Posts tagged “Tanakh

Genesis 4:10-15, Why Was Cain’s Life Spared?

There seems to be a lot of speculation and struggling with Qayin’s (Cain’s) punishment – or lack thereof – as some believe that Qayin should’ve lost his own life after murdering his brother Hevel (Abel), based on comments from skeptics and even some believers in Internet Land.  On the flip side is Christian flag-waving of the “Grace” extended to Qayin; according to Christians, this is one proof that Jesus was always the ‘God of the Old Testament’.

The way I see it, the problem is that both sides of the debate perceive an inconsistency between how God views premeditated murder in other parts of the Bible (i.e. the Torah or “Law”), versus how God allows Qayin to keep his life after such a blatant example of… premeditated murder!  However, I suggest both views are missing key points of information in what I call ‘The Curious Case of Qayin’.

First of all, nothing in the Law and its punishments for murder were applicable until Yis’rael made a covenant with God at Horev (cf. Exod. 24:7).  With respect to how God banished Qayin thousands of years earlier, comparisons to other parts of the Bible would be irrelevant, except that it does raise questions about the eternal nature of God, and how we’d expect His judgments to be uniform throughout time.  That’s an important question, and I will answer it shortly.

As for this being “Grace”, indeed there are many instances of grace in the Tanakh, but I  can’t include Qayin’s judgment among them.  Grace entails complete forgiveness and a restoration of the soul, but that is not what I see in Qayin.

So this leaves two questions: why was Qayin’s life spared and if it’s not grace, what is it?

I say the answer is in plain sight.

First, let’s clear up an assumption that many of us may have.

Where is Abel, your brother?  And Cain answered, “I don’t know! The keeper of my brother… is me?” (Genesis 4:9)

We read this dialogue and always assume that God and Qayin were alone.  But the text suggests there were witnesses.  For example, by the time she had Seth, Havah (Eve) knew Hevel’s fate , and seemed to be a bit hostile to Qayin (cf. Gen. 4:25).  If Qayin was banished immediately, how could Havah know this information?  Therefore, I suggest that the following dialogue makes much more sense… in the presence of witnesses, likely other “sons and daughters” birthed by Havah (cf. Gen. 5:4).

What have you made? The voice of your brother’s blood cries to me from the ground.” (vs. 10)

Even in death, God hears a righteous person more than the wicked who remains alive, because “YHVH is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Matt. 22:32).  By listening to the voice of Hevel, God is advocating for the victim.  Thus everything hereafter should be understood as God honoring what the blood of Hevel spoke.

And now, you have been cursed from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand, because you would work the ground.  No longer will it yield its produce to you… (vs. 11-12)

Qayin knowingly buried his brother in the same grounds that he worked.  In doing so, God judged those grounds to now be Hevel’s final resting place – instead of a cultivated field. If the sinister Qayin remained, he would disrupt Hevel’s resting place for the sake of “produce” (the Heb. koach can mean “strength” but when used with soil it should be understood as “produce”) – even with his brother secretly buried beneath it!  Thus God obviously judged in favor of Hevel and dismissed Qayin from those lands.

A vagrant and a wanderer will you become in the earth.” (vs. 12)

“Fugitive and vagabond” is a seriously unhappy translation of two words that are almost the same, found in the obviously poetically Hebrew ‘na wa nad’.  In fact, this is the only place where “fugitive” and “vagabond” are used for each word, respectively.  Since there is no consistency in how each of these words are translated, the interpretation of na wa nad is open to suggestion.

I say that this term, obviously used to describe Qayin’s future, should be compared with his past.  Previously, he was “the man” and was stable, grounded, and secure.  Now, his future would be the exact opposite – unstable!  As long as we understand that it’s the exact opposite of him being “the man” alongside his parents, we understand the intent of Qayin becoming “na wa nad” – living life alone without the stability always provided for him.

Then Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is too great to endure.” (vs. 13)

The real reason Qayin was allowed to live jumps right off the page… right here.

