Why was the Serpent in the Garden?


#1

If we assume that Satan was the Serpent in the Garden of Eden, what was he doing there? Common theology would have us believe that Satan (then named Lucifer) fell from heaven on account of Pride. And that he fell to earth and became the prince of this world, and took on the form of a serpent (whatever that may have been). We are also under the assumption that the Garden of Eden is a particular place where flowed a main river split into four rivers, based on Gen. 2:10-14, and therefore of limited area. It was apparently a special place set by God to place Adam and Eve, one in which* the communion with God* was a regular occurance. The danger being that since Satan could be residing anywhere on earth, it was inevitable that he would make a ‘house’ call to our first ancestors, evidently being granted access by our Lord. Thus in the beginning, the Garden was not the perfect paradise as first imagined, for it had a sinner presiding there from the start (as you may recall Jesus refers to Satan as both a murderer and a liar, though the only prior sin that we know for sure at this point is his pride). Now one can speculate that Adam and Eve did not necessarily need a temptor in order to sin, and I, for one, would agree. We are led away by our own device (but then again, they didn’t have any). The potential for wrong choice was there (indeed upon commandment not to eat, for all other choices were free). But on the other hand, the Serpent served as a catalyst to induce that sin. (And while I’m speaking out loud here, I took the liberty of looking up the word ‘serpent’ in Strong’s, and found that the word for serpent ‘nachash’ is identical to the root word ‘nachash’, in which Strong’s gives this meaning: ‘to practice divination, divine, observe signs, learn by experience, diligently observe, practice fortunetelling, take as an omen.’ [emphasis mine]). So evidently, Satan was there to learn, or perhaps God was there to learn also.

At any rate, the story goes on to bring a curse upon the man, the woman, and the serpent. And as a result, the couple is expelled from the Garden and two cheribum are charged to guarding the entrance, lest they partake of the Tree of Life and live forever. But I would like to make an observant point here. NO WHERE DOES IT SAY THAT THE SERPENT WAS EXPELLED FROM THE GARDEN. In fact, when we get to the book of Job, we have Satan before the Throne of God with all the other Sons of God, (in presenting themselves to the Lord, even–whatever does *that *mean?) conversing with the Lord in quite a matter of fact manner. God asks what Satan has been doing and his reply is that he has been walking to and fro on the earth, apparently having free reign not only in all corners of the world, but also access to the very throne of God.

So are my rambling thoughts for today. What say you about this?


#2

I came across an interesting article by a Jewish Scholar that is related to this question, so I’ll post the link for your reference.

thedivinecouncil.com/nachashnotes.pdf


#3

To me it tells us that all is unfolding as it was meant to unfold.


#4

Hi Dondi,

I wish I had more time for this while I share some thoughts.

First, many Christians don’t believe that the devil became “the prince of this world” or “the god of this world” immediately after his sin, but this happened after the first humans fell from their position of ruling over the earth.

Second, I don’t think the word study necessarily implies that “Satan was there to learn, or perhaps God was there to learn also”. And concerning the latter, I believe that God in omniscient so there was no need to learn on God’s part.

Third, all that the Bible teaches about Satan and other spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms implies a reign in the heavenly realms but not what I would call a “free” reign. For example, Job clearly teaches that the Lord limits the activity of Satan.

Fourth, I agree that humans could have sinned without a personal tempter while it was less likely before their first sin and fall from grace.

Fifth, I’m partially unsure why God allowed the devil to tempt the first humans and since then to instigate unfathomably atrocities.

Sixth, I believe that in the long run that God is teaching all free-will creatures to use their free will with godly responsibility.

Seventh, the devil’s temptation of humans will ultimately result in the defeat of the devil’s plans and lead to his salvation.

