Paul exhorted the Corinthians “not to go beyond what is written” (1 Cor 4:6). When it comes to some traditional Christian interpretations, however, we have not always followed Paul’s advice. Regarding the idea that the snake who deceived Adam and Eve was actually Satan, we would do well “not to go beyond what is written,” since nowhere does the Bible state that the serpent was Satan.

Genesis 3:1 clarifies that the serpent was an animal among others: “The serpent (nachash; נחשׁ) was craftier than all the other creatures of the field (hayat ha’sadeh; חית השׂדה).” In response to the serpent’s deception, God says, “Cursed are you more than all the livestock (behemah; בהמה) and more than all the creatures of the field (hayat ha’sadeh; חית השׂדה); on your belly you shall go, and dust (afar; עפר) you shall eat” (Gen 3:14). Since this curse functions in relation to the other animals, it is best to read the serpent as a literal snake. Isaiah recalls this curse in an end-time vision, in which the snake is just another animal: “The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust (afar; עפר) shall be the serpent’s food” (Isa 65:25). Isaiah did well not to go beyond what was written in Genesis.

Paul corroborates Genesis’ description of the serpent as an animal, telling the Corinthians, “I am afraid that as the serpent (ophis; ὄφις) deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Cor 11:3). Speaking to the church at Rome, Paul states, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Rom 16:20). While this statement might remind us of God telling the serpent that Eve’s offspring “will bruise your head” (Gen 3:15), Paul’s language does not parallel the Greek version of Genesis 3:15. Paul says that God will “crush” (suntribo; συντρίβω) Satan, but the Septuagint translates the Hebrew “bruise” (shuph; שׁוף) in Gen 3:15 with τηρέω (teréo; “guard”). Rather than drawing on Gen 3:15, Paul recalls the Psalms’ description of God crushing the primordial dragon, Leviathan: “You crushed (suntribo; συντρίβω) the heads of the dragons (drakónton; δρακόντων) on the waters; you shattered the heads of the dragon” (Ps 74[73 LXX]:13-14). The Hebrew terms for “dragon” in these verses are תנינים (tanninim; “sea-monsters”) and “Leviathan” (לויתן), respectively.

To be sure, Satan is like the serpent in that, being a “liar” (pseustes; ψεύστης, see Jn 8:44), the devil tries to “tempt” (peiradzo; πειράζω, e.g., Matt 4:1; Mk 1:13; Lk 4:2; 1 Thess 3:5; Rev 2:10) and “lead astray” (planáo; πλανάω, Rev 12:9; 20:10; cf. 2 Cor 11:3). But these terms for Satan are not used of the serpent who “deceives” (apatao; ἀπατάω) in Eden (Gen 3:13 LXX). Based on the biblical evidence alone, to equate the serpent with Satan would be to “go beyond what is written” in Scripture.

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196 COMMENTS

    • There is a link (in blue), which you can click on in the middle of this article, that says: “see our previous discussion of Satan as Leviathan in Revelation.” This link will take you to an earlier article that deals with the verses you’ve listed.

      • There were entities in the garden of eden; Adam, eve, ther keruv, and God. The Keruv had qualities of a snake. That is why the keeuv is now called Satan. Ezekiel 28: 11-17 The keruv was thrown out of the garden of eden where he was Guarding it until unrighteousness was found in him. God threw him out of the garden, from the mountain of God. Is not he who deceived Adam and Eve?

        • It’s tough to link the snake of Genesis 3 with the cherub of Ezekiel 28 for a few reasons: (1) The term “cherubim” is part of Genesis 3’s vocabulary (see 3:24), so if Genesis 3 had wanted to refer to the snake as a “cherub” it could have done so — but it doesn’t; (2) If a “cherub” deceived Adam and Eve, it would be odd for God to appoint more “cherubim” to guard the Tree of Life (3:24); (3) There’s no mention of a “snake” in Ezekiel 28, and the passage as it appears in the Bible is about the king of Tyre (28:13), rather than Satan.

          • why would god put a curse on a snake? It was just an innocent animal, an does not speak of course, but God spoke to the entity behind the snake. Just as as the donkey of Balaam who spoke to Balaam. The donkey just does not speak, but it was the Lord who spoke thru the donkey to make a point

          • God curses the snake because the snake is not “an innocent animal”; rather, the serpent is a deceptive animal who deserves to be punished. There is no evidence in the text of Genesis 3 that there was an “entity behind the snake.” Talking animals also appear in the literature of Israel’s neighbors and these talking animals are not under any demonic influence (e.g., the talking cattle in the Egyptian “Tale of Two Brothers,” and the talking animals in the Assyrian “Teaching of Aqihar”). The “talking animal” was a common literary trope in ancient Near Eastern literature, which the biblical writers also knew and drew upon in their presentation of the snake in the garden.

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    • Leviathan is a sea-monster that embodies the primordial chaos, which God subdues at the creation of the world — and will subdue again at the end of days (cf. Job 41:1; Ps 74:14; Isa 27:1). God assigns Leviathan to dwell in the sea: “Here is the sea, great and wide, which teems with innumerable creatures, living creatures both great and small… and Leviathan who you formed to play in it” (Ps 104:24). In contrast, the serpent is a “creature of the field,” not of the sea, and it is cursed to go around on the ground eating the dust of the earth (Gen 3:1, 14). Since the geographical dwellings of Leviathan and the serpent are direct opposites (sea and land), we have no reason to equate the two entities.

      • Isaiah 30:6 Speaks of the viper and fiery flying serpents. Could these be the falling angels returning in the last days? vs 7 For the Egyptians shall help in vain, and to no purpose: therefore have I cried concerning this, their strength is to sit still….for it may be for the time to come.vs8. (( the church is certainly speaking of smooth things and deceits now))

        • Thanks for your question, Ginger. Isaiah 30 is a critique of some in Israel who want to travel to Egypt in order to form an allegiance against Assyria. The text doesn’t address fallen angels or demons in its reference to flying serpents — we can know this based on the fact that all sorts of other animals are mentioned alongside the serpents, and no one aligns “donkeys,” “lions,” and “camels” with the demonic. Rather, Isaiah describes animals (without any demonic connotation) that both inhabit Egypt and are able the transport the Israelites there.

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      • In the Ancient Near East (of which Israel was a part), snakes were known to be creatures that wrought chaos in the world. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, for example, it is a snake who steals the plant of everlasting life from Gilgamesh (this episode is strikingly similar to the biblical event in which a snake ensures that Adam and Eve can no longer eat from the tree of everlasting life). According to the Egyptian Pyramid Texts, the snake “shall go with [its] face on the path… [and] the sandal of Horus tramples the snake underfoot” (cf. the very similar language in Genesis 3:14-15). Since the serpent was almost universally understood to be a chaos creature that plagued human beings, it makes perfect sense, in an ancient near eastern context, for a snake to deceive Eve. It may sound odd to us in the 21st century, but the original Israelite readers of Genesis 3 would have been fully comfortable with a deceptive snake.

        • interesante y clarifica un poco del por q es usada la simbología de la serpiente, en otras palabras, es como si me diera a entender ó” confirmar” q no era un serpiente literal ó real?. Sholom

          • On the symbolism of the snake in Genesis 3 and why it happened to be a snake that deceived Adam and Eve, in the Ancient Near East (of which Israel was a part) snakes were known to be creatures that wrought chaos in the world. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, for example, it is a snake who steals the plant of everlasting life from Gilgamesh (this episode is strikingly similar to the biblical event in which a snake ensures that Adam and Eve can no longer eat from the tree of everlasting life). According to the Egyptian Pyramid Texts, the snake “shall go with [its] face on the path… [and] the sandal of Horus tramples the snake underfoot” (cf. the very similar language in Genesis 3:14-15). Since the serpent was almost universally understood to be a chaos creature that plagued human beings, it makes sense, in an ancient near eastern context, for a literal snake — who is just a snake — to deceive Eve.

          • We are very happy that you’ve joined our discussion forum. Would you believe that these articles are only a taste of what Israel Bible Center has to offer? We also provide comprehensive teaching on a variety of biblical, historical, and cultural topics. You might begin with The Jewish Gospel of Matthew or The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. You’ll be amazed at the Jewish world that awaits you. Don’t delay another minute: enroll now!

        • The serpent was told of in chapter 2 of genesis. How would the serpent know to deceive if it itself didn’t know good or evil yet? Your examples of fear of serpents in different cultures doesn’t make sense as those cultures weren’t around yet.

          • Josh, the serpent doesn’t appear until Genesis 3:1. Scripture doesn’t tell us what the serpent knew or didn’t know prior to humans eating the fruit, but “good” and “evil” do not mean *moral* good and evil. Rather, “good” and “evil” mean “organization” and “chaos.” The serpent could “deceive” or act immorally prior to human transgression. See this article: https://weekly.israelbiblecenter.com/knowledge-good-evil/
            The cultures of Egypt, Babylon, and Assyria predate the people of Israel (the writers of the Bible). The writer of Genesis 3 drew on the common assumptions of these earlier Ancient Near Eastern cultures when composing the narrative that appears in the Bible.

  1. It is fascinating to consider the serpent being an animal. I stray from my “circle” often and have been accused by some of “accepting another Jesus” (this makes 2 Cor 11:3 very interesting). Why would the Corinthian’s thoughts be deceived by singleness (sincere and pure devotion)? Is the problem Paul is addressing have to do with leadership (whose voice)?

  2. “Since the geographical dwellings of Leviathan and the serpent are direct opposites (sea and land), we have no reason to equate the two entities.”

    I’m not sure the ‘land vs. sea’ argument proves that they cannot be the same. I don’t see why the dragon, the serpent and Leviathan can’t be the same antagonist described in different ways (using figurative language that suited the individual writers’ understanding at the time). The passages in Revelation seem to reveal that it is the same devil behind all of the world’s plight.

    • Your decision to read all three entities figuratively and to apply them to Satan is perfectly fine. The only point to underscore is that the Bible does not make this same connection between the devil and the snake of Genesis 3.

    • We are very happy that you’ve joined our discussion forum. Would you believe that these articles are only a taste of what Israel Bible Center has to offer? We also provide comprehensive teaching on a variety of biblical, historical, and cultural topics. You might begin with The Jewish Gospel of Matthew or The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. You’ll be amazed at the Jewish world that awaits you. Don’t delay another minute: enroll now!

      • I’m still not sure the difference between ‘bruise’ and ‘crush’ is enough to say that the serpent in the garden could not have been the devil. To ‘bruise’ and ‘crush’ could just be two different iterations of the same prophetic defeat of the devil by Christ. Like I said, Revelation seems to reveal that it is the same antagonist (serpent, dragon, Satan) in the narrative of Scripture from Gen. to Rev.

        If the serpent is NOT the devil, what do you believe the motivation was for the serpent to orchestrate the fall of man? What was its agenda? In what way was the serpent’s head then bruised? Where did Satan get his authority if not from man?

