nachash. ("Subtle".) (Genesis 3:1). The form under which Satan "the old serpent" tempted Eve (Revelation 12:9; 2 Corinthians 11:3). The serpent being known as subtle, Eve was not surprised at his speaking, and did not suspect a spiritual foe. Its crested head of pride, glittering skin, fascinating, unshaded, gazing eye, shameless lust, tortuous movement, venomous bite, groveling posture, all adapt it to be type of Satan. The "cunning craftiness, lying in wait to deceive," marks the particular serpent rather than the serpent order generally. The serpent cannot be classed physically with the behemoth, the pachyderm and ruminant animals; "the serpent was crafty above every behemoth in the field" (Genesis 3:1); nor physically is the serpent "cursed above others"; it must be Satan who is meant. (See DEVIL.)
Wise in shunning danger (Matthew 10:16). Poisonous: Psalm 58:4; Psalm 140:3, "they have sharpened their tongues" to give a deadly wound, "like a serpent" (Psalm 64:3). Lying hid in hedges (Ecclesiastes 10:8) and in holes of walls (Amos 5:19). Their wonderful motion is effected by the vertebral column and the multitudinous ribs which form so many pairs of levers, enabling them to advance (Proverbs 30:19); the serpent, though without feet or wings, trails along the rock (stony places being its favorite resort) wheresoever it will, leaving no impression of its way, light, gliding without noise, quick, and the mode unknown to us.
The curse in Genesis 3:14 is mainly on Satan, but subordinately on the serpent his tool; just as the ox that gored a man was to be killed, so the serpent should suffer in his trailing on the belly and being the object of man's disgust and enmity. They shall eat the dust at last (i.e. be utterly and with perpetual shame laid low), of which their present eating dust in taking food off the ground is the pledge (Isaiah 65:25; Micah 7:17; Isaiah 49:23; Psalm 72:9).
The nachash is the Naja haje. It "will bite without (i.e. unless you use) enchantment" (Ecclesiastes 10:11). In Numbers 21:4-9 the "fiery (causing inflammation by the bite) flying serpent" is the naja, which has the power of raising and bringing forward the ribs under excitement, so as to stretch the skin wing-like into a broad thin flattened disc, three or four times the width of the neck in repose, and then dart at its prey. Hindu mythology represents Krishna first as bitten in the foot, then as finally crushing the serpent's head beneath his feet; evidently a tradition from Genesis 3:15.
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