The serpent

In Genesis, chapter 3:1, a devious talking serpent, וְהַנָּחָשׁ֙ (wehannaḥas), Ὁ δὲ ὄφι (ho de ophi), appeared on the scene in this paradise garden.  The serpent, or the snake, is one of the oldest and most widespread human mythological symbols, associated with some of the most ancient religious rituals.  In some cultures, snakes were fertility symbols.  Since they shed their skin, snakes were symbols of rebirth, initiation, transformation, immortality, and healing.  The great mythological goddesses often had friendly snakes.  At the same time, in various worldwide mythologies, the serpent was also an image or symbol of danger and death. Snakes were the only significant predators of the ancient primates.  Thus, the common human fear of snakes persists even until today.  In some myths, snakes would block rivers in exchange for human sacrifices and other material good offerings.  Serpents were also guardians of temples and other sacred spaces, since some snakes frequently coil up in place and defend their ground space.  Snakes were often considered one of the wisest animals, being close to divine.  This divine aspect of serpents combined with their habitat in the earth, between the roots of plants, made it an animal with properties connected to the afterlife and immortality.  Serpents were connected with venom and medicine also.  The ancient Greek physician Asclepius, a god of medicine and healing, carried a staff with a serpent wrapped around it, which has become the symbol of modern medicine.  In ancient Mesopotamia, a messenger god was represented as a serpent.  Snake god cults were well established in the Canaanite religion.  A Hittite shrine in northern Syria contained a bronze statue of a god holding a serpent in one hand and a staff in the other.  In the far East, there were music playing snake charmers, while in Ireland St. Patrick is said to have chased all the snakes from that island.  According to this Genesis story, the snake or serpent was also cunning, crafty, devious, or shrewd, עָר֔וּם (arum), ἦν φρονιμώτατος (an phronimotatos).  The most famous myth about snakes comes from this Genesis story.  This Eden Garden snake has become the personification of evil.  Traditionally, this snake has represented the diabolical ways of the terrible evil devil or Satan himself.  In some sense, the snake has become even a physical representation of this evil devil, although this Genesis text did not explicitly say that.  In some Abrahamic traditions, the serpent also represents sexual desire.  Within the Hebrew Bible, a snake appears 31 times. The Christian Book of Revelation, chapter 12:9, explicitly made the equivalence between the snake and the devil, “That ancient serpent, ὁ ὄφις ὁ ἀρχαῖος, who is called, ὁ καλούμενος, the devil, Διάβολος, and Satan, καὶ Ὁ Σατανᾶς, the deceiver of the whole world, τὴν οἰκουμένην ὅλην.”  What do you think about snakes?

Peaceful times (Isa 65:24-65:25)

“‘Before they call,

I will answer.

While they are yet speaking,

I will hear.

The wolf shall feed together

With the lamb.

The lion shall eat straw

Like the ox.

But the serpent’s food shall be dust.

They shall not hurt.

They shall not destroy anyone

On my holy mountain.’

Says Yahweh.”

Everything will be wonderful in the New Jerusalem. Yahweh, in the first person singular, says that he will answer before they call. He will hear them while they are still speaking. The wolf and the lamb would eat together, while the lions would eat straw like oxen. However, the food for the serpent would be dust. They will not hurt or destroy anyone on his holy mountain.

Sin and death come from a woman (Sir 25:24-25:24)

“From a woman

Sin had its beginning.

Because of her,

We all die.”

Sirach emphasizes the idea of the woman committing the first sin. In the original Genesis story in chapter 3, the man and woman ate together, although the serpent spoke to the woman, Eve. Women thus get blamed not only for the entrance of sin into this world, but also for the concept of death. Humans would have been immortal had there not been this female disobedience. Cleary Sirach’s anti-feminism runs rampant in this section.