Genesis 3:14 – Was There a Literal Talking Serpent in the Garden? Pt 2
(Ver 1.2) This is now Part 10 in the Bible study series dedicated to understanding God’s spiritual subjects hidden beneath the natural words found in Genesis chapter 3. This is also a continuation of the first lesson in the series relating to the subject, “Genesis 3:1 – Was There a Talking Serpent in the Garden?” I taught on this first subject a long time ago but I was led not to publicly respond to an important question that I received concerning the meaning and application of what God says in Genesis 3:14 and how it relates to what was communicated to us by God in Genesis 3:1. Since I received the same question recently, I felt led to now publish the answer for everyone else to study. If you have not read “Part 1”, the introduction to the identity of the symbolic serpent to discover what the Spirit of God said about Genesis 3:1, I would recommend that you go back and read that lesson first before you continue on with this lesson. Reading the foundational basics will just help to affirm what the Spirit of God says to you today while providing additional context information found in the rest of the chapter. Also by reading this entire Genesis 3 lesson series you should be becoming spiritually aware of how many new subjects are found in this chapter. Not recognizing spiritual content within the natural word description Bible story is one of the greatest reasons why we have such diverse opinions to what the words mean today. That is why I have been teaching this series of lessons on Genesis 3 to help people think in a new spiritual way concerning the very specific words that the Spirit of God has inspired Moses to write in this chapter. This will probably be a long lesson with many new things to learn. I need to go into a level of additional detail in this lesson to help people see that reading Genesis 3 in isolation is a very easy way just to be confused.
WHAT ABOUT GENESIS 3:14?
I am now going to respond to the direct reader question “What about Genesis 3:14”? You see in the past there are has been so many Bible teachers within the Christian body that have taught concerning the existence of a literal talking snake in the garden which tempted Adam and Eve to sin that it is now difficult for anyone to accept any new revelation on the subject. This popular natural way of thinking and teaching promoted the creation of a commonly misunderstood physical interpretation which violates the information given to us by God in the Bible, the natural laws of creation and the mathematical laws of God. People often believe that God created these laws but then they do not believe that God chooses to live by them and I do not agree with that religious philosophy. That type of reasoning promotes a God that says “Do as I say but do not do as I do”. Man being made in the image and the likeness of God clearly must learn to follow and conform to His examples of behavior or we just fail in our own efforts. I believe firmly that man was created to be an imitator of God’s ways. Jesus clearly provided humans an example of this divine lifestyle in the natural when God appeared personally upon this planet. Our Christian belief of following God’s and Jesus’ examples has created the popular modern concept of “WWJD”. When humans are faced with challenging situations and circumstances they should stop and ask “What would Jesus Do”? I believe a Christian should act like Christ, look like Christ and speak like Christ and in doing these point others to Christ. You are free to disagree and not attempt to be like Christ.
This prominent teaching of a literal talking snake is also directly linked into the propagation of the many paintings of a naked man and women in the garden being pictured with a serpent in the tree performing the temptation to eat the forbidden fruit. This has been the prevalent traditional viewpoint of this chapter and people accept it today because it has been so frequently and widely taught. Everyone in the world telling you the same story over and over and us all hearing it told over and over causes people to accept it and believe it more easily, even if it was never true. I have learned this concept by observing what has been happening in the world in the last 50 year with the gay community message. 50 years ago gays were not accepted and even looked negatively upon for their poor choice in lifestyles. But during this time more and more gays have been opening up and “coming out of the closet” to proclaim themselves as being normal. TV and movies began introducing the subject in the 1970’s and now it is mainstream and widely preached. In the last 50 years gays have increasingly proclaimed their normalcy and demanded their acceptance and finally now the majority of the people in the world are buying into these lies to believe them as the truth. However, even if everyone is in full agreement with a belief, that does not change the belief to be a God inspired truth. Truth is only found in the Words of God. But only the Spirit of God can reveal to us His truth in His Word.
This teaching about the literal talking serpent is what I call a tradition of men taught by men based upon a man’s carnal human reasoning rather than the actual Biblical spiritual insight from God. We should become smart enough to see that none of these Bible teachers that teach on the subject of a literal talking snake can provide us with sufficient scriptures to back up their belief. The Bible very clearly says to let every word be established in the mouths of two or three witnesses (Mat 18:16, 2 Cor 13:1). That means we need at least one other reference apart from Genesis 3 where an actual serpent speaks to tempt a human in order to embrace that concept fully. Can you search your Bible and find one for me? God has established specific rules for rightly dividing the Word of Truth and not knowing these rules or choosing to ignore them will result in a chaos random Bible interpretation where any interpretation is truth. We need to become wiser Christians verifying what people teach, applying the correct rules and not accepting blindly anything just because they said it (Acts 17:11). That is what I want you to do with everything that I am going to say today. You analyze it closely with the information found only in the Bible and if you don’t see it like I said it, then that is fine with me, don’t believe it.
