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chapter we are informed, that “the serpent * was more subtle" (probably in the estimation of the woman) “ 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 every tree of the “ garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of " the fruit of the trees of the garden ; but of the fruit of the “ tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye “ shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And " the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die ; for “ God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes “ shall be opened; and ye shall be as gods, knowing good from “ evil. And when the woman SAW” (not heard) “ that the “ tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, “ and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the “ fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also to her husband with “ her, and he did eat." The above colloquy, had it been found in any other book, particularly in any other early and eastern writing, would have been readily and justly interpreted. It would have immediately occurred to the reader (the serpent not having the faculty of speech), that that could not have been a real conversation. The true interpretation, indeed, must be obvious. The woman saw the serpent coiling itself around the tree, and eating of that
* Let it be particularly noted that the serpent only is here spoken of; no mention is made of a devil, or evil spirit: no allusion whatever, direct or indirect, is made to this serpent as being in any way distinguished from other serpents. That it is described as speaking, will be explained in the text; but in any case it is the serpent that is said to speak, not the devil in the serpent. How different necessarily becomes the language of Milton, who, to support the fiction of the fall of man, is compelled to add to the story fictitious circumstances. He relates, that Satan,
“ With inspection deep,
The serpent, subtlest beast of all the field."
« In at his mouth
With act intelligential.” But of all this there occurs not one word in the book of Genesis. How many are there who have fancied they were believing in the Bible, whilst they were in fact only believing in Paradise Lost,
Haiduced uponkewise embin words "m; as thous within her
fruit with pleasure and delight which they were forbidden to touch. Having, probably, supposed that it was the quality of the food which was to occasion death if they partook of it, yet, seeing that no ill consequences resulted to the serpent from eating it, she appears to have reasoned in her own mind on the subject; and, suspecting that the prohibition might have arisen from jealousy on the part of the Deity, lest they should become as wise as himself—the more especially as it was also called the tree of knowledge of good and evil-she determined to try its effect, and she ate thereof. Thus the reasoning which passed within her mind is, naturally enough, put down, as though she had expressed those thoughts in words : and the actions of the serpent are likewise embodied in language, because they produced upon her mind the same effect as if it had spoken. It is in our own times a common remark, that actions speak louder than words; and, in the sacred writings, language is often ascribed even to trees and other inanimate things. When, indeed, we consider that the whole of this history must have been handed down by tradition, and in the first instance recorded by that earliest species of writing, the hieroglyphic, we cannot wonder at this substitution of words in the stead of actions; as it will be remembered that the pictorial representation of the subject would equally, in either case, be that of the serpent holding communication, or appearing to enter into conversation with the woman.
Neither is this exposition a novel one; for a similar suggestion, we are informed by Dr. Geddes, (Preface, p. 9) was made by Abrabanal, a learned Jew of the fifteenth century; which was followed by Simeon de Muis, Hebrew Professor in the College at Paris, about the middle of the last century: and the same view has been more recently adopted, with improvements, by an anonymous writer, in Eichorn's Biblical Repertory." According to this hypo“ thesis the serpent was a real serpent, such as he still is; “ neither endowed with speech, nor organized by the devil; “ nor had he any conversation with the woman what then? « The woman observed him eating of that very fruit which “ had been forbidden to her, without his receiving any injury “ from it, therefore she inferred that it could not be deadly; “ on the other hand, it was beautiful to look at-knowledge “ was a desirable thing: all these considerations induced “ her to make a trial--the issue is known.” Could any thing, indeed, be more natural or instructive than to represent it, as the writer of Genesis has done, under the figure of a conversation? Led away by this temptation, the dire offence was committed; the threatened penalty of which (although that penalty was afterwards commuted for hard labour in the field) was immediate death :-“ in the day that “ thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” The words here translated surely die, occur but three times in the Old Testament; Exodus x. 28; 1 Kings ii. 37, 46; besides this case in Genesis; and in each place it will be seen to bear no reference to moral death, or to any state of future punishment, but to instant, immediate, bodily death: neither is any thing said of the posterity of Adam in this threat ; indeed no such reference could have been necessary; for had the sentence been executed on him, he could have had no posterity at all; nor could Adam himself have had an idea of any other death than the being deprived of that existence which he had received from his Maker.
