Posts tagged “serpent

Genesis 3:7, We Became More Like Serpents than gods

And the eye of them both was opened, and they knew they were naked. (Genesis 3:7)

Many theories are offered as to what changed in mankind when Adam and Chavah (Eve) ate from the Tree of Knowledge. Speculations abound regarding free will, original sin or other ideas. While I don’t ascribe to any theory more than the other, I do find them contradictory. For example, the Jewish sages say free will existed before the Tree while Catholicism teaches it entered after the Tree.

I think the best guide as to what changed is the Word of God.

First, let’s compare things we know didn’t exist before the Fall, with what certainly existed after the Fall:

And the man and his wife were naked, but they were not ashamed. (Gen 2:25)

Shame is an uncomfortable emotion we can relate to today, but in the pre-Tree Adam and Eve, it was unconscionable. However, as soon their “eye was opened” they were certainly ashamed of their nakedness, and experienced even more emotions:

I heard your voice in the garden… and I was afraid. (Gen 3:7)

You see, the phrase ‘your eye will be opened’ is an idiom for ‘your fountain will be opened’ meaning that the serpent was playing the couple in that their freedom was stopped up like a blocked fountain. However, when ‘the eye of the fountain’ was released, the knowledge flooded their souls with fear, shame, panic, and all our inherit sins.

Thus we started experiencing the good, the evil, and EVERYTHING in between. That’s what the text is really saying as “good and evil” is a Semitic merism for “everything”.

Unfortunately, the “everything” that we began to experience hampers our souls from experiencing the presence of God. In the text Adam physically hid himself from God because of shame and fear (3:10), yet it’s also a metaphor that shame and fear causes all humans to hide themselves from God.

There is one mystery in the text that solidifies this reality – one that I think deserves more attention in our studies.

The word says that the serpent was more “arum” (clever or crafty) than any other beast (Gen 3:1). However, the word also says that the man and woman were ayrumim (naked ones, Gen 2:25). You see, both of these words stem from the same root meaning “clever or crafty”.

Now the serpent – the arum one – had promised that they “would be as gods” but in the end, what did humans discover first and foremost? They saw… that they were eyrumim.

It’s a wordplay but an inherent truth: these eyrumim humans discovered they were more like the arum serpent than gods. They had been deceived.

As an offshoot of the Tree of Knowledge, humans gained the capacity to develop traits of an arum person who:

–           operates by schemes (Job 5:12)
–           conceals guilt with words (Job 15:5)
–           covers dishonor by manipulating the simple (Prov. 12:16)
–           doesn’t offer everything he knows (Prov. 12:23)
–           invests in knowledge before acting (Prov. 13:16, 14:18)
–           understands his every step (Prov. 14:8, 15)
–           conceals himself from trouble (Prov. 22:3, 27:12)

Now after they fell, as the scripture shows, God almost immediately descends to the Garden and rectified the situation. However, it’s another metaphor that characterizes the human predicament in three parties: Almighty God, the nachash (diviner) serpent, and humans in between.

As the story continues, we see that God says that we became like God after all, to experience “everything” (Yes, believe it or not, God feels like we feel); however, it’s also true that we gained a propensity to become like the serpent, personified today in those who would manipulate, and carefully calculate the demise of people – especially God’s people. Like the serpent “nachash” (diviner), these are false prophets and teachers, and everyone who wants to out-scheme and destroy you.

The truth is, we’re still stuck in the middle! On the one hand, God is calling us to be more like Him, and “serpents” still want to trample us for personal gain. The only question is, who do you want to be more like?

We do have a natural handicap. We became sinful – we experience fear, shame, guilt, selfishness, and literally ‘everything’ that can prohibit us from enjoying the Presence of God. This was the fruit of the Tree, but yet, God has never stopped calling us to overcome that handicap. He calls us to return to Him, all the while rejecting the crafty serpents that will destroy us in a moment. ♦

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Genesis 3:5-6, Calling God a Liar

And the serpent said to the woman, no dying will you die! For God knows that in the day of your eating from it and your eye is opened – then you become like gods, knowing good and evil. (Gen. 3:4-5)

Elohiym can mean ‘gods’ or God, but I chose ‘gods’ because ‘you become’ (hayiytem) is in second plural form, and ‘gods’ was more likely meant to be read in plurality as well. Both translations, however, demonstrate competition with the Most High God, which I believe was the serpent’s intent.

