Posted on Oct 21, 2020 | 0 comments

‘The Great Expose’

Adam and Chava tasted the sweetness of Eden. But they knew nothing else. And that is the rub. For you see, the Eternal One deserves to have – and must have – a people who, having full knowledge of all the alternative lifestyles and pleasures they could seek, voluntarily and wholeheartedly choose Him – and His Way – instead.  In order for His Glory to be revealed, and for true love to come forth, He and His Ways must be chosen over all other lovers and over every alternative lifestyle offered by the world in which we live. The Holy One does not want robots. He does not want blind followers. He does not want us to cling to Him out of ignorance of any other way. He wants us to know our options – and choose Him over them all. He knows that if we are not exposed to serious tests, to very real temptations, to powerful seductions, to the sensual pull of our own fleshly desires, and to the intoxicating mind-game of serpentine logic, reason, opinion, and morality – well, if we are not exposed to those things, no commitment we make to serve Him will be an informed, trustworthy, real, or reliable one.

So, without any qualifying introduction or explanation whatever, Torah confronts us  – and an unsuspecting and quite unprepared Adam and Chava – with someone (or something) that seems to our way of thinking totally out of place in the Holy One’s garden. Here is the opening line of today’s aliyah as we commonly read it in English:

Now the serpent was more subtle than any animal of the field which the Lord God had made. [Genesis 3:1]

Snake Apple Paradise Eve Bible - DenisDoukhan / Pixabay

Who, our inquiring minds want to know, is this creature which Torah  – as we read it in English – calls ‘the serpent’? From whence did this creature come? If the Eternal One created this ‘serpent’, what on earth or in Heaven did He create him/it for? And what, pray tell, is this serpent doing strolling around the Holy One’s beautiful garden of delight where Adam and Chava are bound to eventually bump into him/it?   The answers to those questions may just surprise you.

What would happen, do you think, if we try to set aside our pre-suppositions about the serpent that shows up in the Garden of Eden and see what Torah really teaches us about him/it?  First of all, let us look at the name Torah gives this creature. Please note that he/it is nowhere called ‘Satan’ [or Ha-Satan] by the Torah. Neither does the Torah identify him/it is as a ‘fallen angel’. Neither does Torah call him/it ‘Lucifer’, or ‘the Devil’. Nor does Torah in any way associate the serpent with the ‘chief musician of Heaven’ as some denominations teach today. Our English translations of the Torah refer to the one who converses with Chava in the passage we are studying simply – and exclusively – as ‘the serpent’.

Of course, one of the givens under which we operate is that the Torah predated the English language by several millennia, so it could not have been written in English. It was, instead, written in the Hebrew language.  In the Hebrew of Torah the ‘thing’ that suddenly appears in our garden and seemingly causes all the trouble, is called ha-nachash[1].   The Hebrew word nachash is the noun form of a Hebrew verb meaning to hiss or to whisper[2].  The verb can also, by implication, mean to practice enchantment, to use sorcery, to augur or divine[3].

The one we have, by tradition, come to call the ‘serpent’, it appears, had knowledge – but alas, it was knowledge that did not descend from Heaven. I suspect the serpent must have spent a lot of time hanging around – and eating heaping helpings of the fruit of – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

The Chief Characteristic of the Serpent – ‘Subtlety’

The Torah only employs one adjective with which to describe the serpent. In English that adjective is usually translated as ‘subtle’, or ‘crafty’. The Hebrew word so translated is arom[4].  Strong’s suggests that this word literally means merely prudent, shrewd, or sensibleSee e.g. Proverbs 14:8:

The wisdom of the prudent [arom] is to think about his way, But the folly of fools is deceit.

And see also Proverbs 22:3:

A prudent [arom] man sees danger and hides himself; But the simple pass on, and suffer for it.

It should also be noted however that the Hebrew adjective arom is composed of the exact same Hebrew consonants, in the exact same order, as the word that was translated as ‘naked’ in the last verse of chapter 2, describing Adam and Chava in their blissful state. Our English Bibles translated the descriptive term as ‘naked’.  It would be altogether permissible, it would seem, to translate the Hebrew adjective arom as applied to the serpent in the same way as it was translated when applied to Adam and Chava. That would cause us to the see the serpent not as ‘crafty’, but as ‘covering-less’, or ‘naked’.  This is at least true in the sense of his/its being hair-less, fur-less, and shell-less.

The ‘covering-less’ interpretation appears particularly appropriate in light of the fact that the serpent’s arom-ness is described by Torah not in general, but in specific comparison to the [other?] animals ‘of the field’.  The other animals of the field all have either hair, fur, shells or some other covering.  In comparison, the serpent, which has no such covering, can truly be said to be ‘arom’.

Wait a Minute! From Whence Cometh this Serpent?

Let us look back a few verses to see where this ‘naked’ [or, if you prefer, subtle] thing came from. In chapter 1, verses 24-25, we are told that early on the sixth day of Creation:

God said, “Let the eretz bring forth living creatures after their kind,  cattle, creeping things, and animals of the eretz after their kind,” and it was so.God made the animals of the eretz after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind.

Was the serpent a ‘living creature’ [Hebrew, nefesh chayah] brought forth from the eretz by the Holy One on the sixth day? If so, the one thing we know is that his/its coming forth was seen by the Holy One as ‘tov’ – good, and bringing forth good in ever-increasing quantities. That is not quite the image of the serpent we have come to expect.  Perhaps the Holy One’s perspective is a little different from ours, eh?

