Updated on March 6, 2014
The Shining One – The Old Serpent
When I was a wee lad, there was a series of books published featuring the entire Bible illustrated in comic book form. I devoured each one, fascinated by the stories, miracles, and such a wonderful God. I soon graduated to a children’s RSV, and then the Thompson Chain-Reference KJV my parents gave me in high school. Now, I have many translations – electronic, printed, and with the Internet, seemingly an unlimited supply of options to consider.
I have always read the Bible as God’s Truth. I also understand that His Words are filtered through men. Different translations, unfamiliar languages, strange religious practices, or cultural nuances, can make the Bible challenging at times. Religious tradition may create boundaries that make it difficult for the Holy Spirit to reveal God’s Truth. But if you keep digging, continue searching and expecting God to reveal the meaning of a passage, it will come.
I say all that to set the premise of this post.
For years the idea of a talking snake in the Garden of Eden troubled my spirit. Serpents do not have vocal chords. Other than hissing, it would take a miracle for a snake to captivate, or beguile, Eve. Yes, I know the story of Balaam and his donkey, but that was God, and a much more advanced mammal.
God created all the animals and gave man dominion over them. Adam, created in the image of God and sharing His Glory, named all the animals – charting their destiny. This was much more than just dreaming up cute names. All that God created was good. Knowing all this, how could an animal, a created beast, defy God and His delegated ruler on the Earth, and be used by this fallen, evil spirit? Something about this did not make any sense. I did not have an answer, so I simply agreed with religious tradition that it was a literal snake. But the uneasiness never departed.
Now the Shining One was more clever than any animal of the field that the LORD God had made. It asked the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You are not to eat from any tree of the garden’?”
(Genesis 3:1 <ISV>)
Note the translation above. Before I came across the ISV translation, I had just received E.W. Bullinger’s Companion Bible – I highly recommend this as a resource for any serious Bible student. He was a brilliant theologian/Biblical scholar from the late 19th century, and his books have helped me in many areas of study. It was in his Bible (Appendix 19) where he lays out the case for the word translated serpent (or snake – nachash) can also be translated (shining one, or to shine) as seen in the ISV translation above. This is the only Bible translated this way that I have seen. If you do not have Bullinger’s resource in your library, click on the Appendix 19 link above to see his compelling explanation online.
Bullinger wrote extensively on figures of speech in the Bible, identifying numerous times where this technique is employed. I don’t want to steal his thunder, and honestly can add little to Bullinger’s case. Read the link for yourself with an open mind and see if your spirit agrees. (Colossians 3:13-16)
As you dig deeper into Genesis Chapter 3, it is clear that the author is not talking about a literal serpent. The prophetic phrase “bruise his heel” does not mean a literal snakebite. It is widely accepted as figurative language about the temporary suffering of Jesus. Just as the “crush his head” promise means the absolute destruction of Satan’s plans and power. “On your belly” can be seen in the utter humiliation of Satan, and in God’s promise to make “your enemies a footstool under your feet.” If this is all figurative language, why not the serpent in verse 1? (Psalm 110:1, Matthew 22:44, Luke 20:43, Acts 2:35, Romans 16:20)
Without a doubt, all of creation suffered when the curse entered the Earth. The snake was a beautiful animal created by the Wisdom and Love of God. And like many animals, its nature was forever changed by its new ruler Satan, the god of this world. God did not curse His creation. He loved it. The curse came because of sin. Just as the curse was forever broken by the Last Adam. (Psalm 104:21-25, Romans 5:12-21, 8:19-25)
In the wilderness, Satan attempted to beguile Jesus. If he tempted the Last Adam directly, why not the first? You can even see parallels in the questioning of Eve and Jesus – attempting to pervert God’s Word by challenging its veracity, sowing confusion, and then suggesting outright rebellion. An animal could not operate with this level of spiritual knowledge, although perverted, without a spiritual father in complete control. And while demons do seek opportunities to inhabit people, they don’t do so well possessing animals. Note the story of Legion and the herd of pigs. The whole herd stampeded off a cliff and drowned in the water below after the demons entered the pigs. (Matthew 8:23-34, Mark 5:1-8, Luke 8:22-37)
God gave man dominion over all animals in the Garden. If Satan were even able to speak through a serpent, as God did with Balaam’s donkey, would a snake be able to “beguile” Eve? Would not a spiritual being, a “shining one” appearing to Eve have much more influence? Eve had a personal relationship with her Heavenly Father. Would an animal so easily undermine her faith? An animal questioning God’s Word might not get much consideration. However, a spiritual being would get her attention. Paul writes that, “even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” Is this aside a reference to Satan’s work in the Garden? (2 Corinthians 11:14)