All three parties – the serpent, Adam, and his wife – are complicit in this deception, evidenced by their later judgments (cf. Gen 3:14-20). Their downward spiral featured several errors along the way:

First, the nachash (serpent) lost his power, and could not accept mankind’s dominion (Gen 1:26). It then plotted to destroy mankind and regain its throne as “the wisest of all”. It invested in knowledge, learned God’s commandment verbatim, and waited for the opportune time.

As Adam taught Chavah (Eve) God’s original commandment, parts of it were added and redacted. Most importantly, they lost their thanksgiving. They lumped together every fruit they were given and equated them with that one fruit they just couldn’t have.

So when the serpent entered stage right, it said (basically) ‘God said you can’t eat from every tree, huh?’ The woman replied (basically) ‘we can eat fruit – but yes, you’re right, we can’t eat from that one tree.’ She neither rebuked nor corrected it, because at her core she agreed, showing the couple’s obsession with that forbidden tree.

There was only one thing left for the serpent to do – take advantage of one key misunderstanding.

Consider that God’s original Word was “from the Tree-of-Knowledge… you will not eat… for in the day you eat from it, a dying will you die.” Now I admit, this word is entirely open-ended. God doesn’t answer the ‘why’ of the commandment (as in ‘why would we die if we ate it?’) What God does provide is the truth –mankind would in fact experience “dying” leading to a final death.

However, a ‘why’ of the commandment was answered, but not by God! And obviously, it was answered incorrectly.

Adam and Chavah first sought the ‘why‘ from each other. Chavah obviously misunderstood God’s warning as an immediate “lest we die” (3:3) death from a place of fear. She wouldn’t touch it, nor would she even look at it (cf. 3:3,6). I interpret this as Adam teaching Chavah that the Tree was poisonous.

Now, I have opined before that the Tree of Knowledge was meant to be holy, as the fruit of the tree was meant to be an offering to YHVH – the only arbiter of good and evil.

In other words, Adam had to touch the Tree to prune it, and pluck its fruit for YHVH, but again, they misunderstood and developed their own why of the commandment: ‘God said not to eat it, because it’s poison! We mustn’t touch it, nor look at it!’

If they had only tarried a little while, God would have visit them, and they could have sought His face with their questions (cf. 3:7)! To me, the real tragedy is that Adam and Chavah had more access to The Living God than any other in history… but they just couldn’t WAIT!

The nachash “diviner” was all too eager to fill the void. After it assuaged Chavah’s unnecessary fear, it replaced the couple’s misunderstood why (a poisonous Tree) with a false ‘why’ of its own. And like all diviners, it offered a counterfeit version of truth, which are true statements designed to create enmity between humans and YHVH Elohim. For example, the fortune-teller in Acts 16:16-17 said a truth: “these men have arrived to tell us of the Most High God”, which was in fact true, yet that spirit of divination was attempting to disrupt and minimize the Most High’s messengers, and compete with the ‘Most High’.

The serpent did the exact same thing. Both of its statements were counterfeit truths (pardon the oxymoron), because while true, it did not teach the understanding required for truth to properly function.

So the diviner offered its own representation of “God”, but its success would be determined by the couple’s susceptibility to thinking that the Most High is the enemy (the enmity). The sad truth is, the serpent only provoked what Adam and Chavah were already flirting with: rebellion. They DID want to be equals with the Most High, with no limitations.

For some time, Adam knew the tree’s name: THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL (Gen 2:16). The serpent never broadcast headline news; the couple already knew it would make them wise. It’s just that they harbored enmity within. If you’re paying attention, the humans were just like the serpent – they did not want to be subjugated!

“Let no one say he is tempted by God. For each one is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.” (James 1:13)

And the woman saw the good of the tree to eat, and that it was delightful to her eyes, and that the tree was desired for intelligence, then she snatched from its fruit… (Genesis 3:6)

When Chavah lost her fear and gazed upon it, when she knew it wasn’t poisonous, and when she knew it would make her a god, all three hesitations of Chavah were removed. Her physical hesitations did not trump her spiritual hesitation to obey the voice of the Living God, because at the core, the couple did not believe the Word God spoke to them. They considered God lied to them and was keeping them from being gods themselves. And thus the downward spiral was complete.

These reasonings should sound familiar! These are the same charges levied against God today. Scoffers still say God is a liar, and that humans should be free from His control. When you hear such things, do not marvel – these arguments are as old as Adam and Eve. There is nothing more natural than to rebel against YHVH Elohim, the Most High God. ♦

Genesis 3:4, When False Prophets Quote the Word in Verbatim

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.