What God has shown me is that there was no literal talking snake in the garden. There are two primary reasons why many Christians do not see what is written by God in the Bible and one is that they think totally natural ignoring the spiritual elements of application or two they do not know how to study the Bible from a God spiritual author perspective. I am going to address both of these situations today in this lesson. My goal today is to teach you to think spiritually concerning Genesis 3:14. You may not yet understand that thinking carnally is different than thinking spiritually but if you continue to read with an open mind you should be able to make the transition. Carnally dominated people think that if they cannot see it, touch it, feel it, hear it, smell it or taste it, then they believe that it is not a reality or a state of truth. In thinking this way they believe that spiritual things do not exist or that natural things are superior to spiritual things. Carnal thinkers are totally dominated by the 5 sense realm. Spiritual thinkers are more influenced with the Spirit of God, the Word of God and the unseen spiritual realm. Being spiritually dominated versus being naturally dominated should become your goal today even if you do not understand it yet.
Ask yourself if natural things take precedence and priority over the spiritual things in your life? Maybe I’ll help you, is eating natural food a bigger priority than eating God’s spiritual food from the Bible? God says very clearly that “the unseen spiritual things are literally more important and permanent than anything observable here in this natural universe”. That was my paraphrase of a verse found in 2 Corinthians 4:18. Since all natural things were created by a Spirit (John 4:24) it should be self-evident that the spiritual realm pre-existed everything that is natural and therefore the spiritual realm is greater by definition. What does it mean to be greater? Is the created automobile greater than the manufacturer or is the manufacturer of the automobile superior to the created automobile? If the manufacturer was broken the automobile could not fix it, but if the automobile was broken clearly the manufacturer could certainly repair it. I think you get my point that only the Spirit of God can fix a human to see His superior spiritual ways. Let’s go and begin the study of Genesis 3:14.
ANALYZING GENESIS 3:14 – GOD SPEAKS TO THE SERPENT
I want to begin this part of the Bible lesson by giving you the key Bible verse in question. This Bible verse is easily misunderstood and commonly misapplied. To remedy this problem we will be analyzing the words carefully in three distinct phrases using the Bible to define what the statements mean. Allowing the Bible to render the interpretation will remove our opinions to what we have read discovering what God was speaking about in the verse to begin with. God does not leave us helplessly guessing to what He has written. God places so many clues in plain sight that it is amazing how we do not see them. To correctly determine the verse’s interpretation using God’s methods, I need to give you a list of the basic rules for interpreting and understanding any verse found in the Old Testament. These rules of correct Bible interpretation will take us out of the realm of unstructured random Bible study placing sound organization within the realm of intelligent constraints and these learned laws will provide order and structure to our Bible study methods. I follow these rules whether I tell you about them or not. But by me teaching you how these rules work, you will gain great benefit for how you study the Bible in the future. I will also tell you that these rules of interpretation were given to me by the Spirit of God and I did not learn them from human teachers, so they may not agree with your seminary version of interpretation rules.
As you read this verse please allow the words to be fresh and new ignoring what you have heard about them in the past. I say this because many times people need to remember that everyone was once taught that the earth was flat until some brave people like Columbus and Magellan proved this was clearly not an accurate truth. To allow a round earth truth to become a fresh new normally accepted reality those that believed in the flat earth theory so firmly had to release their corrupted viewpoint in order to see the new. This is what will also need to occur today with what God will teach you in this lesson. It would even be good for you to stop and say a prayer before you start reading God’s Word and ask Him to allow you to see how He sees the words. Only by changing to look at the Bible from God’s point of view can we begin to see the truth from the author’s perspective and not a skewed human viewpoint or opinion. Are you ready to begin?
- Gen 3:14 The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.
This verse begins with the LORD God speaking directly to the stated serpent. This “serpent” is the same being that was introduced to the reader in verse 1 because God repeats the same Hebrew word H5175 in both verses. This Hebrew word occurs 5 times in this chapter and this mention in verse 14 is the last time God uses the word in this chapter. The other word references are found in Genesis 3:1, 2, 4 and 13. The Hebrew word H5175 by Strong’s definition means a “literal snake”. But is that what this word is really referring to in this chapter? How do we know when to take a word to be literal versus making it a figurative or symbolic representation for something else? That is the answer that we will seek in God’s Word and I hope and pray that you are ready to learn how to do this. I will mention briefly that the only other time this Hebrew word for snake is mentioned in the book of Genesis is when it is found in a prophecy spoken by Jacob about his sons. It would be good for us to stop and take a look at how God used this word there to potentially apply that knowledge to what we are reading in Genesis 3:
- Gen 49:17 Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward.
I must ask you, is this mention of a serpent a literal snake or a figurative representation? Does the son of Jacob named Dan change or transform into a literal serpent? It would be extremely ignorant to think that this is a literal prophetic statement. Why then do people believe the serpent in Genesis 3 which is the exact same Hebrew word must be literal also? It is interesting to note that if we consistently interpret every H5175 word occurrence in Genesis as being symbolic that this would further match the 5 serpent references that are found in the book of Revelation which I believe are equally all symbolic for the same creature. I also find it very interesting that the tribe of Dan is never mentioned in the book of Revelation when the other 11 are clearly named in chapter 7. Just thought I would throw that fact in for you to consider since Dan is prophesied to be a serpent in Genesis 49. Let us look at the definition of this word given to us by Strong:
- From H5172; a snake (from its hiss): – serpent.