God – Who I think was deferring to the blood of Hevel for judgment – knew that Qayin would’ve preferred a coward’s death to facing a life filled with adversity.  In this respect I think Hevel knew his brother quite well!  Notice how much that fear of adversity is evident in Qayin’s response below:

“Behold, You have driven me this day from the face of the ground; and from Your face I will be hidden, and I will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will smite me.” (vs. 14)

Ironically, Qayin would’ve lived a lot like someone else in the story – wandering to and fro, fearful of prey, living away from the cultivated fields… that sort of reminds me of how a shepherd would live, is it not?  It seems to me that Qayin’s judgment has an air of becoming like his brother Hevel was in life – who coincidentally is now crying out to God through his blood.  It’s nothing short of poetic justice that Qayin has to live as Hevel was. I believe that Hevel wanted his brother Qayin to see life as he’d seen it.

Notice how the Almighty never said anything about killing Qayin, and how that was purely Qayin’s invention?  Again, if we assume this exchange had witnesses, it makes more sense.  I say Qayin was subtlely inviting anyone – a witness per say – to find him and kill him, to alleviate the one thing Qayin couldn’t bear: adversity.  I think Qayin was so fearful of real life that he wanted to be ‘offed’.

Which is then why the Almighty ensured Qayin would live:

But the LORD said to him, “Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” And the LORD set a sign on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. (vs. 15)

The mysterious mark/sign of Qayin only makes sense if witnesses overheard these words.  It’s my opinion that this declaration is the mark of Qayin.  True, this is a protection of Qayin’s life, but this was not for Qayin’s benefit – it was done for Hevel.  I believe Hevel – as a righteous man – had compassion on his murderer.

This doesn’t mean he wanted his brother excused!  Up to this point, Qayin never laments his murderous act – he only laments its consequences!  Therefore, Qayin would not learn any remorse through death.  Thus Qayin was allowed to live to learn remorse, and perhaps humility for what he did.  This is the poetic justice the blood of Hevel wanted, which God honored.

So, Qayin was neither offered Grace, nor was he given murder.  Qayin was given the punishment that fit Qayin – which was exactly what he deserved. If anything, this is one indication that we all will get what we deserve. The question is, do we want God to listen to us, even in death? Or do we want God to set His face and dismiss us from His presence?  Ω

Advertisements

Genesis 4:10-14, The Way of Qayin Was and Is the Way of the Serpent

The LORD said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries to me from the ground.   Now you are cursed because of the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.  From now on, when you till the ground, it won’t yield its strength to you. You will be a fugitive and a wanderer in the earth.” Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, you have driven me out today from the surface of the ground. I will be hidden from your face, and I will be a fugitive and a wanderer in the earth. Whoever finds me will kill me.” (Genesis 4:10-14)

The majority of our Bibles translate YHVH’s words to Qayin (Cain) as “What have you done?” but I say we should interpret this as “what have you made?”  The verb in question is the Hebrew asah, which is used interchangeably with its synonym bara (to create) to describe God’s ordering of the heavens and the earth, as well as His creation of Mankind (ref. Genesis 1-2).

By design, YHVH also responds with “asah” to Havah (Eve) and the serpent after their transgressions at the Tree of Knowledge (cf. Gen. 3:13-14).  These responses indicate that we who were created in the image of God are creative in nature, but we can “make” (asah) acts of mischief that are foreign to YHVH.  When we create such evil, God asks, “What is this you made?” for this is not the handiwork He respects.  Selah.

So the question to Qayin after he murdered his brother Hevel (Abel), “what have you made?” is similar to God’s response at the Tree, but it’s the fates of the serpent and Qayin that are eerily similar.  However, before delving into this mystery, we must understand how similar paths led to similar fates.

At first, both Qayin and the serpent were “the man”.  We know that the serpent was the wisest among the animals and Qayin was the stronger son who learned his father’s trade.  They were as privileged as royalty until someone else came along who – in their eyes – stole their favor.  To them, it wasn’t supposed to go down that way!

“Dumb humans, who don’t have any knowledge of good and evil? How could they be favored before me, the serpent, who is the wisest of all the beasts!? I will make them as I am and conquer them, and regain my rightful place over all creation!”

