The word Serpent (Heb. nahash; Gr. ophis) is frequently noticed in Scripture. More than forty species are found in Syria and Arabia. The poisonous character of the serpent is alluded to in Jacob's blessing on Dan (Gen. 49:17; see Prov. 30:18, 19; James 3:7; Jer. 8:17). (Adder.) This word is used symbolically of a deadly, subtle, malicious enemy (Luke 10:19).
The serpent is first mentioned in connection with the history of the temptation and fall of our first parents (Gen. 3). It has been well remarked regarding this temptation: "A real serpent was the agent of the temptation, as is plain from what is said of the natural characteristic of the serpent in the first verse of the chapter (3:1), and from the curse pronounced upon the animal itself. But that Satan was the actual tempter, and that he used the serpent merely as his instrument, is evident (1) from the nature of the transaction; for although the serpent may be the most subtle of all the beasts of the field, yet he has not the high intellectual faculties which the tempter here displayed. (2.) In the New Testament it is both directly asserted and in various forms assumed that Satan seduced our first parents into sin (John 8:44; Rom. 16:20; 2 Cor. 11:3, 14; Rev. 12:9; 20:2)." Hodge's System. Theol., ii. 127.
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The Fiery Serpent, (LXX. "deadly," Vulg. "burning"), Num. 21:6, is probably the naja haje of Egypt; some swift-springing, deadly snake (Isa. 14:29). After setting out from their encampment at Ezion-gaber, the Israelites entered on a wide sandy desert, which stretches from the mountains of Edom as far as the Persian Gulf. While traversing this region, the people began to murmur and utter loud complaints against Moses. As a punishment, the Lord sent serpents among them, and much people of Israel died. Moses interceded on their behalf, and by divine direction he made a "brazen serpent," and raised it on a pole in the midst of the camp, and all the wounded Israelites who looked on it were at once healed. (Comp. John 3:14, 15.) (Asp.) This "brazen serpent" was preserved by the Israelites till the days of Hezekiah, when it was destroyed (2 Kings 18:4).
(Easton Illustrated Dictionary)
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