In the definition of the Hebrew word H5175, Strong defines it to be a snake and never mentions that this word could be used figuratively and I believe that was an oversight on his part since we clearly saw in Genesis 49 that this word was used this way in relation with the prophecy to describe Dan. Then further notice that this definition includes the sound that a literal snake makes as a “hiss”. I found that part of the definition to be an extreme contradiction to what was just recorded in this chapter 3 of Genesis by God. Nowhere in this chapter is this serpent ever hissing before or after the fall of man. This hissing sound is based upon the Hebrew root word and we will get to that soon but it also corresponds to the modern or present day noise that a literal snake makes and that does not conform to what is witnessed occurring in Genesis 3. This is where too many people try to come up with creative unstated explanations for what they believe must have occurred. These people automatically assume that snakes could talk before the fall but after the fall serpents were reduced to hissing sounds only. I call that a work of fiction based upon imaginative suppositions. Perhaps it will be good to review the first verses of Genesis 3 and learn the sounds the serpent is stated to have made:
- Gen 3:1 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
- Gen 3:2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:
- Gen 3:3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
- Gen 3:4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
- Gen 3:5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
This described serpent in Genesis 3 is clearly speaking with extreme intelligent terms using logical and informed reasoning with plainly understandable word statements in verses 1 through 5. Not only can the serpent think clearly and talk perceptively, but this being can hear and understand the women’s responses and communicate back with her on a level that is clearly above her. Believe me I am not saying that the woman was stupid; I believe she is very intelligent but this being must be far above her level of understanding if he is able to deceive her so easily. I want you to go back and notice that the serpent knew what God had said to Adam in verse 1 where there was no mention of a serpent being present during this discussion in chapter 2. How is that even possible? We must conclude from this information that the serpent was either present but not mentioned in Genesis 2 or that the serpent heard about this event from another source that was present and that only included the stated participants God and Adam. Based upon Bible information given about Satan either one of these could have occurred. For example take the story of Job the oldest book of the Bible. In this book Satan appears before God to discuss a human named Job and this story is very relevant to what we need to understand about what is given to us concerning Adam and Eve.
- Job 1:7 And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.
I want you to notice certain facts given to us about Satan in this verse. The name Satan means “adversary” or “enemy” and this clearly denotes Satan’s position at this time to not be a friend of God. Yet, Satan has just come from the earth in order to have a conversation with God. We therefore know that God and Satan talk and even communicate about human events. This could be the way that Satan found out about Adam’s conversation with God in Genesis 2. However the last part of this verse also applies to Genesis since Satan is walking about the earth even though there is no mention of him being seen by the human man named Job. Since Job knows nothing about Satan what would make you think Adam knew anything about him either? Satan very clearly walks the earth after the fall of man in the book of Job, could this be the way that Satan found out about the conversation in Genesis 2? I believe it could be. Adam was clearly given the task to guard and protect the garden before the fall of man occurred and this had to be guarding it from an external being like Satan since he is the only being that appeared on the scene in chapter 3 to deceive his wife. Since the first 5 verses occur before the fall of man, this proves that Satan had access on the earth before the fall as well as after the fall of man.
What we have just discovered is that Satan has great ability to communicate with beings even with an extreme intelligent being like God the creator and this means him speaking with a man or a woman on the earth is probably more like child’s play than speaking with God where he is clearly the child. Regardless of how Satan knew of the conversation the fact remains that this stated Genesis 3 serpent being had great knowledge of past events with outstanding memory recall abilities and that is very important to understand who you are dealing with. Satan has been here on the earth for at least the last 6000 years and you have been here probably far less than a100 years. Who do you think knows more you are him?
These facts found in Genesis 3:1-5 would appear to me to be a direct contradiction to what God says in the Bible in chapters 1 and 2 of Genesis if this is a literal snake. All the land animals were created on the first part of day 6 of creation before man was created last as the culmination of all of God’s creation. So would that order of creation make the animals supreme to the man because they were first? Or did God leave all of His creation in the hands of the supreme last created beings as I believe occurred? God says that man was created to have dominion which means to rule and have authority over ALL of the animals in Genesis 1:26. I do not see how a lower created being could have been fashioned to be smarter than God’s man made in the image and likeness of God himself. I do not recall any other being that was made to be like God in Genesis 1 or 2. I also recall no other recorded conversation between God and any other created being. Both of those are major problems for those who believe in a literal talking snake that deceives Eve. We are already discovering some very significant inconsistencies in what is being defined and stated versus what is being taught by many preachers and teachers in the church today. This is a very good time to dig deeper into the Hebrew word definition translated as “serpent” to discover what else is contained within this word. This Hebrew word H5175 comes from the Hebrew root word H5172 and that is a very important new word to learn and apply to what is being communicated to us by God here in Genesis 3.
- A primitive root; properly to hiss, that is, whisper a (magic) spell; generally to prognosticate: – X certainly, divine, enchanter, (use) X enchantment, learn by experience, X indeed, diligently observe.
