Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from [a]any tree of the garden’?”
ESV - 1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden'?
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The Serpent of Eden "Serpent" comes from the Hebrew: nachash (H5175), snake. A literal serpent is involved as a tool of Satan; otherwise, it would be unjust of God to curse it. This same Hebrew word (nachash) is used of literal snakes throughout Scripture (Gen. 3:1-14; 49:17; Ex. 7:15; Num. 21:9; 2Ki. 18:4; Prov. 30:19; Eccl. 10:8,11; Amos 5:19; 9:3). It wouldn’t make sense to substitute Satan for serpent in these and other scriptures. Satan has no power to transform himself into a snake. He is an angel and always will be, though now fallen (Ezek. 28:11-17). "Subtil" comes from the Hebrew `aruwm (H6175), cunning (usually in a bad sense), crafty (Job 5:12; 15:5). The character of the temptation illustrates "craftiness". Satan and the serpent agreed on the best method to cause the fall of man. Nothing was said at first to awaken suspicion or shock the moral sense; merely a sly insinuation calculated to excite natural curiosity. Then there was a direct lie combined with just enough truth to give it plausibility (Gen. 3:4-5). Note the three steps leading to transgression in the outline of Gen. 3:1-4 (Gen. 3:6; Jn. 8:44; 2Cor. 11:3; 1Tim. 2:14). The facts of this account are neither allegory, myth, legend, nor fable, but literal and historical. They are rarely even expressed in figurative language. In fact, there are only three figurative statements in the third chapter of Genesis: ► "Dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life"--expressing utter humiliation of the serpent as the lowest of all the beasts of the field (Gen. 3:14) ► "It shall bruise thy head"--expressing complete and crushing defeat of the devil and all his forces, as a serpent is killed by crushing its head (Gen. 3:14) ► "Thou shalt bruise his heel"--expressing temporary sufferings of the Messiah (Gen. 3:14). The "seed of the serpent" refers to natural serpents being natural enemies of man. The "seed of the woman" refers to the incarnation of God as a man (Gen. 3:15; Isa. 7:14; 9:6-7; 11:1; Mt. 1; Jn. 1:14; Rom. 1:1-2; Gal. 4:4; 1Tim. 3:16; Heb. 2:14-18). There is no reason to make the historical record of man’s fall figurative in any way. To make the serpent figurative of Satan rather than a tool of Satan is out of harmony with all facts in Scripture. The serpent is classed with the beasts of the field and cursed above them (Gen. 3:1,14). It is spoken of as being formed by God’s hand (Job 26:13), as being cursed in the Millennium when Satan is bound (Isa. 65:25), and in the same literal sense as other creatures formed in Adam’s day. True, Satan is symbolized by a great red dragon and is called "that old serpent" (Isa. 27:1; Job 41:34; Rev. 12:3-17; 20:2), and he is like the serpent of Eden who deceived Eve (2Cor. 11:3; 1Tim. 2:14); but this doesn’t make the serpent of Gen. 3 the personal devil any more than it does Peter in Mt. 16:22-23, or the kings of Babylon and Tyre in Isa. 14:12-14 and Ezek. 28:11-17. All were merely tools of Satan (see The Law of Double Reference). The most fundamental principle of interpretation is to take the Bible literally wherever possible. If the language can’t be taken literally, then determine what is the literal truth conveyed bys the figurative expressions. ► Fifteen Facts about the Serpent of Eden He was a beast of the field (Gen. 3:1). He was more subtle than all others (Gen. 3:1). He was created by God (Gen. 3:1). He was a serpent, not Satan (Gen. 3:1). He had power of speech (Gen. 3:1-6). He had reasoning powers (Gen. 3:1-6). He had deceptive powers (Gen. 3:1-6). He had knowledge of God’s plan (Gen. 3:1-6). He walked upright before the fall (Gen. 3:14). He was head of all animals (Gen. 3:1,14). He was capable of enmity (Gen. 3:15). He was close to man in Eden (Gen. 3:1-15). He carried on conversation (Gen. 3:1-6). He was cursed above all animals (Gen. 3:14). He was a literal snake that was used as a tool of Satan to deceive man (Gen. 3:1-19).
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