Eighth, my sixth and seventh point indicates that the devil will ultimately learn form all of this while I don’t think this has much to do with the meaning of nachash. :slight_smile:


#5

Some scattered comments of my own:

1.) For those who haven’t read the pdf yet, Michael Heiser is a Christian of some sort (who believes Jesus is God Incarnate, though he seems to take the plural references of God, including in the opening chapter of Genesis, as being a divine council of angels rather than distinct persons of a singular God. Maybe. Other things he says may indicate otherwise, and I haven’t read elsewhere on his website about “the divine council” yet, though he clearly thinks Satan was a rebel on the council.) That may not be altogether pertinent, but some people may want to know before reading the essay.

2.) Incidentally, I recently ran across a related point in Keener’s commentary on GosJohn, to the effect that in Eastern religions serpents were typically regarded as being brassy in color. This was in his remarks on John 3:13-14, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whoever believes may have eternal life.” (NASB 1977). This is in regard to the bronze/brass serpent incident of Numbers 21:9. (I was a little surprised Dr. Heiser didn’t mention that.)

3.) Actually, there is plenty of evidence that serpents used to have limbs (something that would have been difficult for ancient people to have known about beforehand, except as a lucky guess); the more ‘primitive’ species (the boas and similar constrictors) still occasionally sprout a vestigal hind leg. One was found recently in China (if I recall correctly) hanging on a woman’s wall in her bedroom by its vestigal hind leg. (Not that I’m saying this has anything to do with the Eve story; that’s just how the incident happened. For readers with a high creepy-threshold, I found the article again. :ugeek: ) Moreover, the typical association of Satan in scripture is not to what we would think of as snakes, but to what we would think of as dragons. Were there ever giant legged reptiles of high intelligence which eventually became serpents somehow? Well… actually… :wink: yeah, a very large number of scientists currently think there were. Except the vast majority of them also think those creatures died out millions of years before mankind came along. (In some horrible cataclysm. Which managed not to kill off other reptiles. Like for example snakes. Somehow. Despite the surviving reptiles not seeming to be anywhere near as well-adapted for survival in changing ecological conditions as those other reptiles which died off. Details are kinda sketchy. :mrgreen: Including, as it happens, metric tons of details throughout human history hinting strongly that at least some of those extinct large legged reptiles survived into relatively modern times and maybe even today.)

4.) Speaking of Job, God in that story was expecting the ‘satan’ in that story to be learning something from Job. The ‘satan’ (rather spitefully) wants to lead Job into rebellion against God instead of learning whatever it is he’s supposed to learn from “regarding” Job.

5.) And, oh, by the way, “Leviathan”, a sea dragon of some kind, shows up as a topic in the story of Job as well. Job and his friends are quite sure that Leviathan is only doomed to destruction by God as a rebel against God. God, on the other hand, talks about the taming of Leviathan (and Bahamut, another cosmic dragon entity, more ‘neutral’ in religious character), even making covenant with him.

6.) I’ve always thought it was interesting that the Nephilim are not entirely wiped out by the flood. Because they show up occasionally later (Goliath being the most famous example). Was one of the wives Nephilim, too? Did the rebel sons of God start over again later? (More likely the flood wasn’t quite as global as the story’s perspective understands it to be.)

7.) Later (post-Christian) rabbinic teaching sometimes gives the impression that the “evil impulse” in men (Christians would call it original sin) derives from the first human woman having been physically seduced by Satan. (The term in Hebrew is apparently similar.) Then again, they also have a tradition that the first human woman left the first human man (over a sexual argument no less) to become the consort of Satan and the mother of monsters, as well as a seducer herself (i.e. the Lilith legend).

8.) Judeo-Christian sometimes represent the tempting serpent in the garden as being half-woman. (Probably connected to the “lamia” in other religious traditions: a half-serpent sexually seductive creature usually hostile to humanity.)

