The Stealth Nature of the Serpent
We are not told whether the Serpent in the Fall was beautiful or base in appearance. We are not told if it was large or small, or whether it stood erect or crawled. We are told what we need to know to understand how it enticed the man and the woman to turn from God.
We are told that the Serpent possesses a craftiness that exceeds that of all other animals, a craftiness that is supernaturally energized. We know that because we know that God did not give any animal the spiritual and physiological gift of communicative skills. We are told that Adam names all the animals, and we conclude that there is no interaction with any of them (Genesis 2:20). However, for the narrator of the Torah, animals can speak, but only when spoken through (Numbers 22:21-34). The real adversary (the Satan) who instigated the revolt against God remains hidden behind the mask of a real animal.
He is introduced in the narrative of Scripture the way antagonists are introduced: cryptically. The reader sees enough to know he is evil and is teased enough to desire reading the rest of the story in order to see just how evil. If the reader continues to the end, his investigative search is rewarded. For he is told in no uncertain terms that “the great dragon is thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world” (Revelation 12:9; 20:2). In part, the Serpent’s stealthy, shrewd attack makes him a lethal foe to the unsuspecting honeymooning woman and man, enjoying the bliss of (as the text emphasizes) their nakedness. (See part one of this series for a full discussion of the connection between the nakedness (“arom”) of the man and woman and the shrewdness (“arum”) of the Serpent’s attack).
The Shrewd Nature of the Serpent
Throughout his dialogue with the woman, the evil Serpent seeks to entice her to lead her husband to rebel against God. The Serpent directly addresses the woman with the singular noun (“the woman”). This adds to the conclusion that the shrewd Serpent approaches the woman while she is alone. Genesis 3:17 lends further credence to this point because God rebukes the man for listening to the voice of the woman, suggesting that the man only hears her seductive appeal without hearing the Serpent. When the Serpent approaches the woman, based upon her description of the location of the tree, “in the middle of the garden” (Gen. 3:3), it seems that she is nowhere near the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. However, after listening to the Serpent, the narrator presents her so close to the tree that she can touch it. Apparently, she goes to the man and brings him over to the tree so he can be “with her” (Gen. 3:6b). Why does the woman go and get the man? Because that is what the shrewd Serpent wants her to do. While he addresses her directly with a singular noun, “the woman” in 3:1-5, the Serpent repeatedly speaks to her with the plural use of “you,” enticing her to use his secret information to get the man to eat from the forbidden tree. God made the woman to help the man to subdue and rule creation, but the Serpent entices her, and she becomes the seductive tool in his hand for subduing her husband.
The Seductive Scheme of the Serpent
The woman only sees the animal. So by camouflaging his attack through the animal, the evil Serpent successfully seduces her into abandoning God. Likewise, the man only sees the naked woman. Through her, the Serpent seduces Adam into abandoning God. It is imperative that believers see this strategy of the evil one, because he still appeals to the desire provoked by our flesh, the desire provoked by our eyes, and the boastful stuff of life (1 John 2:16), while he himself remains camouflaged. It’s harder to fight a foe that you cannot see, and that’s why the Bible prods us to remember: “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).
In war, the best battle plan is to exploit the weakness of your enemy. The Serpent finds a weakness in the first woman and man, and he exploits them. And as a result of the Fall, men and women are even more vulnerable to the primeval, seductive scheme the Serpent employs in the garden. Therefore, no one should be shocked, and everyone should be prepared, to guard against the same scheme he uses in the garden.
In the Fall the man and woman gain an internal awareness of sin (before the Fall, sin has to be introduced to them from an external source, e.g., the Serpent). They pass that sin nature on to all so that everyone has the knowledge of sin (and has a craving for sin) living in their flesh (James 1:13-15). And the Serpent knows that many will struggle to control their sensual desires, so he directs his stealth attacks against our sensual desires.
Many Bible scholars would conclude that demons, drawn to the sensual nature of women, take them and corrupt the antediluvian world (Genesis 6:1-4; 2 Peter 2:4). Without controversy, all recognize that Balaam, the archetype of a demonically led false prophet, brings God’s judgment upon Israel by luring them with immoral women to rebellion against God (Numbers 25:1-9; 31:15-16). It’s not by accident that the NT repeatedly repudiates the lustful practices of pagans who do not know God (Romans 1:24; 1 Thessalonians 4:5; 1 Peter 4:2-3). To indulge in the desires of the flesh is, it is said, to live according the “the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2-3). Satan’s face may not be directly seen behind the pornification of our nation and the world, but it would be unwise to fail to discern that this is his modus operandi. Although used in a different context, the principle applies: the Bible instructs believers so that no advantage will be taken of us by Satan, for we are not to be ignorant of his schemes (2 Corinthians 11).
Conclusion: The Strategic Counter-Attack to the Serpent
Is there anything new under the sun? The Serpent’s war against mankind is as old as the first man and woman, and there is little new in his strategy. The wise Christian will be aware. The strong Christian will wage a counter-attack by waging war against the lust of his flesh. The victorious Christian will see through the disguised, seductive attacks of our mortal foe. He will by faith—instead—see the ugly face of the evil Serpent and will by grace choose the joy that comes from crucifying His flesh and living by the Spirit (Hebrews 11:24-26).