enmity between snakes and women

stetsonstetson Shipmate
edited June 21 in Kerygmania
In Genesis 3(NIV), God chews out the snake as follows...


And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel


Does this just mean that snakes are destined to have women find them icky? Seems rather banal, so I'm wondering if there is something I'm missing there.

Also, do the last two lines mean the snake will crush the woman's head, and the woman will strike the snake's heel? Doesn't quite jive with what I know of a snake's anatomy, especially after they've all just been condemned to crawl on their bellies forever. I suppose a boa or a python could crush a person's head.

link

Comments

  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    No, it's men as well 'her offspring'. All over the world, a lot of people don't like snakes - animals often find them disturbing as well.
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    Ah, so "he will crush your head" means "the offspring of Eve will crush your head". That makes sense, thanks.

    And, yeah, I've read about studies where they make monkeys look at pictures of various animals, and the monkeys exhibit strong physiological stress-reactions when it gets to snakes, even if they've never seen a snake before, supposedly proving that the fear is hardwired. (Normal caveats about scientific journalism apply.)
  • LeoLeo Shipmate
    No - for some Hindus, snakes are gods
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    Leo wrote: »
    No - for some Hindus, snakes are gods

    Well, in Korea, dreaming about shit is considered a good omen, you should go out and buy a lottery ticket the next day. And scroll down to Number 26 to see another postive, or at least not entirely negative, association.

    So, yeah, not all negative connections are universally held. Oddly enough(or perhaps not), I've never asked a Korean if they're repulsed by the smell of feces, which might be a relevant issue if we're talking about whether the taboo is hardwired.



  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    Back to snakes for a sec, in East Asia, as is well known, dragons often tend to have a more positive connotation than in the historically Christian countries. I'm sure some anthropolgist somewhere has done a study about attitudes toward snakes as they correspond to the regional odds of being bit by one.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Isn't it amazing what's genetic...?

  • As I recall, in classical Greece snakes were sometimes associated with Athena (perhaps a Minoan influence), so their association with the goddess of wisdom did not reflect negatively on snakes. I've wondered whether Christ's instruction to His disciples to "Be cunning as serpents" was a Hellenistic influence, albeit confusing when you consider not just Genesis but also Christ's condemnation of the Pharisees as a "generation of vipers". (But that's probably material for a different thread.)
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    Well, in my experience, "cunning" usually means something like "clever, but in a bad way", so Christ(or whoever you think first said or wrote that) might have been using the word with a nod to snake's dastardly reputation. Sort of like "We need to be as smart as our enemies".

    Incidentally, in Koreanized English, "cunning" means "cheating", as in, cheating on a test. I believe the English word has entered the Korean language, and is used even in Korean-language conversations.
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    Hm. Looking at the translations, there are a variety of words used to describe the serpentine character traits recommended for the apostles. The majority of them seem to imply partially negative associations, eg. cunning, shrewd, crafty.

    The KJV along with a few others use "wise", which would be quite misleading for a contemporary audience, who are used to hearing that word in phrases such as "I always like getting advice from my wise old grandmother".
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    Doesn't Freud have to enter the discussion at some point?
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    Kwesi wrote: »
    Doesn't Freud have to enter the discussion at some point?

    Funny, I was just thinking about his "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar" comment earlier today.

    And if that's the sort of theme you're getting at here, I once read in a book by Camille Paglia(who, whatever her shortcomings, does tend to know about such things) that snakes traditionally are NOT phallic symbols, despite widespread popular perception that they are.

    Granted, there is at least one literary example of a writer treating the snake in Eden as a sexual object. I remember studying it in my Pre-Raphealite poetry class at university, and up until now, I thought it was by Algernon Swinburne, but I can't find anything like that on-line under his name. Maybe one of the Rossettis?

    I think the poem involved Lillith entering into conjugal relations with the serpent. Obviously, written a long time after the Old Testament.


