|THE ADAMIC COVENANT: The Covenant of Commencement
HIS GLORY REIGNS
Under the Edenic Covenant man was put on probation to test his commitment to the terms of the covenant. The one
prohibition to not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil constituted the test of faith and obedience (Genesis 2:
16,17). The test was occasioned by God's permitting the serpent's entrance into the Garden. The temptation to break
the covenant came from Satan as he attacked the terms of the covenant. His aim was to break the covenantal
relationship between the Creator and the creature by deceiving man into violating the covenant. He knew this would
rob man of the blessings and put him under the curses of the covenant. Satan's attack was upon the covenantal God
and the covenantal man, but his approach was to attack the covenantal language. Genesis 3:1-6 records the serpent's
tempting of the woman and their progressive undermining of the words of the covenant.
1. The serpent questions the Word, "Yea, hath God said..." (Verse 1)
2. The woman adds to the Word, "...neither shall ye touch it..." (Verse 3)
3. The woman weakens the Word, "...Lest ye die." (Verse 3)
4. The serpent lies against the Word, "...Ye shall not surely die:" (Verse 4)
5. The serpent misinterprets the Word, "...ye shall be as gods..." (Verse 5)
At this point, being deceived by the serpent, the woman partook of the forbidden fruit and gave to Adam also. This
unbelief and disobedience broke their covenantal relationship and brought them under the curse of the covenant
(Genesis 3:6,7; I Timothy 2:13-15; Romans 5:12-21; 14:23; Hosea 6:7; I John 3:4).
The results of the fall of man were that man's covenantal relationship was broken, his character was corrupted by the
entrance of sin, his dominion was lost and he and his offspring came under the dominion of sin and death (I Corinthians
15:45-49; Romans 5:12).
This set the stage for the revelation of the Adamic Covenant. God came in grace to fallen man seeking to restore him
back to covenantal relationship. This Adamic Covenant was the beginning of the covenants of redemption. Upon the
foundation of the Edenic Covenant the Adamic Covenant constitutes the most comprehensive prophecy that God ever
gave to mankind, in that it encompasses all successive covenants of redemption. It is a "seed" covenant to the others
I. The WORDS of the Covenant
A. The Promises of the Covenant
and all the realm of his authority. This promise involved the chosen seed of Israel, the virgin birth of Christ, His
ministry, the Church and the eternal judgment of Satan and his kingdom (Joshua 10:24; Psalms 60:12; Luke 10:
19; romans 16:20). This seed promise is progressively unfolded in the succeeding covenants and consummates
in Christ and the Church.
The serpent has ever since borne the stigma of its association with Satan (Revelation 12:9).
12:9; 20:1-3). An irrevocable curse was put upon him leading up to his ultimate crushing (Romans 16:20;
husband (I Timothy 2:13-15; I Corinthians 11:7-9).
man, it would of its own accord hinder man's efforts for food.
and carnivorous (Contrast this with Genesis 2:19,20).
death. This involved physical, spiritual and eternal death (Romans 6:23; Ezekiel 18:19; Ephesians 2:1,5; I
Timothy 5:6; Revelation 14:11; 20:11-15).
placed them in. This was to keep them from partaking of the tree of life and living forever in an
unredeemable state (Revelation 2:7; 22:14).
restore man back to that obedience through the Adamic Covenant, the covenant of redemption. Adam's
disobedience was the result of his unbelief. Thus the emphasis of the terms of the Adamic Covenant (as in all
covenants) was upon faith and trust in God (Hebrews 11:6; Romans 14:23; John 16:8). The evidence of Adam
and Eve's faith is seen in:
under the inspiration of the Spirit of God.