This Hebrew root word contains the meaning of a “prognosticator”. Do you know what that is? That is someone who foretells the future. This is what many would call a fortune teller who speaks words about forthcoming events in your life. Do these still exist today? Are they still talking snakes? Let’s go back and review the conversation that the woman had in the first 5 verses again using this new information. Do you recall what the serpent said to the woman? The serpent begins the conversation with a question to engage her mind. The serpent asked “Did God say?” The serpent’s question in verse 1 includes a stated connection back to what God said in chapter two as previously stated in this lesson. Then when the woman responded to that question in verses 2 and 3 the serpent responds back in verse 4 “No, you shall not surely die”. Didn’t the serpent just attempt to foretell the woman’s future with this statement? I find that fact very significant to know. Then in verse 5 the serpent makes a claim that is beyond comprehension. The serpent claims to know what God knows. How could a created inferior being on the earth even come close to knowing what the creator God knows and how would the created superior man and woman not know the same thing or even other greater truths that God shared in personal conversations with them? Of course many people will counter this information that I just stated with the fact that Jesus claimed the devil was the father of lies (John 8:44) and therefore the serpent was lying in all of these statements. But using that logic just made this serpent the same as the devil and not a literal talking snake, so which one is it? You can’t have it both ways even though some have tried to claim the devil possessed the physical body of a created serpent in order to communicate with the woman and I gave you New Testament evidence that this would be an illegal supernatural temptation for the devil to do it this way. I’m not going to repeat that again. So far we have at least three possible interpretations given for the identity of the serpent by Bible teachers and these are:
- A literal talking snake (A NATURAL ONLY INTERPRETATION)
- The devil possessing a literal snake with the devil doing the speaking (A COMBINED NATURAL WITH SPIRITUAL INTEPRETATION)
- The devil in the spirit realm talking to the mind of Eve (A SPIRITUAL ONLY INTERPRETATION)
So far I believe that the evidence being presented by God in the Bible dictates that the serpent can only be number 3, but number 2 can be easily beleived by many to be the truth also until you put all of the pieces of the puzzle together correctly and see that this is not possible. Number 1 is definitely out of the question but we will explore more of why this is not possible also. What are the facts presented to us so far?
- We know the serpent is smart and possesses great intelligence.
- We know that the serpent had recall of past events even when not stated to be present during the occurrence of them. We know the serpent knew what God had said in previous conversations with Adam.
- We know that the serpent can remember, think and reason.
- We know that the serpent can speak clearly understandable words.
- We know that the serpent predicts the future speaking of events that have not transpired whether they are completely accurate or fictitious is really irrelevant to the facts given.
- We know from verse 1 in Genesis 3 that the serpent is very cunning.
There is at least one recorded conversation between man and God in chapter 2. God’s voice is also described to be walking with man in the garden in Genesis 3:8. This description clearly makes it sound like it was not the first time that this voice of God walked there since Adam and Eve both recognized Him being present. But up until this point in Genesis 3 I want you to see clearly that there have been no recorded conversations between a serpent and God, yet this creature is clearly more informed than the man and the woman to know how to deceive them.
I really hope you have read the entire Genesis 3 series of lessons because I’m not going to repeat them here. I did one lesson on the subject “You shall be as God Knowing Good and Evil” and that was a prophecy of misfortune but yet it would still come to pass. This statement literally contains the implied knowledge that the serpent understood the current status of God. All of this information is a direct contradiction for a literal snake to know how to speak, to know the status of God and His thoughts or to even predict the future of the woman. This is a major problem for a literal only interpretation yet it is explained away because of what people think that Genesis 3:14 says.
Please review the definition for the Hebrew root word H5172 again and see how it was defined. It is stated to be a literal hiss but then it is directly tied into someone whispering a chant or a magic spell. This changes the word’s usage from a literal hiss sound to become a potential figurative or symbolic word application. Do you have any clue yet how Satan communicates to you every day? Did you even know that the serpent is still speaking to people like you and I every day? Doesn’t Satan still come to us using whispered subtle phrases? Aren’t these whispered words of temptation picked up by your mind so that you can hear them as thoughts? Satan will come to your mind and whisper a thought to entice you and many respond to this mental stimulus, even Christians. The reader of this chapter can still ignore all of this information and try to take these initial verse statements of Genesis 3:1-5 and 3:13 and 14 literally. Many people will still try to think that God was speaking to a literal created being that thinks and talks like a man no matter what I teach to the contrary. But if those that want to see what the Bible really says they should begin to weigh the growing evidence for how this serpent was just a symbolic named reference for the hidden spiritual being named Satan who was not yet revealed to man. But we need more Bible verses to confirm which viewpoint is the truth and that is the objective today for us to find. Let’s continue analyzing the phrases in Genesis 3:14 and see the next stated expression.
