Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which Jehovah God had made.
And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of any tree of the garden?Genesis 3:1 ASV
The problem that stands at the head of this chapter is that of understanding what the serpent was.
The near-unanimous opinion of scholars and commentators to the effect that he was a member of the animal kingdom is somewhat perplexing in view of the fact that the grammar of our versions does not support such a view.
Nor does it appear that his becoming a beast following the curse (and one of the lowest of creation at that) is alone sufficient reason for saying that he had been a beast all the time.
Whatever the serpent was, he would appear to have been an UPRIGHT creature and to have been endowed with the gift of speech.
The Scriptures do not provide any hard information enabling a fuller identification of this creature which was used by Satan as an instrument in the temptation.
Of course, the whole person of the serpent that appears in this tragic scene also includes a certain identity with Satan himself, as indicated by Paul’s reference in 2 Corinthians 11:3, the indication there being that the same serpent who seduced Eve is, in this dispensation, engaged in seducing the Church of Jesus Christ.
Also, Satan is called, “The great Dragon, the old serpent, he that is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world” (Revelation 12:9).
Here, at the outset of our studies in the O.T., it needs to be established that the O.T. should be understood only in the light of what is revealed in the N.T. We reject out of hand the dictum laid down by Biblical interpreters that the text can have but a single meaning, namely, the one “intended by the author.
We have previously cited numerous instances in which the prophets through whom God spoke either did not understand what they wrote at all or had a very improper notion of the full meaning, a fact cited by no less an authority than Peter (1 Peter 1:10-12). An outstanding instance is that of Amos 8:9.
To follow the arbitrary dictum mentioned above would forbid any identification at all of Satan in this entire chapter; for it is accepted that at the period when Genesis was written, any belief in the existence of the Devil “was foreign to the Hebrews.”
Thus, exploring the mind of the author should mean exploring the mind of God who is the real author of the whole Bible. For that reason, we do not hesitate to find Jesus Christ and a whole summary of the scheme of Redemption in Genesis 3:15.
We cannot identify the instrument, but the Tempter is surely known. We can confess our amazement that “Christian” scholars would affirm that the serpent here told man the “truth,” that the intention of the serpent was “innocent, and the serpent was “good, etc. Such views are absolutely wrong.
The conversation here begun by the serpent was on the part of the serpent a vicious, malicious lie, craftily designed to seduce and destroy the entire human family.
He flatly contradicted and made light of the Word of God; he lied to Eve regarding her becoming “like God”; and he ascribed unworthy motives and intentions to the Almighty!
The device by which interpreters who are blinded and hog-tied by their own man-made rules are able to pass over the conversation of the serpent in this passage as good or innocent is founded upon a false syllogism: All that God made is good (Genesis 1:31);
One further word about the identity of the serpent: Yates mentioned a Hebrew tradition to the effect that the serpent walked upright, was gifted with speech, and talked freely with Eve.
The mystery of how Satan was able to use such a creature (previously called “good” in Genesis 1:31) and also the problem of how it would have been just on God’s part to curse such a creature (condemned to crawl on its belly, etc.) present no real problem.
God cursed the ground for Adam’s sake; and certainly the ground was innocent enough.