        • It’s not the difference between “crush” and “bruise” that’s at issue. Paul says “crush,” but the Greek Septuagint from which he cites most often doesn’t have “bruise,” it has “guard.” Since the Greek of Psalm 74 says that “God crushed” the dragon’s head, it is most likely that Paul echoes the psalm when he says that “God will crush” Satan. To be sure, if we want to find Satan in the Genesis 3 narrative, we can interpret Revelation as referring to that particular serpent. But the best interpretation of the verses in Revelation points us to Isaiah 27:1, rather than Genesis 3. Your questions are all good ones. Unfortunately, the Bible doesn’t provide answers to them.

          • You make excellent points, thank you very much for the exchange of thoughts. I love this site and the effort and thought that goes into your articles. God bless!

          • Thank you for contributing to the discussion, Mike. I really appreciate your willingness to interact — particularly in a way that actually deals with texts and how we should interpret them; it helps to cultivate constructive discourse.

          • We are very happy that you’ve joined our discussion forum. Would you believe that these articles are only a taste of what Israel Bible Center has to offer? We also provide comprehensive teaching on a variety of biblical, historical, and cultural topics. You might begin with The Jewish Gospel of Matthew or The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. You’ll be amazed at the Jewish world that awaits you. Don’t delay another minute: enroll now!

          • Hello Dr. Nicholas J. Schaser, i read through your discourse with Mike C and i find it very interesting. I love the way the discourse takes off with some flavor of argument and then calms down with both in admiration of each other’s contribution. I am Christian, but for the past 6 years or so i have been following Jewish Messianic views of the Bible. I find the Midrash very exciting though i am unable to share it in Christian circles because we read only the Bible and nothing else. Yet i have noticed that it does help with some explanation the Bible does not provide. To tell you the truth i now call myself a Messianic Jew more than a Christian – besides the Bible records that the “Believers” were first called Christians by non-Jews. Thank you.

          • Thanks, Henry. Yes, rabbinic midrash can be helpful for understanding certain passages in the New Testament. On your choice to identify as a “messianic Jew,” I think you’re well within you’re right to do so if you are ethnically Jewish. After all, the word “Christian” only appears three times in the entire New Testament (cf. Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Pet 4:16) and, as you righty note, it is not used as a self-designation; that is, outsiders use the term “Christian,” but the Jewish Jesus-followers never use it of themselves. Thanks again for your contribution; we have new articles each week, so there’s always something with which you can interact on the site.

          • Then why Paul use a different word to refer to the snake in NT greek and not use the name of Dragon instead?

          • “Serpent” (ophis) and “dragon” (drakon) are interchangeable Greek terms to describe “Satan” (cf. Isa 27:1; Rev 12:9; 20:2), though Paul doesn’t use either term when he refers to Leviathan in Romans 16:20.

        • I believe,that bruised & crushed implies two phases of satan’s demise ! ! ! Each time he is disallowed his will is a bruise ; the Resurection & the the release of of those who were kept captive & Jesus’ ascention are devistating ; being put in the bottumless pit finally is the Crush ! ! ! Thank You Father,Jesus,Holy Spirit,Hallelujah,AMEN ! ! !

    • Amen Brother ; that is my understanding ! ! ! Satan,his demons & minnions can do their mischief
      on land or sea ! ! ! One New Testament writer warns or commands us to be wary & to try the spirits we sense or encounter ! ! !

      • I believe the snake was used by Satan to tempt Eve to get to Adam, thus the fall of ‘man’. Remember, Satan and his hoards had already been defeated and thrown out of heaven so he was waiting for his next opportunity to be worshipped as God.

        • Hello Sarah. Satan fell LIKE lightening. He didn’t fall from heaven as he was already on earth protecting the garden of Eden until unrighteousness was found in him. God then threw him out . Ezekiel 29:11-17. Satan wasnt a snake but a keruv. He did however have the character of a snake

      • Isaiah 65:25…((and dust shall be the serpent’s meat))… Adam was made from the dust of the earth…the serpent comes after us (the meat) to kill, steal and destroy….and also to flood us with his lies. ((They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain,))(new Jerusalem) saith the Lord…The earth is His footstool, New Jerusalem comes down from heaven as the Holy City, or Holy ground that is not cursed…For HE has said “I go to prepare you a place.” All things that offend and are an abomination will be outside the gate of that new city.Isaiah66:22

  3. Dr,Its like listening to you.We get a tune.But never know the true story.Although i THINK you know the true story.But refuse to teach it.Then again.Maybe you do not know.

  4. I would have to disagree with you on this you see if we just go by translation that would be true but there are many Christian commentaries on this that were under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and it’s Christian churches always thought that Satan entered this creature

    • Only one book was inspired by the Ruach HaKodesh and that was the written word from Genesis toRevelations. Commentaries are just that inspired by man..

  5. A literal interpretation of Genesis 3 (which I believe to be correct) would allow for a literal snake to be used by satan to tempt Eve.
    The snake was not satan but used by satan as his medium to speak to Eve.

    Because the serpent was the 1st medium used to tempt mankind it has been used as a symbol for satan (Rev 12:9) or sin (Jn 3:14; 2Co 5:21).

    The same scenario played out when Jesus referred to Peter as satan (Mt 16:23). Peter was not satan. Peter was simply echoing the sentiments of satan by trying to stop Jesus from fulfilling His mission to safe mankind through the cross. And in that sense and at that point in time Peter was speaking for the devil.

      • Thanks for your question. Ezekiel 28 is about the prince of Tyre, not Satan (see Ezek 28:12). It speaks of this king in lofty, metaphorical terms, but since the passage does not include the term “Satan,” the text gives me no reason to read Ezekiel’s lament as referring to Satan or the episode with the snake in Genesis 3.

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        • If the passage is ONLY about the prince of Tyre, how do these statements make sense?
          “13 You were in Eden,
          the garden of God…
          14 You were anointed as a guardian cherub,
          for so I ordained you.
          You were on the holy mount of God;
          you walked among the fiery stones.”

          • Thanks for your question, Bruce. Ezekiel constantly speaks in metaphorical terms that do not directly apply to the subjects about whom the prophet speaks. Take a look at the description of Israel in Ezekiel 16 — very little of this description concerns literal history; rather, the prophet presents an allegorical past for the nation. A similar thing is going on in the description of the prince of Tyre: Ezekiel applies a metaphorical and hyperbolic past to the king in order to show the extent of his hubris and just how far he has fallen.

    • Ok, that’s a different interpretation then. You are free to believe that the devil was pulling the strings, but in order to get there, we must import an idea that is not germane to the actual biblical text. That is, the Bible never asserts that Satan was behind the events in Genesis 3. The article only comments on the data we have (or, in this case, don’t have) in the text.

  6. Here it comes. Slowly but surely the acceptance of that old liar. Read Revelation 20:2 He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.
    Enough said.

    • Thanks, Barbara. But not quite enough has been said with regard to your reading of Revelation. There is a link (in blue), which you can click on in the middle of this article, that says: “see our previous discussion of Satan as Leviathan in Revelation.” This link will take you to an earlier article that deals with the verse you’ve provided, and shows that the “serpent” of Revelation recalls Leviathan in Isaiah, rather than the snake in Genesis.

  7. Sorry, I don’t really understand this interpretation? Are you saying that the serpent, and other animals in the garden, were capable of logical thought (i.e., deception) and possibly free will? And, therefore, that all the animals in the garden, like the humans, could sin against God? But, God made man in His image, not the animals. Another interpretation could be that the serpent was possessed by evil and that the animals themselves were not capable of this without a spiritual influence. Maybe I have not read your entire interpretation correctly?

    • Thanks for your questions, Amy. The article argues that the snake in Eden was just as snake, not Satan. The text doesn’t tell us whether the other animals in the Garden could function in the same way that the snake did, though when God allows animals to talk elsewhere in the Bible, they can talk (see Num 22:22-35). On a non-biblical note, animals are capable of logical thought (there is much logic to the things animals do) and free will (a dog can freely choose to disobey). On humans being made in God’s image, see this previous post: https://weekly.israelbiblecenter.com/whats-so-wrong-with-making-images-of-god/

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      • What I haven’t seen explained in the article or comments is:
        Why was Eve not surprised to hear a snake talk? When I read the curses given to the snake by the Heavenly Father, nowhere does it say, “You will not speak from this moment forward” yet no one can say that they have ever seen or heard a snake talk.
        This tells me that there was something else happening in the garden. Can you explain?
        Thanks

        • Thanks for your question, William. The story of Balaam and his donkey (Num 22:21-35) may be informative here. As with Eve and the snake, when Balaam’s donkey starts talking to him, he never expresses surprise. Like snakes, donkey’s also tend not to speak, but God did not need to make a heavenly decree to ensure that no donkeys spoke after the Balaam event. Thus, we needn’t expect that God would need to issue a formal curse to discontinue serpentine speech after Eden.

        • William Laguna ” Why was Eve not surprised to hear a snake talk? Today people would find it hard to believe whereas Eve was new and animals made all kinds of different sounds why would she not think it was normal.

    • There is a link (in blue), which you can click on in the middle of this article, that says: “see our previous discussion of Satan as Leviathan in Revelation.” This link will take you to an earlier article that deals with the verse you’ve provided, and shows that the “serpent” of Revelation recalls Leviathan in Isaiah, rather than the snake in Genesis.

    • Israel Bible Center equips you with the tools you need to enter into the Jewish world of Scripture. We provide first-rate teaching, and the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s top scholars. As a student, you will be able to interact personally with our teaching faculty, and gain access to hundreds of hours of Bible courses, including The Jewish Gospel of Matthew and The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. Become a part of the community of teachers and students at Israel Bible Center today!

  8. The serpent in Genesis walked upright in Genesis like a man. This animal could talk and was the smartest creature the Lord God made. Satan borrowed the serpent’s form, but the serpent in Genesis wasn’t Satan. The serpent represented the wisdom of God or the representation of God in Eden. Much of Genesis is still a mystery…

  9. Some further discussion perhaps is necessary, especially in light of Revelation 20:2. Although a small contrast might be made between the serpent (as animal) and Satan (spirit being), but yet as the animal was obviously a surrender or voluntary tool in the hand of Satan (prideful, and becomes one with it), we should probably not try to distance much the lying voice of the one who spoke as far from that of Satan himself (John 8:44). Revelation 13:1ff and 20:2-3 certainly merges these images in the battles between righteous and fallen of heaven and earth, fulfilling the victorious promise of Genesis 3:14, 15. Revelation 20:2-3 reads: “And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years…to not deceive the nations any longer…” On the same topic, from a more Godly angle, we also might contrast how Divine Hand empowers animals as in Jesus’ tender use of the young (untested) colt to enter Jerusalem (Mark 11), or as when Balaam´s Donkey spoke — the tool used by God through Angelic / Divine revelation (Numbers 22). God is sovereign over His Creation, and yet there is struggle and war even within it. Jesus also seems to merge the two elements (animal and Satan’s use of the creature) as the ‘one who is a liar and a murderer from the beginning’ a reference back to these Genesis narratives (John 8:44).