  • AndrasAndras Shipmate
    stetson wrote: »
    Kwesi wrote: »
    Doesn't Freud have to enter the discussion at some point?

    Funny, I was just thinking about his "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar" comment earlier today.

    And if that's the sort of theme you're getting at here, I once read in a book by Camille Paglia(who, whatever her shortcomings, does tend to know about such things) that snakes traditionally are NOT phallic symbols, despite widespread popular perception that they are.

    Granted, there is at least one literary example of a writer treating the snake in Eden as a sexual object. I remember studying it in my Pre-Raphealite poetry class at university, and up until now, I thought it was by Algernon Swinburne, but I can't find anything like that on-line under his name. Maybe one of the Rossettis?

    I think the poem involved Lillith entering into conjugal relations with the serpent. Obviously, written a long time after the Old Testament.


    A sonnet by Dante Gabriel Rosetti (and very far out of copyright!):


    Of Adam's first wife, Lilith, it is told
    (The witch he loved before the gift of Eve,)
    That, ere the snake's, her sweet tongue could deceive,
    And her enchanted hair was the first gold.
    And still she sits, young while the earth is old,
    And, subtly of herself contemplative,
    Draws men to watch the bright web she can weave,
    Till heart and body and life are in its hold.

    The rose and poppy are her flowers; for where
    Is he not found, O Lilith, whom shed scent
    And soft-shed kisses and soft sleep shall snare?
    Lo! as that youth's eyes burned at thine, so went
    Thy spell through him, and left his straight neck bent
    And round his heart one strangling golden hair.

  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    Thanks! But, unless I'm missing something(Victorian English is not my strong suit, especially the poetry), there doesn't seem to be anything in there that suggests a sexual relationship between Lilith and the snake, which was a big part of the theme of the poem we discussed in class.

    Thinking back, the piece must have been by Swinburne, because of all the Pre-Raphaelites, he was the most precoccupied with kink, as I recall from the class lectures. But I can't find anything on the internet that matches what I recall of the poem.
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    Bingo! Pretty sure that's it. Thanks!

    And apologies to dirty old man Swinburne for the misattribution.
  • RdrEmCofERdrEmCofE Shipmate
    stetson wrote: »
    In Genesis 3(NIV), God chews out the snake as follows...


    And I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and hers;
    he will crush your head,
    and you will strike his heel


    Does this just mean that snakes are destined to have women find them icky? Seems rather banal, so I'm wondering if there is something I'm missing there.

    Also, do the last two lines mean the snake will crush the woman's head, and the woman will strike the snake's heel? Doesn't quite jive with what I know of a snake's anatomy, especially after they've all just been condemned to crawl on their bellies forever. I suppose a boa or a python could crush a person's head.

    link

    This is a 'folk tale' explaining things as they have come to be. Genesis is a sort of sophisticated Hebrew 'Just So' story.

    This bit of it explains to Palestinian farmers why so many get bitten in the lower leg by snakes when working in the fields. Notice God is not addressing the woman but the snake. Snakes have a natural enmity to anything which threatens them. Just about everything does threaten them if it is bigger than them and can tread on them. Enmity is conscious and deliberate intent to do harm, and it is natural for man, field laboring, having been bitten by a snake in the heel, (the usual place snakes would go for if trodden on accidentally, unseen in long grass), not to feel it had been deliberate hostility on the snake's part, and he the innocent victim. Notice he not she will crush your head. What did farm workers do to snakes that they had just been bitten by? Stamp on the vicious creatures of course.

    Get a bit further into this story and you will learn why childbirth has become painful and dangerous for Palestinian farming families in the promised land.

    Much much later, the Christian church interprets the text as speaking of the destruction of Satan by Christ. Which by Biblical interpretation is fine, but the original reason it is there was to teach the children of Promised Land farm workers, to be cautious where they trod and if they saw a snake to tread on it before it got the chance to bite anyone else in the heel.