“Hevel!? That runt!? How can he be favored instead of me, Qayin!? I’m the one who was born strongest, and followed in my father’s footsteps!  Now it looks as if my parents favor him, along with God!  Nonsense! I will eliminate this competition, and regain my proper place!”

Thus the similarities in motivations led to similar fates:

 The Serpent’s Fate (Gen. 3:14-15)
Qayin’s Fate (Gen. 4:10-14)
Because you have made (asah) this…  What have you made (asah)? 
Cursed are you… Now you are cursed…
From all the cattle and every beast of the field… From the ground, which opened its mouth to receive the blood of your brother by your hand.
Over your belly will you go, and dust you will eat all the days of your life. If you work the ground, it will not continue to give its produce to you. A waverer and a wanderer shall you become in the Earth.
And I will put enmity between your seed and her seed… he will bruise your head, and you will bruise his heel… It will come to pass, that anyone who comes upon me will kill me. 
X Rightly so. Whoever smites Qayin, seven times will I avenge him.  And YHVH set upon Qayin a sign, lest anyone come upon him to kill him.

Both the serpent and Qayin were judged by God for their mischief (what they made/worked), and cursed them from their previous, comfortable lives.  Both of them were informed of how they would experience life as a “wanderer”, and would have to rely on a new means of sustenance.  Both of them also knew of the enmity they would experience with Mankind in the future.

I’ve written before how at the Tree of Knowledge we became more like serpents than gods, and this seems to bring that theory home to roost.  Qayin’s motivations were like the serpent before him, which is why the shared similar fates. Thus we have our main takeaway:  God is showing us that we might all become like the snake. The serpent’s venom is within us. 

If we don’t control our lusts, we might go what the Apostle Yahudah (Jude) calls
“the way of Qayin” (Jude 11). Jude explains how this theme reoccurs throughout the Bible, and so we also have to expect it in our own lives.  We must constantly be on guard against politicians, pundits, predators, and false prophets who want to manipulate us, and subjugate us under an insatiable lust for power.

There is one and only thing that differs between the fates of the serpent and Qayin, and that is the mercy which is inexplicable to most of us.  We all struggle with Qayin’s “punishment” – or lack thereof.

I want to encourage you that there is always an answer for what we don’t understand in the Word of God.  The reasons for Qayin’s banishment are both practical and prophetic, and we will get to those answers soon, Lord willing! Ω

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Genesis 3:14-15, The Serpent’s Sentence

The Scriptures make a big deal about the talking serpent, because God is trying to teach us something. However, if this story is unsettling to you, I recommend this primer here.

Setting the scene, God initially requires an explanation from Adam, but Adam plays “The Blame Game”. Adam blames his wife (although he blames God more!), who in turn blames the serpent. Yet the serpent was unable to ‘pass the buck’… because it was already cursed, and lost its ability to speak.

And YHVH Elohim said to the serpent, “Because you made this, you are cursed more than all the livestock, and every beast of the field. Over your belly will you go, and dust will you eat every day of your life. And I will place hostility between you and between the woman, and between your seed and between her seed. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel. (Genesis 3:14-15)

Christians teach that the serpent is ‘Satan’, citing other obscure scriptures as justification, but I think it’s an incorrect assumption. There is no solid biblical evidence that the serpent was possessed, or otherwise was one-in-the-same as ha-shatan (“the accuser”). Now, I do believe that ha-shatan was implicated somehow, because “from the Beginning the Adversary has kept on sinning” (1 John 3:8). But for whatever reason, we aren’t given the accuser’s role; it remains a mystery. However, emphatically teaching “the serpent is Satan!” distracts us from this passage’s intent. The following attempts to explain my position.

First of all, the phrase “cursed from all cattle…” says that the serpent was cursed from all other animals, as it would become “the adder in the way”. Additionally, Mankind would forever have a specialized hostility to them, unlike how the majority of us humanely treat our pets, livestock, and wildlife.