- “Because you have done this, Cursed are you more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field;”
Again in this next statement of Genesis 3:14 we can see a common theme reappearing from Genesis 3:1 in that the serpent is similarly compared to the “cattle” a subset of the beasts of the field and then God compares the serpent to the superset of “all the beasts of the field”. We should easily know that a literal serpent is not from the livestock mammal class of beings so that is pretty simple to understand that the serpent does not belong in that set or class of created beings. But again in this verse we see the word ALL being placed in front of the noun set of the “beasts of the field” to qualify the applicable scope of the statement. Since “ANY”, “EVERY” and “ALL” are synonymous terms and they mean none are omitted from the specified set of referenced nouns we know by this statement made by God alone that the specified serpent is not a member of the “beast of the field” superset or class of created beings either. This is not rocket science but people ignore the words on the page to render what they want them to say. God chose these words so it is very important for you not to ignore one word like “all” because it does not conform to what you think it needs to say. Let’s move on to the last controversial statement that was made by God to the serpent and explore this for the remainder of the Bible lesson:
- “On your belly you will go, And dust you will eat All the days of your life;”
People still look at this last statement in verse 14 wondering what it means. In fact that is exactly what initiated this entire Bible lesson and why I am attempting to respond to two different commenters. God says in the last part of the verse that the serpent will travel on its belly and eat dust. Here is where people again begin to jump to erroneous assumptions and wrong conclusions misunderstanding and misapplying what was actually stated. Because everyone knows that has seen a literal modern snake at the zoo or in their yard that they slither on the ground on their bellies as the primary way to get around they therefore assume that this is what God was declaring to happen. Thus they believe that God was talking to a literal snake and this is where they become more creative again to imagine or invent some new unstated explanation of what God just said in His Word. I have heard more than one preacher try to claim that the serpent before the curse walked using legs but after the curse his legs were removed and now he had to slither in the dust on its belly. That is the required logic that must have transpired for a literal interpretation. But, that type of belief or reasoning is based upon a form of reverse evolution. Reverse evolution occurs when a higher formed creature returns, regresses, reverts or mutates backwards to a lesser or inferior form of creation. This belief is the stated antithesis of the theory of “evolution” also taught as the “evolving” of lesser beings classes that are raised to a higher state of development class by some unknown miracle. I have a major problem with believing in either of those two theoretical scenarios since there is no written evidence or fossil evidence that either of these theories ever occurred. If there were walking snakes before the fall then there should be some fossil evidence for them found somewhere on the earth. Instead of thinking on these words from a completely natural perspective inventing creative untruths to confirm them, let’s divert our attention away and try to see the words from a new spiritual point of view. We can only counter theories with facts. We therefore need facts from the Bible that trump the reverse evolution belief.
Do you understand what symbolism is in the Bible? I have already tried to explain that the “serpent” was a symbolic reference to a spiritual being named Satan as revealed by God in Revelation. God uses vast amounts of symbolism in the book of Revelation but yet people like to think that God never used symbolism anywhere else in the Bible especially in Genesis. Suddenly people want to think that God changes to do something new in Revelation and uses a novel technique never before used in the Bible. But that is clearly not sound reasoning to think that way. For example, Jesus taught consistently in the Gospels using parables. What is a parable? A parable is a lesson about spiritual things using natural symbolic references to convey the message. Clearly Jesus used natural symbols and I could give you other uses of symbols in the Bible if you do not believe me ask me a question and I will supply you with an introduction to the subject found in the O.T. and even in Genesis.
There is another important concept that is related directly to symbolism found in the Bible called a “figure of speech”. Do you understand what a figure of speech represents? I’ll not go into this in depth but I will attempt to give you a couple of examples of a figure of speech to help affirm the conclusion. If a person today says “You are a pain in my neck”, was he saying something literally or figuratively? I believe you are smart enough to know that this is a figurative description of the person and not a literal one. You can see God using this illustrated type of speaking example in the Bible several times when He says to the natural people of Israel “Wipe them out or they will become thorns in your side” (Num 33:55, Jos 23:13, Jdg 2:3). You see God was not speaking to Israel literally so He must have been declaring a figurative statement that they should have been smart enough to recognize. What is a thorn in your side? That is just an example of someone who causes you physical, mental or emotional harm or causes you to stumble over something that results in physical, mental or emotional harm. In these three Bible examples that I just gave you, God was saying these people will introduce you to their idols and by you worshiping them these people will cause you great negative consequences. That is exactly what God was doing in Genesis 3:14 when speaking to the symbolic serpent. God was not telling the serpent that he just lost his legs; He was saying something else which you do not even yet understand.
RULES FOR O.T. BIBLE INTERPRETATION
How can we find the meaning of these figurative and symbolic words in the Old Testament? How do we understand any verse written in the Old Testament if the Jews could read them all for centuries but never saw any of the words that described Jesus’ coming? These are finally great questions to answer. Please allow me to introduce you to some very basic rules for O.T. Bible interpretation and understanding. Read these rules over and then I’ll explain them and apply them more completely as we continue into the rest of the Bible study:
We can only understand the O.T by:
- First understanding that the Bible is ONE BOOK written by ONE AUTHOR with superior intelligence (2 Tim 3:16)! Therefore, we must not study one part of the Bible trying to understand it while ignoring the other parts of the Bible that reveal it.
- Secondarily understanding that the Bible interprets itself and we need not add our opinion to the mix or we will violate God’s law of correct interpretation found in 2 Peter 1:20.
- Next understanding the revelations, explanation and descriptions of the words, concepts and subjects found in the verses in the New Testament. The Bible is progressive revelation also called the unveiling, the uncovering or the revelation of the truth (Rom 16:25).
- Searching, finding and observing God’s definitions of the words and subjects in the New Testament and other parts of the Bible where they are given (Col 1:26).
- Observing the context of the verses around it.
- Observing God’s usage of the same Hebrew words in the other verses of the O.T.
- Looking up the definitions of the Hebrew words in dictionaries like Strong’s.
That is certainly not an exhaustive list of rules for correct O.T. Bible interpretation but that was enough to help get you started moving in the right direction for studying this part of the Bible. I have just given you a short “to do” list for O.T. Bible study. This is a list of items to consider when desiring to know what you are reading from the Old Testament. These are very specific things that you should not ignore but rather learn, apply and deliberate on while you read the Bible. These are very direct items that are essential for studying to find God’s revealed answers to your questions. These are the basic rules that I follow and I will apply them directly to the rest of this lesson to teach you how you should apply them to what you do. Not understanding them and applying them is the primary reason why many Christians do not know what the words on the pages mean. They simply have not been taught how to resolve the lack of structure for how they study the Bible. I hope that you at least try to use this initial list and see how it changes what you find in the Bible. If you find them to not be useful, then that does not bother me but it might reveal why we believe differently about the same verse. Let’s study the verse here in Genesis 3:14 using these rules and see what develops and changes about what we can see in the verse.
