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Blog - 15th January 2024

Who Does the Serpent Represent in Genesis 3?

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Blog - 15th January 2024

Who Does the Serpent Represent in Genesis 3?

It's quite interesting to think about who the serpent in Genesis 3 represents. This figure, crucial in the story of Adam, Eve, and the fall, surprisingly doesn't pop up much in the rest of the Bible. You'd think, given the importance of the event, it would be mentioned all over the place, right? But nope, it's pretty rare in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, though, it gets a nod a few times - like in 2 Corinthians 11:3 and Revelation 12:9 and 20:2. But still, not as much as you'd expect.

Literal Interpretation vs. Symbolic Meaning

So, who is this serpent, really? I've heard some folks say it's just a regular snake. They even link it to why snakes don't have legs today, suggesting that God's curse in the story is literal. But honestly, I find this a bit too literal and not all that helpful. In ancient Near Eastern cultures, talking animals usually meant something more - a spiritual being in disguise or speaking through the animal.

The Serpent as a Spiritual Being

So, my take is that Genesis 3's serpent represents some sort of spiritual force or being. The obvious answer many jump to is that it's Satan, the devil himself. And sure, in the full context

of the Bible, especially with John's writing in Revelation, this interpretation holds up. John definitely seems to be linking back to that original serpent.

The Serpent in Different Biblical Contexts

But here's where it gets tricky. When reading the Bible, you've got to consider different levels. How does a passage apply today? How does it fit into the Bible as a whole? And importantly, what did it mean when first written? Genesis predates the New Testament, so its original readers didn't have this whole 'Satan' concept as we understand it now.

In the Old Testament, references to evil forces aren't as clear-cut as in the New Testament. Take Isaiah 14:12, for instance, talking about a fallen morning star - a powerful spiritual being. This is where we get Lucifer from. In the Latin Bible the word for morning star was "lucifero". When the KJV translators came to it, rather than translate it, they transliterated the Latin word and turned it into a name, Lucifer.

Or in Job, where 'the Satan' is more of a title, a sort of celestial contrarian in God's council, rather than the ultimate evil being.

The Serpent as an Agent of Chaos

So, back to Genesis 3. The original context suggests the serpent is more an agent of chaos than a personification of evil. Snakes were seen as creatures of chaos, emerging from untamed, wild places. The Bible Project did a fantastic series on this, exploring how serpents symbolise chaos.


In summary, while we can link the serpent to the grander narrative of Satan in the wider Biblical context, its original portrayal in Genesis is likely that of a chaotic spiritual being. It's not just about pinning it as the ultimate bad guy but understanding the layered symbolism throughout the Bible's evolution.

Anything you think I've missed? Maybe you've got a question that still needs answering. Send me a message over on my Instagram (@brynjoslin). I'd love to talk it through with you some more.

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Author Bio

With a deep understanding of ancient religious texts, historical contexts, and original languages Bryn Joslin is a dedicated Christian author and teacher who is passionate about helping others understand the Bible better. He strives to cultivate God's presence in the world and curate His word for the benefit of all believers.

Bryn understands that expanding the kingdom of God involves bringing peace, love, and unity to every situation he encounters. He shares God's love and message in tangible ways to make a positive impact on those around him.

With an appreciation of the importance of daily Bible study, Bryn has dedicated himself to helping others develop a strong foundation in their faith. He believes that immersing oneself in the language, imagery, and themes of the Bible is crucial to understanding its meaning and message.