Adam and Eve were real. But there was a third player in the garden – the snake. Was the snake real? For as long as I can remember I had always pictured the snake as Satan. But because this is a step up from the plain reading of the text, I wanted to examine the reasons for this. I found far more than I expected.
First I will describe some things that have been well known to me and probably to you, but then I also found a new level of details that I had never seen before. I found a real animal, but I also found that the plain text demands that we see the snake as Satan. I even suggest why Adam may have made it to heaven.
The implications are dramatic. I start by developing a series of observations. Perhaps just browse the titles (A) to (K) and then look at the conclusions. You can come back at the detailed observations later when you see where this is going.
A) The snake has never been a mystery.
The duality of Satan and the snake/serpent is common in the New Testament. In fact Satan was a background character in the Old Testament and was exposed during Jesus ministry and defeated on the Cross where the power of sin was broken.
B) Eve was not afraid of the snake.
The monsters (serpents) of day 5 also points to Satan as explained in Chapter 3 at Page-1-God. There the word used is tanniy, but in Genesis 3:1 it is nachash. Both are can be translated as serpent and my notes show that nachash used here in the Garden can also has connotation of “image of a serpent” and does not have the connotation of a “venomous snake” that tanniy does. So the snake that talks to Eve is not pictured as a “scary” thing. Indeed the fear factor was added by God only after she ate.
C) Eve was not surprised that the snake talked.
This is discussed later.
D) The snake’s knowledge was beyond what an animal could know.
Did you notice that the snake knew what Eve did not know? The snake knew that the fruit of the tree of good and evil would make her like God. (More in The Trees, Sin, and God). God did not even tell this to Adam. God only told Adam what it was; not to eat it; and the consequence if he did eat it. Adam was not told that that knowledge would make him like God (Genesis 3:22). Again this points to the snake being Satan, not a mere animal.
E) Satan can disguise himself as well as talk through creatures.
We know that angels appear in human likeness and that Satan can disguise himself (2 Corinthians 11:14). So Satan may have manifest in human likeness. This possibility is usually disregarded because under the Classic view there were only Adam and Eve in human likeness and so it would have been a dramatic thing to see another creature in human likeness. But as I show later, this is not a surprise in the Day-8 view.
The snake could talk. We know that demons talk through people they possess. We know Satan entered into Judas (Luke 22:3). So perhaps Satan spoke through some animal. In this sense the plain reading seems acceptable, but why curse the animal if it was Satan’s fault? So the curse must apply to Satan and the actual animal is irrelevant.
In the Gospels we are not sure whether Judas was seduced by Satan (John 13:2), or whether Satan actually entered into Judas (Luke 22:3), or both. However Jesus directly referred to Judas as a devil in John 6:71. So there is precedent for God (in the person of Jesus), to refer to someone possessed or influenced by Satan as a devil. From this it also seems reasonable for the text here in Genesis to use the symbol for a devil/Satan, namely the snake.
F) “The snake” is a just a name.
Adam is often referred to as “the man” and he is rightly the one and first of his type and there is no ambiguity. In some verses the Hebrew adam is translated as the man and in others as the name Adam. But the snake was called “the snake” before it was transformed into a snake.
The narrative referred to it as “the snake” and Eve is quoted as referring to it as “the snake”. I wondered if the narrative was God’s perspective. God saw it was Satan who He has chosen to picture as a snake. But why did Eve? Did she already perceive the duality of the creature?
Adam and Eve had a spirit. God’s spirit was resting on them in some way because God withdrew it in Genesis 6:3. So why shouldn’t they have had spiritual gifts, in particular, discernment of spirits (1 Corinthians 12:10). We know that Lamech prophesied in Genesis 5:29.
So it was quite reasonable for Eve to discern who she was talking to and call it the snake whether a direct manifestation or Satan speaking through an animal.
Adam and Eve would have had no fear of Satan.
Although both the narrative and Eve’s quotes use “the snake”, when God is quoted as speaking to the snake in Genesis 3:14 He uses the pronoun “you”. This seems just a bit too personal for a mere animal.
“The snake” was so called before it was transformed into a snake-like creature, that is, when it could speak and presumably had legs. How could it be “the snake” when it was not a snake. Snakes were created on day 6 and Adam would have already assigned a name to the snake creatures. This creature with legs would not have been called a snake unless there was some other motive.
“The snake” is used to indicate a particular individual as a phrase like “the troublemaker” might indicate someone always up to mischief.
