Deadly Tree, Genesis 3:1a

“Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Has God indeed said, “You shall not eat of every tree of the garden”?’” Genesis 3:1.

We have all seen the cartoons and religious artwork done of this scene in the garden, some amusing and some very plausible; but I would like to take a chance and start with a clean sheet of paper with this scenario.

The intention here is not to come up with some new doctrine; rather it is an attempt to understand this strange conversation between Eve and a serpent.

Scripture states that “the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field”, the old King James Version renders the serpent as being more subtle.

Strong’s Concordance shows the word as meaning, subtle, shrewd, crafty, sly, or sensible. Since sin had not entered the world, this may not have meant subtle in a negative way. Perhaps the word could even mean sensible.

The first thing we should do is remember that there is no clue as to how much time had passed from the sixth day of the creation week when Adam was created and the beginning of this incident, weeks, months, or years later. It certainly is unlikely that the next day after Eve was created she is pondering this tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

The next thing to consider is that just because the serpent is not mentioned up until now it does not mean that Adam and Eve were not familiar with serpents.

It is even possible that one particular serpent would tag along with them as they gathered food or when Adam would go to work in the garden to tend it (see Genesis 2:15), just as your dog might follow you around.

People also tend to assume that because animals do not talk today they never did. A lot of strange supernatural things have happened so far in this book of Genesis, is it not possible that some animals could communicate in some way?

If the serpent could talk and would hang around Adam and Eve because he liked them, if indeed he was subtle, cunning, or sensible is it not possible that he could give rudimentary advice?

The verse states that the serpent was not only cunning, but he was more cunning.

“Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made.” Genesis 3:1a.

As a result his advice may have been very practical, “Hey Adam, if you want those pears higher up, why not move that rock over to stand on to get to the lower limbs?” Adam may have responded, “Hey, that’s a good idea, why didn’t I think of it? Thanks!”

Then one day, Adam, Eve, and the serpent are standing near the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and while Eve looks upon this tree Satan enters their sensible trusted friend.

Satan betrayed Adam in this manner and then about 4,000 years later he entered Judas Iscariot and did it again to the Lord Jesus who also showed trust to His supposed friend.

“Then Satan entered Judas, surnamed Iscariot, who was numbered among the twelve. So he went his way and conferred with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray Him to them.” Luke 22:3-4.

While I kind of like the trusted friendly serpent story, it is just as possible that there may have been many serpents in the garden. The garden itself could have been huge, containing perhaps nearly every sort of wildlife.

In that case the couple may have been quite familiar with serpents, they may even have found their advice (like that given to Adam above) reliable. Again, Eve would not have been surprised to have a serpent talking to her.

We have another incident in Scripture which gives us an idea of the intelligence of animals in Numbers 22.

“And when the donkey saw the Angel of the Lord, she lay down under Balaam; so Balaam’s anger was aroused, and he struck the donkey with his staff. Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, ‘What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?’ And Balaam said to the donkey, ‘Because you have abused me. I wish there were a sword in my hand, for now I would kill you!’ So the donkey said to Balaam, ‘Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden, ever since I became yours, to this day? Was I ever disposed to do this to you?’ And he said, ‘No.’ Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the Angel of the Lord standing in the way with His drawn sword in His hand; and he bowed his head and fell flat on his face. And the Angel of the Lord said to him, ‘Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to stand against you, because your way is perverse before Me. The donkey saw Me and turned aside from Me these three times. If she had not turned aside from Me, surely I would also have killed you by now, and let her live.’” Numbers 22:27-33.

“Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey…” it does not say here that He spoke through the mouth of the donkey; it says that He opened her mouth allowing her to speak her mind.

Notice that her statement of faithfulness and her questions make perfect sense, indicating a certain amount of reasoning power. “I like my master; he feeds me and cares for me. I will obey him and carry him where he wants to go without hurting him”, or thoughts to that effect.

By the same token an animal may think to himself, “I hate this guy, I will throw him or kick him in the head first opportunity I get!”