Adam, then, agreeably to the strict letter of the law, was condemned to death; he waited only the sentence of his judge, uncertain whether he would remit any part, or demand the whole penalty of the bond. Thus, as the Apostle justly reasons on this event, “ by one man sin was introduced into “ the world ; and death” (or rather condemnation) " for sin :" that is, as Adam was the first sinner, and the first example of condemnation for sin-and as all men have followed his example, death or condemnation, according to strict law, has passed upon all men; and that not for the sin of Adam, but, argues Paul, (Rom. v. 12) “ because ALL have sinned :" for “ whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in ONE “ POINT, is guilty of all.” (James ii. 10.) Thus, the man who violates any one law of his country to which the penalty of death is affixed, is, according to that law, dead; he is in a state of condemnation even before he be tried, or sentence passed ; and nothing can take off that condemnation, or restore to him his forfeited life, but the grace and favour of his sovereign : should he be pleased to proclaim his pardon altogether, or to mitigate the penalty, the man is then alive again; and that law which condemned to death, has no power over him. Adam, then, having broken the law, stood condemned to death, and waited with dread and apprehension the sentence of his judge. In the language of the history, “ the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew “ that they were naked ; and they sewed fig leaves together, and “ made themselves aprons.” This verse is, however, in our common version, very improperly translated : there was in their case nothing to make them more sensible of being un
clothed than before. By the word naked is here meant, as in many other places, that they knew they were without defence;* they had sinned, and were naked or exposed to the divine displeasure; they made, therefore-not aprons, but, by entwining fig leaves or branches, they formed a place in which to hide themselves from their offended God ;-a view of the passage, which is further explained by the following verse; " and they heard the voice of the Lord God” (probably some symbol to which they were accustomed, as representing the Divine Being) “ walking in the cool of the day, and Adam “ and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord “ AMONG THE TREES OF THE GARDEN; and the Lord God so called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou ? and ** he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, so because I was naked,” (without defence) " and I hid myself.” Here was taught another moral lesson to Adam and his helpmate—that fear and shame necessarily accompany guilt, “ And he” (God) “ said, Who told thee that thou wast naked ?" (exposed to punishment) “ hast thou eaten of the tree whereof “ I commanded thee that thou shouldst not eat??' Here then the trial, as it were, commences : the criminals are arraigned before their Judge ; they plead guilty to the charge; no attempt is made to justify the act; their only endeavour is to extenuate, if possible, their crime ; but throwing them, selves wholly on the mercy of their Judge, they appear to have awaited his awful sentence. In reply to the question, “ Hast thou eaten," &c. Adam answers, “ the woman whom “ thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did “ eat. And the Lord God said to the woman, What is this “ that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent “ beguiled me, and I did eat." Here are most simple and artless answers ; not the smallest attempt at evasion or equivocation. When, therefore, we consider these circumstances--and that it was their first, and, as far as history informs us, their last offence that their whole conduct was humble, resigned, and penitent, it cannot be too much to say, that, if ever criminals deserved the merciful consideration of their Judge, and the mitigation of threatened punishment, Adam and Eve stood most pre-eminently entitled thereto. The sequel of the history will shew that they did obtain this consideration--this mitigation. The guilt of
* See Exodus xxxii. 25; 2 Chron. xxviii. 19; Proverbs xxix. 18; Jeremiah li. 58; Micah i. 11; and also Cruden's Concordance on the word paked.
the parties being admitted, the Judge proceeds to pass sentence; but first, with a view to shew them how easily they had been led astray, and the meanness of the object by whom this had been effected, he, in their presence, addresses himself to the serpent. “ Although* thou hast done this, “ thou art cursed above all cattle,+ and above every beast of the “ field; upon thy belly thou shalt go,” (or thou goest) - and “ dust shalt thou eat” (or thou eatest) “ all the days of thy life.” Here, as in the other cases noticed, were most important principles taught to our first parents. First, From this act of the serpent they had probably formed a very high opinion of that creature ; and by this apostrophe they were taught to see, or rather reminded, by how insignificant an animal they had allowed themselves to be led astray. Second, As they were destined to leave the garden of Eden, and as the serpent tribe were the most dangerous enemies they had to guard against, the denouncement which follows would be well calculated to put them on their guard, and preserve them from danger. “ And I will put enmity between thee and “ the woman, and between her seed” (or offspring) " and thy “ seed ;” (or offspring) “ and her seed shall bruise thy head, “ and thou shalt bruise his heel.” Here, then, is all that is said of the serpent. A concealed and mysterious meaning has been generally affixed to this passage; yet few passages would appear capable of a more clear and ready explication. The enmity subsisting between man and the serpent tribe is well known, even in our own times and land; but to feel its full force we should perhaps live, if not in a primitive age, yet amid the woods and wildnesses of an uncultivated country. We might there find frequent occasion to “ bruise the head” of the serpent; and “the snake in the
* The word because is here rendered although ; this is its true rendering: there are, indeed, many places where it occurs which would become absolute nonsense if this word were translated because. See Gen. viii. 21; xlviii. 14. Exodus xiii. 17.
+ The word curse should be rendered common, or degraded ; in this sense the word is frequently understood, see John viii.49, where the rulers call the lower orders cursed, or common, low, degraded. We have no evidence whatever but that the serpent tribe was, from the beginning, thus cursed or degraded, crawling on its belly amid the dust of the earth. An appeal is here made to the degraded state of this creature, as aggravating the disobedience of the woman. The defenders of the doctrine of the full of man might with more truth be called believers in the fall of serpents; as many of them contend that this creature before walked erect, but that the whole race fel! in the person of their federal head, the serpent who témpted Eve.