    • Thanks for your comments, Joel. On Revelation, please follow the link (in blue) in the middle of this article. On John 8:44, Jesus’ reference to the “beginning” (ἀρχή) likely refers to the pre-human beginning (cf. ἀρχή in Jn 1:1-2), rather than the Garden of Eden. To the extent that the Satan is among the heavenly divine beings, or “sons of God,” who assemble with God in Job 1-2, he existed prior to earthly creation (see Job 38:4-7), and therefore was a liar from a “beginning” that predates humanity. On this reading, then, Jesus would not be referring to the events of Genesis 3 in Jn 8:44. Good points on God’s use of animals in Num 22 & Mk 11, by the way.

  10. So you are saying sin entered the world by a snake. This countradicts everything about first Adam vs last Adam in Romans. I can’t throw out basic theology that easily.

    • No, sin did not enter the world through a snake, but neither does sin enter the world through Satan. Romans 5:12 states that “sin came into the world through one man.” For Paul, sin came into the world through Adam, not Satan. Since Paul does not use the words “snake” or “Satan” anywhere in Romans 5, the above article is unrelated to Paul’s “first and last Adam” discussion.

    • We are very happy that you’ve joined our discussion forum. Would you believe that these articles are only a taste of what Israel Bible Center has to offer? We also provide comprehensive teaching on a variety of biblical, historical, and cultural topics. You might begin with The Jewish Gospel of Matthew or The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. You’ll be amazed at the Jewish world that awaits you. Don’t delay another minute: enroll now!

      • Good evening sir ! I am not a huge follower of denominations, I too favor the text over commentary. I am wondering about something no one has raised yet : the idea that Adam & Eve and the serpent being a parable . I’m not holding this dogmatically but would like your response . Also where do you fall on the topic that Eve was created using Adams penis bone

        • Thanks for your questions, William. A “parable” is a very specific genre of literature that contains an illustration (mashal) followed by an interpretation or a “moral of the story” (nimshal). Since Genesis 2-3 doesn’t follow this format, it would be too much to call it a “parable.” However, it is indisputable that many of the elements of Adam and Eve’s narrative are “symbolic” and “didactic” — that is, they “mean” certain things (e.g., the snake was almost universally understood to represent “chaos” in the Ancient Near East, “trees” represented “cosmic order,” etc.) and the meanings of these various elements are meant to “teach” us something about ourselves and our relationship with God. Genesis 2-3 is also an “archetypal” narrative, insofar as the name “Adam” means “humanity” in Hebrew, and “Eve” means “Living.” The text is more interested in theological teaching through archetypal and symbolic narrative than it is about “history” or “science.” To your other question, Eve was created not from a single bone, but from an entire “side” of Adam. See https://weekly.israelbiblecenter.com/eve-come-adams-rib/

  11. Identity Of Serpent

    We have a similar situation here. Though the serpent is not explicitly identified in the Book of Genesis, he is identified with Satan in the last book of Scripture.

    So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast out to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him . . . He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years (Revelation 12:9;20:2).

    • The serpent who is called Satan in Revelation is not the serpent of Genesis 3; Revelation refers to Leviathan, the dragon/sea-serpent of Isaiah 27:1. Please follow the link (in blue) embedded within this article that reads: “see our previous discussion of Satan as Leviathan in Revelation.” Click on this link to read my previous article on the serpent language in Revelation and why it does not provide us with a connection to the snake in the Garden.

  12. O.K. Well, we have a different images of Devil/Satan as a snake or Laviathan in Bible@the very precise definition by classic theology and philosophy starting with St.Aristotle’s definition of evil as privation of good (the, being) that perfectly fits into GEnessis 3 on the causal relation between God and evil in the world as not the cause of this privation! A simple (divine) semantics!

    • Thanks for your question, Krzysztof. In Numbers 21, Moses uses a bronze snake in order to save the people because it mirrors the snakes that are biting the people. Basically, the point is that in order for the people to be saved from the snakes, they must look to *another* snake (i.e., God’s snake) in order to be saved — it is a way for the people to submit to God in a time of trouble. Another point regarding function is that, in the ancient world, snakes were thought to have healing properties. As to where it came from, the text says that Moses built it, but does not explicate the specifics of where he got the materials to do so. Since the Israelites leave Egypt with precious metals (Exod 12:35), and because there is precedent for melting down that metal in the making of the golden calf (Exodus 32), we can assume that Moses uses such metals in order to create the bronze serpent.

  13. Please Dr. If the devil wasn’t in Eden what about Ezekiel 28, especially in verses 13, 14, 15. Verse 13 says he was in Eden. Who was this the prophet refers to? Thank you.

    • Thanks for your question. Ezekiel 28 is about the prince of Tyre, not the devil (see Ezek 28:12). It speaks of this king in lofty, metaphorical terms, but since the passage does not include the term “Satan,” the text gives me no reason to read Ezekiel’s lament as referring to Satan or the episode with the snake in Genesis 3. Thanks again for contributing to the discussion.

  14. Very wrong interpretation. The serpent is a manifestation of Satan . The Bible calls him the serpent of the beginning.. the snake and Satan are one thing. Don’t cover up for the devil please. He is the snake full stop. No two ways about it

    • Your reference to the devil (not “serpent”) being a liar from “the beginning” comes from John 8:44. However, Jesus’ reference to the “beginning” (ἀρχή) in this verse refers to the pre-human beginning (cf. ἀρχή in Jn 1:1-2), rather than the Garden of Eden. To the extent that the Satan is among the heavenly divine beings, or “sons of God,” who assemble with God in Job 1-2, he existed prior to earthly creation (see Job 38:4-7), and therefore was a liar from a “beginning” that predates humanity. On this reading, then, Jesus would not be referring to the events of Genesis 3 in Jn 8:44.

  15. re Bach on a harmonica, it depends who is playing the harmonica, but I agree, it will still not give you the full experience. But a famous conductor also once told his orchestra, ‘Don’t just play the notes, play the music’. We can also miss the music if we are focused only on all the notes.
    Whether Genesis 3:15 is the protoevangelium, the first promise of the Messiah, very much depends on how we see the snake. But there are some things to notice about the snake. Firstly, it is a speaking snake. Is that normal for a snake in Eden? I would suggest not. I would suggest it is abnormal.
    Secondly, this snake is against God and seems to be an enemy of God judging by its words to Eve.
    How did an enemy creature get into the garden?
    Thirdly, if Genesis 3:15 is not the protoevangelium, what hope did Adam and Eve have? Would God cast them out of the garden without any hope? It becomes condemnation, not just judgment. I don’t see where else that hope could come from, yet Apostle Paul/Sha’ul says in Romans 8:20 (probably referring to the fall) that God had subjected the creation in hope. The hope that Adam and Eve would have to 1. see the evil that brought the fall defeated,2. Return to a restored Eden,3, have a restored relationship with God, would be denied unless we see Gen 3:15 as a promise of that.

    • The harmonica bit at the end is just a tag we put at the end of all the articles for people who’d like to sign up as students. (1) Yes, a talking snake is abnormal, but that’s what the text says; (2) the snake got into the Garden because God made the snake (see Gen 3:1); (3) the so-called protoevangelium of Gen 3:15 dates to the 2nd century church fathers, not the first-century New Testament writers. The NT never cites Gen 3:15 (or any other verse in Genesis 3) with reference to Jesus; (4) Adam and Eve had hope after leaving Eden because God went with them and retained a close relationship with them (e.g., Eve giving birth to Cain “with the Lord” in Gen 4:1).

      • Thank you for your detailed response. I see you have been very busy with answering many others as well.
        In your reply to my second point you did not answer the main question I wished to raise. Not how did a snake get into the garden, that is evident enough, but how did an ‘enemy’ snake, who seemed to have a purpose of perverting God’s word (diabolically), become part of the good creation. Remember it was all very good and harmonious and God-glorifying until then.
        You are right that Genesis 3:15 is not quoted in the NT and the protoevangelium is a later idea, but I understand that even some rabbis and Targum Yonatan saw the seed as relating to Messiah who would destroy the work of the devil.
        Targum Yonatan in the commentary on Genesis 3:15 sees a struggle between good and evil that will be healed when Messiah comes. That of course does not necessarily mean that these believed the snake was the devil.

        • Thanks for your judicious response. On the question of how an adversarial snake could function in a “good” creation, the word “good” (tov) as it’s used in Genesis 1 doesn’t mean “morally good,” it means “well organized.” When God finishes organizing the world at creation (i.e., putting fish in the sea, animals in the field, separating the light from the dark and the land from the sea, etc.), God says that this organized creation is “very good.” Thus, God’s world could be both “good” (i.e., well ordered) and also allow for the emergence of the deceptive serpent. You do very well to note the messianic interpretation of Gen 3:15 in Targum Pseudo-Jonathan (Targum Yonatan is the Targum to the Prophets), which says that the quarrel between Eve’s offspring and the snake will take place “in the days of King Messiah.” Thus, the later rabbis did, indeed, read Gen 3:15 “messianically,” but Pseduo-Jonathan dates to around the 7th-8th century CE/AD, so I would be cautious about reading the 1st century New Testament in light of it. Some Jewish and patristic interpreters saw Gen 3:15 as messianic — my only point is that this interpretation is not found in either the Tanakh or the New Testament. Thanks again for your very learned response.

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          • I accept that ‘tov’ means here well-organised or as a teacher of mine would say, ‘functionally good’, and not just morally good. But that does not exclude the moral aspect. There was after all a tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden and God commanded them not to eat of it. Creation includes the moral aspect. Perhaps this might be part of ‘creatio tertia’ as some theologians would say, but it is part of creation nevertheless.

          • Thanks for this well organized response, Constantine. “Functionally good” is a wonderful way to put it. You rightly note the existence of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil — thus, if moral “goodness” is operative in Eden, then so is the capacity for “evil” (i.e., if Adam and Eve can gain the knowledge of both “good” and of “evil” by eating from the tree, then both good and evil existed to be known). Hence, there is nothing in the framework of creation that would preclude an evil snake deceiving Adam and Eve.

    • According to the narrative in Genesis 3, a snake deceives Adam and Eve; there is no mention of Satan in the chapter.

    • We are very happy that you’ve joined our discussion forum. Would you believe that these articles are only a taste of what Israel Bible Center has to offer? We also provide comprehensive teaching on a variety of biblical, historical, and cultural topics. You might begin with The Jewish Gospel of Matthew or The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. You’ll be amazed at the Jewish world that awaits you. Don’t delay another minute: enroll now!

  16. How did the snake communicted to Eve? Did the snake actually talked to Eve? I think Satan’s spirit possessed the snake.

    • The text says that the snake talked to Eve, but it does not say that “Satan’s spirit possessed the snake.” Thus, while the talking snake is a biblical concept, Satan’s possession of the snake is an extra-biblical idea that we then would need to import back into a biblical text that is silent in this regard.

  17. Thanks for your comments, I have a question :
    Have you read the book “the unseen real” by the scholar Michael Heiser? How do you interact with his exposition, showing the contrary result you came with? Thank you

    • Thanks for your question, Johan. I have read Mike’s book and have spoken with him about it (you can view our discussion on the IBC website if you sign up for student status). Mike knows that I think the snake is just a snake, and he disagrees with me (there are a lot of other points in his book that we agree on, by the way). I should note that Heiser argues that the snake was a “rebel divine being,” a lesser god who rebelled against the Most High. While he cites some NT verses on Satan in his book, he does not spend time on an exegetical argument for the serpent being Satan.

