This is part six of a series called “The Backstory.” Part five is available here or the entire series may be found here. Backstory is a reference to the sequence of events which form the backdrop to “The call of Abram” and the unfolding of God’s mysterious plan of redemption.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Life was good for the humans; they were learning about themselves, their creator and discovering the world they now ruled over. It was an amazing time to be alive. “Discovery” is an interesting word. It’s great when you discover a twenty-dollar bill in your pocket, but not great to discover mold growing on the bathroom wall. And that’s what happened in paradise; evil was discovered and began to grow.
Why did God allow this? Why not warn them of the snake, his tricks and deception? Could this somehow be part of the creator’s plan? So many things are going on in these verses that it might be easy to get lost. So, in this post let’s introduce the snake and understand who he is and what he’s after.
Snake or Divine being?
If the “snake” is simply your everyday garden variety black snake, copperhead, or cobra then multiple problems are immediately introduced. Problems arise like, how did the snake talk? Why was the woman not afraid of the snake? Why is it cursed to crawl on its belly since that is its natural means of mobility? And how would being a snake make it more subtle than the other creatures. Why is it even being compared to the other creatures?
Perhaps the snake was a bit more than a snake. The Hebrew word for snake is nâchâsh which as expected means serpent or fleeing serpent, but digging deeper into the root of nâchâsh we discover nâchash. This root word “nâchash” has many dark overtones including, to practice divination, observe signs or omens, prognosticate, divine, or enchant. In addition to definitions, there are two Old Testament passages which most scholars agree are descriptions of the snake of Eden.
The first is Ezekiel 28:11-19 which you should read for background. In this passage we discover that the “snake” was a divine being – specifically a guardian cherub of the Most High. Think of it, he was the model of perfection, full of wisdom and beauty, blameless in all his ways. No wonder Eve was not frightened when he struck up a conversation. For this was God’s Garden and he was the guardian cherub of the Most High. It was his home as well, for he lived as an important member of YHVH’s court.
When we say he was a guardian cherub of the Most High, you may think of a king seated on his throne with guards charged with the king’s protection. In the Old Testament, think of the tabernacle Moses was instructed to build, having the ark of the covenant stationed within the Holy of Holies. The winged beings over the ark’s mercy seat were guardian cherubs. This is a representation of the guardian cherub described in the Ezekiel passage above. We learn that the “snake” was a magnificent divine creature living his life in the presence of the Most High. This is who the snake was.
The second passage we need to review is Isaiah 14:12-20, which I would recommend that you read. Since we have identified the snake, now let’s try to understand his motivation. When you looked at the Ezekiel passage did you notice these two phrases?
“You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you. Ez. 28:15
Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. Ez. 28.17
The Ezekiel passage helps us identify who the snake was, while the Isaiah passage points to his motivation. Using the two phrases above will help us link the passages together. What was the unrighteousness, pride and corruption that could have ruined such an incredible divine being, one that stood in the very glory of the Most High. In Isaiah 14:12-14 we learn the cause of his horrific fall from glory.
- I will ascend to heaven … I will exalt myself to the habitation of the most high.
- I will set my throne on high – my throne will replace that of the most high.
- I will sit on the mount of assembly – I will rule over the divine council.
- I will ascend above the heights of the clouds – I will be the “cloud rider.”
- I will make myself like the Most High – I will be the new most high.
How did this glorious guardian cherub of God fall from such a lofty position? And since Adam named all the animals, is it possible that Adam understood the cherub’s true motive and named him appropriately? The snake’s desire is one of ascension, to rule over the heavenly court, take his seat on God’s throne, replace the Most High, and possess God’s heaven and thereby command all the universe replacing the Most High. For the snake there was a disconnect between who he was called to be and the treason that grew within his heart.
Now that we know who the snake is and what motivates him, the next step is to understand how he intends to implement his strategy. This is what we will consider next.
- With an understanding of the beguiling nature of Satan, does this help to see the ways that he tries to deceive us?
(Hint: since he poses as an angel of light – the temptations may be things that seem good to you.)
- Since pride was at the root of the cherub’s downfall, this same sin has been injected into humanity. Where are some areas that pride may masquerade in our lives. Some examples may be: fear, entitlement, prayerlessness, hypocrisy, or rebellion? Are there others?