The same phrase (because you made this, you are cursed more than…) is constructed similar to Genesis 3:1 — “the serpent was clever, more than any beast of the field which YHVH Elohim had made.” This is by design. Both phrases feature the verb asah (to make), and compare the serpent to other wild animals. Combined, the two teach a lesson: God made the serpent within a “good” creation (cf. Gen 1:31). But God’s reward for making it? The serpent makes something of its own… mischief!

We must remember that the talking serpent, like its Hebrew nachash name implies – was a “divining” false prophet figure which claimed “God knows” such and such (cf. Gen. 3:5), who deceptively convinced men to question and transgress the law of God.

This is an important lesson, because as a result of the Fall, we became just like serpents (gaining cleverness, deceptiveness, etc.). Now, anyone can be a false prophet or teacher! So if this serpent “made” a deception, we can also “make” deceptions of our accord. Or, we can choose to make righteousness in the earth –love, peace, charity, etc. Whatever we choose, we the Creation are sub-creating something. Let’s be sure we’re making acts that last for eternity.

With a curse God put the serpent beneath us once again, but the serpent did NOT lose its ability to walk, as many have claimed. It was created slithering, just as Chavah was created to bear children to “fill the earth” (cf. Gen. 1:28, 3:16), and just as Adam was made to till the ground (cf. Gen. 2:15, 3:17-18). When God judges all three parties, He’s reminding each guilty party of what they really are (slitherers, mothers, and “dust”). Let’s remember that Adam and Chavah wanted to be gods on par with YHVH Elohim. Now, when a woman has labor pains – pains that could claim her own life – she remembers that she is NOT a god. When men pour blood sweat and tears into labors, knowing that all it leads to us death, he remembers that he is NOT a god.

So there IS a reason God specifically tells the serpent the obvious: “over your belly will you go, and dust will you eat.” Without its deceptive words, the serpent is NOTHING. It is a literal “low life” that always has its body and tongue in the dirt. And God ensures that Mankind would never be its prey again.

Comparatively speaking, if you took away the words of a false prophet, what do you have?

Someone who is also moved by his “belly”:

I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put snares alongside the teaching in which you have been trained — keep away from them. For men like these are not serving our Lord the Messiah but their own belly (Romans 16:17-18a)

And consumes the “dust”:

by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the simple. (Romans 16:18b)

God said in the Scriptures that we would always have “hostility” with serpents. We ought to have the same in regards to the false prophets and teachers, as Rav Shaul (Paul) says: “keep away from them!” Like serpents, wherever they go, so does their belly. They move from congregation to congregation, seeking material things like your money and seat of authority. Like serpents, they are smooth talkers and deceivers, and they want to consume the “dust” – us! For dust we are, and to dust we shall return (cf. Gen. 3:19).

However, false prophets are no match for the Power and authority of Messiah Yeshua. Yeshua said that we would “take up serpents” – and he wasn’t talking about us judo-chopping snakes with garden rakes. He was talking about facing the false prophets of the world! The best that natural snakes can do is yip at our heels, but we have the power to lop off its head. The same rule applies in a spiritual environment. The false prophets will target our “heels” – meaning those among us most ignorant and susceptible to deception – but we have a mandate to face these soothsayers, and to rebuke their leaders (their “heads”). We must expose them for being moved by their bellies (by their works will you know them), and not by the Spirit of YHVH Elohim.

Somewhere in the world, there is a snake ready to startle an unsuspecting gardener. Somewhere else in the world, there is a false prophet deceiving the ignorant. There is no way to rectify either situation without hostility and confrontation. It’s simply been the way of the world since Genesis.

Genesis 3:7-8, Adam and Eve’s Armor

…and they sewed leaves of the fig, and prepared for themselves [chagorot]. And they heard the sound of YHVH Elohim moving toward the breaking of the day… (Gen 3:7-8)

Most Bible translators favor “aprons” here for the rare Hebrew word chagorot, but in its other appearances, chagorot refers to body armor worn by military-aged males (cf. 2 Kings 3:21, 2 Sam. 18:11). Its verb form, chagar (“to gird, to cover”), describes one covering himself with either sackcloth or armor (so the case could be made that one actually “arms” himself with sackcloth). However, every occurrence of chagar, whether in noun or verb form, appears in contexts of adversity. It’s certainly not a word for peacetime!