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  18. Then what is the point of Genesis 3:15 ?

    Gen 3:15  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. 

    • That is exactly his major problem in his interpretation, no way he can get away with it if he wants to keep sustaining for the serpent as just a literal animal.

    • The so-called protoevangelium — i.e., the interpretation of Gen 3:15 as a prophecy about Jesus — dates to the 2nd century church fathers, not the first-century New Testament writers. The NT never cites Gen 3:15 (or any other verse in Genesis 3) with reference to Jesus. The “point” of Gen 3:15 is to show that the descendants of Eve (i.e., all human beings) have a contentious relationship with snakes. Scripture constantly notes the adversarial nature of snakes in the lives of human beings, which reflects the curse in Gen 3:15 (cf. Gen 49:17; Exod 4:3; Num 21:6-7; Deut 8:15; 32:33; 2 Kings 18:4; Ps 91:13; Ecc 10:8-11; Jer 8:17; Amos 5:19).

  19. What about the correlation between the verse Luke 4:6 and the fall of Adam? We all know that satan stole that authority and splendor from Adam when he fell into the serpent trap.

    • I don’t see how Luke 4:6 factors into the question of whether or not the serpent of Genesis 3 was Satan. Are you using it to show that the snake was under Satan’s authority? The only argument in the above article is that the serpent of Genesis 3 is not Satan.

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  20. Based on what Genesis states about the serpent, I am to understand that animals had the ability to speak, or just the serpent? If so, when did animals lost the ability to talk? Or was it God using the sanke to tempt Eve?

    • Since the Bible only narrates this single snake speaking, we should limit the notion of talking animals to the snake alone (and perhaps Balaam’s donkey in Numbers 22). On the question of why or how the snake got to chatting to Eve, the text doesn’t tell us (I don’t think Genesis 3 cares about the same questions that we might think it should care about). There is no evidence that God was using the snake to deceive Eve, and certainly no evidence that Satan was behind the event. Unfortunately, this is just one of the many points at which the Bible is laconic, and so for us to speculate would be to transgress Paul’s suggestion “not to go beyond what is written” (1 Cor 4:6).

  21. So if it is a literal snake, how is it a liar and a deceiver? I didn’t know “literal” snakes lied and deceived. [To be sure, Satan IS LIKE the serpent in that, BEING A “liar” (pseustes; ψεύστης, see Jn 8:44), the devil tries to “tempt” (peiradzo; πειράζω, e.g., Matt 4:1; Mk 1:13; Lk 4:2; 1 Thess 3:5; Rev 2:10) and “lead astray” (planáo; πλανάω, Rev 12:9; 20:10; cf. 2 Cor 11:3). But these terms for Satan are not used of THE SERPENT WHO “deceives” (apatao; ἀπατάω) in Eden (see Gen 3:13 LXX)]”

    • Thank you for your question, Randall. A literal snake *who can talk* has the capacity to make any rhetorical claim.

      • This actually brings up a good point that after God created the inhabitants of the earth in Gen. 1, He said that everything was “good”.

        If the ‘snake’ in the garden (animal) was not motivated by Satan, then that would mean that God made a creature that would lie and deceive by nature and still called it ‘good’.

        • Mike, “good” (tov) in Genesis 1 doesn’t mean “morally good,” it means “well organized.” When God finishes organizing the world at creation (i.e., putting fish in the sea, animals in the field, separating the light from the dark and the land from the sea, etc.), God says that this organized creation is “very good.” Thus, God’s world could be both “good” (i.e., well ordered) and also allow for the emergence of the deceptive serpent. The reason that we think of “good” in Genesis as “morally good” or “without the capacity for evil,” is because we are thinking in terms of the “Good” in platonic philosophy and not “tov” as it is defined in a biblical context.

    • Randall, you make an excellent point: if the serpent (animal) were just another of God’s creation acting as He intended (without outside influence from the adversary), then how could God say the creation was ‘good’ if its nature was that of lies and deceit?

  22. The snake dwells on Adams “Yetzer Hora” or evil inclinations through Heva and causes them to sin. Many times we want to blame our Yetzer Hora on Satan.

    We forget that we have free choice and therefore, a balance is allowed with sin. Ultimately, the choice is ours to sin or to give our Creator all the glory.

    Be Blessed

    • The serpent in Revelation is not a reference to the snake in Genesis. There is a link (in blue), which you can click on in the middle of this article, that says: “see our previous discussion of Satan as Leviathan in Revelation.” This link will take you to an earlier article that deals with the verse you’ve provided, and shows that the “serpent” of Revelation recalls Leviathan in Isaiah, rather than the snake in Genesis.

  23. Extremely interesting discussion that appears to have eluded a consensus opinion as the the serpent, Eve and Satan.

    My Christian background, in a variety of denominations, has ALWAYS defined the serpent as an embodiment of Satan, no question. However, I too have asked myself if the text from which the KJV is based actually says Satan WAS the serpent. Thank you doctor Schaser for the clarification of what, I believe you used the LXX as your information, the ancient text states in this respect.

    Genesis 2: 19 and 20 mentions fowls of the air beasts of the field and all cattle. Genesis 3:1 states ‘the serpent was more SUBTIL THAN ANY BEAST OF THE FIELD which the Lord God had made”. Clearly not how we think of a serpent today. Inference is that the serpent in Genesis had legs as reinforced by Genesis 3: 14 where God curses the serpent “above every all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shall thou go, ….”. No question, the serpent walked on four (4) legs.

    I agree that NOWHERE in Genesis is it stated the serpent was Satan, possessed by Satan or acted on behalf of Satan. Since Satan had been cast from heaven at this point, it is very likely and believable Santan had an influence on any and all animals. The subtle serpent, like later man, falls prey to Satan’s snare of false teaching and deception. If the serpent was “more subtil”, my belief is that it had the ability to think on some level higher than an animal of today.

    Thus beguiled, the serpent wanted to serve Satan and set forth to deceive Eve, who received the instruction from God second-handed via Adam. Thus the serpent never worded the deception as a direct confortation of what Adam had told her, but, as Satan today, slyly let Eve deceive herself by suggestion.

    Again, thank you and the Israel Bible Center for providing me with information I need to rethink my core beliefs and arrive at my personal truth.

    Bill

  24. Thank you Dr. Some things to consider: Revelation 12:9 doesn’t mention Eden but refers to the devil as “that” serpent. Even if it was an actual animal in Eden it would seem that the devil was operating through it. If unclean spirits can possess or enter into pigs then this is of course possible too. When Jesus was tempted by the devil in the wilderness, the devil said that he could offer Jesus the kingdoms of the world because they were given to him. The god of this age may have gained that temporary entitlement when Adam lost it by obeying him (the serpents temptation) rather than God. The victory was only one back when the Seed of the woman crushed the serpent’s head (on the cross). This is clear typology. Jesus saw the devil fall from heaven to the earth. I know we don’t have certainty of these things but there is some good evidence of this.

    • Thanks, Paul. The serpent who is called Satan in Revelation 12:9 is not the serpent of Genesis 3; Revelation refers to Leviathan, the dragon/sea-serpent of Isaiah 27:1. Please follow the link (in blue) embedded within this article that reads: “see our previous discussion of Satan as Leviathan in Revelation.” Click on this link to read my previous article on the serpent language in Revelation and why it does not provide us with a connection to the snake in the Garden.

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  25. Gracias por la ayuda q Uds. proveen, ayuda a salir de tanto error eclesiástico helénico y es interesante y claro cuando es enfocado de manera neutral. Sholom

  26. Por favor sáqueme de una duda, buscando “entender” en el hebreo, es como si me diera a entender q la serpiente es un “sabio” personaje simbólico XXX q busca q Eva y Adam lleguen a ser y actuar a semejanza de las actitudes y debilidades de los ALUHEIM y q el castigo y maldición es como una especie de metáfora aun no comprendida? por favor, su repta. Sholom

  27. Hi dear brother, please let me comment about your post.

    1. I noted that in order to prove your assumptions, you only treated the first part of the curse to the serpent and missed I think the most important part of it, it is to say: I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
    Genesis 3:15 ESV

    The question to ask is, who is the offspring of the women prophecied that shall bruise the head of the serpent?

    I hoop you can follow the story line of the Bible in order to know that the offspring of the women is the Savior, the Messiah, Jesus our Lord.

    So if it is correct, I can not recall any text where describe Jesus bruising the head of any animal, in this case a literal serpent as you argue; but instead, we find descriptions of Jesus defeating Satan and his works, for example, we see Jesus in the desert being tempted by the devil in a similar way Adan and Eve were tempted.

    And if we agree the offspring of the woman in Genesis 3 is Jesus and if you want to sustain the serpent was just a talking animal, I see 2 problems:

    1. Why don’t we see talking serpents anymore? If I recall in the curse we do not see God cursing saying : “and you shall not talk anymore”. And

    2. If it was a literal animal, a serpent and Jesus is the offspring, that one serpent lived at least 4000 to 6000 years before being bruised in his head by the Lord, something that is not recall in the New Testament.

    Thank for letting me comment, God bless you

    • Johan, thanks for your comments and questions. Since the NT never cites Genesis 3:15 with respect to Jesus (in fact, there is not explicit quotation of any verse in Genesis 3), I don’t feel compelled to read the text as “messianic.” The idea that Gen 3:15 is a reference to Jesus goes back to Irenaeus (2nd century CE), but not to the first-century New Testament writers. I read the “seed” of Gen 3:15 as a reference to all the descendants of Eve (i.e., all of humanity), rather than to a single seed — since the Hebrew for “seed” (zera) is almost certainly meant to convey plurality in Gen 3:15, rather than singularity.

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      • Thanks for your reply,

        I still see that you can not elaborate on the second and most important part of the curse to the serpent, nowhere in the Scripture we find how an enmity is disclosed between the descendants of eve and literal serpents in the Scripture, by this with all respect you fail to see how the storyline of the Bible disclosed by presenting the cosmic war of God against his fallen creatures, and I have to add that if you fail to see the seed of the women being our Lord, the apostel John doesn’t fail to see Him in Genesis 3 when he sees the seed of the woman who is going to destroy Satan being born in Revelation 12.