The verb (nachash) is translated enchant, fascinate, charm, hypnotize, bewitch, divine, or occult knowledge. I don’t believe it is a coincidence that these all come from darkness. This is another confirmation that we are dealing with a force that is much greater than even a possessed literal snake – which is essentially the way I reasoned it away for many years. Consider the way Eve was led away from the Truth. The shining one tested her knowledge of God’s Word, causing Eve to doubt God’s Goodness and then she embellished His Truth. With the seed of doubt planted, Satan went in for the kill – the end result would be immediate spiritual death, physical death would come later. Satan defied God, telling her that she would not die, claiming that partaking of the tree would give her knowledge of good and evil – something neither Adam or her needed when they were walking in fellowship with their Creator. Eve heard the lie. She believed the lie. And the deception led her and Adam into sin. Paul explains later by the Holy Spirit that Adam was not deceived, which makes the incident all the more interesting. When the temptation first came, by quoting God’s Word correctly, and trusting in God’s Goodness, the fall would have never happened. (Genesis 3:1-13, 2 Corinthians 11:3, 1 Timothy 2:14)
The serpent story is a distraction, it causes confusion and is a source of division. God’s Word is perfect and True, but it sometimes must flow through imperfect people. That’s why you have the Holy Spirit. And as Daniel predicted, knowledge is increasing. This is an age where you can access hundreds of Bibles, dictionaries, and commentaries sitting at your laptop. Never in history has there been such a plethora of knowledge available on ancient languages, figures of speech, and customs. There are more Spirit-filled ministries, teachers, and lay people than ever before. There is no reason to not know God’s Truth in every area, and reject any religious tradition that is contrary to God’s Word. (Daniel 12:4, John 16:13-15)
You may be wondering, why does this even matter? Faith is believing in Jesus and trusting God’s Word. As you hear God’s Word, your spirit (heart) recognizes Truth. With the heart you believe, and with your mouth you confess that Jesus is Lord. At that moment you are SPIRITUALLY reborn. God remodels your spirit and takes up residency. You become a New Creation in Christ. Unfortunately, the mind and body must be trained. In the case of the mind, you must renew your mind with the Word of God as you grow in faith by feeding on the Word. This whole process is undermined by doubt, confusion, and unbelief.
For the unbeliever living under Satan’s control, the thought of a talking snake may sound like mythology. That may be enough for them to dismiss the Bible as fiction, and ignore the Gospel completely. It is God’s Living Word that convicts people and leads them to Christ. A simple translation error, or not rightly dividing a figure of speech, should not stand in the way of anyone’s Eternal destination. Satan erects enough barriers in this world to thwart the spread of the Gospel, Christians should not be making his work any easier.
The baby, or carnal Christian, may also be led astray. They might reason that the Bible can’t be trusted. Every supernatural event, or promise of God, may come into question. Because of centuries of religious tradition, teaching, and hundreds of artistic representations of a snake talking to Eve in the Garden of Eden, even a mature Christian may balk at accepting this.
And, if you are like me, you may finally have peace about Genesis 3. I knew Satan was involved, but the role of a snake was an unnecessary distraction. I was not even actively researching this issue when Bullinger’s book arrived. Then, I found the ISV translation, and all the pieces started coming together. I remembered the reference to Satan as the “old serpent which deceiveth the world” in Revelation. If he is referred to as the old serpent there, surely that refers back to the first ‘serpent’ that started this mess. (Revelation 12:9-11)
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:
(1 Peter 5:8 <KJV>)
You must recognize your enemy to put him under your feet. If Satan can hide in the shadows, make you focus on a literal snake in this instance, he can just as easily fool you into thinking that God made you sick. You might blame your Heavenly Father when things go bad instead of the real troublemaker. Or the devil could try to convince you that you will never be good enough for God. Satan can deceive you in a hundred different ways that prevent you from enjoying all that God has given to you. The devil comes to steal, kill, and destroy. His primary weapons are fear, lies, deception, confusion, and strife. Jesus came to give you life, in abundance, to the full, till it overflows. And Jesus has given you the spiritual tools to whip the enemy, and enjoy all of His Blessing and Favor – Faith, Truth, Love, Peace, and Joy. (John 10:10, 1 Peter 5:6-10)
Peter writes that the adversary is like a lion – yet another use of a figure of speech comparing Satan to an animal. Note that Satan is seeking someone whom he may devour. You don’t have to be his victim. He can’t harm you if you are vigilant, sober, know and speak the Truth. And in case you are wondering, the battle is already won. Satan was defeated. You are more than a conqueror. Meaning that you get to share in the spoils of victory without doing the fighting. Sure persecution comes because of the Word’s sake, but spiritually, you are already seated with Christ. You are simply enforcing Satan’s defeat while you still have a body on this planet. Satan attempts to deceive the world and accuse Believers. But faith in the Blood of Jesus, and God’s Word in your mouth, is too much for the enemy. (Mark 4:17, Romans 8:31-39, Ephesians 2:4-10, Colossians 2:13-15, Revelation 12:9-11)
When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.