  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    Rdr:

    Yes, The Fall reads a little bit differently, more prosaically, in fact, when you eliminate the retroactive overlay of Satan onto the snake, and view him as just a clever con artist(one of the informal sources I've been looking at on-line posits him as a trickster, though he doesn't quite have the sense of fun-and-games I normally associate with that particular figure).

    I suppose someone arguing that all scripture is directly inspired by the same divine source(ie. the snake in Genesis was also "that old serpent Satan" mentioned in Revelation) could point out that the line "Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made" does not include an "other" before "wild animals", meaning that he is meant to be separate from the rest of the creatures. Though I guess that also might rule out his being created by God.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    RdrEmCofE wrote: »
    ... Much much later, the Christian church interprets the text as speaking of the destruction of Satan by Christ. Which by Biblical interpretation is fine, but the original reason it is there was to teach the children of Promised Land farm workers, to be cautious where they trod and if they saw a snake to tread on it before it got the chance to bite anyone else in the heel.
    If that is implying that it was a Christian innovation to identify the serpent with Satan. The JPS Torah Commentary dates this to the first century BCE with a citation from Wis 2:24. Which would imply that it was a development of late inter-testamentary Judaism. The JPS also suggests that by portraying the serpent as 'just another animal', Genesis is making a statement that it is not a god, in contrast to how snakes were often deified in other surrounding religions.

    Ephrem the Syrian (c306-373) perhaps echoes a similar tradition.
    It is not true that because the serpent surpassed the level of animals in cleverness, it was immediately raised up to the level of human rationality. It was only more clever than those animals that lack reason and was only more crafty than the animals that had no mind. For it is clear that the serpent, which did not have the mind of man, did not possess the wisdom of mankind. Adam was also greater than the serpent by the way he was formed, by his soul, by his mind, by his glory and by his place. Therefore it is evident that in cunning also Adam was infinitely greater than the serpent.
  • AnselmAnselm Shipmate
    stetson wrote: »
    Does this just mean that snakes are destined to have women find them icky? Seems rather banal, so I'm wondering if there is something I'm missing there.
    My understanding is that Gen 1-2 paint an 'ideal' picture - that everything has an order and purpose to it in God's creation. Simply speaking:
    1. God
    2. humanity
    3. other creatures
    However, in Genesis 3 we have that order upended as humanity heed the word of a creature, rather than the word of God. The curse of sin is that the relationships established in the orderly creation are all profoundly damaged:
    • in the area of tilling the earth, humanity will experience frustration as weeds and thorns grow
    • in the area of multiplying and filling the earth there will be pain in childbearing
    • in the area of ruling over creatures (Gen 1:28) there will be conflict (ie biting of heels and crushing of heads)
    However, there is probably more significance to the serpent that just representing 'animals' (though I don't think that the serpent represents sex, as that was a part of God's good creation set out in Gen 2.)
    The serpent is described as literally being the wisest wild animal that the LORD God had made. It is able to talk. The consequence of the curse is that it would henceforth 'crawl on its belly' - how was it getting around before that? I believe that some have made connections with the angelic, serpent-like Seraphim.
    Certainly, the earliest Jewish interpretation that we have, from the 3rd Cent BC, sees the serpent as Satan, and points to the eventual messianic defeat of the forces of evil. The New Testament writers took up this understanding (eg Rom 16:20, Rev 12)

