Monday, July 20, 2009

The Serpent & Mankind

At the beginning of time we have a dialogue between man and the serpent. For an absolutely brilliant rendition of what that dialogue entails, please read Rabbi David Fohrman's The Beast that Crouches at the Door.

The serpent appears on the scene and speaks to the woman:

א וְהַנָּחָשׁ, הָיָה עָרוּם, מִכֹּל חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה, אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים; וַיֹּאמֶר, אֶל-הָאִשָּׁה, אַף כִּי-אָמַר אֱלֹהִים, לֹא תֹאכְלוּ מִכֹּל עֵץ הַגָּן. 1 Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman: 'Yea, hath God said: Ye shall not eat of any tree of the garden?'

Eventually the serpent is cursed for his part in mankind reaching for the forbidden:

יד וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים אֶל-הַנָּחָשׁ, כִּי עָשִׂיתָ זֹּאת, אָרוּר אַתָּה מִכָּל-הַבְּהֵמָה, וּמִכֹּל חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה; עַל-גְּחֹנְךָ תֵלֵךְ, וְעָפָר תֹּאכַל כָּל-יְמֵי חַיֶּיךָ. 14 And the LORD God said unto the serpent: 'Because thou hast done this, cursed art thou from among all cattle, and from among all beasts of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life.

טו וְאֵיבָה אָשִׁית, בֵּינְךָ וּבֵין הָאִשָּׁה, וּבֵין זַרְעֲךָ, וּבֵין זַרְעָהּ: הוּא יְשׁוּפְךָ רֹאשׁ, וְאַתָּה תְּשׁוּפֶנּוּ עָקֵב. {ס} 15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; they shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise their heel.' {S}

Now, the verse here that is important is 3:15, the one you see above. God expressly states that He shall place enmity between the serpent and the woman and between thy seed and her seed; they shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise their heel.

Isaiah 11 is a chapter wholly dedicated to the depiction of the world in Messianic times. There is one verse that is particularly fascinating:

ח וְשִׁעֲשַׁע יוֹנֵק, עַל-חֻר פָּתֶן; וְעַל מְאוּרַת צִפְעוֹנִי, גָּמוּל יָדוֹ הָדָה. 8 And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the basilisk's den.

The hallmark of Messianic times is an undoing, or perhaps a rectification, of the sin of Adam & Eve. Where formerly there was to be enmity between man and the snake, specifically woman's seed (thus, her children) and the serpent, now even a suckling babe shall play with serpents.

To me, Isaiah 11:8 suggests a culmination. The changes in the natural order of the universe begin with 11:6, where "the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them." In addition, "the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox."

I believe that this symbolizes a return to the time of Eden. In Eden, man was very much the master of the animals (even as the little child shall be in the time of the Messiah) while the animals themselves were presumably herbivores. The very nature of animals was changed after the Flood. Once the animals stepped foot on the ground, they became carnivores, hunting one another. Only then was man given permission to eat of their meat as well.

Thus, Isaiah 11, which depicts the Messiah, in truth depicts a return to Eden. In Eden, there had been no enmity betwixt animals, man himself was clearly their master, yet the serpent changed all this and thus enmity was placed between him and the children of man. As depicted in Isaiah, during the time of Messiah animals shall be herbivores, follow the lead of man, and the snake will become a plaything for a child (as opposed to being crushed under the child's foot.)

1 comment:

Ari said...

An interesting interpretation.