II. The BLOOD of the Covenant
After Adam and Eve fell from covenantal relationship and their conscience was awakened and smitten with guilt, they
sought to cover their own sin and make themselves acceptable to God and to each other. The law of conscience led to
the law of works (Romans 5:12-14; 3:27). The man-made fig-leaf coverings were an attempt to make themselves
righteous and acceptable before God. However, God judged self-righteousness to be insufficient (Isaiah 64:6). It was
up to God to move in grace to deal with man's sin and provide an acceptable covering. In that man had broken the life
commitment of the Edenic Covenant, and was deserving of death, death had to take place in order for his sin to be
covered. God introduced a substitutionary sacrificial death in order to cover man's sinfulness. This is implied in
Genesis 3:21 when God clothed them with coats of skin, which had to have come from a slain innocent animal. Thus,
based on substitutionary body and blood Adam and Eve were clothed in the death of another. The innocent died for
the guilty, and the sinless animal was sacrificed for sinful man. This covenant sacrifice was the first of all animal
sacrifices that pointed to the New Covenant sacrifice, the body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:29,36;
B. The Mediator of the Covenant
1. The Priesthood of Christ
made the coats of skin and He clothed Adam and Eve with them. Although the creatorship name of Elohim (God)
was used in relation to the Edenic Covenant of creation before the entrance of sin, it is the redemptive name of
Jehovah (Lord) that is used in relation to the Adamic Covenant of redemption after the entrance of sin. The
name attached to this covenant is "the LORD GOD" which embodied in itself both creation and redemption
priesthood on Adam's behalf He set an example for Adam to follow in being the priest of his own household. This
was later substantiated in that the Levitical Priesthood, under the Mosaic Covenant, were given the coats of skin
of certain animal sacrifices (Leviticus 7:8). It was also illustrated in Job's priesthood for his own family (Job 1:1-5).
C. The Sanctuary of the Covenant
was the Garden of Eden. However, the focus in Genesis 3:21-24 seems to be on a place at the east of Eden's
garden. The revelation of the sanctuary under the Mosaic Covenant confirms the sanctuary language of the
III. The SEAL of the Covenant
Having forfeited the seal of the Edenic covenant, Adam and Eve received the coats of skin as tokens to them of their
faith in the atoning sacrifice of the Adamic Covenant (Genesis 3:21). This pointed to the faith-righteousness that the
Holy Spirit brings to the New Covenant believer who accepts the body and blood of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Isaiah
61:10; Romans 4:1-5).
The Adamic Covenant is a "seed" covenant introducing the covenants of redemption. The covenantal language that is
expressed in "seed" form in this covenant is developed in fullness in the covenants which follow, leading up to its
ultimate fulfillment in the New Covenant. Jesus Christ as the seed of the woman fulfills this Covenant in redeeming man
back to perfect and eternal covenantal relationship with God.
The 'First' Covenant of Redemption
The covenant of redemption is established immediately in conjunction with man's failure under the covenant of
creation. God had bound Himself to man by the special orderings of creation. Man ruptured that relationship by eating
the forbidden fruit.
However, God's relation to His creature did not terminate with man's sin. The wonder of the gracious character of the
Creator manifests itself immediately. Judgment indeed must fall. But even in the midst of judgment hope for restoration
appears. God binds Himself now to redeem a people to Himself. The very words that pronounce the curse of the
covenant of creation also inaugurate the covenant of redemption.
This inseparable connection of the covenant of creation with the covenant of redemption stresses the restoration goal
of the covenant of redemption. From the very outset, God intends by the covenant of redemption to realize for man
those blessings originally defaulted under the covenant of creation.
A further overlapping of these two covenantal administrations may be seen in that man continues to be responsible to
function in the context of the original responsibilities given Him at the time of His creation. The particular test of
probation is present no longer. Yet man still remains responsible to consecrate the whole of creation to the Creator.
Marriage, labor, and the ordinance of the Sabbath continue as principal responsibilities for man despite his fallen
The remainder of human history finds its key in the provisions made by God under this original covenant of
redemption. The divine commitment in this hour solidifies the significance of history from this point onward.
As history progresses, the fuller implications of the covenant of redemption become manifest. Ultimately this redemptive
purpose reaches its consummation in the appearance of Jesus Christ "in the fullness of time" (Galatians 4:4).
The unified purpose of the covenant of redemption binds together the gradual unfolding of the varied aspects of this
single bond. At the same time, the progress of history clearly manifests significant diversity in covenantal
administration. The first of these administrations may be designated as Adam: The Covenant of Commencement.
The first declaration of the covenant of redemption contains in seed form every basic principle
which manifests itself subsequently. God reveals in a most balanced fashion the various elements constituting His
commitment to redeem His fallen creation.