        And as last I would like to ask, if Satan is not in the picture in the first chapters of the book of Genesis, how is it possible that the apostel John can say that Cain was of the devil in 1 John 3:12 comp with our Lord saying to the leaders: “you are of your father the devil….. He was a murderer FROM THE BEGGINING, and if I don’t mistake there is a contextual connection within the consecuense of the disobedience of Eve and the one of Cain ( Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.”) Gen 3:16b and (sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”) Gen 4:7b

        • Thanks, Johan. (1) If Gen 3:15 isn’t about Jesus (which I don’t think it is), then the serpent’s curse doesn’t show his nature as Satan one way or the other; (2) Revelation 12 does not refer to the serpent in the Garden, it refers to Leviathan (cf. Rev 12:9; Isa 27:1 LXX; see my other article on the front page); (3) Scripture constantly notes the adversarial nature of snakes in the lives of human beings, which reflects the curse in Gen 3:15 (cf. Gen 49:17; Exod 4:3; Num 21:6-7; Deut 8:15; 32:33; 2 Kings 18:4; Ps 91:13; Ecc 10:8-11; Jer 8:17; Amos 5:19); (4) Cain can be “of the evil one” ala 1 Jn 3:12, but Cain’s actions in Genesis 4 don’t show that Satan was the serpent in Genesis 3; (5) On John 8:44, Jesus’ reference to the “beginning” (ἀρχή) refers to the pre-human beginning (cf. ἀρχή in Jn 1:1-2), rather than the Garden of Eden. Since Satan is among the heavenly divine beings, or “sons of God,” who assemble with God in Job 1-2, he existed prior to earthly creation (see Job 38:4-7), and therefore was a liar from a “beginning” that predates humanity. On this reading, then, Jesus would not be referring to the events of Genesis 3 in Jn 8:44.

      • Thanks Dr. Nicholas for the patient interaction, but I still struggle with the general divide in our traditions here surrounding the messianic nature of Genesis 3:15. 🙂 The Jewish tradition has largely upheld the plural sense of seed, while the Christian tradition has largely held that Genesis 3:15 is first and foremost, often exclusively messianic (Protoevangel). I do believe that other Biblical texts do collaborate with this, just as in larger theological debate. In Genesis, first, Eve gives birth to Abel (vapor, worship) “with the help of the Lord”. After Cain kills Abel, the firstborn, Seth (the “appointed”) one is born, then Enosh, and people call upon the Lord. This is followed by still other children born (Gen. 5:4). In like fashion, then, Mary then gives birth first to the salvific seed singular parallel fashion, like Eve, with the “help of God”. Her seed is first singular as in the Incarnation (John 1:1-18; 3:16-18; 12:24, etc…); the one singular seed (Christ) bringing Salvation and the true source of the “bios” and “firstborn” of the new creation (Gal. 6:15, 2 Cor 5:17, with 2 Corinthians 5:14-19, Ephesians 2:11-22, Ephesians 4:17-24, and Colossians 3:1-11 ). Revelation 12 and 19 also appear to have these stronger and more singular messianic themes in mind. In Rev. 12 we have “The woman giving birth to the child (protected)”, vs. the great red dragon ready to devour. The Incarnate Savior, while attacked by the evil one, ultimately is protected and ultimately wins over the evil one (Rev. 12:9-17). Only later, the “rest of the children are born” and “They overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and the word of their witness…” To repeat: only after this singular child is born and protected, that then woman now has “the rest of her children” (the ones persecuted by the evil one, Rev. 12:17, obvious reference to the church). Thus, finally then, to get back to Genesis 3, “the seed”, like most Christian theologians, points first and foremost as Messianic reference, typology through the singular savior theme repeated in Seth, Joseph, David, etc…and these only secondarily (as favored ones) of God’s people, redeemed humanity. Mary had her first seed, Yeshua, the Savior, which then ministers grace to her other children (James, Jude, etc…the family of Joseph & Mary). Hope these are some good thoughts. God bless, praying for further truth in these matters. 🙂

        • Thanks for your thoughtful response, Joel. To my eye, I see you making several complex scriptural connections based on what you see as conceptual parallels between Jesus and the Genesis narrative. From my perspective, since the New Testament never directly cites Gen 3:15 (or any verse from Genesis 3), I don’t feel compelled to link that verse with Christ. I actually get a little nervous about claiming that certain OT texts refer to Jesus or his movement, when the NT writers never make such an assertion. Rather than making my own links between the Testaments, I just prefer to have the NT writers do that for me. This goes back to Paul’s exhortation in 1 Cor 4:6, with which I begin the above article, not to “go beyond what is written.” Though I don’t share your interpretation of Scripture in this particular case, I respect your learning and your willingness to interact. I really do appreciate your thoughtful and respectful contribution to our discussion.

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  28. Hi Dr. Shaser, great article. To me, there is no question, based on the terminology used, that Paul and John were referring to Leviathan. My question is, would not Leviathan as Satan/devil be also “going beyond what is written” according to your reasoning? Or do you think this is an issue of genre, Ps. 74 and Isa 27 being poetry instead of narrative. I personally do not think it is necessary to read this narrative only literally to “not go beyond what is written”. There are many examples where Jesus and the apostles and disciples do just this, such as regarding Leviathan. For me, the interpretative questions are primarily “what was the author trying to communicate?” and “what is God trying to communicate?”. As for the first question, perhaps the author was only trying to communicate what literally happened in the beginning, or perhaps the author was trying to communicate through Israel’s traditions and legends about humanity’s origins a kind of parable. Perhaps the narrative it is to be understood as an archetype for the human condition in general and the snake for the evil inclination in particular. Like a parable, the story is read literally within its narrative, but its intended message goes beyond the literal story. Or perhaps it a little of both. Just a thought.

    • Thanks for your judicious comments, Ryan. I’m open to the parabolic and/or poetic nature of these passages, and that the New Testament writers took archetypal or poetic license in applying the Leviathan texts to Satan. I actually hadn’t thought about it before, but you’re right that the New Testament writers are, technically, “going beyond” what’s actually written in Isaiah 27 and Psalm 74. That’s a very good point. The NT writers (along with other Jewish writers of the time) took the idea of Leviathan (which actually has its roots in the Babylonian sea-monster deity, Tiamat) and applied it to Satan. Insofar as Leviathan represents primordial chaos and is the paradigm of other gods, Second Temple Jews felt justified in equating the heavenly adversary, Satan, with Leviathan. I’m good with the NT writers making this move, even if it goes beyond the literal OT text… The NT writers get to because they wrote the NT, but we don’t get to because, well, we didn’t 🙂

      • Hi brother, please let me comment again:

        It is very probable that revelation 12 is expecially about Isaiah 27 but it doesn’t imply that Genesis 3 is out of the picture, because:

        1. The word used in Isahia referring to this monster is the same word used in Genesis 3(nahash) and the description of how this monster is being destroyed is pictured as getting his head crushed in Psalm 74:13 (comp with Genesis 3- who’s head is going to be crushed?), if this is not enough reason, then let’s take a look what is said about the woman in revelation 12

        First it is significant that this woman is giving birth in great pain: ,She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth.
        Revelation 12:2 ESV

        what? Let’s recall Genesis 3: To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children…
        Genesis 3:16 ESV
        .

        Another thing is, you respectfully sustain that the seed referring in Gen 3 is not Jesus, because the word used there is” zara ” which is plural you said; I am not a Hebrew scholar but I see that in Gen 22:18 talking about the seed (zara) of Abraham, the apostel Paul comments is singular and is referring to our Lord Jesus Christ,

        To this it also could be add some work like the one of Mike Heiser in his book “the unseen realm” espec page 73 and following where he takes Genesis 3 in context and compares it with Ezequiel 28, and also the verses where our Lord talks about the devil as being a murderer from the beginning (where you take begging referring before the creation of humans, by the way I can not find any vers in the Scripture where inform us about Satan murdering before creation of humans, I guess that is indeed “going beyond what is written”) and also the apostel John talking about Cain as being of the evil one. So brother I still think that your interpretation of the serpent in Genesis 3 is respectful, but to say that the serpent in Genesis 3 is “going beyond what is written” is not to take into account the overwhelming inter textual connections found in the Scriptures, and it should be not to go where the Scriptures want to takes us. God bless

        • This is wonderful exposition, Johan. I’m very much enjoying reading your thoughts — you are a good Bible reader 🙂 Okay: (1) the woman in Revelation 12 is not Eve; she represents the nation of Israel. I know this because the “pregnant woman as Israel” also appears in Isaiah (see Isa 26:17) — this strengthens the reading of Rev 12:9 referring to Isaiah’s Leviathan, by the way). More, Revelation’s picture of a female Israel bearing the Messiah also shows up in the Dead Sea Scrolls (see 1QH 11:7-11). (2) You’re right that Paul refers to “zera” in the singular, but he’s not referring to the seed of Gen 3:15; he’s referring to the seed of Abraham, as you rightly note. Thus, reading that seed as a reference to Genesis is overstepping the bounds of what Paul actually says. (3) You’re also right that there’s no reference to the devil “murdering” anyone in the primordial beginning to which Jesus refers in Jn 8:44, but there’s no reference to the garden snake murdering anyone in Genesis 3 either, so Jn 8:44 doesn’t get us a connection to Eden. I’m happy to say that Satan was behind Cain’s murder of Abel, but what Cain does in Genesis 4 says nothing about the snake in Genesis 3; (4) Ezekiel 28 is about the king of Tyre, not Satan (cf. Ezek 28:12). (5) You are free to conflate Leviathan with the garden snake — we have evidence of both Second Temple Jews and the church fathers doing just that — all I’m arguing is that this conflation does not appear in the pages of the Tanakh, Septuagint, or New Testament.

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  29. Revelation 12, 9: And the great DRAGON was cast out, that OLD SERPENT,  CALLED THE DEVIL AND SATAN , which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. 

     

    • The serpent in Revelation is not a reference to the snake in Genesis. There is a link (in blue), which you can click on in the middle of this article, that says: “see our previous discussion of Satan as Leviathan in Revelation.” This link will take you to an earlier article that deals with the verse you’ve provided, and shows that the “serpent” of Revelation recalls Leviathan in Isaiah, rather than the snake in Genesis.

  30. Shalom, friends. For me, personally, it is alarming that in response to such an excellent article by Dr. Schaser (in which he demonstrates true mastery of the Scriptures and ancient languages), a number of forum participants (most thankfully not students!) simply resort to the assertion: “I believe that….” Dr. Schaser argues for the heart and soul of honest and unbiased interpretation of God’s Holy Writ. He calls you and me to stick to the text, and not overstep its authority. All of us have beliefs, and most of the beliefs that people have should, in fact, be respected regardless of whether they are right or wrong. However, in this forum we don’t share with each other our “beliefs,” rather we share our logical arguments, which we present to each other for the glory of God.

  31. If I understand your point, it was the snake that lied to Eve! That would mean that the serpent made this decision freely, following Satan and obeying him who is the father of lies.
    Why not?
    That would lead us to another question: Were animals created free beings? Was it possible that any of them could turn against Adam and Eve for any reason??
    Honestly, that does not sound correct.
    Not everything is said in the Bible but can be revealed when we meditate on a passage, asking God for His wisdom, and most importantly surrendering our views with humility.
    But as we have some elements here, I would say: Satan was already there, that means sin was already there; but it was not in man’s nature until man decided to follow the suggestion made by the serpent which was influenced by Satan.
    Also, the translation says: “Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made”. Would it be possible that God created an animal that had within itself the ability to deceive Adam and Eve?!? Or, did the serpent first accept to be one with Satan?
    What was the snake’s interest in all this? Who was the one who was interested in this dramatic situation other than Satan? So, it’s obviously not right to say that Satan had nothing to do with this situation! He was behind all this, that’s for sure.
    We can assume that the snake let Satan use its body and was responsible to do so. That’s why God punished it.
    However, when God says that the woman’s offspring will crush its head, it cannot be about an animal’s head, of course.