G) Authority was transferred to Satan, not a snake.
God gave authority to Adam. When Adam obeyed the snake (Satan), he transferred that authority to Satan (Luke 4:6). So if the snake was not Satan, how did Satan get authority?
H) Cursed more than the animals points to Satan’s ultimate fate.
The snake was cursed more than the animals in Genesis 3:14. Cursing has to do with separation from God. The animals have no spirit. They will never get to heaven nor will they be cast into hell. Satan has been cast out of heaven. To be cursed more than the animals indicates that he will be further cast into hell, the lake of fire. So cursed more than the animals pictures Satan’s ultimate fate. Also note that God did not curse the animals. Rather He said that Satan was cursed more than the animals.
I) The curse on the snake only makes sense when it is seen as Satan.
God declared that the snake would be made to crawl on its belly and eat dust (Genesis 3:14). This means that we really don’t know what this particular snake looked like. We know that snakes don’t actually eat dust, especially a snake that strikes at its prey. But we do know that man is but “dust of the earth”. This is not the plain reading but is perfectly consistent with the understanding that Satan oppresses mankind!
We know that Satan was cast out of heaven and until he is cast into the Lake of Fire, he roams this world. So, “made to crawl on its belly”, sounds like being confined to this world.
The snake was transformed but it does not say into male and female creatures. It was a once off transformation. The snake type was created on day 6. So this is not the creation of a new kind. Perhaps the actual animal involved mated with other snakes to create a new species. But the trick is to grasp who the offspring of this transformed snake are and why God specified enmity between these offspring and the offspring of the woman. What about enmity between man and cockroaches or rats? This was not a manifest instruction from God so why especially to snakes?
J) Implications of the specific animal types that God used.
In Genesis 3:1 the snake is described as craftier than any “beast of the field”. In Genesis 3:14 the snake is cursed more than all “cattle” and every “beast of the field”. God is using the same animal types that He made in Genesis 1:25 where He made “beasts of the earth”, “cattle”, and “crawling” things. So God is being careful in the animal types He uses. Here are some implications of the animal types used...
We cannot be sure what type the snake was from verse 3:1, but it wasn’t a crawling thing since that is what it was transformed into. So the implication from verse 3:1, that it was a beast, is probably correct.
In the book of Revelation Satan and the Anti-Christ, who champions all who reject Jesus, are also portrayed as the Beast and the ancient Serpent.
In Chapter 3 at Page-1-God, I offer an explanation of all the types. In this mapping, all animal types correspond to people who reject Jesus but the crawling things are the religious type. This is the only type that Jesus strongly rebuked. Search out the “woe to you” declarations in the Gospels, for example Luke 11:52. Also see Matthew 23:13-33 where Jesus ends by declaring this type as snakes and serpents!
God said that the snake was cursed more than beasts and cattle but not more than crawling things. So the fate of crawling things is the same as Satan. The other types that reject Jesus will most certainly end up in the Lake of Fire, but the worst place is for Satan and the crawling things. What is the evidence in scripture for worse places in hell and who gets them? Try Matthew 23:15, and Matthew 11:20-24. But to get the best perspective of Hell, have a look at the links to “23 Minutes in Hell” in Raised from the dead.
K) Moses recorded a simplification.
Adam was created by God and given a language. Adam and his descendants were extremely intelligent as indicated by what they were able to do from first principles. So this original language would have been rich and detailed. But this language was lost when God confused their language at the Tower of Babel. This is probably where the simple Hebrew or Aramaic language began.
Languages create names for new things and lose words that fall into disuse. Whatever name this creature had before it was transformed was lost. The same argument applies to day-6 man, whether you accept that the snake was a day-6 man possessed or not.
Whether Moses inscribed the book of Genesis by using earlier documents, or oral tradition, or even by God dictating it to Moses, it had to be translated and there was probably no word for the creature. And as a matter of interest, Moses first language was Egyptian, not Hebrew, since he was brought up as a prince of Egypt.
This is not an excuse to change the meaning, but just recognizing that God and Eve would have had a larger vocabulary and that this is a simplification. None the less it portrayed exactly what God wanted.
God provided context to discern that it was Satan. The words spoken by the snake conveyed knowledge that no animal would have. God spoke to the snake – why would He speak to an animal? The judgement only makes sense when understood as applying to Satan because snakes don’t eat dust but...
Man is but dust of the earth and returns to dust when he dies. Do you see how this links Satan and death?
Crawling on the belly is being cast out of heaven and bound to the earthly realm.