9.) Of course, lots of folklore have traditions of dragonish creatures able to shift form to human, and even to breed with humans. (The dragons are not always evil, either, at least in some cultures.) Even more interestingly, a number of folklore traditions feature winged reptilian creatures going after the blood of a woman’s womb at night even when only acting like a feeding animal. (Even weirder: a few scattered folklores have a tradition of some kind of creature, often femaleish, which flies around with entrails behind it feeding on humans in various ways. In one case the creature looks female-human during the day, and separates at night to fly around and do this! Freaky… Then of course there are the sirines, harpies, eryines, furies…)

Some of these can be explained by known psycho-physical sexual pressures, combined with half-awake dream hallucinations etc., of course. But from any positively agnostic-ish folklorist’s perspective, it’s interesting to ponder just how far these things interconnect back with one another to entities we know used to exist (which artistically we have lots of evidence for continuing to exist in human history in various ways), the scientific theories for which are in fact a lot sketchier than that side of popular culture would usually have us believe.

10.) A very amusing Halloween entry from a cryptozoology site. (It has some topical relation to this thread, which will become apparent later. I thought of it a minute ago while free-associating some folklorist connections. :sunglasses: )

11.) It should be noted that just because we haven’t officially identified flying animals of various sorts reported throughout history, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. And if they exist, that doesn’t mean they’re actually shape-shifting (or otherwise demonic) spiritual entities. It doesn’t mean they aren’t intelligent either, though. Nor that they couldn’t be borrowed for representing real spiritual entities in folklore art (due to similar behaviors). But, from an agnostic position, I like to keep my options open until and unless I have good reason to close them. :slight_smile: Also, it’s just more fun to do so. :smiley:


#6

Thanks for the link. Very interesting articles that has certainly opened up whole new avenues for discussion. Perhaps this business of the Divine Council can be brought up in another thread.


#7

Is this the whole ‘lost dominion’ thing, where we handed over the world to Satan at the Fall?

While I agree that God is omnisicent in regards to knowledge, I’m not so sure He is ‘experiencially’ omnisicent. A scientist may have knowledge in all theoretical disciplines, but he doesn’t really know the actualization of the theories until he experiments.

Yes, of course God is in control. He only allows Satan permission to do things (ala Job). Still, if you stick a child in a fenced playground, the kid can run around pretty freely within those bounds.

This brings into question of what will prevent us from sinning once we get into heaven.

What unfathomable atrocities? Man is the instigator of most of the world’s suffering. Satan sort of takes on a Charles Manson role, if I may use that analogy. Manson was convicted of crimes he didn’t actually commit. Raher he influenced others to do so. I know that doesn’t make Satan any less evil, but you get my point. Why God allows things to go so far, I don’t know. A battle for loyalties?

That, I agree.

I don’t think the ‘temptations’ result in defeat, but rather the remedy that is in Christ.

I was just word playing. ‘Nachash’ is evidently rich in meaning, whether or not one can apply these meanings to the current discussion admittedly will take further study. But it is interesting to explore.


#8

Unfortuately, we never hear from Satan again beyond the first couple of chapters. Would loved to have interviewed him after Job’s restoration.

That has always puzzled me, too. I can’t imagine a giant lady on the ark. Perhaps there was a repressed gene somewhere in one of the wives.

I think all ‘impulses’ are neutral. God gave us the drive for sex (which I, for one, am thankful). But it is only in the direction those impulses are applied that determine whether they are evil or not. But you talk about becoming a consort of Satan is breathing a Unification Church flavor.

While your thoughts on all this are all very interesting, I’d rather not devulge into an extended discussion on it. I’m more interested in examining the problem from a biblical point of view, if you don’t mind. But you do have some fascinating ideas. I never considered shape-shifting as a method of angelic transformation. But then again, we do entertain strangers unawares. And what’s with that talking donkey (not the Shrek one).


#9

Scripture seems to indicate that it continued later also, though it’s not very clear:
Gen 6:4 There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare [children] to them, the same [became] mighty men which [were] of old, men of renown.

I’ve always thought these must be the origins of at least some of the old ‘gods’ and ‘heros’ and ‘giants’ of many cultures. These little hints of things are fascinating. It seems likely that the tales of battles with dragons and other such monsters (Grindle from Beowulf?) would be the remnants of the dinosaurs.

