Bible passage: Genesis 3:15a
Written: As early as 1400 BC
Many scholars refer to Gen. 3:15 as being the first in the Bible to foretell of the Messiah.
It certainly is the first to provide a glimpse into the need for a Messiah and the role that the Messiah would play.
The verse, by itself, might not seem to have anything to do with a Messiah, nor might it seem to explain why a Messiah is needed. But, the greater context of Genesis, chapters 2 and 3, help to explain those things.
In Genesis, chapter 2, Adam and Eve are created by God. They are the first humans with souls. They are placed in the Garden of Eden, where they live in a state of perfection, in a world without sin, disease or any type of corruption.
All that changes in Genesis, chapter 3, when Satan, in the form of a serpent, tempts Adam and Eve into sinning against God. He does this by persuading them to eat from the fruit of a tree in the center of the garden, the one tree that God had instructed Adam and Eve not to eat from.
Because of their sin, they bring corruption into their perfect world. And they are cast out from the Garden of Eden, as they no longer are able to live in a place of perfection.
Before the eviction from the garden, in Genesis 3:14, God speaks to Satan, the serpent who tempted Adam and Eve to sin:
So the Lord God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, "Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life." (Gen. 3:14, NIV)
Then, in the next verse, God informs Satan what God will do in response to the introduction of sin into an otherwise perfect world:
"And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel." (Gen. 3:15, NIV)
The verse provides a barebones, basic summary of the role that the Messiah would play. It acknowledges the presence of opposing forces - Adam and Eve, and their future descendants, against Satan. In short, good versus evil. God will place "emnity" between the two, meaning there will be confict between good and evil.
And this conflict will be an ongoing ordeal, as expressed by the mention of "offspring," as it takes time to have children and for them to have children.
But shortly after the verse mentions "offspring" it also mention a singular being - "he." So eventually, in the course of having a growing number of descendants, there will be one individual descendant, a "he," who will "crush" evil.
That "he" is the Messiah. How do we know? Because of the role that he is playing. He is the one who will crush evil. That is the definition of the word Messiah. A Messiah, as explained elsewhere in other Old Testament prophecies, will play the role of addressing the corrupting influence of sin in the world, reconciling man with God. The Messiah is a special being, appointed by God, to play this role.
In Gen. 3:15, we get the first glimpse of the role that the Messiah will play.
So, the verse itself does not explain the full meaning of itself, but the greater context of Genesis, chapters 2 and 3, as well as other prophecies throughout the Old Testament, do add the information needed to fully understand this verse. Gen. 3:15 is a prophecy that a redeemer, a Messiah, will conquer evil and reconcile man with God.