“Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made.” Genesis 3:1
Ever since one unforgettable but safe childhood encounter with a highly venomous snake I have always had an antipathy towards reptiles. A well-known herpetologist named Bill Haast ran an above average mini-zoo called “The Miami Serpentarium.” He also produced antivenin for hospitals in multiple countries. At one time he was in the Guinness Book of World Records for having survived more venomous snake bites than anyone else. (Reputedly he made antivenin from his own blood, but this sounds rather apocryphal to me.) He would conduct a daily demonstration with venomous snakes and lizards for any interested visitors. Being five years old, I was standing at the front of the crowd watching the demonstration. Suddenly he dropped a krait snake about six feet away from me (it could have been farther, but I assure you in my memory it looms closer and larger!) Happily, the snake was totally uninterested in the crowd who were fleeing apace in the opposite direction (all except for my fourteen year old big brother who has always loved snakes – he dashed forward to take photos of the beast.)
Since then, I have had a love/hate relationship with snakes: by compulsion I need to watch documentaries about them and visit them at zoos. On the other hand, I frequently have nightmares involving my demise from the savage bites of these insidious creatures. Yet as I open Genesis 3, I put aside my personal aversion towards reptiles to examine the unwitting animal that was a mere pawn and foil for a more dangerous being, whom Revelation 12:9 refers to in these famous words: “So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” By the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, John gives us his eventual and destined end. But in Genesis 3, we see Satan in his first battle against mankind, coming in the form of a beautiful and “shrewd” (NET) serpent. In next week’s post we will consider the long and painful history of that Old Serpent’s combat against humanity. What is more, we will contemplate evil and its effect on the present world, learning how it got here and what the solution for it is.
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