  • RdrEmCofERdrEmCofE Shipmate
    Anselm wrote: »
    stetson wrote: »
    Does this just mean that snakes are destined to have women find them icky? Seems rather banal, so I'm wondering if there is something I'm missing there.
    My understanding is that Gen 1-2 paint an 'ideal' picture - that everything has an order and purpose to it in God's creation. Simply speaking:
    1. God
    2. humanity
    3. other creatures
    However, in Genesis 3 we have that order upended as humanity heed the word of a creature, rather than the word of God. The curse of sin is that the relationships established in the orderly creation are all profoundly damaged:
    • in the area of tilling the earth, humanity will experience frustration as weeds and thorns grow
    • in the area of multiplying and filling the earth there will be pain in childbearing
    • in the area of ruling over creatures (Gen 1:28) there will be conflict (ie biting of heels and crushing of heads)
    However, there is probably more significance to the serpent that just representing 'animals' (though I don't think that the serpent represents sex, as that was a part of God's good creation set out in Gen 2.)
    The serpent is described as literally being the wisest wild animal that the LORD God had made. It is able to talk. The consequence of the curse is that it would henceforth 'crawl on its belly' - how was it getting around before that? I believe that some have made connections with the angelic, serpent-like Seraphim.
    Certainly, the earliest Jewish interpretation that we have, from the 3rd Cent BC, sees the serpent as Satan, and points to the eventual messianic defeat of the forces of evil. The New Testament writers took up this understanding (eg Rom 16:20, Rev 12)

    Much along these line can be read back into the story, and as you point out the Christian Church inherited a richly furnished tradition from Judaism as to the story's spiritual explanation. I still think that the originals though were Hebrew folk lore "Just So Stories", explaining how what life is like in Bronze age Palestine, came to be as it was, and the separate verbal stories were gathered from various tribes, which has then been cleverly edited to form what we now have.
  • MudfrogMudfrog Shipmate
    Isn't the word 'offspring' (or 'seed') actually in the singular?
    It is therefore the prediction that one of Adam/Eve's offspring will crush the serpents head as the serpent tries to strike at his heel.

    I don't buy the idea that this is a nursery tale to teach children that snakes are dangerous.
  • RdrEmCofERdrEmCofE Shipmate
    Mudfrog wrote: »
    Isn't the word 'offspring' (or 'seed') actually in the singular?
    It is therefore the prediction that one of Adam/Eve's offspring will crush the serpents head as the serpent tries to strike at his heel.

    I don't buy the idea that this is a nursery tale to teach children that snakes are dangerous.

    Well . .. yes, no one says you have to. What you say on 'seed' is certainly true and Paul makes a particular point of it to back up a theological position. Here.

    I don't know anywhere near enough Greek to be able to say whether Paul is overstating his case, but I think he is commenting just on what is already there, rather than the reason it originally arrived at where it is. I reserve the right to be speculative about its original reason for being there as is every one else's privilege to do.

    'Nursery tale' is probably putting it a bit blunt though. Folk tales in an oral tradition were far more than mere 'nursery tales'. They have ended up in 'Inspired Scripture' after all, so should not be lightly dismissed, even if that was how they began.

  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    We'd need to know more about Hebrew usage and syntax on that one. After all. in English, both 'offspring' and in that context 'seed' are both singular and plural.
  • MudfrogMudfrog Shipmate
    edited July 12
    https://claudemariottini.com/2011/05/26/translating-genesis-315-part-2/

    This however destroys the argument about seed being singular and Genesis 3 v 15 being a prophecy of the Messiah.
    I shall have to research further - because the good professor may have people who disagree with him.
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    Enoch wrote: »
    Ephrem the Syrian (c306-373) perhaps echoes a similar tradition.
    It is not true that because the serpent surpassed the level of animals in cleverness, it was immediately raised up to the level of human rationality. It was only more clever than those animals that lack reason and was only more crafty than the animals that had no mind. For it is clear that the serpent, which did not have the mind of man, did not possess the wisdom of mankind. Adam was also greater than the serpent by the way he was formed, by his soul, by his mind, by his glory and by his place. Therefore it is evident that in cunning also Adam was infinitely greater than the serpent.
    Mudfrog wrote: »
    Isn't the word 'offspring' (or 'seed') actually in the singular?
    It is therefore the prediction that one of Adam/Eve's offspring will crush the serpents head as the serpent tries to strike at his heel.

    I don't buy the idea that this is a nursery tale to teach children that snakes are dangerous.

