In Genesis 3 we meet an enemy, here called the Serpent. Was it a snake? As far as I can see, there are problems in accepting that ‘the serpent’ refers to a snake-like creature. To begin with, snakes were made on Day 6 of creation and were described by God as very good. Yet the creature that is described in 3:1 as very subtle is not depicted as being good.
Also, with regard to its curse, it is said that it will eat dust. Yet snakes don’t eat dust. The contents of the curse – ‘on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life’ – can be seen as a reference to the judgement that was meted out on a defeated ruler; such were often made to abase themselves before their conquerors.
Moreover, it is evident that God was not speaking about a literal snake because he says that its head will be crushed by the Deliverer, which could hardly be said of a snake in the Garden of Eden.
So who is being spoken about here? Regarding the serpent, it is clear from the rest of the Bible that he is the devil (Rev. 12:9; 20:2). It is obvious from this chapter that the devil’s aim was to deceive Eve by causing her to doubt the statements of God (2 Cor. 11:3). He continues to engage in this practice.
Along with creating doubt about what God had said, he gave the impression that God was denying authentic experiences to Adam and Eve. According to the devil, these experiences would result in a rich reward – they would become like God.
The devil managed to defeat Adam and Eve. Perhaps Satan imagined that he had overturned God’s plans to have a race of human beings who would be devoted to him. The devil knew that God was bound to judge the human race for their sins. Instead he received a big surprise, because God announced to him that one would come, as a Champion of the human race, who would overpower the devil, although he would be wounded in the process (Gen. 3:15).
This was the first indication given to fallen man that, although they had sinned, it was not the end of the story. In this announcement to the serpent the guilty pair heard the promise of deliverance. The glad tidings of the gospel were preached in Eden before the sinful humans were evicted. Before the judgement fell, the Lord wanted them to hear the gospel offer.
We don’t know what response Adam and Eve made to this offer. John Bunyan, in a chart he has of the book of life, has his character read it and say that the first clear name in the list is Abel, but there was a space above it but he could not see if there were names in the space or not. This was Bunyan illustrating, in a very graphic manner, the uncertainty there is over the eternal destiny of Adam and Eve.