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The Lost World of Adam and Eve (Part 10: The Serpent)

ESV Genesis 3:1
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.”

With the previous blogpost (see below) in mind, Walton begins to look at Genesis 3 with the aim of understanding what the language intends to convey rather than what the things physically are. In Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian and Evangelist and Prudence and Charity all represent something besides themselves. Likewise, the serpent represents more than a snake.

I thought this was quite obvious as the New Testament seems to convey that the snake is Satan. However, Walton argues that the early Hebrews wouldn’t have necessarily made that connection. Nothing in the Pentateuch makes this connection. And this deceiving serpent doesn’t play a role in the rest of the Old Testament. Instead, the Hebrews would’ve viewed Satan as a symbol of chaos, and not some kind of special or evil chaos.

Walton argues that the world had chaos from the beginning. It wasn’t a world of perfect paradise. FYI: Chaos doesn’t necessarily mean sin, it means the propensity to fall apart or into non-order. Think second law of thermodynamics. This, Walton argues, is part of the reason that Adam and Eve were assigned to keep up the garden of Eden. It needed keeping up lest it fall into non-order. Both the sea and darkness were also considered aspects of chaos. 

Thus, the serpent was a sort of “disruptive free agent with less of a thought out agenda” (Walton, 134). To prove this, Walton spends a great deal of time showing that the snake doesn’t outright tell Eve to disobey God, but rather questions her on what God said. “In this way the serpent’s deception came in exploiting a misrepresentation by the woman and telling her of a benefit to eating the fruit without likewise including the deleterious effects” (Walton, 134-5).

I’m not quite sure why it is important to see this snake as a non-ordered nobody instead of Satan except to better understand how the early Hebrews read Genesis. However, I want to know if this serpent was or wasn’t Satan, and Walton seems to be saying, “It doesn’t matter. Satan isn’t a key player here.”

A few other interesting points: Walton believes that God’s curse to the serpent, which involved crawling on its belly, wasn’t a way of taking the legs off a snake. An attacking snake rears up. A docile snake crawls on its belly. And eating dust is a comment probably about a snake’s habitat. Deserts were also considered a place of non-order.

Walton, John H. The Lost World of Adam and Eve. Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic, 2015. Print.


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