God set enmity between man and the snake. This is referring to hostility between man and demons! It was so that we would never again listen to demons. This is why Satan now works under-cover.
We know that God looks at the heart and searches the spirit. If God sees that it is Satan and not some animal then God calls it as He sees it. And God has chosen to use the image of the snake or serpent to depict Satan. God surely dictated the initial chapters of Genesis, since He refers to Himself as “us”. So when God refers to whatever manifestation Satan used to deceive Eve, He simply says “the snake”. This is what God chose. It is more than the plain reading, but do we lose anything from the plain reading? No! It’s just more insight.
There are hardly any references to Satan in the Old Testament, so God has chosen to leave him as a background player until Jesus took authority back from Satan. The Bible is about God and man. That’s probably why God wanted to give Satan a low profile. (Hard to get a lower profile than a snake!)
Eve was not afraid of the snake, nor surprised to hear it talk. Now, you can make various conjectures in response to this observation, but I am going to suggest a possible scenario...
I have proposed that God created ordinary men, devoid of a spirit, on day 6. They were to be servants for Adam and Eve. As such, Eve would not be surprised to see or talk with such men. They were devoid of a spirit and seen in the same ranking as the animals that Adam named. Satan could have imitated or spoken through one of these day-6 men without triggering any concern or surprise by Eve. Also, God was right to refer to it as an intelligent animal.
This scenario does not prove day-6 man existed before Adam and Eve, but it fits in nicely. It reinforces the plain reading and allows us to picture where this talking animal came from.
You can still imagine Satan speaking through some other animal that was later transformed into a snake but recall that the snake spoke words that showed insight that only Satan would have had. And recall that the curse on the snake talked about eating dust which snakes do not do. But Satan is cast out of heaven and bound to this world. He preys on man who is but dust of the earth.
A friend reminded me that Balaam was not surprised when his donkey spoke in Numbers 22:21-35. It’s totally different. God opened the mouth of the donkey. It spoke only what it could know. Balaam seemed to regularly hear from God and spirits and angels. But none the less here is a precedent for humans not being surprised when animals talk. Do you see how hard it is to make some reasonable deduction, which may well be correct, and not have someone find some way to challenge it? Well, I never claimed that Eve’s lack of surprise proved that Satan was speaking through a day-6 man, but it remains the most likely way and most common way in the New Testament for demons to speak.
Years ago I had decided that the snake was Satan. I had decided that there was no intelligent articulate animal involved. I had ignored the plain reading and simply asserted that the snake was real but purely symbolic of Satan. I had seen God’s higher purposes but I had not fully appreciated God’s word.
As I wrote and developed these articles I became increasingly in awe of the precision of the plain reading of His word. So I then felt that there must have been an animal involved through whom Satan spoke. But I still did not accept that this was an intelligent articulate animal – those attributes applied to Satan.
I started this article after most everything else in Game Start seemed complete, but with great respect for those who I had defended the plain meaning of scripture, I wanted to explain my view of the snake. What you read is how it unfolded. I acknowledged that “it was God’s call”, and then I considered Eve’s reaction to the talking snake. Only then did I recognise that I myself had earlier proposed day-6 man as the most intelligent articulate animal. And so the plain reading of scripture was precise.
I still assume that Satan entered into a day-6 man to deceive Eve. Even today, we might refer to someone who acts deceptively as a “snake in the grass” and so too did God. I was humbled to see, yet again, how God has provided insight while also holding to the plain reading.
Do you recall how Jesus said that those who believe when they hear the gospel, without seeing the resurrected Jesus, will be blessed (John 20:29). I have come to the opinion that God sees those who have believed based on the plain reading, without need for extra insights, as blessed. Though I offer such insights, those who see them are not regarded more favourably by God nor should they perceive that they have any greater insight than those who have grasped Jesus just from the plain reading.
I have also come to see that these insights will only be grasped with humility and reverence for God’s word. My own experience is that until the Holy Spirit opens your eyes to see, you won’t see. So if you do see, be sure to give Him the glory and not to look down on anyone else who does not yet see it.
I recalled how Satan entered into Judas. The fate of Judas was described in two ways:
There is a well known link between Adam’s side being opened to create his bride, and how Jesus’ side was pieced on the Cross to redeem his bride. But also see these links from Genesis to Jesus:
First there is the deception in the Garden of Eden, just before Adam and Eve sinned. Then in the garden, an olive grove called Gethsemane, Judas betrayed Jesus, just before Jesus was crucified to pay the price of sin. (John 18:1, Matthew 26:36)
Then after Adam and Eve sinned God judged the snake first. So too after the crucifixion, Judas was first to suffer the consequence of betraying Jesus.