    Admittedly, most Just-so stories that I know don't stray into topics like knowledge of Good And Evil and the shame of nakedness.

    That said...
    It is therefore the prediction that one of Adam/Eve's offspring will crush the serpents head as the serpent tries to strike at his heel.

    Well, insofar as a serpent, described-as-such, gets crushed later on in scripture, the guy doing the honours is Michael The Archangel, probably not meant to be understood as a descendant of Adam And Eve.

    Of course, that bit from Revelation really represents Jesus and the forces of Good crushing the Devil and the forces of Evil. But if the Fall narrative, as written, is meant to have a parallel, it would be with Michael Vs. The Serpent.

  • MudfrogMudfrog Shipmate
    https://margmowczko.com/who-will-crush-the-serpents-head-genesis-315/

    This also is helpful.
    Apparently the LXX specifies 'He' will crush the head of the serpent, suggesting a representative of the offspring. This suggests a recapitulation scenario as the Messiah, the last Adam and representing Israel, finally crushes the serpent.
  • MamacitaMamacita Kerygmania Host
    edited July 13
    [Tangent: That's such a fantastic image in your link, Mudfrog. I have a print of it in my study.]
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    edited July 13
    Mudfrog wrote: »
    https://margmowczko.com/who-will-crush-the-serpents-head-genesis-315/

    This also is helpful.
    Apparently the LXX specifies 'He' will crush the head of the serpent, suggesting a representative of the offspring. This suggests a recapitulation scenario as the Messiah, the last Adam and representing Israel, finally crushes the serpent.

    So, this would suggest that the Fall narrative is one of those OT passages that allegedly predicts Jesus and his life?

    I note that LXX is an AD translation, so a skeptic could presumably say that they added the capitalization of the H to fit that agenda.

  • BroJamesBroJames Shipmate
    edited July 13
    LXX is mid 3rd century BCE, but the manuscripts do not follow any practice of capitalisation. Even in English, the idea of capitalising pronouns for God is not ancient. It is not the usual practice, for example, of printings of the AV/KJV of 1611.
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    Okay, I stand corrected on the dating. (The switch from BC/AD to BCE/CE has probably messed me up a little.)

    Based on what you've written, we can conclude that there is no particular significance to the capitalization of "He" in LXX?

  • MooMoo Kerygmania Host
    I had always understood that lower-case letters were not invented until the middle ages
  • MudfrogMudfrog Shipmate
    Yes, I wasn't trying to highlight a capital, simply the use of 'he' rather than 'they' in the context of the word offspring.
  • MudfrogMudfrog Shipmate
    stetson wrote: »

    So, this would suggest that the Fall narrative is one of those OT passages that allegedly predicts Jesus and his life?

    Yes, possibly.

    If Jesus' life is a recapitulation of the story of Israel then he is the offspring mentioned in this passage - when it was intended to refer to Israel - just as he is the child of the young woman in Isaiah 9, the Servant in Isaiah 53 and the son of man in Daniel 7.
    On the cross he takes on himself the role as the last Adam, dying Adam's death on behalf of Israel.
    Recapitulation can fit quite well into the other atonement metaphors of reconciliation, redemption, sacrifice and even penal substitutionary atonement.
    In the latter, Jesus is not the 'innocent' victim, but the recapitulatory representative of Adam/Israel.
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    Moo wrote: »
    I had always understood that lower-case letters were not invented until the middle ages

    Not quite. There were capitals and there were various cursive versions. Using both together with different significances is the innovation.
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    edited July 14
    Some interesting discussion here.

    However, I have to think that, if Genesis 3:15 were meant to be predicting the final triumph of Jesus over Satan, it would not order the events as "he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel". Because that gets the chronology wrong, like saying "The Americans will drop nukes on Japan, and the Japanese will bomb Pearl Harbour".