The Take-Away

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. ♦

Genesis 3:1-3, Adam and Eve’s Not-so-Hidden Narrative

I have previously proposed that the serpent first encountered mankind when Adam “called out names to all the animals.” (Gen. 2:20) At that event, YHVH Elohim was also present “to see what the man would call them” (cf. 2:19). Furthermore, Adam wanted an ezer k’negedo (rescue as his opposite) in the same way God desired all mankind to have an ezer k’negedo (cf. 2:18, 21). At that moment, Adam’s will was the same as God’s will.

So the serpent found it impossible to “divine” and deceive Adam; Adam likely identified its trick and called out the derogatory name ‘nachash’! (Heb. for serpent, from the root for “to divine”).

This is not an earth-shattering revelation; God’s enemies cannot succeed if His people have a ‘let your will be done’ mentality. That’s been true since the Garden of Eden – literally!

So the serpent could not succeed (in regaining its lost power) if Adam continually followed God’s will. It needed a way to divert Adam’s will from YHVH’s. So it waited for the opportune time when the Presence was away:

And the serpent was clever from every beast of the field which YHVH Elohim made. And it said to the woman, “Even so God said ‘You will not eat from every tree of the garden.” (Genesis 3:1)

First, you may have noticed that the serpent’s statement is an incomplete sentence. In full disclosure, I couldn’t fully grasp the Hebrew. I was only slightly encouraged to learn that there is no consensus among Hebrew scholars as to what it says, but they do agree that the sentence is incomplete. The debatable part is the serpent’s first word af. From what I gather, it means something like “yet” or “although” because it seems to connect two sequential thoughts. For example, Psalm 44:9 denotes worship of the faithful… even so God has not turned to them. Or in Job 4:9, a figure says God puts no trust in angels… even so they who dwell in clay houses are destroyed…

So if the word af connects two relative ideas, what’s relative to the snake’s speech if it only seems to offer half a conversation? Well, let’s consider the last information we have before the snake slithers on scene. We see a joyful marriage of man and wife, and they were naked, but not ashamed (Gen. 2:24-25). Everything was awesome, right? Well, that’s what relative.

Everything was perfect; Even so, there was something unsettled in the happy couple. Though it’s not explicitly offered, it’s not hidden. We can still ascertain the couple’s dilemma based on the conversation that ensues.

So let’s compare the false prophet’s statement to the actual word of God. God never said ‘you will not eat of every tree of the garden.’ What He did say was “from every tree of the garden eating you will eat, but from the Tree of Knowledge you will not eat from it, for in the day you eat from it, by dying you will die.” (Gen. 2:16-17) So the serpent spun God’s original commandment in an entirely negative light. It omitted every detail about God’s luxurious gift, and focused on that lone. negative. aspect.

However, the serpent wasn’t the only one to spin God’s commandment:

“And the woman said to the serpent, “from fruit of the tree of the garden we may eat, and from fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the Garden God said “You will not eat from it, and not lay a hand on it, lest we die.”” (Genesis 3:2)

If you compare her statement with God’s, you notice Eve both added and subtracted from the original Word. You may also know how dangerous that can be from the words of both Torah and Messiah:

  • You shall not add to the word which I command you, neither shall you take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of Yahweh your God which I command you.(Deu. 4:2)
  • you no longer allow [a man] to do anything for his father or his mother, making void the word of God by your tradition, which you have handed down. You do many things like this.” (Mark 7:13)

Nevertheless the entire word of blessing “eating you will eat” disappears from Eve’s lips. And likewise, eating from every tree became lumped into the fruit of just one tree. In other words, she makes everything God gave them 50/50 on-par with that one tree they couldn’t have. Next, she added the phrase “and not lay a hand on it.”

I proposed before that there was a purpose to the Tree of Knowledge, but it wasn’t for tempting Adam and Eve. Its purpose is open to conjecture, but it certainly wasn’t poison.

Eve is sometimes unfairly blamed, but she wasn’t there to hear the original commandment. Adam was responsible for teaching it to Eve, so it seems that he shoulders some of the blame for adding and redacting God’s Word.

But basically, Eve agreed with the serpent. The serpent said ‘you can’t eat it’ and the woman said ‘we can eat this… yep, you’re right, we can’t eat it.’ She would never rebuke the serpent as Adam had once done, because by this time the snake had learned their common denominator.

You see, the serpent exploited the unsettled narrative in Adam and Eve’s marriage. That lone tree grew in mystique until it became equal to everything YHVH gave them. Like all marriages, a husband and wife should carefully teach and observe the unadulterated Word without adding or redacting it, all the while thankful for every single BLESSING. However, that didn’t happen. They lost their thanksgiving, and in its place stood a negative narrative on everything… they couldn’t have.