I will say that rule number 1 is a general statement of fact and truth. It is repeated in more detail in rules 2, 3 and 4. The combination of the first four rules is us finding God’s details and interpretations already recorded in the Bible. We do this these through other rules that I may or may not get into fully in this lesson. I just mention this because I know them and you probably do not unless you have read most of my other Bible lessons where I give you descriptions in certain places on how to use them. I’m sorry I just can’t teach everything that I know in every Bible lesson or I would never get a lesson completed.
RULES 1 AND 2: ALLOWING GOD TO INTERPRET HIS WORD
I want to begin with rules 1 and 2 of every sound Bible interpretation. We must allow God the author of the entire Bible to interpret His own words in order to leave our thoughts out of the meanings. God’s mind is superior to my mind and yours. When we introduce the thoughts of our mind into the discussion we introduce an inferior process and way of thinking. I have discovered from many years of Bible study that God is smart enough to interpret His own writings if we can become smart enough to learn how to find them and apply them. That is your number one challenge being issued within the Word of God. Go find the verses that explain the verse that you want to learn about in the Old Testament. That is what we need to do next so let’s go looking for some New Testament explanatory words for what we have read in Genesis 3:14.
RULES 3 & 4: WHAT DOES THE NEW TESTAMENT TEACH ABOUT SERPENTS?
Since someone was questioning if the serpent in Genesis 3 was literal or symbolic we need to ask what does the New Testament say about “serpents” and how should these references be applied to this question concerning Genesis 3? Can you see that I have already answered a portion of this question in the previous lessons in the series? I pointed you to two verses in Revelation (Rev 12:9 & Rev 20:2) where God directly identifies and names the “old serpent” and the “ancient serpent” to be the literal enemy Satan. This was a God inspired definition that was further mentioned within the context of another symbolic name for the same individual called the “dragon” and that truth helps to teach us that the serpent and the dragon are both symbolic titles for Satan. We need to treat both referenced titles of the serpent and the dragon to be equivalent for the literal spiritual being named Satan. There are also other references to a serpent in Revelation and one is found in Revelation 9:19 where God uses this same word to be like something else. This fact teaches us that God is in the practice of using a serpent as symbolism to teach us about spiritual things that we have never observed with our eyes. The next reference that I gave was that of Revelation 12:9 but also in this same chapter God uses the serpent again as symbolism to be associated with a symbolic woman also mentioned in the same chapter. I hope that you have already read my Bible study on Genesis 3:15 called “The Seed of the Woman and the Seed of the Serpent”. If not you really do not understand that Genesis 3:15 and Revelation 12 are parallel prophecies of a soon coming future event.
If you continue to read down in Revelation 12 to verse 14 you will see the woman and a serpent being mentioned in the same verse. I’m not going to elaborate on these, just understand that they are both symbolic for someone else. In the very next verse Revelation 12:15 you will find the fifth reference in Revelation to a serpent. In this verse you should be smart enough to see that this serpent is again a symbolic reference and he is stated to spew symbolic water out of his mouth like a flood to cause the woman to be carried away by the flow. I really do not have the time to teach this chapter in full. Just understand that the woman and the serpent are both clear symbols for a greater defined spiritual reality and God is for the woman and against the serpent. We also know that the woman is not named or identified directly but the serpent was and that is what we were searching for to understand Genesis 3:14. This is just very basic information that helps us to confirm that the serpent in Genesis 3:1 through 3:14 was not a literal reference but rather also a symbolic association.
