The snake is mentioned many times in the Bible, starting with the famous episode in Genesis. Embodying both good and evil, it is the object of curses in some passages, while it heals in others. This first animal found in the Bible presents an invaluable wealth in the Old and New Testaments, from the tempting snake to the Bronze Snake, without forgetting the incarnation of Satan.
In this article, we will look at the symbolism of the snake in the Bible and more precisely, the representation of this animal.
The Snake in the Old Testament
A tempting animal ! This is the first symbolism of the snake in the Old Testament. Although it may seem surprising, the snake is closely linked to Man. Indeed, this animal is the first to appear in the Bible in the sacred story of Adam and Eve in chapter 3 of the book of Genesis.
In this context, it is described as a cunning and tempting animal, and not the image of the dangerous reptile to flee from that we have today. Moreover, it is thanks to its cunning that the animal will eventually tempt Eve to commit sin by eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge.
However, warned by God who kept her away from this tree under penalty of death, the sly and malicious snake managed to convince Eve that it was not dangerous … This was the beginning of a long story.
The condemned snake
Following this story, the snake was judged for his sin. Since that day, his image is associated with temptation, with sin. It is also a sign of lies. For God, all the liars were part of the descendants of the snake.
While its cunning made it the animal closest to Man, it became his worst enemy. From now on, it symbolizes evil and embodies the Devil, becoming a dangerous reptile that crawls on the ground and is always ready to surprise and attack.
If the snake had a much better image in the ancient world, symbolizing in particular healing among the Greeks and Romans, its fate will suddenly turn around.
The protective snake
In chapter 7 of the book of Exodus, it is a completely different image of the snake that will emerge.
In the first episode, after having spoken with God, Moses asks Pharaoh to put an end to the slavery of his people. During his discussion, God says that if the Egyptian king asks for a show of strength, Aaron’s staff will turn into a snake to defend them.
Then a battle of magic begins in which Aaron’s staff turns into a snake to fight the other staffs of Pharaoh’s magicians, who have also become snakes. Aaron’s snake defeats them all by swallowing them.
The snake became the symbol of the power and strength of the God of Israel.
Once the people were liberated and wandering in the desert, they began to recriminate God and Moses because they had nothing to eat or drink during their exile, even coming to miss Egypt.
God, furious, decided to send snakes with a burning bite to silence all those who complained. His action was convincing because these snakes would strike terror into the Israelites, so much so that they begged Moses to ask the Divine King to remove them.
The Lord commanded Moses to make a Bronze Snake and erect it on top of a pole. “All those bitten by the fiery serpents had only to look the Bronze Snake and they would live. Since that day, the snake is no longer an animal by which one dies and symbolizes terror, but an animal by which one lives again and symbolizes healing.
The Snake in The New Testament
In chapter 16 of the book of Mark, the snake is also a symbol of healing. It is represented by an emblem still used in the field of Medicine, the Caduceus. Many people wear this emblem in jewelry today to protect themselves against diseases, as for example with this Caduceus necklace.
In all the other books of the New Testament, such as Luke and John, the snake often has a rather negative connotation. In general, the snake is the symbol of evil.
In all Christian Bibles, whether Protestant or Catholic, the ideas of the representation of the snake are the same. However, it is obvious that the snake has many other meanings, whether in other religions or in science for example. Moreover, we have made a complete article on the symbolism of the snake in which you will find all the possible meanings.