We also know that, if the serpent was a Genesis 1:24-25 ‘living creature’, He was specifically brought into the garden – to Adam – not by some sinister force – BUT BY THE HOLY ONE Himself!  In chapter 2, verses 19 –20, we are told:

Out of the eretz the Holy One Elohim formed every animal of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. Whatever the man called every living creature [Hebrew, nefesh chayah], that was its name. The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every animal of the field.
 

In light of this we know that contrary to popular theology Adam had been introduced by the Holy One to the serpent well prior to the events we are reading about in chapter 3. Adam had, in fact, long prior to this encounter, come to know the serpent well enough, at least, to give it its name. It was, after all, Adam who called him/it nachashhisser.

The serpent of Genesis 3 was merely one of the Eternal One’s stable of created beings. He/it is not the Eternal One’s equal, nor even His nemesis. And here is the most startling revelation of all – the presence of this serpent in the garden was just as much a part of the will of the Holy One as was Adam and Chava’s presence there. The Eternal One planned and orchestrated the encounter. The Eternal One brought the serpent into Adam and Chava’s frame of reference on purpose.  And the Eternal One has taught Adam all he needs to know to deal with this serpent appropriately to subdue him/it, and to rule over him/it. All Adam has to do to make this happen is sh’ma[1] the Holy One’s instructions. What could be so hard about that?

Is The Serpent of Genesis 3 a Fallen Angel?

Of course, we are all familiar with the book of Revelation, where Ha-Satan – the Adversary – is referred to as “that old serpent, called

Wings Fire Angel Fantasy Wing - saarvendra / Pixabay

the Devil, and Satan”. Revelation 20:2.  We have all read Revelation 12:9 where we are told that “he was cast out into the earth, and his angels [the word just means ‘messengers’, not necessarily supernatural beings] were cast out with him”.

We have assumed – and been taught – that the nachash of Genesis 3 is the same serpent described in Revelation 12 and 20 – and is thus identical to ‘the Devil’, and Satan’ which we read about in Luke 4 [the wily one who tested Yeshua in the desert], Romans 16:20 [whom the God of peace will soon crush under our feet], and I Peter 5:8 [like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour] among other passages in the apostolic writings.  But are we justified in this assumption, or in accepting this teaching at face value?

It is a question worth asking.  One purpose of this study is to stir you to ask such questions for yourself, and pray through them, rather than just blindly accepting teachings and theologies based solely on the application of human logic.

I will not try to answer that important question for you. I will leave it to you to study it out and decide for yourself. I will proceed onward to the confrontation between the serpent, Chava [Eve] and Adam.

Ok….so that is only a small tidbit of the Daily Parsha that Bill Bullock, Rabbi’s Son, puts forth every single week!  To read the ‘rest of the story for this portion, click here to download the full text or visit his site for all the Parsha Portions and more!

Notes:

The Hebrew verb sh’ma [shin, mem, ayin, Strong’s Hebrew word #8085] is one of the most frequently encountered verbs in the Bible. , Sometimes translated “he listens”, sometimes “he hears”, and sometimes “he obeys”, this verb describes the proper response of man to the Voice of the Creator. The Hebrew verb sh’ma, however, means much more than either to listen or to hear, or even to obey. It means to totally restructure one’s life based solely upon what one has heard, forsaking all other ways besides that way explicitly spoken by he who has spoken. An example of what it means to sh’ma is found in the way a mother of a newborn baby responds when her baby cries in the night. No matter how tired the mother is, or how inconvenient it may be, or who may tell her to “just let the baby cry, it will be alright”, a mother is driven to respond, and does respond. Her reaction to the baby’s cry is a sh’ma response. She knows her baby’s voice. When she hears it, she drops everything and responds. Why does she do this?  Because she fears the baby?  No.  Because she wants to make the baby love her more? No. She responds simply because of the depth of the relationship – the bond – she has with the baby.  In the case of Torah, the speaker we are to sh’ma is, of course, the Holy One and no other.  We are to sh’ma the Holy One’s voice the way the mother responds to her baby’s cry – drop everything, listen to no other counsel, and respond appropriately, in a manner consistent with the relationship.

In an article entitled “Serpents of desire: Good and evil in the Garden of Eden — The Naked Truth”, Rabbi David Fohrman says:  “At first glance, the ideas “naked” and “cunning” don’t seem to have much in common. But on reflection, they do seem related in a curious way. Mull the terms over — “Naked and cunning, naked and cunning…” — what comes to mind?  These words just happen to be opposites of one another. When someone is naked, unclothed, there is no hiding. That person’s “self” is laid bare for all to see.” See http://jewishworldreview.com/1104/fohrman5.php3

Nachash is a noun made up of the Hebrew consonants nun, chet, shin. Strong’s Hebrew word #5175, this noun is pronounced naw-khawsh.

See Gesenius, Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament (1979), page 544, regarding Strong’s Hebrew word #5172.

See Gesenius, Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament (1979), page 545, regarding Strong’s Hebrew word #5172.

The Hebrew adjective arom is Strong’s Hebrew word #6175. Made up of the consonants ayin, resh, vav, mem sofit, it is pronounced aw-room’.

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