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it refers to that which is lofty physically—a mountain; to that which is lofty mentally-(a) the proud, and hence, wicked; and, (6) the wise or crafty. Symmachus and Aquila render it wicked-Tavoûpyos, and the Targum of the Pseudo Jonathan has," hakkim le bish, wise in reference to eril.” The Septuagint, however, have pporqucratos, most prudent. Onkelos and Saadiah understood the word in the same sense, and the word is used in a good sense in Prov. xü. 16, 23 ; xii. 16. In any case, we must conclude from the narrative, that the Nachash was a being, animal or otherwise, which was noted for its wickedness or for its wisdom.
3. The Nachash had also the gift of speech, if the narrative be one of an objective historic occurrence. If the tempter was seen, then, no doubt, words were heard. If, however, the narrative records what never was in an objective form, but was a mere subjective phenomenon, then the tempter was neither seen nor heard, nor did it belong to the animal creation; still was it capable of originating in the mind of Eve a train: of thought.
4. The object of the creature mentioned as the tempter was to lead Eve to sin, and so determined was he to accomplish his vile purpose, that he misrepresented God, and made a false assertion, “ Ye shall not surely die, for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof . . . ye shall be as gods.” 5. God's heaviest curse camo upon the tempter, the Nachash (ver. 14). 6. A change was apparently effected in the physical structure of the Vachash, as well as in its food. “ Upon its belly" it was to go, and "dust" was to be its food all the days of its life (verso 14). 7. An inveterate hatred has existed ever since the fall of man, between mankind and the offspring of the tempter (verse 15). 8. The posterity of the tempter have to be destroyed by the seed of the woman, while the latter is to be injured by the former. In 1 Cor. xi. 3, St. Paul refers to the tempter as the Ophis, or serpent, evidently using the word which he found in the Septuagint as a translation of Nachasing o opis. We may now consider,
II. SOME OF THE MOST POPULAR INTERPRETATIONS GIVEN OF THE Mosaic NARRATIVE.
1. The first explanation supposes the narrative to be an allegory, the serpent denoting propensity to evil (Phillipson), or mere pleasure (Philo, Clemens Alex., &c.), or onesided and uninformed understanding (Bunsen). In this explanation the tree, the garden, and the serpent had no objective existence; they were mere symbols or pictorial representations of mental states, or modes, acts, or desires. Science has no fault to find with this explanation, for by it the whole narrative is removed from the field of science. There are great objections however to this interpretation, each having weight by itself, but all, when taken together, necessitate its rejection. Among these may be mentioned (a) the fact that St. Paul speaks of the serpent (1 Cor. xi. 3) and the temptation, as if the narrative in Genesis was in every sense historic. (1) There is no reference, in any part of Scripture, to any allegorical record of the fall ; (c) nor is there the slighest clue, in any part, to the meaning of the fable, if such it is. But the chief objection to this explanation is, (d) that it destroys the historic character of
the whole Book of Genesis, and makes it equal, in point of fact, to -“Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress,” in which case Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Enoch and Noah, Abraham and Lot, Isaac and Jacob, the Deluge, the destruction of Sodom, the famine in Canaan, and the fame of Joseph, are fictitious names and occurrences, having no more reality
than Pliable and Obstinate, Help and Worldly Wiseman, the Slough of Despond, and Doubting Castle. If the narrative of the fall be
fictitious, such must be that of the creation, the biography of the Sons of Adam, and all other events recorded in the book of Genesis, as there is not a word anywhere in the book to distinguish the allegorical from the historical.
The symbolical explanation seems to me to have originated in the difficulty of giving a rational interpretation to the narrative, combined with the tendency which characterized the early interpreters to find in overy historic record a mystical meaning.
2. The second explanation to be mentioned, is that which supposes the tempter to be a literal serpent and nothing more. This explanation has arisen from (a) the absence, in the narrative, of any specific or definite reference to any being but the serpent, (6) from the absence of any hint as to the duality of the tempter, and (c) chiefly from the fact that the greater part of the curse came upon the animal. This would have been unjust, and therefore impossible, if the serpent had been the unconsenting instrument of another being.
