The Crafty Serpent

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made” (Gen. 3:1a).

- Genesis 3:1a

In the first two chapters of Genesis, Moses reminds us that in the beginning, everything was good. The earth, with all its flora and fauna, was in perfect order and clearly displayed our Creator’s benevolence (Gen. 1). Adam and Eve, the parents of all mankind, tended a bountiful garden in Eden and enjoyed unhindered, shame-free intimacy with the Lord and with one another (chap. 2). These facts lead the reader to ask certain questions. If all was once good, what happened? Why do we experience relational disconnect with God, other people, and ourselves? From whence comes the shame that we all experience? These questions will be answered in part as we study Genesis chapter 3.

In verse 1 we are introduced to the chief enemy of the Lord and consequently, the leading foe of His people. The serpent, whose work of temptation brought ruin to life in Eden, is a manifestation of our adversary, Satan. Though this association is not made directly by Moses in this text, later passages of Scripture reveal that this snake and the devil are one and the same (Rev. 12:9). Satan is described as “crafty,” and this word is translated as “prudence” elsewhere (Prov. 1:4). It is a quality not necessarily evil, but it can be perverted for sinister use, as the devil does in Genesis 3. This same word is related to the word translated “naked” in 2:25, creating a word play in the Hebrew text. Ironically, our first parents, in seeking to be crafty themselves, follow the serpent, but only end up shamefully aware of their own nakedness (3:7).

We are not told explicitly where Satan comes from, but since all creation was originally “very good” (1:31), we know his wickedness is not from the hand of God. The devil is therefore a fallen creature, as other texts imply he is a fallen angel (for example, 2 Cor. 11:14).

Though this verse, and the rest of Scripture, does not explain how a good being became evil in the first place, we must note that though God Himself can do no evil (James 1:13), He does ordain evil to serve His good purposes (Prov. 16:4). As John Calvin writes, the Fall, indeed all evil, does “not take place except by his permission.”

Coram Deo

Though we cannot comprehend the depths of the wisdom of God (Rom. 11:33), the Lord does ordain evil without Himself ever being the author of it. All things serve the sovereign, good purposes of God almighty (Prov. 16:4); thus, even the most awful circumstances we face are decreed by God for our good and His glory. Think of an evil perpetrated against you and ask God to reveal how you can be used in the situation to bring about the greater good of His glory.

Passages for Further Study

1 Chron. 21:1–22:1
Job 1–2; 42
Mark 1:12–13
1 Peter 5:8

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