The term “serpent” is only mentioned in 15 verses of the KJV New Testament. Only once can it possibly be considered to be a literal created serpent moving on the ground. Let me give you all of these verses so that you can review them for yourself to learn how God uses the term:
|Matthew 7:10||Symbolic||Referenced by Jesus in a teaching about Father giving the Holy Spirit|
|Matthew 10:16||Symbolic||Referenced by Jesus in a teaching to His disciples about them being wise as a serpent but harmless has doves both symbolic references|
|Matthew 23:33||Symbolic/Figurative Speaking||Jesus speaking the leaders of Israel calling them a generation of vipers.|
|Mark 16:18||Symbolic||Jesus instructing the disciples after His resurrection often called the Great Commission|
|Luke 10:19||Symbolic||Jesus speaking in contextual reference to Satan giving authority to His church to tread on the serpent|
|Luke 11:11||Symbolic||Jesus speaking to the church about the Father in Heaven giving the Holy Spirit|
|John 3:14||Symbolic||Reference to O.T. symbol being placed on a pole by Moses|
|1 Cor 10:9||Symbolic/Literal||Possibly a reference to either or both a symbolic and literal snakes killing Israeli people in the wilderness who disobeyed God|
|2 Cor 11:3||Symbolic||An explanatory reference written about Eve being deceived in her mind by the serpent|
|James 3:7||Literal||Here James is using a reference to taming created animals and creatures but this is a totally different Greek word than all the other references to a serpent. This one is G2062 and is translated as “creeping thing” every other time in the N.T.|
|Rev 9:19||Symbolic||Used by God to describe the 4 angels that kill 1/3 of the human race during the tribulation|
|Rev 12:9||Symbolic||Verse where God identifies Satan to be the serpent of old|
|Rev 12:14||Symbolic||Symbolic connection of the woman and the serpent found in Genesis 3:15|
|Rev 12:15||Symbolic||Symbolic connection of the woman and the serpent in Genesis 3:15|
|Rev 20:2||Symbolic||God again clarifies the identity of the ancient serpent to be Satan|
I just gave you 14 verses containing the direct references to the Greek word G3789 translated as “serpent” and the evidence is very clear to me that the vast majority of the N.T. word usage must be considered as symbolic references to a spiritual being. The only verse that I could possibly leave to be a natural snake was 1 Corinthians 10:19 when God was describing what occurred to the natural people of Israel in the wilderness after they disobeyed God. Every other reference appears to be a symbol for Satan and the enemy of God. I can still see how people could argue about some verses being literal but that is probably because they do not see what is stated. For example the 2 times that Jesus speaks about a father giving his son a serpent when the son asks for a fish is definitely an example of a parable where all named nouns represent a spiritual reality not named. The literal symbol of a snake in these verses is used by Jesus to teach a spiritual lesson. Then consider John 3:14 where the serpent was placed on a pole to bring healing to the people of Israel in the wilderness. This is clearly another symbolic representation for Christ being made sin for the salvation of His people in the New Testament. I do not know how you can ignore all of this evidence? If the New Testament references are 13 out of 14 for the “serpent” being symbolic in the N.T. then this teaches us that we must consider this information and apply it to what we are trying to understand in the Old Testament. God would not have given us so many clear examples if we were supposed to not understand them. So if you did not realize it already, I have just used the first four rules of O.T. Bible interpretation to discover the explanation, definition and identity of the “serpent” in Genesis 3.
I would also like to teach you a basic Bible fact that the O.T. was written in Hebrew and the N.T. was written in Greek. How then do we know that a N.T. Greek word is equivalent to a given O.T. Hebrew word? That is another Bible interpretation rule that needs to be learned and observed. There are generally two ways to solve this language difference problem. The first primary way is to find an O.T. verse that is quoted in the N.T. that contains the word that you are searching for. Since the “serpent” word is not found in this manner we must use plan B. Plan B is finding a verse that speaks about the subjects found in the O.T. even though it is not a direct quote. Since 2 Corinthians 11:3 contains the subjects of Eve and the serpent together we can confirm conclusively that the Greek Word G3789 is equivalent to the Hebrew word H5175. We are now assured by rule definition that these verses found in the N.T. are speaking to us about the same subject given by the author in Genesis 3. That was a very important part of the study that I just gave you. I did not use random chance to connect O.T. words with N.T. words. I used rule based methods that were designed by God and that changes everything.
RULE 5: WHAT IS THE CONTEXT OF GENESIS 3:14?
Let’s move on to rule number five for correct Bible interpretation. This rule involves us observing the context of the verse in question. This would include the speakers, the participants and the intended reader audience. Let’s begin this section of study by observing the next verse 15 following Genesis 3:14 because I believe this is very relevant information. I have already published a Bible study on this subject that you should have previously read but if not we will go back over parts of it very quickly. The statement in verse 15 is a continuation of the statement in verse 14, do you understand this? Therefore whatever God was talking about in verse 14 is still being continued in verse 15. I cannot disconnect the two verses and neither can you if you use wisdom. God is still speaking to the same symbolic serpent but God is now introducing a new important connection for the serpent. I’ll give you the verse so that you can read it again for a mental refresher:
- Gen 3:15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
God introduces us to a woman in verse 15 that He declares to be the serpent’s new forthcoming or prophetical enemy. God says very clearly I will put enmity (hostility or hatred) between you (the serpent) and her (the woman). Right there that new statement should become a mental “turn on the light bulb moment” clue for you that this stated serpent is not a literal physical talking snake. Yes women are not the usual friends with natural snakes but that is clearly not what God is saying in this prophesy. You do realize that this statement was a prophetical statement, don’t you? Eve was the only literal physical woman present during this conversation, therefore you must show me where she ever stepped on the head of this physical snake to bruise her heal or bruise the literal serpent’s head. Since you cannot find a verse that states this occurred, that is a major problem for a physical or literal snake’s existence as being cursed by God in verse 14. A physical serpent’s life span in this day and age is less than 50 years by far. Therefore this event if it was a literal snake must have occurred during a time span of reasonable age less than the life time of the woman in this chapter. Since it was not recorded as a past event we must now reassess if a literal snake makes any logical sense at all anywhere in this chapter.
No God is again speaking purely prophetically and figuratively in verse 15 using natural symbols for a coming spiritual event. The woman is symbolic, the seed is symbolic, the heel is symbolic and therefore the serpent must also be symbolic along with the head of the serpent. If you can find me where any literal woman, heel or seed steps on the head of any literal snake to bruise it then we can all join together into the same belief that this is a literal historic account of literal beings. I believe what we have just confirmed is that verse 15 is symbolic and matches what I previously showed you to be symbolic references in Revelation 12. If the context of Genesis 3:15 is both prophetic and symbolic, then the previous verse 14 references must also be prophetic and symbolic and that changes most everyone’s way of viewing it. This means in verse 14 the serpent is symbolic, the belly of the serpent is symbolic and even the dust is symbolic for some things that you have not yet discovered. Who knows if I have convinced anyone yet, but we are not finished with the study so please continue to read the next important Bible interpretation rule application.
