The Woman’s Seed (Gen 3:15) -- By: Jack P. Lewis

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 34:3 (Sep 1991)
Article: The Woman’s Seed (Gen 3:15)
Author: Jack P. Lewis

The Woman’s Seed (Gen 3:15)

Jack P. Lewis*

In his statement to the serpent the Lord speaks of enmity between the serpent and the woman, using the words “between your seed (zarʿăkā) and her seed (zarʿāh).” Though zeraʿ in Hebrew is a collective noun and may be either plural or singular,1 the text then proceeds to say that “he (hûʾ) will bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel (tĕs̆ûpennû ʿāqēb).” The two third-person masculine pronouns of the verse are singular.

The noun zeraʿ occurs in fifteen Genesis passages without a possessive suffix,2 in nineteen with a second-person-singular masculine possessive,3 in six with the third-person singular masculine,4 and in one with a second-person plural masculine.5 To contrast with all of these, zeraʿ with a feminine possessive occurs only five times in the whole OT: once with Adonis gardens (Isa 17:11), once with personified Israel (54:3), and three times (all in Genesis) with Eve, Hagar and Rebekah as the antecedents. These last two cases use second-person feminine possessives while Gen 3:15 has a third-person. With Hagar zeraʿ is a collective noun taking a masculine singular verb yissāpēr (“numbered”). In Rebekah’s case the singular verb following the collective noun is yîras̆ (“inherit”).

In Gen 3:15 the serpent’s descendant (zarʿăkā ,your seed/descendant”) is paralleled with “her descendant” (zarʿāh), and logic would suggest that if one is to be taken as collective the other should be also. From this verse, later theology spoke of the “woman’s seed.” But actually the phrase itself does not occur in Scripture. It is only a theological term coined to express an idea already accepted. Once used, however, the term confirms to the mind the validity of the idea.

While it is normal in Hebrew to describe descendants by the noun zeraʿ it is unusual (though not unique) to use the term with a feminine possessi...

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