And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel

Doves flying over Sea of Galilee, also Kinneret, Lake of Gennesaret, or Lake Tiberias

Ancient Hebrew Research Center

And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel

Shalom Friend:

Genesis 3:15 is a very interesting passage for many different reasons. Take a look at these three translations for this verse.

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. (KJV)

And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; they shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise their heel. (JPS)

And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. (ASV)

Notice that each version translates one pronoun in three different ways. The King James Version uses “it,” the Jerusalem Publication Society uses “they” and the American Standard Version uses “he.” In the Hebrew, the word that is found here is היא (hu) and is the masculine singular pronoun-he. Other than this issue, all three say pretty much the same thing.

Now, let us examine the Hebrew behind the last part of the verse according to the ASV.

“he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel”

The following is the Hebrew for this phrase.

הוא ישופך ראש ואתה תשופנו עקב (hu yeshuph’kha rosh v’atah teshuphenu eqev)

Let’s examine each of these words very carefully. The first word is the pronoun הוא (hu), which we previously discussed meaning “he.” The second word is ישופך (yeshuph’kha). This verb includes the letter yud (י) as a prefix and identifies the subject of the verb, which is the word הוא (hu), as masculine singular. The letter yud also identifies the verb as imperfect (similar to our future tense). Following the letter yud is the actual verb, which is שוף (shuph) and means to fall upon another in an attack, or to strike. Following the verb is letter kaph (ך) and identifies the object of the verb as second person masculine singular (you). The entire verb ישופך (yeshuph’kha) then means “he will strike you.” The third word is ראש(rosh) and is generally translated as “head.” These first three words would literally be translated as “he will strike you head.” As you can see this really doesn’t make a lot of sense and this why the translators chose to translate this as “he will strike your head.” However, if this is what was meant by the author, it would have read, הוא ישוף ראשך (hu yeshuph rosh’kha), but I will come back to this later.

The next word is ואתה (v’atah), which is the word אתה meaning “you,” with the prefixed letter vav (ו) meaning “and.” The next word is תשופנו(teshuphenu). This verb includes the letter tav (ת) as a prefix and identifies the subject of the verb, which is the previous word אתה (atah), as second person masculine plural (you). The letter tav also identifies the verb as imperfect (similar to our future tense). Following the letter tav is the actual verb, which is again the word שוף (shuph) meaning to strike. Following the verb is suffix נו (nu) and identifies the object of the verb as third person masculine singular (him). The entire verb תשופנו (teshuphenu) then means “you will strike him.” The next word is עקב (eqev) and is generally translated as “heel.” Putting these three words together we have a literal translation of “and you will strike him heel,” but again, this does not make sense, so the translators chose to ignore the grammar and translated it as “you will strike his heel.” If this is what was meant by the author, then it would have read, ואתה תשוף עקבו (v’atah teshuph eqevo).

Now let’s put all of this together.

He will strike you head, and you will strike him heel.

The head of the body is at the top of the body and the Hebrew word ראש (rosh-head) can mean “first.” For instance, in 1 Chronicles 16:7 the King James Version, the American Standard Version and the Revised Standard Version translate this word as “first.” Likewise, the heel is at the bottom of the body and the Hebrew word עקב (eqev-heel) can mean “last.” For instance, in Genesis 14:19 the King James Version and Young’s Literal Translation translate this word as “last.” With this understanding, we can now translate this phrase as follows.

He will strike you first, and you will strike him last.

 

 

Jeff & Denise Benner
Ancient Hebrew Research Center
Mechanical Translation Project

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