THE SERPENT In Genesis ch. 3
1: Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? 2: And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: 3: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. 4: And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: 5: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. 6: And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. 7: And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. 8: And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden. 9: And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? 10: And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. 11: And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? 12: And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. 13: And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. 14: 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: 15: 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. 16: Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. 17: And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; 18: Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; 19: 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. 20: And Adam called his wife's name Eve; because she was the mother of all living. 21: Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them. 22: And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: 23: Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. 24: So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life. Genesis 3
The Problem Religious bodies in an attempt to rationalize the miraculous elements in the Biblical record of Genesis, while retaining the fall of mankind, view the serpent, not as a literal beast of the field, but as part of a myth in which the evil desires within Eve are symbolized.
The Solution • If the literalness of Adam and Eve is retained, but a non-literal serpent suggested, the following questions need answering: • How is Genesis 3:1 to be understood: "Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made?" Are the beasts in this verse also figurative? If the serpent were only a symbol of sinful thinking, why the allusion to "all the beasts of the field?" • If the serpent is a non-literal element, are the special trees, the disobedient eating, the shameful nakedness, the covering, concealment, subsequent questioning, and expulsion also allegorical?
The Solution • If these details are literal (as many religious persons would concede) then why the demand for a non-literal serpent?1 If a talking serpent is too great a tax on one's credulity, what then of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and of the tree of life? • How can one consistently hold a literal Adam and Eve (as some do) and yet have a figurative environment?2 This leaves the non-literal serpent position with no alternative but to view the whole narrative as a symbolic fall which actually took some other form than described.3 • How is one to understand the curse on the serpent, "Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle . . . " (Gen. 3:14).
Paul’s Comment To The Corinthians There is a relevant comment by Paul on the serpent in his writing to the Corinthian Ecclesia. He says: "I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ." (2 Cor. 11:3). The full force of Paul's argument requires a literal serpent in the Garden of Eden. His argument rests on parallels: • Serpent lied - (Gen. 3:4) False teachers lied - (2 Cor. 11:13) • Serpent was subtle - (Gen. 3:1) False teachers were beguiling – (2 Cor. 11:3, 13) • Eve was seduced - (2 Cor. 11:3) Corinthians in danger of being seduced - (2 Cor. 11:3) • Eve's fall was disastrous - (1 Tim. 2:14) Corinthians in danger of disaster - (2 Cor. 11:3)
Paul’s Comment To The Corinthians The full force of the parallels requires a literal serpent. If the serpent were merely a symbol of Eve's unworthy thoughts, then Eve (created "very good" Gen. 1:31) was tempted within, yet the Corinthians (fallen descendants of Adam) were tempted from without. What force would there be in Paul's allusion to the serpent?
Other Animals Speaking • "And the LORD opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times?" (Num. 22:28). • Peter endorses the account: "the dumb ass speaking with man's voice forbad the madness of the prophet." (2 Peter 2:16).
So who was the Serpent? • one of "the living things that moved upon the earth" • pronounced by God "very good" as part of the overall Creation • more subtle, or shrewd, than any of the creatures the Lord God had made
“The” Serpent • Bro. Thomas suggests that the definite article “the” in Gen. 3:1 means the chief of the serpent tribe • The apostasy suggests “the” means it was “Satan”, the fallen angel • Could it mean that it was simply one particular snake living in the Garden of Eden and known to Adam and Eve better than others? Maybe one to regularly converse with them?
What did the Serpent look like? • it was later condemned to go upon its belly as a part of its sentence, it is probable it was a winged-serpent in the beginning: fiery, but afterwards deprived of the power of flight and made to move as at present • or did it have paws instead of wings? or both? (In Revelation “the Old Serpent” refers to the Garden of Eden episode and styles it “the Dragon”
Nature of the Serpent • quickness of perception was a part of the goodness of its nature • Jesus exhorts his disciples to "be wise as the serpents; and harmless as the doves” • It was an observant spectator of what was passing around it in the garden, it new about the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge, it has seen Elohim
Nature of the Serpent • He was aware from what he had heard, that the Elohim knew what good and evil were experimentally; and that in this particular, Adam and Eve were not so wise as they. But, all this knowledge was shut up in his own cranium, from which it could never have made its exit, had not the Lord God bestowed upon it the power of expressing its thoughts in speech.
Nature of the Serpent • It was an intellectual, but not a moral, creature • It had no "moral sentiments" or conscience, it’s like God didn’t give him the necessary organs to have conscience; no spirituality • It had only intellectual abilities and propensities • Man on the other hand had the necessary capability for conscience – a major distinction from animals
Nature of the Serpent • Moral, or spiritual, ideas would make no impression upon its mental constitution; for it was incapable, from its formation, of responding to them. It would be physically impossible for it to reason in harmony with the mind of God; or with the mind of man, whose reasoning was regulated by divinely enlightened moral sentiments • “Carnal Mind”
Result of the Serpent’s Nature • It was "very good" but when he undertook to converse upon things too high for him; to speak of what he had seen and heard; and to comment upon the law of the Lord, he lost himself in his own reasoning, and became the inventor of a lie.
The Conversation in the Garden • “Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?" • It questions what God said. The Serpent uses pure logic, has no conscience or moral obligation to keep God’s law. • Eve’s reply enounces God’s law, the spirit of Truth, and shows moral responsibility.
The Conversation in the Garden • But Eve, instead of putting faith in what God said, starts the same kind of “self-enlightened” reasoning, logical discourse, fleshly thinking: • “We’ll not necessarily die… The snake may have a point: all I need to do after eating of the Tree of Knowledge is to have a bite of the fruit of the Tree of Life and live forever… God must have meant something else…”
The thinking in the world today is no different from that in Eden • The same fleshly reasoning is happening in the world today. • God has said, "He that believeth the gospel, and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned". • People trying to rationalize how a “loving God” cannot condemn millions of people; how baptism is not important; admitting faith in theory but denying the Law of God by works.
Lessons for us • We are subject to the same carnal thinking traps as the Serpent, Eve, and the World around us • The only way to avoid carnal thinking is in firmly grounding our reasoning in the Bible • If we use our own conjectures, “philosophies”, we are in danger of becoming unwitting liars (unwitting because we may mean well but still follow the wrong path of fleshly vs. biblical thinking).
Example: Dress Code • The only Biblical requirement for clothing is that it should be modest • Human thinking ignores it and tends to turn it into one of the extremes: 1) Lax: wearing immodest attire incompatible with the spirit of God, 2) Strict: wearing clothes held in high regard by the World