Adam and Eve sinned by eating forbidden fruit. Jesus described the Cross as a cup that he must drink from in Matthew 20:22, Matthew 26:39, John 18:11 and many other places. The cup was filled with the fruit of the vine. Man ate fruit that was pleasing. Jesus drank the fruit of suffering.
What do you think? How awesome is our God that He points to the events of the Cross, even in the Garden of Eden!
With all the above completed I think I have seen a higher purpose for this article. See what you think.
Immediately before God judged Adam and Eve, He said this to the snake in Genesis 3:15:
I have already shown how this enmity is between demons and man so that man will never again listen to demons and hence why Satan must always act in the background. The next line is often recognised as a prophetic pointer to the Cross. Jesus feet were nailed to the Cross – this was Satan striking at Jesus. But when Jesus rose from death he defeat Satan, so crushing Satan’s head.
Well, I think Adam and Eve knew exactly what God meant. I think they knew that God was promising one of their descendants would crush Satan’s power; power that they had given to him by obeying him and not God. I’m sure they did not understand how that would happen and how much it would cost God. I suspect that they did not have a good personal revelation that it was their sin, since Eve blamed the snake and Adam blamed the woman and then God for giving him the woman. But the promise was clearly there; that a descendant would overcome the power of the snake. Wow, before God judged Adam and Eve He promised a saviour!
1,000 years later Lamech prophesied in Genesis 5:29 that Noah would give them rest from their toil. God did save mankind through Noah in the sense that He preserved the race but Noah did not give them rest from toil. But can you see that Lamech was expressing the hope he had that God would deliver relief through a descendant of Adam, indeed through his son Noah.
1,000 years on and God raised up Abraham who was to be a blessing to all nations. Again a promise delivered and fulfilled through Jesus. Abraham even offered his son as a sacrifice but God provide the sacrificial lamb.
1,000 years on and King David receives the promise of a descendant that would be a king forever.
1,000 years on and Mary receives the promise in the pain of childbirth that God decreed in the very next verse of Genesis 3:16. And she was told that this child would redeem Israel but a sword would also piece her own soul (Luke 2:35), which pointer to her grief at seeing Jesus on the Cross. But Mary was there in the upper room to receive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as God’s promise was finally fulfilled.
At the start of each millennia since Adam, the key player received the promise – each in a form the befitting their role. I think Adam received it too. The format in which salvation and redemption and rest and rule of the Messiah were never well understood. But the promise was there. In Matthew 27:52-53 we see the fulfilment of this promise for those who had died before Jesus on the Cross. Even the criminal crucified next to Jesus was able to tap into the promise in Luke 23:40-43.
Can I prove that Adam saw this promise? No, but Lamech’s statement is a pretty strong indicator. Many will not accept that it could be so simple – that just trusting God to raise up a man to redeem us, even when you did not know about Jesus, is faith enough to be forgiven and get to heaven. This makes a mockery of all of our rules about having to speak in tongues or be baptised or do the right things. Well, we need to make a mockery of such rules because God has done it!
There is some good follow up here in A Free Choice.
If we don’t recognise that the snake was Satan (personified or possessed), then major aspects of Christian theology go missing. We don’t grasp how Adam handed authority to Satan and why Jesus as the Son of God had authority over demons that man did not have and why his victory on the Cross restored all authority in heaven and earth to Jesus (Matthew 28:18).
The plain reading of the snake had several anomalies:
These anomalies were not mistakes in the plain reading. It was the plain reading waiting for a New Testament revelation of God and Jesus to see its intended meaning. Satan’s role is not so much insight that adds another layer of understanding on top of the plain reading, but Satan’s role is necessary to understand the plain reading. It seems like God left these anomalies in the plain reading to cause us to seek the insight.
Well, are there any other anomalies in these early chapters of Genesis that demand or invite insight? The following sections discuss some of these anomalies.
In Genesis 2:16 God said to Adam, “the day you eat is the day you die”. It is quite clear that God sees judgement as death (Revelation 2:11). The death of the mortal body was never a problem for God. Jesus was able to raise people from the dead. On the final day everyone will be raised from the dead. It all comes down to whether you will be judged or not. Those who are judged suffer eternal separation from God and that is the death that God perceives. God judged Adam the same day that Adam ate the fruit.
