Bangor Church of Christ

Great Moments in Bible History

Number 3

It had done no harm, but it had to die

The First to Die

You couldn’t blame the animal. It was as innocent as an animal can be. Was it a sheep? Perhaps it was a goat. I do not know. I do not even know how it was killed. In fact, all I know about the poor creature is the simple statement found in one verse of the Bible: “Unto Adam and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21). The poor creature lost its life just to make a coat.

Sheep

Before we go into the questions and answers of this animal’s death, we need to understand how Adam and Eve saw it. The death of a cow or a sheep does not move us very much today. Such animals are slaughtered every day just to provide us food. But Adam and Eve were most likely vegetarians (Genesis 1:29). Eating meat is not mentioned in the Bible until after the flood (Genesis 9:3). It is possible that Adam and Eve had never before seen an animal die. Imagine what a shock it must have been to them when that first animal was killed to provide clothes for them.

But why did it have to be an animal? Would it not have been more humane to make clothes from grass or leaves or even the bark of trees? Why did God choose to make clothes from animal skins?

Why did they need any clothes at all? They had done fine up until then without any.... Well, almost until then. They had done fine until they had eaten the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Their age of innocence ended then. Never again would they be able to go naked without shame.

It was shortly after their sin that they had made clothes for themselves by sewing fig leaves together. No doubt they were wearing those clothes at the time God made the coats of skins. Apparently God was not impressed with their sewing efforts. But why did He have to kill an animal just to make up for their lack? God certainly had the power to make clothes out of any material He chose. There must have been some reason why He chose animal skins.

If this were the only verse we had to go on, we might be left to wonder at God’s reasons. But there are literally hundreds of verses in the Bible which help explain this one. Beginning in Genesis 4 and continuing through the rest of the Old Testament we see references to animal sacrifices. Whenever anyone would sin, they were supposed to kill an animal and offer it to God. At each such sacrifice, they would be reminded just how serious sin is. Their own sin had cost the death of that innocent animal they were sacrificing.

In the same way Adam and Eve learned early the cost of sin. As they watched that innocent animal die, their consciences must have reminded them that it would have lived had it not been for their own sin.

Of Snakes & Heels

I am told that the least harmful place to get a snakebite is on the heel. A most useful piece of information! Not that I have actually had occasion to use it. I think that if I were given the choice of where to be bitten I would choose nowhere.

Snake and heel

On the other hand, a most effective way to deal with a snake is to crush its head. If you do not have a baseball bat or other tool at hand you could use your own heel (not that I am recommending such an action). And if, in the process, the snake happened to bite your heel, you would not die. You might not feel very well for a while, but at least you would not die!

“So what does all this have to do with Bible history?” you ask. Surprisingly enough, it has quite a bit to do with it. You recall that it was a snake that talked Eve into eating the fruit. As a result, God cursed the snake. Specifically, He said, “On your belly you will go, And dust you will eat All the days of your life” (Genesis 3:14). And then God added this very interesting statement in which we read of the head of a snake and the heel of a person: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.” (verse 15).

What was God saying? Was He saying that the descendants of the snake (“seed” means descendants, whether one or many) would be the enemy of the descendants of the woman and that the snakes would bite the heels of those people whenever they were about to get stepped on? That fact hardly seems worthy of a divine proclamation. We are going to have to search deeper before we find the solution to this.

We said earlier that it was a snake that talked to Eve. That statement was not quite correct. The sounds came from the mouth of a snake, but the words obviously came from the devil. Snakes cannot talk by themselves.1 Eve had probably never heard of the devil. But God knew all about the devil.

Much of what God says about the snake really is intended for the devil who is the voice of the snake.

What, then, does God mean when He talks about enmity between the snake and its seed and the woman and her seed? Surely He must be talking about a conflict between right and wrong (a spiritual conflict) between the devil and his followers and the rest of the human race. What would be the outcome of this conflict? God gives us the answer. The devil would be bruised on his head while the woman’s descendant would only be hurt on his heel. In other words, the devil would finally receive a mortal wound while the woman’s descendant who is fighting this battle would receive only a flesh wound (painful, but not fatal).

When would this victory come about? God did not tell Adam and Eve. Who would this descendant be who would finally crush the devil’s head? God did not say. We have to cover many years of Bible history before we can find out. In the meantime this promise—however foggy it must have seemed to Adam and Eve at the time—would serve to give them hope. The devil would not always be the victor. Sometime in the future he would be conquered and his power destroyed.

1Knowing this fact, some people have made fun of this Bible story. “No one in their right mind,” they say, “would talk to a snake.” I rather doubt that statement. I remember seeing a Candid Camera episode years ago in which a horse was made to sound like it was talking. People passing by answered its questions as if nothing were out of the ordinary. No, I think Eve did what most people today would do if a snake asked them a question—she answered it.