In the account of the serpent tempting Eve in Genesis 3, we tend to pass over the fact that this appears to be a talking serpent, and that Eve apparently had no issues with this. When was the last time you had a conversation with a snake, whether it was a good or an evil one?
The Hebrew word for serpent is nachash. As I’ve noted elsewhere (Awaken Bible Study Notes – Volume 1), the word nachash “is typically translated as serpent, which we all know. However, there are variations of the word which give it additional, and very intriguing, meanings. The word can mean the diviner, i.e. one who communicates with the supernatural realm. It can also mean shiny, or shining one, such as a divine being from the heavenlies. Moreover, serpents in the ancient Middle Eastern cultures were divine throne guardians. Perhaps the Biblical writer wanted to convey all these associations to this serpent that tempted Eve?”
What does this mean for our understanding of this incident? First, let’s consider what Eden actually was. Eden was the place that God created where heaven and earth met. It was a divine mountain garden. (See Ezekiel 28:13-14: “You were in Eden, the garden of God…on the holy mountain of God.”) From Genesis 3:8 we know that God spent time there: “…the sound of God walking in the garden…” It was a lush and beautiful place; why wouldn’t He? But, was God the only other being that frequented it? No; at least one other did, i.e. the serpent. How about others from the heavenly abode?
We know from many places in Scripture that God has a divine family, just as He has a human family. In the Old Testament, members of this family are variously called sons of God (bene Elohim – Hebrew), angels, cherubim, seraphim, the heavenly host, etc. Might they likewise have walked in this lovely garden? Is it not perhaps reasonable to consider that their appearance might be exceptionally shiny, even radiant? (They are divine beings, after all!) If that makes sense, then the nachash was likely a shining one, just as its name implies. As such, being an intelligent entity, perhaps a cherub (we know from Ezekiel 28:14, if the same being spoken of in this verse as “an anointed guardian cherub” is also Satan, whom we associate with the Garden of Eden), then his speaking to Eve would not have been unusual in the least.
Perhaps the nachash took on a serpent’s appearance, but his presence there was no surprise to Eve, and her having a conversation with him was not out of the ordinary. Adam and Eve before their fall hung out with spiritual beings from what is now to us an unseen realm. But they could see these holy ones and speak with them. Someday, when we as true believers have our glorified bodies, we will once more be united with this other part of God’s divine family, as we also will be divine*.
* Just to clarify the word divine: we will not be gods. Through our glorified nature, we will be like Jesus (1 John 3:2) and have the characteristics of His body upon His resurrection. Much of what the angels can do, we will probably be able to similarly do, but even more; because in our gloried state, we will even judge angels (1 Corinthians 6:3).