Genesis 3:1

serpentTranslation

וְהַנָּחָשׁ הָיָה עָרוּם מִכֹּל חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה יְהוָה אֱלֹהִ֑ים וַיֹּאמֶר אֶל־הָאִשָּׁה אַף כִּֽי־אָמַר אֱלֹהִים לֹא תֹֽאכְלוּ מִכֹּל עֵץ הַגָּֽן

Now the serpent was more shrewd than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made, so he said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘Neither of you are to eat from any tree in the garden?”

Commentary

the serpent: throughout the ANE the serpent was viewed with fascination and revulsion. Depending on the cultural filter, the serpent has been seen as endowed with divine qualities and venerated as a emblem of health, fertility, immortality, wisdom (especially of the occult). To claim that the serpent has played a significant role in the mythology and religious symbolism of the ANE is not an overstatement.

In the first Genesis creation story, Genesis 1:2 refers to the ancient Babylonion sea goddess Tiamat (Heb = Tehom often translated obscurely as “the deep”) of the Enuma Elish. In the first creation story and now here in Genesis 3:1 (the second creation story) the serpent is demythologized; demoted from the divine to the merely mortal1)As we learn in verse 14 from the phrase, “all the days of your life”..

shrewd: as mentioned in the commentary for 2:25, this word  עָרוּם(`arum), meaning shrewd/clever is simply a play on the two words `arummim (nude) and `arum (shrewd)

Did God really say: אַף כִּֽי (aph-kee) is a Hebrew colloquialism meaning “Well now” or “Look here”. In English when we hear an outrageous claim we might respond with “Oh, c’mon” or “get real”. I thought that “really” captured the sense of the serpent’s question, namely that its purpose was to call into question God’s warning that the couple would lose their immortality were they to eat from the tree of knowledge.

Interestingly, the serpent recognizes his place in the animal kingdom by referring to God only as אֱלֹהִים  (Elohim) instead of יְהוָה אֱלֹהִ֑ים (Adonai Elohim — the LORD God). Adonai (the LORD) specifies the special relationship between God and mankind.

Neither of you are to eat: in this phrase, the Hebrew verb for eat, תֹֽאכְלוּ (to’khəlu), is inflected as a 2nd person plural verb as in the Southern expression “y’all” — more formally meaning “both of you” or “you both“. I could have translated the verse, “Should not both of you eat …” or “Should not you both eat …“, but such could be understood as requiring both the man and the woman to eat2)Which, of course, they both did anyway! the fruit.

Preliminary Translations

My translation conventions can be found here.

Mechanical

Now-the-serpent was shrewd from-any-of living-things-of the-field that made the-LORD God and-he-said to-the-wife, “Really, because-said God, not should you both eat from-any tree-of the-garden?”

Literal

Now the serpent was more shrewd that any living thing of the field that the LORD God [had] made, so he said to the wife, “Really, because God said not should either of you eat from any tree of the garden?”

Commercial Bible Translations

  • (nas) Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden ‘?”
  • (kjv) Now the serpent was more subtil 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?
  • (niv) Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
  • (nlt) The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the LORD God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”

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