
Many “Christian”, or rather “mainstream” commentators and theologians look at the “seed” of Genesis 3:15, that of the woman, and they claim that it intends to identify Yahshua Christ alone. They then point to the usual interpretations of Genesis 4:25 and Galatians 3:16 in order to support these claims. These claims have caused many lexicographers, such as Thayer and Vine, to support this departure from the common interpretation and meaning of the collective noun, but not all do so. Those who do confuse lexicology with a certain theology, and thereby become complicit in a conspiracy to pervert the Word, which I hope to make manifest here.
Except for one occasion at Joel 1:17 where the word found at Strong’s #6507 is translated “seed”, the Hebrew word for “seed” in the Old Testament is always zera‘ (Strong’s #2233 or its Chaldaean counterpart #2234), which Strong’s defines “... seed; figuratively fruit, plant, sowing time, posterity ...” According to Gesenius and others, the Hebrew noun zera‘ only appears in the plural at 1 Sam. 8:15, and that where multiple varieties of seed are intended. Everywhere else the Hebrew word is in the singular. Such is also true, that multiple varieties are intended, where the primary Greek word for “seed” σπέρμα (sperma, 4690), appears in the plural in the New Testament, at Matt. 13:32, Mark 4:31, 1 Cor. 15:38, and at Gal. 3:16 which I will discuss later.
Since it would be difficult, in this format, to address all of the issues raised in definitions of zera‘ by the various lexicographers, or in Thayer’s definition of σπέρμα and his comments on the matter, I will only address those comments by them which most concern the matters at hand, those pertaining directly to Gen. 3:15 and Gal. 3:16.
In Gesenius’ definitions of zera‘ he writes “... offspring, progeny, descendants, Gen. 3:15; 13:16; 15:5, 13; 17:7, 10; 21:13 etc.; also of one son (when an only one, the passage therefore, Gen 3:15, is not to be thus explained, as is done by polemical theologians), Gen. 4:25.” So here Gesenius explains that the seed of the woman of Gen. 3:15 is not a single son only, but rather “offspring, progeny, descendants” as it plainly means elsewhere, and that theologians who think otherwise are “polemic.” Surely somehow these “polemic” theologians are well-represented today, and we who agree with Gesenius are accused of polemicism!
Gesenius’ more recent editors defy his remarks by interpolating the following comment into his definition of zera‘: “[The remark upon Gen. 3:15 is intended apparently to contradict its application to the Lord Jesus Christ and his redemption, as if he could not be the seed of the woman; in reply it will here suffice to remark, that in the very passage cited, immediately after Gen. 4:25, it is clear that זרע [zera‘] is used of one son, namely, Seth, when he was not an only one, because Cain was yet alive; and further, this seed of the woman was to bruise the head of the tempter, ‘thy head’, which can in no sense apply to any but Christ individually, who became incarnate, ‘that by means of death, he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil’.]”. Then after this inserted remark we have the balance of Gesenius’ definition of zera‘: “... stock, race, family ... a race of men ...”, where it should not be forgotten that these define the use of the word as it appears, in the singular and not in the plural, where multiple varieties would be meant.
Now I must concede, that in some schools of thought later in the inter-testamental period, some did write “seeds”, whether zera‘ or later the Greek sperma, in the plural signifying more than one person of apparently the same lineage, and this is explained by R. L. Harris in his Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament cited below, as Thayer also cites the one Greek example of this, at 4 Maccabees 18:1. Yet this is not ever used in the Old Testament or in the New, as shall be demonstrated later of Galatians 3:16 to the contrary claims of lexicographers and commentators.
To address the interpolated remarks of Gesenius’ editors, first I must state that I am not even in complete agreement with Gesenius concerning Gen. 4:25. For the word which the A.V. translates “another” there is the Hebrew word ’acher, Strong’s #312, which Strong defines “properly hinder; generally next, other, etc.” and so although translated “another” at times in the A.V. it is not necessarily so. Gen. 4:25 may well be read in part “... For Yahweh has appointed me other seed instead of Abel ...” thereby preserving the collective sense of the word, Seth’s birth assuring the promise of descendants, as detailed in immediately subsequent verses.
Furthermore, part of Hebrews 2:14 was quoted by Gesenius’ editors to support their position. Maybe in order to better comprehend the “seed of the woman” they should have read more of Hebrews, or perhaps at least have started from verse 11: “For both He sanctifying and those being sanctified are all sprung from one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, 12 Saying: ‘I will announce Your name to My brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will praise You.’ 13 And Again: ‘I will be confident in Him.’ And Again: ‘Behold, I and the children which Yahweh has given me.’ 14 Therefore, since the children have taken part in flesh and blood, He also in like manner took part in the same, that through death He would annul him having the power of death, that is, the False Accuser.”
