The identity of the serpent

John Ronning ronning at
Mon Aug 28 02:28:48 EDT 2000

Noel wrote,

>The idea that the serpent=Satan is again not 
>supported anywhere in the text.

There are several indicators in the text that the serpent is
more than just an animal, which leads to the question what
exactly is he?  One clue is given towards the end of the
chapter when God says, "the man has become like one of us." 
For those wondering who God is talking to, a clue is given
right afterward when it says that he stationed the cherubs
to guard the entrance to the tree of life.  I.e., God and
the angels have the knowledge of good and evil.  But it's
also obvious that the serpent himself had such knowledge,
while A & E did not (prior to their fall).  Having knowledge
of good and evil is not a characteristic of animals
(likewise, of course, the ability to converse with humans). 
The statement that man has become like God and the angels,
therefore, implies a comparison between the serpent and the
cherubim, i.e. that he is an evil version of the cherubs
(exactly as we find in Ezekiel 28).

Isaiah 6 points in the same direction.  Isaiah sees angels
called "seraphs" - a word that everywhere else means a
poisonous snake.  Note the comparison between these angels
and the serpent of Genesis 3:

Their appearance:
the seraphim: they have wings, hands, and feet - they can
fly or stand (i.e. they're not limited)
Genesis 3 serpent: cursed to crawl on his belly and eat dust

Their view of God -
the seraphim: he is holy, holy, holy
Genesis 3 serpent: he is a liar

Their attitude towards God:
the seraphim: cover their faces
Genesis 3 serpent: brazen and insolent

Relationship to man:
the seraphim: agent of purification and life (Isaiah)
Genesis 3 serpent: agent of corruption and death (A & E)

the seraphim: burning coal from the altar which touches the
Genesis 3 serpent: eating the forbidden fruit

Implication - the Genesis 3 serpent is an evil version of
the holy seraphim of God's presence.

Genesis 4 also shows that the snake is more than a snake,
since in that chapter we see the fulfillment of the
predicted enmity between the two seeds (3:15) - Cain is like
his father the serpent, a liar, a murderer, and cursed by
God; so obviously there's more there than just an animal.


John Ronning

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