Sonia


#10

Well, from larger story contexts it seems clear he refused to learn (or rejected learning) and apply anything pertinent. :wink:

Incidentally, a point about the flood details occurred to me last night. In the story, the flood covers all the mountains. Leaving aside the question of historicity and (if so) actual extent of the flood, insofar as the ‘swirling depth’ of water (wiping out embodied demonic entities, btw) serves as a metaphor for hades and even for Gehenna (in its own way) in Jewish religious thought, it’s also worth noting that in just about any ancient religious tradition (certainly including Judaism, in post-Christian development if not sooner, and definitely including other Mediterranean cultures contemporary with early Judaism), mountains have important roles in religious worship. They’re closer to heaven (and thus to the gods); the deities may insist on living on the highest mountain; and there’s a definite tendency to start thinking of the chief temple of the religion as existing on the highest mountain in the world, even when the culture has enough world-experience for authorities to realize this must be patent nonsense if taken literally.

The rabbis (post-Temple, if not earlier), to give the most pertinent example, eventually got into the habit of teaching that the Jerusalem Temple was located on the highest spot of the highest mountain in the whole world. And also got into the habit of denying that the flood had covered it; unlike Mount Gerizim (with the rival Samaritan Jewish temple).

While the literal depth of the water definitely comes into play in-story (the waters have to recede before the ark can come to rest anywhere, which turns out to be high in a mountain range), that figurative notion (about the religious importance of high mountains, including in Judaism and its surrounding competitors) suddenly linked up with those other figurative notions concerning the ‘swirling depths’ as well.

(Also, baptism. :mrgreen: But that’s a post for another day. um, I don’t mean baptism links up with high mountains in religious typography.)

Which is entirely consonant with the two Jewish traditions I was speaking of. The Jews rarely taught that sex per se was evil. On the contrary, don’t you know where the old saying about emphasizing something “and twice on Sunday!” came from? :laughing: :sunglasses:

(For those who don’t know: it was a rabbinic injunction, involving a blessing from God to a man, specifically on the topic of the importance of making one’s wife very happy and satisfied. Ahem. :smiley: )


#11

It was mainly for ‘trivia’ interest purposes anyway. :slight_smile:


#12

I’m one of many Trinitarians who believes the various “Let us” in Genesis 1 refers to the divine counsel including cherubim instead of evidence of the Trinity.


#13

So by that admission, I assume you believe that we are made in the image of the divine counsel as well as God? Did the divine counsel also help confound the languages at the Tower of Babel as well?


#14

I never focused on that. Here are some quick thoughts.

  1. The divine counsel of angels is also referred to as “the Sons of God” and sometimes also referred to as “the elohim”
  2. Actions of angels are typically seen as an extension of God’s actions
  3. I take a nonliteral view of the Tower of Babel account

#15

True, a lot do; and there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that. I did myself for most of my life, until relatively recently.

Well, I’m more than a little doubtful that the Gen 1-3 account should be taken altogether literally, either. :wink: But that doesn’t have any bearing on why I think the multiple Persons of God are being referenced in the plurality language in both stories.


#16

The non-literalness of Genesis 1-3 has nothing to do with why I no longer believe that the various uses of “us” in Genesis 1-3 specifically refers to the plurality in the Godhead. The plurality in the Godhead might be included in “us” while don;t see that is the focus.


#17

The only place (or places) offhand I can think of in the Gen 1-3 account, where the identity of the plural language might significantly count, is in the relationship of mankind with the plurality. And I’ve seen that applied both ways (to the Trinity and to a corporate counsel of angels with God.)

I don’t recall any place in the Babel Tower story where the identity of the plurality is significantly important either, fwiw.

Though if the non-literalness of the Babel story makes no difference to your identification of the plurality, I’m a little curious why you replied with reference to your belief in its non-literalness (when Dondi asked whether you believed the divine counsel also helped confound the languages at the Tower of Babel as well.)