What does “strike him in the heel” mean?

And I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and her offspring. He will crush your head, and you will strike him in the heel

Ge 3:15 (NWT)

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel

Ge 3:15 (NRSV)
Photo by Donald Tong from Pexels

We already know that “the Serpent” is Satan the Devil. We also know Jesus Christ and his 144,000 anointed brothers and sisters are the “woman’s offspring” who will “crush Satan’s head”.

But what is Satan causing to Jesus Christ and the 144,000 by striking or biting them in the heel before he gets crushed?

The painful “Strike” or “Bite”

The word “strike” appears very natural if we imagine a snake and the only weapon it has – using its powerful fang to attack. This is the picture Jehovah paints in our minds through Genesis 3:15. A man trying to step on the head of a serpent, but not without getting injured himself. The snake tries to strike whatever is in its reach – eventually the heel of the man.

In the original Hebrew text, the words used to describe the man’s and the serpent’s attack are the same. Both try to “crush”, “strike”, or “bruise” each other. 1

The same word is used in connection with both head and heel, to show that on both sides the intention is to destroy the opponent; at the same time, the expressions head and heel denote a majus and minus, or, as Calvin says, superius et inferius.

Keil & Delitzsch

Because the scripture uses twice the same word we know that the emphasis is not on the man stepping and the serpent biting. The scripture paints a battle for life and death – both man and snake try to inflict the greatest harm to each other. The man, however, inflicts a deadly strike, and the serpent “only” a painful strike.

Satan’s “strike” on Jesus Christ

The heel is the part within the serpent’s reach. Jesus, in taking on humanity, brought Himself near to Satan’s domain so Satan could strike Him

Guzik

Further, as a literal serpent might wound a man’s heel, Satan in his debased state would ‘bruise the heel’ of God’s “seed.”

The Watchtower

The serpent can only bite what it is close to it. Similarly, Satan’s sphere of influence is limited. The Devil has however strong influence over the world of humans as the Bible states: “the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one” (1Jo 5:19).

No, but he emptied himself and took a slave’s form and became human

Php 2:7

Jesus willingly “emptied himself” which meant giving up his spiritual body the unimaginable power and glory associated with it. He knew in order to save humanity, he would have to voluntarily enter into the domain of his chief enemy.

As expected, after Jesus’ birth as a human being he became quickly the target of the Devil. However, the moment he appeared as the Messiah, at about age 30, the fierce attacks were just about to start.

… who [Jesus Christ] has been tested in all respects as we have …

Heb 4:15

Beginning with the day of his baptism he was indeed “tested in all respects”. As we read in Matthew chapter 4, immediately after his baptism he was tested in three visions where Satan tried to lead Jesus into sin. After brilliantly overcoming all temptations the Bible says: “So the Devil, having finished all the temptation, departed from him until another convenient time” (Lu 4:13). Satan continued to test him, probably not even all instances are even recorded in the Bible.

Satan did not only test Jesus personally in visions but mainly through his malicious accomplices. While Jesus was in Jerusalem at the beginning of April in the year 33 CE he knew that his sacrificial death and greatest test he ever faces was imminent:

… But this [shortly before his execution] is your [the crowd arresting Jesus] hour and the authority of darkness

Lu 22:53

What happened, in the hours after Jesus’s arrest, was indeed a very painful “bite in the heel” for the Messiah.

Although he [Jesus Christ] can call on legions of angels to protect him, he allows himself to be seized by Roman soldiers, who beat him mercilessly. (Matt. 26:52-54; John 18:3; 19:1) They use a whip that rips strips of flesh from his body. Later, they load a heavy beam on his lacerated back. Jesus begins to drag the stake to the place of execution, but soon a bystander is conscripted to carry it for him. (Matt. 27:32) When Jesus arrives at the place where he will die, his executioners nail his hands and his feet to the stake. The weight of Jesus’ body tears at the nail wounds. His friends grieve and his mother weeps, but the Jewish rulers mock Jesus. (Luke 23:32-38; John 19:25) One agonizing hour follows another. His heart and lungs become strained, and his breathing becomes more difficult. With his dying breath, he utters one last triumphant prayer. He then bows his head and surrenders his life. (Mark 15:37; Luke 23:46; John 10:17, 18; 19:30) It was truly a slow, painful, humiliating way to die!

The Watchtower, April 2021, Study Article 16

Satan’s “strike” on the 144,000

The Devil will keep on throwing some of you into prison so that you may be fully put to the test

Re 2:10

So the dragon became enraged at the woman and went off to wage war with the remaining ones of her offspring

Re 12:17

“Can you [Jesus apostles] drink the cup that I [Jesus] am about to drink?” They said to him: “We can.” He said to them: “You will indeed drink my cup …”

Mt 20:22,23

What is the cup Jesus and his apostles would have to drink? Jesus’s “cup” involved not only suffering and death under the false charge of blasphemy but also his being resurrected to immortal life in heaven. (Source: NWT Study Notes)

In the same way, before reaching heavenly resurrection, Jesus’s 144,000 brothers and sisters would have to “drink the cup” of being “fully put to the test” by the devil. This includes persecution, even up to death as a martyr. The devil is indeed waging war against them (Re 12:17).

The Bible records that the apostle James received his “bite in the heel” in the form of a martyr’s death by the sword (Ac 12:1-3). According to church history, most of Jesus’s apostles had to face a cruel death like that.

Conclusion

Jesus and his 144,000 brothers and sisters are waging war against the Devil. The Devil uses the earthly domain, which is in his control, to inflict as much damage as possible. For Jesus, it culminated in a very cruel death. The serpent’s bite also includes persecution for the 144,000 and for some a martyr’s death. Still, like a serpent has a limited reach, also Satan’s power is restricted, and he knows that crushing of his head is imminent.

  1. According to Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary the Hebrew word for “strike” appears twice in Ge 3:15 and once in Job 9:17 and Psalms 139:11