Notwithstanding all this, the explanation must be rejected, because the narrative attributes to the serpent what is not found to belong to any mere animal, such as extraordinary skill or craft, the gift of reason and of speech, as well as a wicked desire to lead Eve into sin.
3. The third explanation supposes the whole narrative in Genesis to refer to this individual serpent alone as a duality—as “possessed of the devil.” This serpent has become a demoniac, like the swine of the Gadarines. This reptile was an incarnation of the evil spirit. It was animated by Satan, as Baalam's ass was by the angel of the Lord. Milton represents the serpent as meeting Eve in her solitary walk and speaking to her. The reasoning woman being surprised at the speaking and reasoning power of the snake, asked the cause of it, and was told that the power was imparted by the tree of knowledge.
“To pluck and eat my fill
Sated at length, ere long I might perceive
Paradise Lost, b. ix. 595—601.
This explanation harmonises with science, because the subject is removed from the field of science by the introduction of a miracle, to make a serpent another creature than a serpent, by making it an incarnation of the evil spirit. It has been said that the occurrence of the article in the narrative with the word serpent-the serpent, han nachash-denotes that this was not an ordinary one; the article, however, in Hebrew, has no such absolute significance, though it denotes emphasis, for the words the serpent—han nachash, are used of other serpents, in Num. xxi. 9 : “And it came to pass that if a serpent,”Heb.," the serpent-had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived."
The chief objection to this explanation arises from its want of harmony with the words of the sacred writers, for a seed or progeny of the serpent are mentioned as well as of the woman (ver. 15), which necessitates the propagation of that remarkable species, and proves the individual not to be unique; besides, the relation of that individual serpent to Eve is said (in prediction) to be similar to that ever to exist between mankind and the offspring of the serpent.
4. The fourth explanation supposes the sacred narrative to refer, in the first instance, to the serpent or some animal all through, and to Satan, the real tempter, in a higher and fuller sense. The animal had before the fall superior wisdom, the power of speech and of reason, and walked in an erect attitude or had limbs, but was deprived of these in consequence of the curse recorded. This has been the most popular explanation in every age, and is now received by the majority of Bible readers. Josephus says (Ant. I. cap. i. 4) that all animals had originally the gift of speech, and that the serpent was on very friendly terms with Adam and Eve; but as a punishment for tempting man to sin, God “ deprived the serpent of speech, .. inserted poison under its tongue; made it an enemy to man And when He had deprived it of the use of its feet, He made it go rolling on and dragging itself upon the ground.” Delitzch also says, that “The punishment of the serpent, as all antiquity understood the sentence, consists in this, that its mode of motion and its form were changed. The serpent was before made otherwise ; now, with its fiery colour, its forked vibrating tongue, its poison-distilling teeth, its dreadful hiss, its arrow-like motion, like a flash of light, its occasionally fascinating glance, it is, as it were, the embodiment of the diabolical sin, and the divine curse. Its present condition is the consequence of a divine transformation.” Whiston, the well-known translator of Josephus, agrees with all this,
and adds, “ that the more perfect animals do not want the organs of speech at this day.” Ridgley agrees in believing serpents to have walked in an erect position. Matthew Henry, and a host of other commentators, have held the same opinion.