(Matthew 13:19 <KJV>)
In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus explains that the birds represent Satan, yet another comparison of him to an animal. In this instance he comes immediately to steal the Word (seed) that was sown. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus clarifies the meaning, writing that the people did not understand the Word, making it possible for the evil one to succeed. James writes that you are to resist the devil, and when you do that, he will flee from you. Paul writes that you are not to give place to the devil. And tells you to put on the full Armor of God, including the shield of faith to stop all of his fiery darts. Those fiery darts often come in the form of thoughts that are contrary to God’s Word. That is why you must study the Bible and meditate on it night and day. His Word is Spirit and Truth. Its the Truth that makes you free. It is God’s Word, the Sword of the Spirit, that is used both offensively and defensively to defeat the principalities and powers that stand against Believers. When you know God’s Truth, its much easier to cast down everything contrary to the Word, whether directly from the shining one, or indirectly through man or religion. (Joshua 1:8-9, Matthew 13:1-23, Mark 4:1-20, Luke 8:4-15, John 8:31-32, 2 Corinthians 10:3-6, Ephesians 4:21-30, 6:10-18, James 4:7-10)
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
(2 Corinthians 10:3-5 <KJV>)
Jesus was in Capernaum when he was approached by the ruler of the Synagogue, Jairus. His daughter was sick and near death. He told Jesus that if Jesus came and placed his hands on her, she would live. Jairus had released his faith and Jesus immediately left for his home without saying another word. On the journey they were delayed by the testimony of an unclean woman whose faith had made her whole. She had fought through the crowd saying to herself that if she could just touch the edge of Jesus’ garment, she would be healed. And that was exactly what happened. When Jesus knew there had been a release of the anointing, he asked who had touched him. The woman came forward and gave her testimony of being made whole.
During this whole time Jairus was watching and listening. No doubt he wanted to scream about the delay, but there was no record of any words coming out of his mouth. At this moment, Jairus received the news that no parent should ever hear – his daughter had died. He now had a choice. He could have lashed out in anger at the woman over the delay. He could have wallowed in self pity or grief. Or he could say nothing. Jesus did not even give him a chance, telling him, “Fear not: believe only, and she shall be made whole.” (Matthew 9:18-26, Mark 5:21-43, Luke 8:41-56)
With the horrible words of the messenger in the air, Satan was attempting to take control of Jairus’ thoughts, and more importantly his words. By introducing fear into the equation, the devil wanted to undermine his faith. Jesus took control by telling him to get rid of ALL fear. Fear is the opposite of faith. It is believing the enemies’ words and putting your trust in him. Faith looks to God’s Word and stands on that higher TRUTH. Jesus told him to focus on his words, believe and she shall be made whole. And that was EXACTLY what took place.
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
(2 Timothy 1:7 <KJV>)
Note that Paul writes that fear is a spiritual force. It has no place in the heart, or even the mind of a Believer. You have been given a sound mind, to be filled with God’s Wisdom. The whole world may be in a panic, full of fear and ignorance. But you can have Peace, Joy, and Love, knowing that God has your back. He is THE WAY and THE TRUTH.
There is a war going on in your mind. You must cast down every evil thought or imagination that the enemy sows. Replace them all with God’s Word. How do you do that? By continually speaking and meditating on His Word. The second any negative thought arises in your mind, simply cast down anything that it is not your thought. Affirm God’s promises that contradict whatever nonsense the evil one is suggesting. This may be complicated at first, but it gets easier with time in the Word.
But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.
Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.
Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.
For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.
(Hebrews 2:9, 14-18 <KJV>)
All doubt, unbelief, selfishness etc. is rooted in fear. The enemy uses deception, strife, and confusion to steal your joy, love, and peace, as well as undermine your faith in God’s Word. The ultimate fear is fear of death. And Jesus has an answer for that – he has tasted death for everyone. Anyone that accepts Jesus as Lord, can be confident that death has no authority over them. A Believer will not even “taste” it – nothing will ever separate you from God’s Love. Whatever the devil throws at you, God has an answer in His Word. (Romans 8:35-39, 2 Corinthians 5:1-9)
Live Long And Prosper
Long before Spock used this phrase, this was God’s plan for man. He gave Adam dominion and The Blessing to rule this Earth. God never took back either. Now that the Last Adam has come, you can reconnect with God and enjoy fellowship with your Heavenly Father and His Favor. You can live confidently knowing that you are a joint-heir of Jesus.
However Satan attempts to torment you, as a shining one, or even a snake, he is a defeated foe. Because you are the Body of Christ, you share Jesus’ victory over him today, tomorrow, and forever. Praise the Lord!
Image Source: Robin – Image: James Barker / FreeDigitalPhotos.net