    So I think I'm back in RdrEm's camp of saying that it's probably just a mythological explanation for the ongoing bad relationship between snakes and people, ie. they'll crush you, you'll strike them, and on and on it will go."
  • MudfrogMudfrog Shipmate
    edited July 14
    stetson wrote: »
    Some interesting discussion here.

    However, I have to think that, if Genesis 3:15 were meant to be predicting the final triumph of Jesus over Satan, it would not order the events as "he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel". Because that gets the chronology wrong, like saying "The Americans will drop nukes on Japan, and the Japanese will bomb Pearl Harbour".

    So I think I'm back in RdrEm's camp of saying that it's probably just a mythological explanation for the ongoing bad relationship between snakes and people, ie. they'll crush you, you'll strike them, and on and on it will go."

    So where is the mythological explanation for not picking up wasps or teasing the cat lest she scratches your leg and makes you go to the doctors with an infected wound!!

  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    Mudfrog wrote: »
    stetson wrote: »
    Some interesting discussion here.

    However, I have to think that, if Genesis 3:15 were meant to be predicting the final triumph of Jesus over Satan, it would not order the events as "he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel". Because that gets the chronology wrong, like saying "The Americans will drop nukes on Japan, and the Japanese will bomb Pearl Harbour".

    So I think I'm back in RdrEm's camp of saying that it's probably just a mythological explanation for the ongoing bad relationship between snakes and people, ie. they'll crush you, you'll strike them, and on and on it will go."

    So where is the mythological explanation for not picking up wasps or teasing the cat lest she scratches your leg and makes you go to the doctors with an infected wound!!

    Well, I think there is a difference between a cautionary tale(eg. "Don't pick up wasps..."), and a Just-so story(eg. "Snakes and humans don't get along because...")

    If the storyteller was simply using the already well-known animosity between snakes and humans as a motif for his creation story, he probably wouldn't have felt obligated to construct a similar story for every possible zoological calamity that might befall individuals.

  • stetson wrote: »
    Kwesi wrote: »


    I think the poem involved Lillith entering into conjugal relations with the serpent.


    And what did Frasier have to say about that?
  • BroJamesBroJames Shipmate
    The primary purpose of Genesis 3, I would have thought, is to respond to the cosmological conundrum that the created order described as “very good” at the end of Genesis 1 is observably not so now. It includes aetiological elements related to the problem of weeds, the pain of childbirth, the problematic relations between men and women, and why people don’t like snakes. Some readers of Genesis 3 would see the ‘bruising’ statements as an express prediction of Christ. Others however might prefer to say that in the light of Christ’s ministry the statements can be seen to be fulfilled in a greater sense than could have been known by their writers or readers at the time. Some would argue that it was divinely purposed that that should be the case.
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    Mudfrog On the cross he takes on himself the role as the last Adam, dying Adam's death on behalf of Israel.
    I think you miss the point, Mudfrog. Adam is not a representative of Israel but humanity, which is why Paul reintroduces Adam after his disappearance since the first few chapters of Genesis. "As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." (1 Corinthians 15:22). As Isaac Watts wrote:

    Where he displays his healing power,
    Death and the curse are known no more;
    In him the tribes of Adam boast
    More blessings than their father lost.

    Christ as the second Adam is not the Jewish Messiah, except as the Messiah of all the tribes of Adam.

  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    stetson wrote: »
    Kwesi wrote: »


    I think the poem involved Lillith entering into conjugal relations with the serpent.


    And what did Frasier have to say about that?

    Phantom:

    I think your formatting got a bit mixed up there. It was I, not Kwesi, who wrote the bit about Eve having conjugal realtions with the snake.

    And are you asking about Sir James G. Frazer? If so, I don't know what he would have said about any of that. Apart from being a big fan Eliot's Waste Land, and making an aborted attempt at reading The Golden Bough a couple of years back, I'm not overly familiar with his views.

  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    edited July 22
    ^ I don't know why that post showed up as a quote. Everything from the saluation "Phantom:" onward is by me, Stetson.
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