The origin of these children, which illuminates the truth of the matter of the births of Cain, Abel, and Seth told in Genesis, is expounded in the parable of the wheat and the tares, found at Matt. 13:24-30 and 13:36-43.
At Matt. 13:37 our Redeemer is quoted: “He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man”, meaning Himself. Yahweh and Yahshua Christ being One (i.e. Col. 2:9), He is the Founder and Creator of the Adamic Race (hence the “Root” of Jesse, Isa. 11:10). Good seed continue to be sown, every time an Adamite child is born. He then says: “... the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; The enemy that sowed them is the devil ...” (Matt. 13:38-39). So it is evident that the enemy who “came and sowed tares among the wheat” (Matt. 13:25) is the devil, “the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan” (Rev. 12:9). When else may all of this have happened, but with the Serpent, Adam, and Eve at the beginning of the age, as detailed in Genesis chapter 3, although shrouded in symbolism?
The “children of the kingdom” aren’t, as so many suppose, some future people who may decide to be “Christians.” Rather, they are the House of Israel and the House of Judah (Jer. 31:31), who as Paul explains at Hebrews 2:14 cited above, have already taken part in flesh and blood, and continue to do so. Later Paul makes an obvious allusion to Genesis 3:15 when he tells the Romans, and there should be no doubt that Paul was addressing Romans (see Rom. 1:7, 18-32; 11:13-24 et al.) “And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly” (Rom. 16:20).
From a study of history it is revealed that the Romans are descended from Darda, the grandson of Zerah, son of Judah, who having founded Troy from him the Trojans were called Dardans, and migrated to Italy after Troy’s fall. But the “Jews” of 70 A.D. at Jerusalem were Edomites and other assorted Canaanites, the true Israelites of Judaea having heeded the warnings of Yahshua Christ recorded at Luke 21:20-24 and having fled, we find remaining mostly only those impostors described at Rev. 2:9 and 3:9. Paul must have realized that the Romans were the “people of the Prince”, that is, “Messiah the Prince”, prophesied by Daniel to destroy Jerusalem after the Passion (Dan. 9:24-27), and so in a single brief statement identifies for us both the seed of the woman, and the seed of the serpent. Paul had already explained to us of the Edomite presence in Judaea and its consequences (Romans chapters 9 and 10), and reinforcing his statement at Rom. 16:20, we find his writing to the Thessalonians of those same people in Jerusalem and looking forward to the city’s impending doom, Paul writes “... but the wrath has come upon them at last” (see 1 Thess. 2:14-16). If the Romans were to engage in the crushing of “Satan” (the Adversary, as the term means in Hebrew), surely they must represent the seed of the woman of Genesis 3:15!
While far from perfect, the much more modern (compared to Gesenius) lexicographer R. L. Harris does a better job with the seed of Gen. 3:15 than Gesenius’ editors did: “(zera‘). Sowing, seed, offspring. This noun is used 224 times. Its usages fall into four basic semantic categories: 1. The time of sowing, seedtime; 2. the seed as that which is scattered or as the product of what is sown; 3. the seed as semen and 4. the Seed as the offspring in the promised line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob or in other groups separate from this people of promise.” Surely I would include the serpent’s children among those “other groups” of #4, as also the other, the non-Adamic, races should be (i.e. Jer. 31:27, “the seed of beast”). Neither should I find groups 3 and 4 as explained here to be separable at all, for a man’s “seed” is found only in his loins, or the loins of his progeny, which is semen (although women also have “seed”, supplying a matching pair of 23 chromosomes to that of the 23 chromosomes of the male sperm at conception).
Harris proceeds: “The most important theological usage is found in the fourth category. Commencing with Gen. 3:15, the word ‘seed’ is regularly used as a collective noun in the singular (never plural). This technical term is an important aspect of the promise doctrine, for Hebrew never uses the plural of this root to refer to ‘posterity’ or ‘offspring’. The Aramaic targums pluralize the term occasionally, e. g. the Targum of Gen. 4:10, but the Aramaic also limits itself to the singular in the passages dealing with the promised line. Thus the word designates the whole line of descendants as a unit, yet it is deliberately flexible enough to denote either one person who epitomizes the whole group (i.e. the man of promise and ultimately Christ), or the many persons in that whole line of natural and/or spiritual descendants”. [Emphasis mine.]