However the plain reading seemed wrong for thousands of years because Adam lived on nearly 1,000 years after he ate. He did not die the same day that he ate as the plain reading suggested. Well, now that we have a proper understanding of how God sees death, why don’t we embrace that and see that the literal “day you eat is the day you die”, was fulfilled because God judged Adam that very same day? Fundamental Christian theology says it is all about being forgiven and so avoiding judgement. Though our mortal bodies die we are assured eternal life with God because we are forgiven and not judged. And here in Genesis we see that God was forced to judge, but we also see God is slow to anger (Numbers 14:18, Psalms 86:15, 103:8, 145:8, Joel 2:13, Jonah 4:2), and takes no delight in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23), and still loved His children and provided an alternate place for them even though they had done wrong (The Post Fall Picture).
Well, actually I think we the Church, have misunderstood several issues involved here. I address this in several other articles, particularly in Rules of Paradise. But in regard to the interpretation of Genesis 2:16, I will hazard a guess at why traditional theology seems to reject the literal fulfilment by regarding death as judgement.
It seems that we have interpreted that phrase as an idiom meaning that the act of eating brought on the certainty of death. In fact this seems quite reasonable and the idiom may have even grown out of this very scripture. But I find that even though a literal understanding can be seen at work, certain experts deny its applicability. I confess a little frustration but there are reasons to be at least cautious...
First, people have tried to exploit this loop-hole to suggest that creation days can be arbitrary lengths by showing that God is not very precise about a day.
It has been used to defend evolution by suggesting that death is not actually death and so Adam was not actually a read first man and this was all a “spiritual” death.
But surely we can see that Adam was judged that same day and that is how it was literally fulfilled. Well, even that is hard for some to accept. You see, this means that an understanding of the meaning of words that has been upheld for long ages and was supposedly understood even when Moses set down the book of Genesis is being re-interpreted according how God sees things. Usually there is also an implied “how we think God see things”, because who are we that we should know the mind of God. Next thing you know all manner of perceptions of what God might think will be used to change the plain meaning of the words that has been, like a legal document, agreed and defined.
Well, I do that sort of stuff in several places. I find that experts mistake my suggestions as a perversion of the Bible because they seem similar to other attempts to pervert the Bible. But actually, rather than to defend my suggestions I want to say that my suggestions are just like the Satan/snake revelation – they are waiting in the plain text to be seen. They actually reinforce the image of God and fundamental Christian understandings, but they do challenge the approved understandings.
Here is a list of other intriguing issues. Sometimes the word anomalies sounds too much like mistakes. The Bible has no mistakes!
These are discussed in other Game Start articles. If you see my explanations as giving a better image of God, the Father of Jesus Christ, here in Genesis then why not adopt them. Rather than ask me to defend them, why not ask the experts to disprove them. Your response will usually come in some form that says that the existing Classic view has no problems. You won’t find that I profane God or deny the need for Jesus or alter the plain story. But you will see that many existing understandings actually do. They suggest that after the creation week He suddenly changed (Malachi 3:6) and no longer acts like that. They suggest that He suddenly changed from the author of Life to the author of death by cursing Adam with mortality. And that is just a short list of misunderstandings.
I read the plain text and I see an anomaly and I accept that that is what it is. Not a mistake that I have to defend but an opportunity to see a mystery. I have noted that the Classic view has been very well defended and explanations for many anomalies exist. Some are quite good. But these tend to defend using only a critical interpretation of the plain text. I tend to look at God’s image elsewhere and use that as a guide.
I understand the difficulty of accepting something new, especially when it challenges a view you have defended all your life, so I present it as an option. I understand the knee-jerk reaction that rejects something seemingly so different without considering it. I don’t mind that much if you stay with the Classic view.
Do you want to know the really sad part? ...It’s when I point out several places where existing understandings have defamed God’s image, but people cannot see it. Then they defend that defamation, probably by pointing to various actions of God between Genesis 9 and Jesus, but they have not realised what profound changes in mankind had happened to trigger those actions; and the nature of the covenants with Noah and Moses. Failure to recognise those changes is a failure to recognise the fullness of what Jesus achieved. You really need to read the “Absence of good” and “Life for life” chapters at Page-1-God.
The three major sections of Page-1-God, and other articles in Game Start provide explanations of anomalies that give glory to God. I think that some are like Satan and the snake, just waiting to be seen. If you want a good question to ask, then ask why they were not seen ages ago.