An animal may be stupid, cunning, loving, mean, or see you as slow moving food. The term dumb animal does not mean, dumb/stupid, it means dumb as in unable to speak.

Koko the gorilla (b. 7-4-71 d. 6-19-18) on the other hand understood more than 2,000 spoken English words, signed more than 1,000 and had, according to her handlers, an I.Q. of from 70-90.

Humans can range from an I.Q. of 55 through 145 with the median range (65% of humans) running from 85-115, with physicians and PhD’s at as much as 125. As for human I.Q. numbers they can differ from test to test, these have been included for comparison only.

As for Koko’s I.Q. it could be somewhat subjective to promote interest, and research grants, still, it is probably fairly accurate. Nevertheless, she could communicate just as clearly as Balaam’s donkey, or perhaps almost as well as the serpent, though not vocally.

Remember, we are considering a gorilla here; many other animals would test out with an I.Q. high enough to eat, sleep, and defecate.

Some last thoughts on the serpent before we move on. The word translated as serpent is from a Hebrew word transliterated as nachash, a masculine noun meaning serpent, snake.

When pronounced differently nachash becomes a verb meaning enchantment, divine, enchanter, indeed, certainly, learn by experience, or diligently observe. This is the root word for the one translated serpent in our passage Genesis 3:1.

Is it possible that when Adam named all of the animals (Genesis 2:19-20) that he named them for some characteristic that he observed just like we would name our dog Spot or our cat Calico or Fluffy?

Is it possible then that when Adam saw how this intelligent serpent looked about in wonder, diligently observing, or seeming the type to learn by experience, that he meant his name Nachash to mean something more than just a serpent?

Most of the foregoing is nothing but detective work which does not have to be correct and is not meant to be taken as doctrine.

The intent here is to show how it is possible that Eve was aware of serpents in the garden and that it is possible that they may have talked to her and Adam.

One expositor felt that it was possible that Eve was not aware that animals could not speak. Eve was innocent or naïve but she was not stupid.

Whether you agree with this serpent hypothesis or not is up to you. As for me, I would never argue with anyone about it simply because it is nothing more than an educated guess.

But it is important that we all see Eve standing next to a tree being deceived by a serpent (an inferior creature) without first seeking out God’s side of the story.

As we continue on through verse 1 here and then study all of chapter 3 it will become apparent that while the serpent may, or may not have been able to talk, it was not him that was speaking in this case, but someone speaking through him.

It was the same one who tempted Jesus in the wilderness.

“And immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him.” Mark 1:12-13.

It was Satan who overcame Adam and Eve in the garden through the serpent, and it was Satan who attempted to do the same thing to Jesus who had fasted for forty days in the wilderness, even in His weakest moments, Jesus still overcame the devil.

Satan was yet another person who was in the Garden of Eden, watching, waiting for an opportunity to destroy God’s work in these innocent people.

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” 1 Peter 5:8.

Speaking of Satan, Jesus said this of him:

“…He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” John 8:44b.

“…a murderer from the beginning”, Satan in effect murdered the entire human race by getting Adam and Eve to sin.

But he is also a liar and a murderer from perhaps eons past when he rebelled against God and induced as many as one third of the angelic population to rebel with him; killing their souls as well as his by dooming them to eternity in the lake of fire.

Jesus will at one point in time say the following to those whom He will judge.

“…Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels…” Matthew 25:41b.

The lake of fire was prepared for Satan and his angels, it was never meant for mankind, but everyone who elects to follow him by rejecting God’s offer of salvation in Jesus will be with the devil in the lake of fire forever.

Jesus also said the following of Satan.

“When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” John 8:44b.

Lies are particularly odious to God, yet they are almost all the media, and our government speaks today.

“These six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren.” Proverbs 6:16-19.

Twice liars are named and often the one who “sows discord among brethren” has to lie to do it, making three times liars are mentioned. Many of our public leaders today bring themselves under a curse because they are guilty of all seven abominations.

Deadly Tree, Genesis 3:1a taken from posted on 7-23-14, updated on 9-29-21.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version, copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission, all rights reserved.

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