Now Harris did rather well here, because Gen. 3:15 certainly portends both the “whole line” of Seth’s descendants “as a unit”, which I will discuss again later when discussing Galatians 3:16, and the Messiah Himself, until he makes mention of “spiritual” descendants, of which there is no such thing! If descendants could be “spiritual”, then Yahweh certainly may have allowed Eliezer of Damascus to be Abraham’s heir (Gen. 15:2-4), and not insist that a heir be born of Abraham’s loins, and furthermore only by Sarah, a Semite kinswoman of Abraham, and not by Hagar the Egyptian slave! Neither should it have mattered to Isaac and Rebecca who Jacob or Esau took for wives (Gen. 26:34-35; 27:46)!
Again Harris continues: “Precisely so in Gen. 3:15. One such seed is the line of the woman as contrasted with the opposing seed which is the line of Satan’s followers. And then surprisingly the text announces a male descendant who will ultimately win a crushing victory over Satan himself.
“This promise to Eve was enlarged and made more specific in the Abrahamic Covenant. God would grant a land and a numerous offspring through Abraham’s son Isaac and his offspring: Gen. 12:7; 13:15-16; 15:13, 18; 16:10; 17:7-10, 12, 19; 22:17-18; 24:7; 26:3-4, 24; 28:4, 13-14; 32:13; 35:12; 48:4. This whole line builds and the promise continues in Ex 32:13; 33:1; Deut 1:8; 11:9; 34:4; Josh 24:3.”
Now again Harris did quite well with the seed of the woman, yet he twists the “seed” of the serpent into merely “the line of Satan’s followers”! Now, how could there be a “line” of Satan’s followers? There may be followers of Satan, and there are many from all lines, yet there can only be a “line” of Satan’s descendants, and there are indeed! The parable of the wheat and the tares cited above, among many other things, ensures us that this interpretation is the correct one. Notwithstanding Gen. 4:1, a demonstrably corrupted portion of Scripture, the seed of the serpent can be traced from Cain, down through Canaan and Esau, and into Judaea and Jerusalem well before the time of Christ. For this reason did Yahshua Christ tell the “Jews” that they were of the “race” (A.V. “generation”, Greek γενεά #1074) of those who killed the prophets, from Abel to Zechariah (John the Baptist’s father), and only Cain killed Abel! Only Herod the Edomite king tried to kill the infant Christ, and he is described as a manifestation of the “great dragon ... that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan”, (Rev. 12:1-9) as the Edomite Jews were later told by an adult Christ that they were “of their father the Devil” and not of His Father, Yahweh (John 8:44). I will revisit this topic later, when discussing Galatians 3:16.
W. E. Vine, in his Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, under “sperma (4690)”, the Greek word for “seed”, makes the sound statement: “While the plural form ‘seeds’, neither in Hebrew nor in Greek, would have been natural any more than in English (it is not so used in Scripture of human offspring; its plural occurrence is in 1 Sam. 8:15, of crops).” Then he goes on to make a totally absurd assertion: “... yet if the divine intention had been to refer to Abraham’s natural descendants, another word could have been chosen in the plural, such as ‘children’; ...” and here he says this of the promises to Abraham at Gen. 13:15 and 17:7-8! If the text said “children”, neither would Vine interpret that to mean “Abraham’s natural descendants”, but he’d twist it around the other way! Just as lexicographers manage to twist the words “son”, “daughter”, and “brethren” into some “spiritual” abstraction throughout their New Testament lexicons and commentaries. For “children”, it may be perceived, can be adopted. Remember Yahweh’s rejection of Eleizer as the heir. Yet “seed” cannot be adopted!
Abraham was told “... and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee” (Gen. 17:6) and Jacob was told “... be fruitful and multiply: a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins;” (Gen. 35:11) and the words of these covenants leave them to no one BUT “natural descendants”! Vine, blind to whom and where the actual Israelites are, looks at the “Jews” and sees not any of these promises fulfilled in them, and so he is forced to pervert the meanings of the words themselves!
Vine finishes his diatribe: “All such words were, however, set aside, ‘seed’ being selected as one that could be used in the singular, with the purpose of showing that the ‘seed’ was Messiah.” The gospel according to Vine, disregard your Bibles because nothing else matters! Yahweh and Yahshua Christ being One, evidently He only makes promises to Himself! Yet from Luke we know better: “He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever... As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant;” (Luke 1:54-55, 70-72). And for which reason Paul, who surely knew whom the so-called “lost tribes” of Israel were, long after the Passion had assured the Galatians (who descended from those “lost tribes”) “And we, brethren, down through Isaak, are children of the promise” (Gal. 4:28).
While they are not perfect, fortunately Gesenius and Harris do not agree with Vine on this subject of “seed.” The next installment will discuss some of Thayer’s comments at sperma, along with Galatians 3:16.