And then the serpent entered stage right.

But the deception had roots in Adam and Eve well before the serpent joined the narrative.

If only I was there! I wouldn’t have focused on the one thing I couldn’t have… right?

Genesis 3:1, The Serpent’s Motive

Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. (Genesis 3:1)

In my last post I painted “the talking snake” as a soothsayer who purported to know the mind of God, a predecessor of all false prophets.

Now, I identify the motives of false prophets, which also spawned this serpent into action.

According to the Word of God, it’s really no secret what the ultimate goal of any false prophet is. Messiah Yeshua summarized their intentions in one word: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” (Matt. 7:15) It’s fitting that Yeshua compared false prophets to animals, because that’s exactly what this passage in Genesis does as well – it equates false prophets with a serpent.

Yeshua described false prophets as “ravenous” because they are motivated to devour the people for a particular lust, usually for power or wealth (cf. Jer. 5:27, 6:13, 2 Pet 2:3, 15). False prophets steal wealth by offering false promises for payment, and deceive you into offering them prestige.

In the case of the serpent, the text implies its motivation for power.

Genesis 3:1 says “the serpent was more clever than any beast which YHVH Elohim had made.” When the serpent was created with the rest of land animals – which occurred before mankind (cf. Gen. 1:25-26) – it was the ‘wisest of all’ among living creatures.

However, its short reign was interrupted. A ruler appeared having “dominion… over all the earth” (Gen. 1:26). However, like any false prophet, the serpent despised authority. This new arrangement was unacceptable – the serpent desired to be ruler of the world. Thus it despised the favored one, Adam, and the Word of God who gave him authority.

Thus the snake was programed to deceive before its first encounter with mankind. This occurred when Adam “called out names to all animals” while seeking an ezer k’negedo – a “rescue as his opposite” (Gen. 2:18-20).

Both YHVH and Adam envisioned a confidante who would oppose Adam, to challenge and refine him. Since animals were created to be mankind’s servants, by nature none of them could possibly know Adam’s intentions (cf. Yeshua’s words in John 15:15). Therefore, during the “animals on parade” naming convention, I imagine they tried to please Adam, but could not challenge him. They may have been presented as animals that could plow 50 fields, or  pull 500 pounds, but this is a mindset of servitude, not equality.

When a master confides in a servant, that servant ceases serving, and becomes the master’s friend and business partner. Yet Adam and YHVH couldn’t find any animal worthy of such friendship – especially the serpent.

Adam called out the serpent as ‘nachash’, which in Hebrew means both “to hiss” and “to divine.” Obviously, the serpent didn’t yet hiss – it spoke – thus eliminating the possibility it was named on account of its hiss. Therefore, the snake’s name must’ve stemmed from its tendency to use divination, similar to how the serpent evoked “the mind of God” on Eve (i.e. ‘you will not surely die, for God knows’). However, what soothsaying could the serpent offer in the Presence of the One True God? And thus the “nachash” stood no chance; his divination services were rejected with a derogatory name.

Herein lies an important parable. Witch doctors, shaman, and even church-lurking false prophets exist in every culture, but at the end of the day, they can only provide you a service. They may read your palm or your tea leaves, or offer you a prosperity or security gospel, but they are only soothing your itching ears! This “help” they provide is their “sheep’s cloak” of servitude, but eventually, they will devour you like wolves, tricking you into giving them power and money for their “service”. However, these were supposed to be considered as animals – like stinky swine and vomiting dogs! (cf. 2 Pet. 2:22)

Now true prophets are similar to a faithful spouse in many ways. They neged (oppose) your iniquities, and ezer (rescue) your calling, just as YHVH and Adam sought after an ezer k’negedo. Consider Jeremiah’s words in Lamentations 2:14 as he makes a comparison between false and true prophets:

Your prophets have seen for you [i.e. “divined”]
False and deceptive visions;
They have not uncovered your iniquity, [i.e. “opposed you”]
To bring back your captives, [i.e. “to rescue you”]
But have envisioned for you false prophecies and delusions. [i.e. “itched your ears”]

May all God’s people value true prophets like a faithful spouse, and cast out false prophets like the mangy dogs they are!

Now after Adam rejected it, the serpent acted predictably. Having failed with Adam, the serpent waited for Eve at a time when YHVH was not present. It then approached her in sheep’s clothing, offering a service disguised as “help”. Specifically, it divined God’s mind, showing her how to become “as one wise.” And the rest is history.

Next I move to what exactly happened at the Tree of Knowledge, and how the serpent convinced mankind to eat it. ♦