RULE 6: HOW DOES GOD USE THIS PHRASE IN OTHER O.T. VERSES?
Let’s review what else God says about this subject in the Hebrew Old Testament to consider the further usage of the words found in Genesis 3:14. We are interested primarily in what God says about a serpent eating dust so I did a search for these key words and found a verse that you must read and apply to what was stated by God in Genesis 3:14. Obviously God knew that He would have many people that would not understand His selection of the words in Genesis 3:14 so He uses them again to teach us what they mean later in another prophet’s words. Read this verse slowly and carefully and observe it to be a prophecy on the same subject:
- Mic 7:17 They shall lick the dust like a serpent, they shall move out of their holes like worms of the earth: they shall be afraid of the LORD our God, and shall fear because of thee.
I need you to examine this verse word by word and then if you don’t know the answers to my questions go and read the context of this verse to see who God is speaking to and about. I guess I was going to first ask you who and what this verse is concerning but I better just answer it for you so you learn how to do this. If you go back to Micah 1:1 you will find God informing the prophet Micah concerning the kings of Judah concerning the area of Samaria and the city of Jerusalem. Therefore the rest of this book is written by that direction and must be interpreted in that light. When God writes to them and tells them in chapter 7 verse 17 that they will lick the dust like a serpent, is that literal or is that figuratively speaking terminology? I can see how people will try to make it literal but God is speaking to men using symbolic application. I connected this verse in Micah to Genesis by looking for “serpent” and “dust” together in the same verse. God uses a synonymous reference for eating with the term lick but they are basically equivalent phrasings. I can very clearly eat an ice cream cone by licking it. Let’s pursue another example of God’s usage of this term in another prophet’s writing:
- Isa 65:25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD.
Here is another important verse to consider for us understanding Genesis 3:14. Here is a verse written by the prophet Isaiah literally many hundreds of years after the prophet Moses wrote Genesis and this verse contains the exact same three Hebrew words that Moses used in the Genesis text. These words are H6083 translated as “dust”, H398 translated as “eat” or “meat” and finally H5175 translated as “serpent”. The translators made a slight modification so that the one word “eat” from Genesis 3:14 is not easily recognizable but that is why I searched using the Strong’s numbers and not the English words. Did you read this verse and consider how it applies to Genesis 3:14? Is the verse in Isaiah speaking literally or figuratively? I also want to ask you is this statement a historical past tense description, a present tense right now (at the time of the writing) description or a prophetical future tense based event description? I can potentially hear many different answers to my question but only one answer can be correct. Since this is the prophet Isaiah writing many, many years after Moses wrote Genesis 3:14 and both are speaking of the same thing I cannot agree that this occurred in past history in Genesis 3. No, I see both statements in Genesis 3 and Isaiah 65 to be written about a future coming prophetic event that has not yet occurred. If you do not agree then explain to my when you ever saw a lamb lie down with a lamb and dwell in peace and safety? For that matter when was the last time you saw a wolf eat straw regularly? Then analyze the last part of this verse and tell me when this has occurred in the Bible? God describes that His Holy Mountain will never again be destroyed nor will there be found any hurt or pain present there? I just don’t have the time to explain this verse fully. Please know that this has not yet occurred and will not occur until the end of Revelation the last chapters. Then know that if this verse is a future speaking prophecy it helps us to understand how Genesis 3:14 is concerning the same prophecy.
I want you to understand very clearly that Isaiah 65:2 and Genesis 3:14 are the only two verses in the entire Old Testament (23,145 verses) that contains these three exact Hebrew words together. Do you believe that was a coincidence or a chance occurrence? I really do not believe that. God has placed a design in the Bible using extreme intelligence. He has implement certain rules of interpretation that are being revealed now to help us through the use of computers to find the meanings of what was written thousands of years ago.
Since I have already used Rule 7 in previous discussions of the Hebrew word for “serpent” I will not redo that work in this part of the lesson. I pray that you understand how I applied the definition of the word in Strong’s and the Hebrew root word to the lesson to show how it was used symbolically. I have covered the application of seven Bible rules of interpretation. We have explored New Testament references and definitions and applied them to what was spoken of by God in Genesis 3:14. We have looked at the context of Genesis 3:14 to see that it was both prophetic and symbolic. We have looked for and found other verses in the O.T. to further confirm this was also a prophesy found in Genesis 3:14. What I have attempted to do is to teach you that the words of a verse in Genesis can have a much different intended purpose by God than a literal only interpretation. I have used sound rules to give you a new and different way of seeing the words. I may have not fully explained what the words “upon your belly you shall go and eat dust all the days of your life” mean but I have tried to teach that God does offer a way to learn what they mean by searching the Bible. If you still do not understand we can do more lessons later on this subject of the symbolic serpent if you ask direct questions about what I have presented to you. From everything that I have found so far in the Bible there is only evidence given by God to support a symbolic reference for the serpent in Genesis 3 to be Satan and not a literal talking snake. I thank you for taking the time to read this advanced Bible study lesson and please help others to see what God has said in His Word.