Some of the final words of King David illustrate this perfectly:

You know what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me, specifically to the two captains of Israel… whom he slew, and shed the blood of war in peace, and put the blood of war on the [chagorah] around his loins, and on the sandals of his feet.” (1 Kings 2:5)

Yoav-ben-Tzeryahu (Joab son of Zeruiah) was a man of war, so much so that he didn’t know when to retire his armor and listen to his king’s will. Yoav was ever seeking conflict, so the chagorah was the apparel which suit him.

Am I saying that Adam and Eve sewed armor for themselves all night long with the expectation to ambush Almighty God at daybreak? No, I’m not! I think that a word used later in Genesis 3, khetonet (“garment”) might actually describe what Adam and Eve literally tried to make for themselves. However, by God inspiring the war-word chagorot, we get a figurative glimpse of the de facto stance of human beings toward Almighty God, beginning here with Adam and Chavah (Eve).

In other words, it’s in our nature to make war with God, as we prepare “armor” for ourselves in order to resist Him. I speak of pride, which against God is as durable as intertwined fig leaves which are withered and gone with the wind. For like our ancestors Adam and Chavah (Eve) experienced, Almighty God will suddenly appear, and we will also make an account of our works. We will be likewise be naked, armed with only our words which will justify or condemn us (cf. Matthew 12:37).

It would seem our ancestor Adam DID resist Almighty God at the battleground of judgment! His words came from a place of fear, but that is a typical emotion for a conflict, is it not? Adam said:

“That woman, whom YOU put with me….” (vs. 12, emphasis mine)

These are words of war! Adam meant, ‘I didn’t do anything! It was THAT woman, and it’s YOUR fault because YOU put her here with me.’ First, Adam sells out his ally (Chavah) and then hurls accusations against God Himself!

You see, Adam may have sewn physical armor of porous leaves, but his spiritual armor was even poorer. And this armor is still worn today by the billions who blaspheme and accuse Almighty God for their sins and consequences, as well as their circumstances. This pride of life is the armor which blames God for everything and anything.

Had YHVH thought as a fallen man, He would have aborted the entire human race as an inconvenience and started over! However, unlike humans who declare war against Him every day, God instead made for them khetenot (coats) – prototypes of the coats of many colors worn by Joseph and David’s daughters (Gen. 37, 2 Sam. 13:18), but especially the priestly coats worn by Aaron and his sons (Exod. 28, 29; Lev 8 et al).

In other words, though our nature deceives us to be God’s enemy, God instead perceives us as priests and royalty.

Though it may have been too early to utter the words “I love you” we can look through our history on times that God demonstrated tremendous acts of love, including the making of these pre-priesthood coats for the father and mother of us all.

Especially now that Messiah Yeshua has explicitly shown how much God loves us, we understand that He still wants a kingdom of priests (Exod. 19:6, 1 Pet. 2:9, Rev. 1:6). We can look at the journey and understand why God gave us a chance at life, even though we come from the womb preparing to make war with Him. ♦

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. ♦

Genesis 3:1, What Was the Talking Serpent?

And [the serpent] said to the woman…. (Genesis 3:1)

Comments about the “talking snake” fill the Internet – at least 60,100 of them according to Google – but most center on disproving, reproving, or excusing the serpent’s existence, which is impossible. However, it’s good to find what God wants us to know from the Bible’s perspective, just not from the viewpoint of several thousand years in the future.

As I’ve written before and once again, you cannot understand the Eden scriptures unless you see yourself as Adam or Eve, or Adam and Eve as you and your spouse, or Adam and Eve as your son or daughter, etc. Unless you believe it truly existed, it will be a meaningless myth to you, even for those who think it a “nice story.” Yes, if you call it a metaphor – you have already missed God. If however you can place yourself in the Garden – before the physical and spiritual rules that preserved life therein vanished forever – you will behold it for what it was, an intersection of truths that remain today that can help shape you, you and your spouse, and your own sons of Adam and daughters of Eve.