    • Thank you for your comments, Esther. I understand your logic, but the problem is that Genesis 3 does not offer this backstory about Satan. There is no textual evidence for the position that Satan used the serpent, or was involved in the events in the Garden of Eden. The point of the above article was to caution (with Paul) against going “beyond what is written” in Scripture, and I echo that caution here. To your questions, animals were (and are) created as “free beings.” The Bible doesn’t comment on whether any of the other animals could have deceived Eve, so it’s better not to speculate on the question. From my perspective, we should not “assume” that the “snake let Satan use its body” because we have no textual data to suggest this scenario.

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  32. I am still open to the snake being an animal. I see the word sin (kattawaw) does not have the same meaning as the word evil (rah)? I read that knowledge of evil is associated with calamity, distress, grief, trouble, affliction, misery, etc. This sounds like the description of the word leviathan. So to be deceived is different than to sin (break a command)? Did sin enter the world, or did calamity enter the world in Romans 3:12?

    • Thanks for your comments and questions, Kat. You’re right that the word for “sin” (hatta) is different than “evil” (ra). You’re also right that Adam and Eve’s eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil led to things like distress and trouble. Insofar as Leviathan is a chaos creature, it can carry these kinds of concepts in a symbolic way. To your questions, Eve tells God that the serpent “deceived” her (see Gen 3:13), but interestingly, none of the words for “sin,” “iniquity,” or “transgression” appear in Genesis 3. Nevertheless, the text is clear that Adam and Eve broke a “command” of God (cf. 2:16; 3:11, 17), so that, according to Romans 5:12, sin entered the world.

  33. Yes,this is why jews don’t believe in lucifer,which is completely wrong.It wasn’t actually a snake,the skin looks like a snake,it also had the dark eyes like the snake,because no one had ever seen a fallen angel this was the best analogy ?Also it shimmered and shined which usually attracts the female because they like the bling

  34. shalom Dr.Nicholas J. I am disciple of JESUS CHRIST called by HIS name as a christian in Uganda.i have enjoyed so much this discussion.please allow me to join you.The snake belongs to satan read John 8:44. the snake was satanised by satan the devil.so whether the snake is not satan ,the truth remains that the two are one.the snake is an agent of satan.

    • Hi, Moses. Thanks for your comment. Since the snake is not mentioned in John 8:44, the verse does provide a connection between Satan and the serpent of Genesis 3. The “beginning” to which Jesus refers in the verse is not a recollection of Genesis 3, but rather a primordial, pre-human beginning.

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  35. This is interesting. However, from a Christian point of view, the “seed of the woman” would bruise the serpent’s head. Does this not refer to the Christ born of the Virgin Mary, destined to defeat death, hell and the grave by Jeshua’s death and resurrection?

    • Thanks, Lois. This understanding of Gen 3:15 is a common Christian interpretation in which the verse is understood to contain the “protoevangeluim” (the gospel before Jesus arrived). However, the protoevangelium interpretation is not found in the New Testament; rather, the idea dates to the 2nd century church fathers.

  36. I am not a scholar but and I don’t know Hebrew and only limited Greek. It seems to me like there are strong connections with Genesis 3 and some NT passages, especially Revelation 12 and 20, where it says in verse 2: He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil or Satan, …. and in verse 8 it continues to explain his work, which is deceiving. This seems to be exactly the work of the serpent of Genesis. There is no animal that can speak abstractly and intelligently unless someone is enabling that animal to do so.

    • Thanks for your comments, Siegfried. There is a link (in blue), which you can click on in the middle of this article, that says: “see our previous discussion of Satan as Leviathan in Revelation.” This link will take you to an earlier article that deals with the verse you’ve provided, and shows that the “serpent” of Revelation recalls Leviathan in Isaiah, rather than the snake in Genesis.

  37. Yes, all the discussion are pretty good, remember that we are created by GOD in HIS likeness. Meaning. We understand the right and wrong. even the people in the jungle they know the good and bad. only our new generation exaggerated they real meaning of creation. Snake doesn’t speak human. so the writer in the confuse the humanity to gain favour for the devil. look the reality. all bad things is headline in all news letters in the world. so Christian peace lovers be smart be a man of GOD.

  38. Dr. Schaser, I am looking for same clarity on a particular verse mentioned in the discussion. Correct me if I missed it in one of your other responses, but I noticed that in two of your responses to John 8:44 you quoted Jesus as saying the devil was a “liar” “from the beginning.” Are the English translations in error? I ask because Jesus says he was a “murderer” “from the beginning.” If the translations are correct, and, as you say, this “beginning” predated Adam and Eve, who did the devil “murder”? Thanks for your help.

    • Thanks for your comment and question, Ken. You’re right that Jn 8:44 says that the devil was “a murderer from the beginning.” In the course of my responses, the latter half of the verse — in which Jesus says that the devil is a “liar” — got conflated with the first part of the verse. It was just a lack of precision on my part; there are no issues of translation. We don’t know to which “murder” Jesus refers in Jn 8:44 — if it’s a pre-Adamic murder, which I think the Johannine text pushes us toward, then it is an event that goes unattested in the biblical canon. However, Jesus also can’t be talking about the serpent in the Garden of Eden in Jn 8:44, since the serpent doesn’t “murder” anyone in Genesis 3. It may be that Jn 8:44 refers to the role of the “evil one” in Cain’s murder of Abel (cf. 1 Jn 3:12), but that doesn’t get us any traction on whether the snake in the Garden was Satan.

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  39. What was the snake before being cursed by God? Why would this creature tempt, lie, deceive Adam and Eve? Was sin in the Garden before Adam and Eve sinned? Was creation less than perfect or good?

    • Thanks for your questions, Joseph. (1) The snake was just a snake before God cursed him, and he remained a snake after God cursed him; (2) the text doesn’t explicate why the snake deceives Adam and Eve, but we know from other ancient near eastern literature that snakes were conceived as “chaos creatures,” so it is fitting that it would be snake who brought chaos in Genesis 3; (3) while the Hebrew of Genesis 3 does not contain the word “sin” (חטא), Paul notes that sin came into the world through “one man” — that is, Adam (see Rom 5:12) — so according to Paul, there was no sin in the world before Adam transgressed God’s command (4) when Genesis 1 says that God’s creation was “good” (טוב), it doesn’t mean “morally good”; rather, it means “well organized,” (i.e., “ordered” — “good” from a creative perspective).

    • Thanks, David. I suppose we would need to define “fall of man,” but on my reading of the text, Satan had nothing to do with humanity’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden.

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  40. We cannot read “serpent” literally, it does not make any sense that a literal “serpent” tempted Eve to commit sin. The “serpent” could talk with Eve who is a spiritual being. Furthermore, the “serpent” knew the Will of God. This is a clear evidence that the “serpent” was a spiritual being. It is written in Rev 12:9: “that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan”. Originally a good angel and became fallen as written in II Pet 2:4. and Jude 6-7, the angels did not keep their position and committed immoral lust.

    • Thanks for your comments, Christian. However, Revelation 12:9 does not refer to the snake of Genesis 3. There is a link (in blue), which you can click on in the middle of this article, that says: “see our previous discussion of Satan as Leviathan in Revelation.” This link will take you to an earlier article that deals with the verse you’ve provided, and shows that the “serpent” of Revelation recalls Leviathan in Isaiah, rather than the snake in Genesis. More, I’m not seeing where Genesis 3 states that the serpent “knew the will of God.”

  41. I was under the impression that “Satan” wasn’t even a formal name in Hebrew, but merely a title: haSatan, meaning “the adversary.” Am I mistaken? Is it actually used as a proper name? If it’s a proper name, then I suppose we would be compelled to approach these 2 entities as exactly that: 2 entities. However, if it’s merely a title meaning “the adversary,” and not a formal name, then wouldn’t it be at least plausible to consider “the serpent” and “Satan” one and the same, since the serpent is clearly an adversary?

    • Thanks for your comment and question, Evan. “Satan” appears as a proper name in 1 Chronicles 21:1 (i.e., without the definite article “ha” [“the”]). But even if this instance didn’t occur in the text, I would caution against “considering” anything that is not based on actual textual evidence. In this case, I’m uncomfortable linking the serpent with Satan because no biblical text ever does it — no nounal or verbal form of שׂטן (adversary) is ever used of the snake in Genesis 3.

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  42. In Ezekiel the I believe the King of Tyre is also a picture of satan, just like the serpent in the garden is. Is there no such thing as allegory in the Bible? Pardes doesn’t the Rosh stand for remez or a hint, is it going to far to hint that this is a reference to satan, seeing as satan is our enemy and would want us destroyed and kicked out. Satan is not referred to much in the OT but doesn’t the NT want us to link our flesh and satan together as things that are perishing. Thanks.

    • Thanks, Mike. You’re right about the meaning of the resh in the acronym “Pardes,” but this exegetical concept post-dates the New Testament, so it’s better not to retroject it back into the way we interpret the Old Testament. To be sure, we can assume that all sorts of things “hint” at other things in the biblical text — what I’m arguing is that we should use textual data (i.e., words that actually appear in the text itself) to arrive at our exegetical conclusions. From my perspective, suggesting a “hint” without explicit textual basis is, indeed, going “beyond what is written” (1 Cor 4:6).

  43. It is sad in some ways that within a few days of any new topic being posted there are too many to get through reading them all.
    So it may be that my thoughts have already been answered.

    I would argue that spirits in the spirit world, especially fallen angels, have no right to be here without some kind of permit (e.g. Father God “sends out ” messenger angels).
    This is why demons make every effort to possess a body – preferably human but any animal will do.

    So satan had to use the snake to speak through to Eve.

    • Thanks for your comments, Ashley. You are right that God sends spirits into the earthly realm (e.g., 1 Sam 16:23; 1 Kgs 22:22), but it does not follow from this point that Satan spoke through the snake. Genesis 3 never mentions Satan, or bodily possession, or spirits (evil or otherwise). Thus, it is “going beyond what is written” (1 Cor 4:6) to suppose that Satan embodied and/or spoke through Eve.

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      • “Genesis 3 never mentions Satan, or bodily possession, or spirits (evil or otherwise).” True. But then satan hardly gets a mention in all of the Old Testament; there are allusions to him in Ezekiel of course, and the book of Job but not by the name of satan. But that then brings you back to the question that others have posed: If the serpent is not satan in disguise, or under satan’s control or influence, what other purpose could the serpent have in leading Adam & Eve to sin? In fact, what other reason could there be for a serpent

        • In the Ancient Near East (of which Israel was a part), snakes were known to be creatures that wrought chaos in the world. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, for example, it is a snake who steals the plant of everlasting life from Gilgamesh (this episode is strikingly similar to the biblical event in which a snake ensures that Adam and Eve can no longer eat from the tree of everlasting life). According to the Egyptian Pyramid Texts, the snake “shall go with [its] face on the path… [and] the sandal of Horus tramples the snake underfoot” (cf. the very similar language in Genesis 3:14-15). Since the serpent was almost universally understood to be a chaos creature that plagued human beings, it makes perfect sense, in an ancient near eastern context, for a snake to deceive Eve. It may sound odd to us in the 21st century, but the original Israelite readers of Genesis 3 would have been fully comfortable with a deceptive snake.

