And the serpent said to the woman, no death will you die. (Genesis 3:4)
In my last post I proposed that Adam taught the torah (instruction) of ‘you will not eat from the Tree of Knowledge’ (cf. Gen. 2:16) to Chavah (Eve), as she obviously wasn’t there to hear God’s original commandment.
Yet neither was the serpent! It didn’t even know mankind until God brought it (with all other animals) to be named by Adam (cf. Gen. 2:2o). Yet, at the onset of Genesis 3, we see these two absentees have a telling conversation about God’s first torah.
So if we might reasonably assume Chavah learned the commandment from Adam, how on earth did the serpent learn it?
First, we know the serpent was ‘clever from all the beasts of the field’ (Gen. 3:1). From other uses the Hebrew word for ‘clever one’ we can deduce common traits of an arum:
- operates by schemes (Job 5:12)
- covers his own dishonor by manipulating the simple (Prov. 12:16)
- doesn’t tell everything he knows (Prov. 12:23)
- invests in knowledge before acting (Prov. 13:16, 14:18)
- understands his every step (Prov. 14:8, 15)
If we didn’t attach the above quotes to a book, chapter and verse, we might say these characteristics describe the serpent’s method of deceiving Chavah, with the exception of ‘investing in knowledge before acting’. There’s no textual evidence the serpent invested in knowledge before slithering over to Eve… or is there?
I think there’s a tell in the Hebrew:
First, Eve quotes God: ‘you will not eat from it… pen t’mutun (“lest you die”-vs. 3:3).
Then, the serpent responds: ‘lo-mot t’mutun (“no dying will you (pl.) die”).
But alas! God originally told Adam: ‘mot tamut’ (“a dying will you (sing.) die”- Gen. 2:16).
Interesting. Although the serpent denies God’s Word – it does so in verbatim.
I can’t offer a concrete explanation for this. The serpent could have eavesdropped on Adam and Chavah’s conversation. It could be that all of creation witnessed and recorded that original Word. Or, which is what I personally believe, the serpent – as its nachash name implies – divined the knowledge from another power – namely, satan – who also quotes the Scriptures in verbatim. (cf. Matthew 4:5-6)
Any of these options are par for the course of a false prophet. They infiltrate God’s people in sheep’s fleece to learn their vulnerabilities and temptations. They study the recorded Word of God and can quote its lingo in verbatim. And the spiritualists, mediums and soothsayers still consult their powers of divinity to this day (e.g. Acts 16:16-17).
So why do false prophets learn Scriptures better than God’s people? Simple! Superior knowledge lends an air of credulity. Therefore, if a false prophet knows the lingo and recites the Word better than the Kingdom – eventually to draw them away – God’s people have only two reactions.
On the one side sits the wise, who act like Bereans, who form a Scripture posse, and study to see whether the things proffered are so (cf. Acts 17:11). Thus they easily spot a serpent tongue that takes quotes out of context or even speaks contrary to God’s word. However, on the other side of the aisle sit the foolish. These are those who were already flirting with temptations, had lost their hearts of thanksgiving, and have itching ears, looking for confirmation biases to justify their desires. These are the ones who listen to false prophets and believe a lie.
It’s obvious that Adam and Eve had vulnerabilities. They too lost their thanksiving. They added and subtracted God’s words, and they also had this air of curiosity about the forbidden underlining their marriage. Eden was already an environment ripe for the serpent to strike, speak the Word of God in verbatim, and entice the couple.
However the false prophet serpent learned the Scripture in verbatim is open to interpretation and thus inconclusive.
But we did learn one thing: God’s adversaries are not passive. They invest in knowledge before devouring God’s people. They will quote Scriptures verbatim, because they will have to – if they purpose to misrepresent the One True God.
Now memorizing the Bible is one thing, but using verbatim quotes to deceive those who’ve already misunderstood the authentic word is even easier. That’s the serpent’s next trick, which it will prey perfectly on Chavah. That’s where I’ll continue. ♦