Genesis 3:14-19 records the provisions of the Adamic administration of the covenant of redemption. God speaks to
Satan, to the woman, and to the man, following the order of their defection from loyalty to the Creator. Elements of
curse and blessing are found in each address, thus serving structurally to bind inseparably the covenant of creation
with the covenant of redemption.
The Word to Satan (Genesis 3:14,15)
The curse of God's judgment falls first on Satan, the first of offenders. Initially the word of curse addresses primarily the
serpent as a tool of Satan:
"And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above
every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity
between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his
Notice first that God's word concerning man's redemption is addressed to the serpent. Redemption cannot be
understood in a man-centered fashion. God's glory as the great Creator has been assaulted, His handiwork has been
disharmonized. Not simply for the sake of man, but for the glory of God redemption is undertaken.
God says to the serpent, "Because you have done this, you are cursed above all cattle." Satan had deceived the
woman by convincing her that the ordering of creation as declared by god was not true. Satan's accomplishment as
tempter was to mislead the woman with respect to God's truth.
The Lord rightfully curses the serpent. More than all the other creation he is humbled. The snake must crawl. As a
tool of Satan he bears in himself the symbolic reminder of ultimate defeat.
Yet the curse certainly goes beyond the serpent to Satan himself. Only as the serpent represents Satan does its
humiliation-posture possess real significance. The Satan-directed character of the curse appears more explicitly in
"And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and
thou shalt bruise his heel." Genesis 3:15
The divine initiative in this establishment of animosity must be underscored. God himself shall perpetuate a continuing
Now that man has fallen into sin, the last thing that might be expected would be enmity between himself and Satan. The
two have sided in their opposition against God and his purposes.
But God shall intervene sovereignly to assure conflict between Satan and mankind. These verses guarantee that God
himself shall impose a continuing opposition between mankind and Satan.
The enmity established by God occurs on three fronts. In each case, the precision identification of the antagonists is
difficult. Yet some positive assertions may be made.
First, God says that he shall establish enmity between Satan and the woman. Why does God designate the woman
specifically as the source of opposition to Satan? Why does he not begin with the man? Several factors may explain
this divine ordering:
initiative, she shall be set at enmity against Satan.
becomes quite obvious that redemption will not be accomplished apart from the woman.
ultimately was to deliver man from the forces of Satan. Through the woman God shall provide One who will save
His people from their sins.
So God first establishes enmity between Satan and the woman. But who is the "woman" to whom God refers? Eve
herself could be meant. If such were the case, stress would be placed on the fact that this enmity would begin
However, it seems more likely that the "woman" set in opposition to Satan refers to womankind in general rather than to
Eve in particular. Without implying necessarily that all women universally shall participate in the enmity against Satan,
the text affirms the basic principle that womankind shall have a most significant role in this cosmic struggle.
The second level of antagonism is set between Satan's seed and the woman's seed. The enmity between the seeds
grows out of the enmity between Satan and the woman. But who is meant by the "seed" of the woman?
The woman's seed could be identified with the totality of humanity. However, the immediately succeeding section in
Genesis narrates Cain's murder of his brother Abel (Genesis 4). The New Testament explicitly determines the
significance of these two persons in the cosmic struggle between God and Satan. Cain originates from "the evil one" (1
John 3:12). Though descended from Eve just as his brother, he cannot be regarded as belonging to the "seed" of the
woman as described in Genesis 3:15. Instead of being opposed to Satan, he is the seed of Satan. The "seed" of the
woman cannot be identified simply with all physical descendants of womankind.
Now the other side of the conflict between the seeds must be considered. The seed of the serpent cannot be identified
rather naively with "snakes." The conflict envisioned describes something much more crucial. Satan also has his
associates, his "angels" (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 12:7-9). Although not materially descended from the devil, they
may be regarded figuratively as his "seed."
At the same time, Scripture indicates that within humanity itself is a "seed" of Satan set against God and his purposes.
Among humanity, the physical descendants of the woman, exists a seed of Satan. This "seed" stands in opposition to
God and his purposes. The introduction of conflict on the level of the two "seeds" anticipates the long struggle that
ensues in the history that follows. "Seed of woman" and "seed of Satan" conflict with one another throughout the ages.
Yet a third level of enmity manifests itself in these verses. Womankind struggles with Satan; woman's seed struggles
with Satan's seed; and "he" struggles with Satan.