          • You keep on repeating that (to many posters) but it obviously doesn’t sit well with us. You appear to be basing your views on other “myths & legends” from other peoples.
            But remember, their stories are all based on bible (Torah?) stories.
            E.g. almost every older race on earth today has a story based on the great flood, with only a handful of people being saved.
            It was well after this that God “divided” the peoples at Babel. Thus the stories all came from the same source.
            Snakes, like donkeys, don’t talk unless they’re under some other influence.

          • Thanks for your comments, Ashley. The literature of these other nations is not based on the Hebrew Bible; in fact, it is the other way around — the Israelite literature draws on and responds to the earlier Egyptian, Mesopotamian, and Ugaritic literature of Israel’s neighbors. Talking animals also appear in this literature and they are not under any demonic influence (e.g., the talking cattle in the Egyptian “Tale of Two Brothers,” and the talking animals in the Assyrian “Teaching of Aqihar”). The “talking animal” was a common literary trope in ancient Near Eastern literature.

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          • Dr. Schaser, thanks again for the stimulating discussion. I read your latest response to Ashley, and was wondering if you would clarify something. I agree that the ancient legends don’t draw from the biblical text, since the Torah was written a couple thousand years after the events described in Genesis, but when you stated that the Bible draws from the other ancient writings, are you suggesting that either 1) the Bible is not a divinely inspired and/or authoritative text (a position which you are certainly entitled to) or 2) that the other ancient texts are authoritative just like the Bible?

          • Thanks for these very good questions, Evan. I’m not suggesting either of these positions. I’m saying that the Bible’s original writers drew from contemporary Ancient Near Eastern literature when they constructed their own Israelite narratives; it’s not a matter of assigning “authority” or “inspiration” to the ANE literature, which plays no role in either my religious belief or praxis. For me, the Bible alone is theologically authoritative, but that doesn’t preclude the fact that the Israelites who wrote the Bible knew of, and drew from, earlier non-biblical texts — or the fact that looking at these non-biblical texts can really help us to understand the narrative logic and theological import of Genesis 3.

  44. I respect everyone conversations, the only thing I see is Mr. Nicholas is trying to bring his way of reading the translation he think is the correct, why is this; 1 because several time I read he mention he is not interested to read the NT that must of the Christian people we read, so everybody I think we have to make the question, what important is to know if snake of Genesis 13 is the same in Revelation, is Satan, in real the bottom line is that Satan bring the sin to humanity deceiving Eve and Adan.

    • The biblical text doesn’t say that “snakes can talk.” It says that this particular snake in the Garden of Eden could talk, but it doesn’t make any blanket statements on the loquaciousness of serpents. In the Ancient Near East (of which Israel was a part), snakes were known to be creatures that wrought chaos in the world. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, for example, it is a snake who steals the plant of everlasting life from Gilgamesh (this episode is strikingly similar to the biblical event in which a snake ensures that Adam and Eve can no longer eat from the tree of everlasting life). According to the Egyptian Pyramid Texts, the snake “shall go with [its] face on the path… [and] the sandal of Horus tramples the snake underfoot” (cf. the very similar language in Genesis 3:14-15). Since the serpent was almost universally understood to be a chaos creature that plagued human beings, it makes perfect sense in an ancient near eastern context for a snake to deceive Eve. It may sound odd to us in the 21st century, but the original Israelite readers of Genesis 3 would have been fully comfortable with a deceptive, talking snake. The talking snake is a well-known symbol of the chaos that imperfect human beings must navigate.

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  45. Shalom Dr Schaser I like this artical and what I would like to put in is that I looked up in 3 Bibles that we have one says snake and the other two says serpents I have a JPS and Stones Tanach, and on my phone is NCV I believe that it is all in matter how it was interpertated and by who. I have two that are of Hebrew content and and other I am not sure. But to get right down it needs to check out what animals were in that day.

    • Hi, Sandra. I’m glad you like the article. The English terms “snake” and “serpent” are synonyms and they both translate the same Hebrew word, נחשׁ (nachash).

  46. Your article certainly has generated much interest and comment which I find most absorbing. I have always believed that it was the devil himself; the snake had no authority to speak to Adam or Eve being under their dominionship – see Gen 1:26 – it had to be an outsider, and secondly, I cannot believe that the woman was gullible enough to be “charmed” by an ugly snake. Remember too, the devil comes as an angel of light. Just my thoughts.

    • Thanks for your comments, Keith. From an ancient Israelite perspective, it would have been totally plausible for a snake to deceive Adam and Eve without the help of Satan. In the Ancient Near East (of which Israel was a part), snakes were known to be creatures that wrought chaos in the world. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, for example, it is a snake who steals the plant of everlasting life from Gilgamesh (this episode is strikingly similar to the biblical event in which a snake ensures that Adam and Eve can no longer eat from the tree of everlasting life). According to the Egyptian Pyramid Texts, the snake “shall go with [its] face on the path… [and] the sandal of Horus tramples the snake underfoot” (cf. the very similar language in Genesis 3:14-15). Since the serpent was almost universally understood to be a chaos creature that plagued human beings, it makes perfect sense, in an ancient near eastern context, for a snake to deceive Eve. It may sound odd to us in the 21st century, but the original Israelite readers of Genesis 3 would have been fully comfortable with a deceptive snake without making any recourse to Satan.

    • We are very happy that you’ve joined our discussion forum. Would you believe that these articles are only a taste of what Israel Bible Center has to offer? We also provide comprehensive teaching on a variety of biblical, historical, and cultural topics. You might begin with The Jewish Gospel of Matthew or The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. You’ll be amazed at the Jewish world that awaits you. Don’t delay another minute: enroll now!

    • The serpent of Revelation 20:2 does not refer to the serpent of Genesis 3. There is a link (in blue), which you can click on in the middle of this article, that says: “see our previous discussion of Satan as Leviathan in Revelation.” This link will take you to an earlier article that deals with the verse you’ve provided, and shows that the “serpent” of Revelation recalls Leviathan in Isaiah, rather than the snake in Genesis.

  47. If the serpent was simply an animal, like all the rest, why was it capable of conversing with a human and why would it be wicked/evil, in that it was a liar/deceiver? This is prior to the fall. There is no evidence, in the rest of the Bible, that any animal ever talked, save for Bila’am’s donkey, which was given a special ability to do so by Hashem. I understand that equating the serpent with hasatan is speculative, but it makes sense. IMHO, what you suggest does not.

    • Thanks for contributing to the discussion, Michael. From an ancient Israelite perspective, it would have been totally plausible for a snake to deceive Adam and Eve without the help of Satan. In the Ancient Near East (of which Israel was a part), snakes were known to be creatures that wrought chaos in the world. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, for example, it is a snake who steals the plant of everlasting life from Gilgamesh (this episode is strikingly similar to the biblical event in which a snake ensures that Adam and Eve can no longer eat from the tree of everlasting life). According to the Egyptian Pyramid Texts, the snake “shall go with [its] face on the path… [and] the sandal of Horus tramples the snake underfoot” (cf. the very similar language in Genesis 3:14-15). Since the serpent was almost universally understood to be a chaos creature that plagued human beings, it makes perfect sense, in an ancient near eastern context, for a snake to deceive Eve. On the serpent talking, it shouldn’t surprise us that no other animals do so, since the text explicates that the snake was the “craftiest” of all the animals (i.e., smarter than other creatures; Gen 3:1). Talking animals also appear in literature of Israel’s neighbors, but such animals are not under any divine or demonic influence (e.g., the talking cattle in the Egyptian “Tale of Two Brothers,” and the talking animals in the Assyrian “Teaching of Aqihar”). The “talking animal” was a common literary trope in ancient Near Eastern literature. A deceptive talking snake is perfectly understandable without making any recourse to Satan.

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      • Sorry – not buying it. You can’t elevate pagan narratives to equal status with the writings of the Bible. I can’t swallow the idea that the writers of the Bible presented what is supposed to be an historical account of what happened in Gan Eden, based on some reworking of a pagan, fictitious story. If anything, the pagan stories would be some modification, based on accounts of what actually happened.

        • Thanks for this response, Michael. That’s ok, you don’t have to “buy it.” My only goal is to present the ancient Israelite biblical text in its original Ancient Near Eastern literary context, which includes what you refer to as “pagan narratives.” I’m not trying to “elevate” other ANE narratives to “equal status” with the Bible, but I am wanting to show how the relatively late Israelite material responds to and polemicizes the earlier ANE material. But if you don’t find my readings convincing, I’m completely fine with that and I respect your disagreement. Thanks again for contributing to our discussion.

  48. Question???

    If the serpent was not satan, why he deceived Eve??? Because he uses the same strategic, with indulgence, lie, ignoring God order and then created chaos again,

    • From an ancient Israelite perspective, it would have been totally plausible for a snake to deceive Adam and Eve without the help of Satan. In the Ancient Near East (of which Israel was a part), snakes were known to be creatures that wrought chaos in the world. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, for example, it is a snake who steals the plant of everlasting life from Gilgamesh (this episode is strikingly similar to the biblical event in which a snake ensures that Adam and Eve can no longer eat from the tree of everlasting life). According to the Egyptian Pyramid Texts, the snake “shall go with [its] face on the path… [and] the sandal of Horus tramples the snake underfoot” (cf. the very similar language in Genesis 3:14-15). Since the serpent was almost universally understood to be a chaos creature that plagued human beings, it makes perfect sense, in an ancient near eastern context, for a snake to deceive Eve.

    • We are very happy that you’ve joined our discussion forum. Would you believe that these articles are only a taste of what Israel Bible Center has to offer? We also provide comprehensive teaching on a variety of biblical, historical, and cultural topics. You might begin with The Jewish Gospel of Matthew or The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. You’ll be amazed at the Jewish world that awaits you. Don’t delay another minute: enroll now!

  49. All that talk about the talking serpent.I think a snake was.chosen because it is poisenous and is feared by many people but today that snakes are biologigal very important but even today most people try to kill them even many snakes are not poisenous.because the Bible tells us so.I have a feeling there was something more dangerous tan an apple like some kind of drugs.

  50. I think you are not in the revelation.the ennemie is known from Adan.And Adan will know him as a lier.so that he can not Come front of him and make what he want.Adan learn all he knows to eve.but the story i heard from jews they guard the garden and each other have a part to look after.as Ève will recognize him satan goes toward the snake to help him.he tried with many animals but it is the serpent wich accept.and satan speak throw the serpent he hide himself.why? because it is an angel Ève and Adan know.

  51. If God did not want Adam & Eve to eat the fruit from the tree why did He plant it there and why is the fruit identified as an Apple and any other fruit

    • The fruit is an apple in artistic renderings of the event, but not in the biblical text. In the Bible it is an unidentified “fruit” (פרי; pri). On your second question, the text actually doesn’t say that God “planted” (נטע; nata’), but rather that God made the trees “sprout” (צמח; tsamach). More, the text doesn’t dwell on God setting up the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil; rather, the text only notes that “God made to sprout all the trees out of the ground that were pleasant to the eye and good for food. The Tree of Life was in the middle of the garden, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” (Gen 2:9). It may be helpful to know that trees symbolized “cosmic order” in the Ancient Near East, and the trees of the garden function in this way, as well. When Adam and Eve transgress God’s command, they disrupt God’s cosmic order — God had wanted humanity to achieve the knowledge of good and evil through relationship with God, but instead humans attempt the achieve these ends themselves, and therefore disrupt God’s planned order.

