[b-hebrew] Genesis 3:15 and order of ideas

Yigal Levin leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Mon Jan 7 22:57:43 EST 2008

Dear Gary,

And your point is?

Yigal Levin

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Gary Dikeman" <grbike at sbcglobal.net>
To: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Tuesday, January 08, 2008 5:04 AM
Subject: [b-hebrew] Genesis 3:15 and order of ideas

> So far no one has proven that the "seed" of the serpent of Genesis 3:15 
> does not exist. Perhaps we should focus more on the subject "seed" so that 
> we might reach a conclusion. The real question at this point is whether 
> the Hebrew word zera is meant to convey the idea of offspring, or at least 
> whether or not this is the sole intent of the word as used here. The 
> answer to this question depends on several other considerations. The first 
> consideration concerns the parties to the conflict which is here foretold. 
> The narrator of Genesis 3 clearly suggests the presence of an actual 
> "serpent". If we stay within the confines of the book of Genesis he 
> compares this "serpent" with all the other beasts of the field which YHWH 
> had made. Focusing on this aspect first of all, the question should be 
> faced: does the word zera indicate "offspring".
> The Lexicon informs us that the Old Testament uses zera very infrequently 
> for the offspring of animals. One instance listed is Gen. 7:3, but this 
> passage is hardly a convincing illustration of the point at issue. The 
> purpose for taking the animals into the ark was not actually to keep their 
> offspring alive. This offspring was not yet present at the time these 
> words were spoken. How could it have been kept alive in the ark? Some 
> modern translations have sensed this problem and have avoided the word 
> "seed" or "offspring" altogether at this point: RSV, "to keep their kind 
> alive"; JB, "to propagate their kind." I believe that an appeal to Gen. 
> 7:3 to prove that zera occasionally is used as "offspring" in the case of 
> animals is not a strong one.
> Another point to be considered is whether the story of the fall suggests 
> the presence of more than a mere animal. If the story does suggest the 
> presence of demonic force acting behind and through the serpent, how does 
> this affect the question of the meaning of zera? As to the presence of a 
> force other than a mere animal in man's temptation, I believe that as one 
> reads Genesis 3 one does indeed become conscious of such a force. There is 
> a diabolical subtlety in the serpent's suggestions which points to a 
> sinister background to his words. As such this poses no great problem. It 
> only points to the complexity of the meaning of zera: literal "offspring" 
> in the case of the woman as well as the serpent.
> If we step outside the confines of the book of Genesis; the word zera 
> which plays a definite role at this point, one can find a definition given 
> by the Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon of 1828: semen virile; children, 
> posterity; a child; a race, tribe, people. Passages listed include Prov. 
> 11:21; Jer. 2:21; Mal. 2:15; Is. 1:4; cf. Is. 65:23; 61:9; 65:9. Newer 
> translations have captured this aspect of the word zera quite admirably. 
> Thus Prov. 11:21b is rendered by JB as follows: "but the race of the 
> virtuous will come to no harm" (lit.: the zera of the virtuous). RSV 
> renders the same phrase simply: "but those who are righteous will be 
> delivered." Similarly JB translates Is. 65:23 as follows: "for they will 
> be a race blessed by Yahweh, and their children with them." This passage 
> makes quite clear that the word zera may be distinguished from "offspring" 
> (ASV renders: "for they are the seed of the blessed of Jehovah, and their 
> offspring with them").
> If this meaning of zera would play any role at all in Gen.3:15 then one 
> might, while retaining something of the "offspring" notion, understand the 
> two "seeds" to stand for two "races," two "communities," each marked by a 
> moral quality. These communities are headed up by two distinct principals, 
> the one principal being the woman, the other the serpent, each of which 
> had just been set at enmity with the other by YHWH himself. Upon this view 
> both of these "seeds" could be found among the children of men. This would 
> then alleviate the difficulty of having to take the word literally in the 
> one instance and figuratively in the other.
> The Greek word for "seed" (sperma) being a neuter, the Septuagint could 
> have followed this up with a neuter (auto). Apparently it felt the 
> personal reference at this point to be strong enough to choose autos 
> instead. And, indeed, something of the personal next to the collective 
> does play a role in this passage.
> Since zera, whether taken as "community," "race," or as "offspring," 
> involves a plurality, the translation "they" can certainly be defended. It 
> need not detract from the broadly messianic understanding of the passage.
> If we continue to remain within the confines of the book of Genesis the 
> "serpent" can not be identified as anything other than a pre-Adamic being 
> capable of producing offspring.
> G. Dikeman
> Houston, TX
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