The identification of the person designated by the pronoun "he" raises several difficult problems. The Hebrew pronoun
in this case is masculine in general, singular in number. The most natural grammatical construction would refer the
term to the "seed" of the woman, which also is masculine in general and singular in number. The "he" who is destined
to bruise Satan's head would refer to the "seed" of the woman mentioned in the immediately preceding phrase.
Although singular in number, this "he" could refer to a multiple of persons just as the singular "seed." Romans 16:20
says, "And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
The respective seeds assault one another with the purpose of "bruising" or "crushing." The context would suggest that
a fatal wound seems clearly intended. Each antagonist attacks with the same determination of purpose. One strikes at
the head, the other strikes at the heel, but each has the settled purpose to destroy. The passage provides a fitting
description of Satan's ways. The heel may not represent as crucial a point of attack as the head. But it indicates
fittingly the subversiveness of the Deceiver. If the heel may be regarded as the object of subversive attack and partial
wound (despite a fatal intention), the head represents the object of open attack and mortal wound. The seed of the
woman shall crush the serpent's head. Satan shall be bruised mortally, defeated totally by the coming Messiah.
Triumphantly he will"smash the head" of his enemies in a broad land (Psalm 110:6).
Ironically, Psalm 110, which subsequently is quoted by Satan as a means for tempting Christ bears testimony to the
Lord's sure victory over his enemies in language strongly reminiscent of Genesis 3:15. Satan urges Christ to cast
himself from the pinnacle of the temple on the basis of God's promise that God's angels shall keep him even from
dashing his foot against a stone (Psalm 91:11,12). Apparently the Tempter failed to consider fully the clear enunciation
of anticipated victory by Messiah in the very next verse of the same psalm, "Thou shalt tread upon the lion and the
dragon shalt thou trample under feet."
Ultimately, the promised seed of the woman did come. He entered into mortal conflict with Satan. Though suffering on
his cross the wound of Satan, he "despoiled the principalities and powers" and "made a show of them openly,"
triumphing over them in it (Colossians 14,15).
Inherent in this imagery of the accomplishment of redemption through the victorious overthrow of the seed of Satan lies
a principle of God's dealings which has continued throughout the ages. The deliverance of God's people always comes
through the destruction of God's enemies. The Christian may pray with the sorrowful certainty that Satan's seed lives
among men, and that God's purposes shall be realized only through the destruction of these "...vessels of wrath fitted to
destruction:" which has "endured with much longsuffering..." Romans 9:22.
No word of blessing is addressed to Satan in these verses. He stands enveloped under the condemning curse of God.
Yet blessing is inherent in these words for the seed of the woman. An ultimate victory over the Wicked One shall be
The Word to the Woman (Genesis 3:16)
The word to the woman includes both curse and blessing. The woman shall have children, which constitutes a most
significant blessing. This beneficent word to the woman should not be understood simply in terms of an assurance of
fruitfulness in a domestic setting. A seed will be provided for the sake of entering into conflict with the satanic seed.
God's promise to bless the woman relates to her role in God's redemptive program.
Yet curse also is involved. God will multiply greatly the woman's sorrow, particularly with reference to her conception. It
is not the woman's conception in itself that is being multiplied excessively. Later this identical phraseology is used of
the blessing spoken over Abraham and his seed, "That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy
seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the seashore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of
his enemies;" Genesis 22:17. But the woman is cursed particularly by all the various sorrows associated with her
bringing children into the world.
The curse pronounced on the woman also affects her marital relationship toward her husband. The Lord declares,
"Unto your husband shall be your desire, and he shall rule over you." Generally this "desire" of the woman is
interpreted as a curse of excessive dependence or longing with respect to her husband. The phrase is understood to
mean that the woman lives under the curse of having her life excessively directed toward her husband.
The "desire" of the woman shall be to the husband, but he shall rule over her. Not in the sense of excessive
dependence, but in the sense of excessive determination to dominate, the woman shall "desire" her husband. Her
longing shall be to possess him, to control him, and to dominate him. Just as personified sin's desire was directed
toward the possession of Cain, so the woman's desire shall be directed toward the possession of her husband.
The statement concerning the man's "rule" over the woman may not require the concept of oppressive domination. But
the context strongly suggests it. God pronounces a curse over the woman because of a situation that arose originally
from her usurpation of her husband's prerogative. Now it is indicated that habitually, she shall display this tendency in
her "desire" toward her husband. But he, in reaction, shall "rule" over her.