    • Israel Bible Center equips you with the tools you need to enter into the Jewish world of Scripture. We provide first-rate teaching, and the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s top scholars. As a student, you will be able to interact personally with our teaching faculty, and gain access to hundreds of hours of Bible courses, including The Jewish Gospel of Matthew and The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. Become a part of the community of teachers and students at Israel Bible Center today!

    • Raj; God created us with a free will. Adam & Eve were free to do anything they wanted to do in Eden.
      But without a choice there could be no right or wrong.
      God had to give them the opportunity to do wrong, even though He told them not to.

  52. Phew, I’ve scanned every response! Can I ask a question? If sin did not enter the world until Adam and Eve ate the fruit, how was the snake / serpent able to do something wrong in deceiving them? Or is there technically a difference between ‘sin’ and ‘evil’ and the snake was ‘evil’ and then after Adam and Eve ate the fruit, ‘sin’ entered the world. Was the snake ‘sinful’? Was it ‘evil’? (Or some other ‘concept’ I am not aware of or haven’t grasped’?) Just trying to get my head around it. Thank You.

    • Thanks for your questions, John. Interestingly, the word for “sin” (hatta) never appears in Genesis 3, either with reference to the serpent or Adam and Eve. While there is the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and “Evil” (ra), the word “evil” never appears with reference to the snake. The texts says that the snake was “cunning” (arum; Gen 3:1), but that’s the only adjective that we get applied to this animal. When Paul notes that “Sin” entered the world through Adam’s transgression (Rom 5:12), he is speaking of a meta-concept — an overarching phenomenon of Sin with a capital S — that afflicts all of creation. Paul notes that the serpent “deceived” Eve (2 Cor 11:3), and Paul might have thought that such deception was a singular, isolated “sin” (we don’t know since he doesn’t mention his thoughts on the matter), the serpent’s action does not factor into the all-enveloping notion of “Sin” that Paul envisions coming into the world after Adam.

      • Thank you for your response. I’m not sure it helps with my understanding of the origin of the snake’s deception but if I understand you correctly you are suggesting that the ‘sin’ that entered the world and afflicted all creation is different to whatever it was that motivated the snakes deception? Thus we have ‘sin’ as we generally know it which apposes God and a ‘something else’ not referred to as ‘sin’, but that already existed and that apposes God? Does the snake’s ‘deception’ fall short of God’s standard the way ‘sin’ does? 🙂

        • Thanks for your response, John. A couple things: (1) The term for “sin” (hatta) and its cognates (e.g., “transgression” [avon] or “trespass” [pesha]) never appear in Genesis 3, so it’s a bit difficult to ascertain the dynamics of “sin” in a passage that doesn’t contain the word; (2) Paul says that “sin entered the world through one man” (i.e., Adam), which connotes that “Sin” was “somewhere” before it entered “the world” — but the text doesn’t say anything about sin’s pre-history; (3) in biblical thought, “sin” is construed as “transgression of God’s commands.” The snake isn’t given any commands from God, so the snake can’t “sin” in the classical sense — more, since the snake is an animal, it doesn’t have the same relationship to God and God’s commandments as humans do. To be sure, the snake is “cursed” (arur), so it must have done wrong in God’s sight, but the term “sin” is never applied to the snake (or anyone else in Genesis 3). Unfortunately, Genesis 3 doesn’t dwell on “sin” or the precise nature of the snake’s transgression vis-a-vis human sin. Your questions are all good ones, though!

        • Israel Bible Center equips you with the tools you need to enter into the Jewish world of Scripture. We provide first-rate teaching, and the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s top scholars. As a student, you will be able to interact personally with our teaching faculty, and gain access to hundreds of hours of Bible courses, including The Jewish Gospel of Matthew and The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. Become a part of the community of teachers and students at Israel Bible Center today!

  53. Hi, I’m very grateful that you have taken the time to respond to my questions. I really enjoy the articles and people’s responses and the way it stimulates my study and interest. Keep up the good work! 🙂

    • Thank you for contributing to the discussion, John. I’m glad that the articles are stoking your interest and encouraging further study! That’s the goal 🙂

  54. This is more complicated than it seems.

    Gen. 1-3 has distinct parallels with other ancient creation literature. And how is other ancient creation literature interpreted? Firstly, it often had literal elements, even if the whole story wasn’t literal. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, there was a real King Gilgamesh, even if he never went in search of the fabled plant of life. Secondly, there was often a “place where creation occurred” — a real, physical location associated with the people who wrote that literature. One Egyptian creation story placed creation in Heliopolis…

  55. I propose that the animals of Genesis 1-3 represented *other nations that already existed*. Adam and Eve were real people, and were described as people (as opposed to animals) because they had the capacity to discern good from evil.

    The serpent of Genesis 3 would then represent one of the other *nations* in existence at that time. I propose that that nation was Sumer. Sumer was the precursor of Babylon — the same “mystery, Babylon” we see in Revelation. The end is foreshadowed from the very beginning.

  56. I further propose that it was the religious beliefs of Sumer that were being contrasted with the ethical way of God in Gen. 1-3. For example, in the Epic of Gilgamesh, the primitive man Enkidu is introduced to the fruits of civilization — beer and prostitution! In contrast, we read in Gen. 1-3 that marriage between a man and a woman is a God-ordained and sacred institution.

    The “tree of life” simply represented the ethical way that leads to life that later passages in the bible spoke of.

  57. As far as whether the serpent could also represent Satan…it could. It’s an example of multiple legitimate interpretations of the same symbolism. Just like Isaiah 14 describes both the ruler of Babylon and a fallen angel with the same symbolism and Ezekiel 28 describes the ruler of Tyre and a covering cherub (angel) with the same symbolism, that seems to be the case here as well.

  58. What about the possibility that Satan is a seraph (a serpent-like) heavenly being? Wouldn’t that resolve the issues with Satan being the Serpent? (Btw, I believe that the King of Tyre isn’t necessarily the same divine rebel as Satan, but is the spirit the Tyrians called Melqart.)

    • Thanks for your comments, Joseph. I’m not quite following how Satan being a seraph would resolve the Satan-as-serpent question. Do you mean that if Satan were a seraph, then the Edenic serpent could be Satan? The only interpretive issue is that the text never calls Satan a “seraph,” so to do so would constitute extra-biblical speculation (as you rightly note, it would only be a “possibility”). Since the Tanakh and NT do not equate the serpent with Satan, it might be better to dissolve the traditional, post-biblical equation between the two. Thanks again for your contribution to the discussion.

    • Israel Bible Center equips you with the tools you need to enter into the Jewish world of Scripture. We provide first-rate teaching, and the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s top scholars. As a student, you will be able to interact personally with our teaching faculty, and gain access to hundreds of hours of Bible courses, including The Jewish Gospel of Matthew and The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. Become a part of the community of teachers and students at Israel Bible Center today!

  59. I’m not convinced the NT doesn’t conflate Satan with the Serpent. 2 Cor. 11:14 says Satan can disguise himself as an “angel of light”. Both “nachash” and “seraph” denote luminescence as well as meaning snake. The Serpent/”nachash” likely was a seraph. There’s also a connection to Heylel due to luminescence.

    • Thanks, Joseph. Yes, it’s possible that Paul associates Satan with the serpent in 2 Cor 11 — particularly because Paul calls Satan an “angel of light” (11:14) after he’s already mentioned the snake deceiving Eve (11:3). More, the first-century pseudepigraphical text “Life of Adam and Eve” says that Satan disguises himself as an “angel of brightness” in his discourse with Eve. Granted, this text doesn’t equate Satan with the serpent (they are two different figures), but Paul may be alluding to this Jewish tradition in 2 Corinthians. For me, the “luminescence” point vis-a-vis nachash/seraph is too speculative a connection to bear the necessary interpretive weight — though it does get repeated in the scholarship. Again, I take your point re 2 Cor 11, and it could well be that a serpent-Satan connection is underlying Paul’s thought in that case. Thanks again for your input!

      • The main reason I connect the nachash with Satan and believe Satan to likely be a seraph is that every time saraph is used, except in Isaiah 6, it is always connected to serpents. Nachash seems to be a general term whereas saraph denotes venomous serpents.

  60. If that serpent were simply an animal like others and not an incarnation of Satan, for what purpose did it act that way(rebel)?

    • In the Ancient Near East (of which Israel was a part), snakes were known to be creatures that wrought chaos in the world. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, for example, it is a snake who steals the plant of everlasting life from Gilgamesh (this episode is strikingly similar to the biblical event in which a snake ensures that Adam and Eve can no longer eat from the tree of everlasting life). According to the Egyptian Pyramid Texts, the snake “shall go with [its] face on the path… [and] the sandal of Horus tramples the snake underfoot” (cf. the very similar language in Genesis 3:14-15). Since the serpent was almost universally understood to be a chaos creature that plagued human beings, it makes perfect sense, in an ancient near eastern context, for a snake to deceive Eve. It may sound odd to us in the 21st century, but the original Israelite readers of Genesis 3 would have been fully comfortable with a deceptive snake.

  61. Using 1 Cor 4:6 as a platform to talk about Gen 3:15, IMO is not wise. It is quite controversial as to what it means. It seems likely that what it means is just what Paul is referring to about the Gospel not Scripture

    • Jeff, a few points to consider: (a) elsewhere in Paul’s letters, that which is “written” (γέγραπται) always refers to Scripture; (b) Paul makes six explicit scriptural references before 4:6 (cf. 1:19, 31; 2:9, 16; 3:19-20), so the likelihood of “what is written” being Scripture is supported by the verse’s broader context; (c) the “Gospel” is not “written” at the time that Paul writes to the Corinthians; (d) the precise meaning of 1 Cor 4:6 is inconsequential to the content of the article.

  62. The serpent did not lie. It said our eyes would be opened and we would be like God. God said our eyes were opened and if we reached the tree of life we would be like the Gods. So the serpent did not lie.

  63. Dr. Schaser I’m surprised that you failed to mention the character «Lilith». There is at least another Genesis version with Lilith, the primeval woman, Adam’s first wife, in which she is the character that, on the latter version became the serpent. This would sort the Satan question by itself.

    • Pedro, Lilith is a post-biblical construction; she isn’t germane to the original biblical narrative. She’s not in another “version” of Genesis, but rather in later rabbinic midrash (commentary).

    • We are very happy that you’ve joined our discussion forum. Would you believe that these articles are only a taste of what Israel Bible Center has to offer? We also provide comprehensive teaching on a variety of biblical, historical, and cultural topics. You might begin with The Jewish Gospel of Matthew or The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. You’ll be amazed at the Jewish world that awaits you. Don’t delay another minute: enroll now!

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