This explanation is the most absurd, though it be the most generally received. It has no foundation in Scripture, and is declared impossible by the simplest facts of natural history. Serpents are (a) now what they were many centuries before the formation of man, as we shall shortly see; (b) are neither wise nor crafty, much less the most wise or “subtil ;" (e) are about the least capable of articulation; («?) have no enmity to man; (e) eat no dust; and (f) did not injure the Messiah-the seed of the woman-nor were they destroyed by Him. Finding it impossible to hold any longer to this opinion, another explanation has been proposed, and
5. The fifth explanation supposes the narrative in Genesis to be partly applicable to the animal serpent, and partly applicable to the indwelling demon. Mr. Duns has endeavoured in his “ Biblical Natural Science," to harmonise this theory with the facts of Natural History. The case of the serpent is a parallel to that of Balaam's ass, The craft, the speech, the bad design, and the falsehood attributed to the serpent, refer to the spirit of evil within it: but though the reptile was the unwilling or unconsenting instrument of Satan, a part of the curse is inflicted upon it, "upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all thy days.” No physical change is, however, supposed to have been effected; the serpent always having been, physically, what it is; the change had reference to its relation to man. Its form, which was once a memorial of the skill and power of its maker, was henceforth to be a memorial of its degradation. Before the fall the serpent, like any other animal, was to be admired as the work of God; but now it is to be despised and regarded as an abominable thing. The innocent creature has become thus, by an appointment of e just God, an object of contempt.
Objections of a most formidable character exist, as it seems to me, to this explanation; and (a) there is nothing in the narrative to imply any change in the object addressed. What is said is said wholly to one being, and of one, the serpent, or Nachash. If this was a double being, we have nothing to indicate what part of the narrative refers to this or that part of the duality. Our guide is simply our own fancy or taste, or the difficulty of applying some expressions to this or that part of the compound being ; this dificulty will depend upon our notions, culture, or inclination. If this licence be granted in the interpretation of every scriptural narrative, the Bible may be made to teach anything or nothing. () The serpent would appear to Eve to speak, which must have caused her surprise, and yet the sacred narrative represents the Nachash as familiar to Eve. She expresses no surprise at its power of speech or of reasoning, but enters freely into conversation with it. Besides all this, it seems to me very difficult to believe that God would lend his power—his miraculous power—to an evil spirit, to enable him to lead to sin the mother of mankind. Add to this (c) the injustice of subjecting an innocent creature to contempt on account of the sin of another being, as a punishment for that sin, and the necessity of rejecting this explanation will be evident. Preston.
Evan Lewis, B.A., F.R.G.S. (To be continued.)
Seeds of Sermons on the Book of
position is a withholding power,
keeping back that which society THE GENEROUS AND AVARICIOUS.
claims and wanty. What is the “There is that scattereth, and yet in- hoarding of wealth but the keepcreaseth; and there is that withholdeth
ing back of that which the poverty more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty. The liberal soul shall be made and sufferings of humanity refat; and he that watereth shall be quire. The withholding of the watered also himself.”—Prov. xi. 24, 25. avaricious in England, explains This proverb is paradoxical in ex- much of English pauperism and pression, but unquestionably true distress. in principle. The philosophy of the II. THE REACTIVE INFLUENCE OF human mind, and the experience BOTH. Every effort has a reaction. of
ages, attest its truth. There is a Action and reaction is the law of distribution that enricheth the soul the universe, material and spiri. of the distributor, and there is an tual. First, the scattering “inappropriation that impoverishes. creaseth.” The liberal soul "gets The words bring under our notice fat.” Not unfrequently does libethe respective operations, the re- rality bring temporal wealth-inactive influence, and the social variably, spiritual wealth of soul. estimate of the generous and ava- Every generous act enricheth our ricious in human nature.
spiritual being. “Give, and it I. THE RESPECTIVE OPERATION shall be given unto you, good OF BOTH THOSE PRINCIPLES. First, measure, pressed down, running the one“ scattereth.” It is like the over,
and shaken together." hand of the sower scattering the
(Luke vi. 38.) seeds of kindness in all directions. Secondly, the withholding “ tenWhatever is suited to amelio- deth to poverty.” Avarice always rate the woes and to bless the lives leads to moral pauperism. The of men, whether it be ideas, man who receives all and gives wealth, influence, or effort, it wil
nothing, sinks lower and lower lingly gives. Secondly, the other into the depths of spiritual desti"withholdeth,” The
avaricious dis- tution. The soul of the miser is