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The Serpent Speaks

Did the snake literally speak to Adam and Eve?

Although the Bible claims to be God’s word nearly 4,000 times and maintains that “every word of God proves true” (Proverbs 30:5 ESV), it tells a seemingly farfetched story in Genesis 3 when the serpent spoke to Eve. Many scoff at the account of a ‘talking snake’ and even several Christians want to make this account metaphorical rather than historical (in opposition to passages such as John 8:44, Romans 5:12, 2 Corinthians 11:3, 1 Timothy 2:13-14, etc.). But, perhaps, it is not so farfetched as it sounds.

“It makes more sense that the serpent could make the sounds capable of speech and Satan used this to his advantage.

Bodie Hodge

Consider, for example, the many types of parrots that can mimic human speech. Certainly, if God gave this ability to parrots, then there is “very good” reason to believe that He also gave it to some of the other types of animals as well—especially in a “very good” (i.e. perfect) creation. And despite the fact that numerous animal types have since gone extinct, many animals even today communicate through sound or mimicry. Of course, mimicking human speech and speaking intelligibly is not the same thing, and when the serpent spoke it was clever enough to “deliver a cogent message capable of deceiving her”[1]. So then, how are we to understand this account?

Since the Bible clearly identifies both a literal serpent as well as a demonic presence in Genesis 3:14-15, we can rule out the idea that Satan merely took the form of a serpent like in Greek mythology. The serpent was indeed a real animal that Satan in-dwelt. And aside from Genesis 3, the only other instance of an animal talking in the Bible is Balaam’s donkey and this was only through the power of God. And since no other place in Scripture reveals that Satan or demons have the power to cause animals to speak, “it makes more sense that the serpent could make the sounds capable of speech and Satan used this to his advantage. In essence, Satan likely used this feature that the original serpent had and caused it to say what he wanted.”[2]

Certainly, serpents do not mimic speech today. But there is a reasonable explanation for this: Because of the Fall and the Flood there was a total cosmic and physiological shift, which might mean that this particular kind of serpent did not pass along the genetic information required for speech or has since gone extinct. Another possibility to consider is that in our pre-Fallen state, we could understand and communicate with the animal kingdom. So let’s not doubt God’s word as Adam and Eve did. Every word of God, from Genesis 1 all the way to Revelation 22, can be trusted and will ultimately “prove true”.

 

Ryan Hembree | January 10, 2020 – 9:02 AM EST


[1] Bodie Hodge, The Fall of Satan, 42
[2] Bodie Hodge, The Fall of Satan, 41

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