The curse of marital imbalance settles into the woman's life-style. As she perpetually attempts to possess her husband,
he responds by dominating excessively.
The Word to the Man (Genesis 3:17-19)
The word to the man also contains curse and blessing. As God introduces his covenantal commitment to redeem
people to Himself, He simultaneously pronounces the curses of the covenant of creation.
The blessing is found in the fact that man will eat bread (Genesis 3:17). The sustenance essential for maintaining life
shall be provided.
The gracious character of these simple words must not be overlooked. Already the curse of death hovered over man,
the sinner. He had brought the whole of creation under curse, and so deserved to die. Yet God graciously promises to
sustain life for him. Adequate provision of food shall maintain man, so that God's purposes to redeem a people to
Himself may be realized.
This gracious provision of God characterizes the totality of human history from the first day of its announcement until
the present. Jesus' reference to the God who causes His rain to fall on the just and unjust testifies to the consistency of
God's common grace (Matthew 5:45).
But curse also is involved. "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it
wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." Genesis 3:19. The self-sustaining effort of man
shall be marred by excessive labor.
Man's curse does not reside in the requirement that he work. Labor also undergirded the creation bond between God
and man. Instead, the curse of man resides in the excessive requirement of labor for the fruit produced.
Man's ultimate curse consigns him to the grave, "...for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." Genesis 3:19.
The threat of the creation covenant finds an awesome fulfillment in the dissolution of man's person. Adam had been
created to rule the earth. Now the earth's dust shall rule him.
In conclusion, some aspect of this original bond between God and man in sin may be noted. These points emphasize in
particular the organic relation of this covenant to the entire history which follows:
may be noted. If, as the unbelieving mind of man has suggested, these verses were written as a tale to explain
why snakes crawl, they must have been composed by a genius indeed. For with all the refinements of modern
life, the principles laid down in these brief verses continue to characterize man's total existence. Even today, the
basic struggles of mankind involve the questions of providing bread, relieving pain, performing labor, bearing
children, and dealing with the inevitability of death.
subsequent administrations of the covenant of redemption, these verses anticipate both the method by which
redemption is to be accomplished and the mystery of redemption's applicaiton.
In due time, one representative man was born of woman. This single man entered into mortal conflict with Satan.
Though bruised himself, he nonetheless destroyed Satan's power. By this struggle, he accomplished redemption.
Some men respond in faith to God's gracious provision of salvation and find deliverance from sin's corruption.
Others continue in the stubbornness of their hearts as the enemies of God.
Why do some men receive the gospel of Christ, while others reject its saving offer? The ultimate answer to this
question is found in the distinction among men made in these verses. God sovereignly sets enmity against Satan in the
hearts of some. These individuals represent the seed of the woman. Other men continue in their fallen condition.
These people represent the seed of Satan. Progress in the history of God's program to redeem a people to Himself
may be traced along the line of the enmity between these two seeds.
Finally, this covenant with Adam anticipates the consummation of God's purposes in redemption. Adam's requirement
to labor echoes the original cultural mandate of the covenant of creation, with its charge to bring the whole earth into
subjection to the glory of God.
The ultimate goal of redemption will not be realized merely in a return to the pristine beginnings of the garden. A new
imagery of paradise arises in Scripture - the imagery of a city of a hustling, bustling center of activity for the redeemed.
This glorious consummation focuses on the redemption of man in the context of his total potentialities. In the wholeness
of a creature made in God's image, man shall be brought to redemption by realizing the fullness of possibilities available
To this point, we do not see all things subjected to man. The creation in its totality has not released its full potential to
Yet the hope of the future remains sealed in certainty. For we do see Jesus now crowned with glory and honor. Seated
at God's right hand, he has all things subjected to him (Hebrews 2:8,9). From his exalted position of power, he
ultimately shall bring all things into the service of men who have been redeemed by him to the glory of God.
The Christ of the Covenants, by O. Palmer Robertson, Copyright 1980, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing
The Covenants, by Keith J. Conner and Ken Malmin, Copyright 1983, Bible Temple Publishing.
|LIFE IN JESUS-MINISTRIES