So, what of that talking snake?

What We Know

It talks. Scripture doesn’t explicitly reveal that all animals used to talk, but it’s certainly implied. From the talking serpent to Bilaam’s donkey and subtle implications elsewhere, it’s easy to conclude that all animals spoke before “the Curse” (More on that in the future).

It was named. We know “Adam called out names to every animal” (Gen 2:20), which includes the serpent, “nachash” in Hebrew. This literally means ‘to hiss’, but I do not believe this serpent hissed at all– that trait would come later. Even if it could hiss, the animals were competing to be mankind’s number two (2:20); it would make more sense to converse. Adam must’ve then seen something in the serpent’s speech that would make him call out “You nachash!”

You see, nachash also means ‘to divine’, a practice common to sorcery, witchcraft, and necromancy (cf. Lev. 19:26, Deu. 18:10). Based on Genesis 3, this describes the serpent! He represented himself as a diviner, one who purportedly knew the mind of God, offering divinations like: ‘You will not surely die, for God knows…’ This diviner is what Adam saw in the serpent and thus called him out as ‘nachash!’

So originally, the serpent was a type of a soothsayer who deceitfully claimed to know the mind of God. [White Rabbit: Because the serpent was first a diviner, its hiss became associated with divination.]

It was clever. In Genesis 3:1, the serpent was identified as “clever” (arum). The Bible further defines arum as:

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

This is an exhaustive list; these are all the occurances of arum in the whole Tanakh. We may notice that arum is a characteristic only ascribed to a man; the only place it’s ascribed to anything else is here in Genesis 3:1. In other words, the serpent acted like a clever man before cleverness ever existed in mankind!

The False Prophet

Other things are debatable, but we’ve learned enough about this ancient serpent (as it existed before the Fall) to compare him with the rest of history: the serpent acts like a soothsayer, a false prophet who claims to know what God thinks, is well-versed, and devises schemes for his own gain.

Sound familiar? It should! This serpent represents the false prophet, who in later times would constantly infiltrate Israel and the Kingdom of God! Moshe warned against the nachash “diviner” in Torah, especially Deuteronomy 18, an entire chapter devoted to how the nachash spiritualist will attempt to deceive Israel. Amazingly enough – but not at all coincidence – warnings against such diviners and false prophets surround the most important prophecy of Messiah in all of Scripture. In other words, the layout of the Torah itself prophesies that Messiah Yeshua will be preceded and followed by many false prophets, spiritualists, and false messiahs! Read Deuteronomy 18 for yourself sometime and compare the chapter’s contents to Israel and Messiah’s history.

The Prophets contested false prophets, as many kings filled their courts with prophets of the baals and asherahs.

Then, what was true remained true after Messiah’s advent; He also warned against false prophets (e.g. Matt. 7:15-23, Matt. 24:4). In fact, Messiah’s word in Mark 16:18, “they will take up serpents“- actually means that believers will face false prophets and workers of iniquity head-on!

Thus, Messiah’s apostles did take up scores of false prophets – as one example, almost the entire book of Galatians is devoted to countering the “bewitchings” of the circumcising false prophets who would bind the believers with fear and boast in their flesh.

Lastly, Yochanan (John) wrote of false prophets playing a major role in Revelation and the last gasp of evil.

Therefore, the serpent was a prototype of the false prophet who would repeatedly combat Israel and Messiah’s Kingdom over and over again, never stopping until the end of time.

Whatever the serpent had he ultimately lost in his curse, but not before he manipulated Adam and Eve as the closest thing to a clever, fast-talking false prophet with a well-developed scheme to undermine the Kingdom of God. This is the lesson from history.

Many of you might be thinking, “I thought the serpent was s.a.tan!” Well, the Bible doesn’t say that – ever. However, the same power that fueled the false prophets obviously fueled the serpent, and I’ll provide that evidence, with the serpent’s motive, in the very near future.♦