What creature is the serpent?

Why was the serpent cursed to crawl on its belly when that’s what it does?

Have you ever heard of a just so story? Most ancient cultures have myths or fables that explain why something in nature is the way it is. The narratives of the early chapters of the Bible have some of these elements. Why do snakes crawl on their bellies, why are there thorns that make farming difficult, why is childbirth painful, why do people make clothes out of animal skin instead of leaves, why are there rainbows, why are there so many languages?

I think it is not the case that all snakes had legs until that one snake tempted Eve and got the whole species cursed, as some people believe. I think some early Christian art depicted the snake in the Garden with legs.


This is why I presume snakes show up in legends as having had legs and losing them.

Here is a list of reptiles of Israel. Many of these reptiles are also found throughout africa and asia. We find these same families throughout the world also. In my county we have three species of glass “ legless “ lizards .

So ancient Jewish people , and Greeks, would have been familiar with what we call snakes, glass lizards and skinks. In the same way we can see morphological similarities so could they.

It’s easy for them, and us, and anyone, to see the similarities between lizards and snakes. We noticed snakes look a lot like lizards without legs and we know many lizards almost have no legs like snakes. They may have even been familiar with things like the boa and their morphology. So at some point, someone came up with a story , and many did so independently, about why these “lizards” lost their legs. Similar to how many places have legends of things like giant spiders, Bigfoot and tree like monsters.

If I was placed on an alien planet and there was elephant looking creatures and there was also elephant looking creatures that had no eyes I would wonder why do these elephant like creatures have no eyes while the others do and I could potentially come up with a campfire style story about it.

So ancient Jewish people along wi the many people had these campfire stories about how these “lizards” lost their legs and became snakes. God then used that to filter his message through to them.

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Also my comment about boa morphology is this.

Ancient Jewish people would have been familiar with the Javelin Sand Boa of which juvenile males often have noticeable spurs ( vestigial structures that are the remnants of when their ancestors had legs ).

So it’s not supernatural insight , but regular old attention to detail and imagination that allowed ancient Jewish people to understand snakes probably had legs at some point.


And… a lot of people here go with the Christian tradition that the serpent was an angel, who is declared adversary of mankind in those “curses.” But if you do that then you cannot push a literal interpretation of Genesis 1-4. Because a literal interpretation has this being a kind nursery fable about why snakes have no legs as well as a great deal like Walt Disney’s “Robin Hood” with talking animals.


That one i have always wondered about

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It is the curse of having large heads. Which may suggest that Adam and Eve had small heads :wink:


It has been suggested that the pain is necessary to facilitate the birthing process

I doubt that. I’m not an expert but I guess that anaesthesia does not make the birthing process more difficult.

Whatever, but to suggest that weeds are a punishment is to not understand the basics of plant reproduction and the random spreading of seeds.


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Having had several gardens myself I have never understood why weeds would be considered a curse. They are if you neglect the garden but not if you tend it as you should. And if you want a second opinion, my grandfather, who was a subsistence farmer, never considered them a problem.

Actually… (this is me, about to woman-splain), epidurals often make the birthing process longer. The natural pain cycle and the hormones it releases facilitates some things. Interestingly (to me at least), cultures that squat to go to the bathroom and don’t use chairs have much shorter average labors that are reported to be less painful. So maybe the real curse is sitting all the time.


Because you have to work to either remove or prevent them. It may not be much trouble, but the bigger the crop and area the greater the trouble becomes. It would be so much easier if there were no pests or weeds… must be a curse!


Boy has this thread taken a detour… LOL

On the subject of giving birth I have two comments one practical and one theological…

Sometimes our social and “medical” interference makes things worse. There is not only the interference of doctors who could not be bothered to wash their hands, but the insistence that pregnant women lie down and rest too much has also made everything more difficult. Why oh why would you not want gravity to help in the birthing? Are we just stupid or insane? And lack of exercise saps our strength rather quickly. To be sure some moderation is well advised also.

As for the theology… it has long been my thought that God was protecting the parent-child relationship by making the process of giving birth something that we would take more seriously.

Absolutely! there are good studies on that. Thanks for adding that.
I like the information about squatting-thanks.

I wondered about pain in animals. James Herriott wrote about problems with animal birth–so I wondered. This is no scientific source, but I thought it was fairly interesting, and likely accurate
Animals giving birth: Dolphins bear newborns easily, but hyenas risk death. (slate.com)
Painful Births in the Animal Kingdom (businessinsider.com)

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So what is the purpose of women having to go through a menstrual cycle?

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Off topic, but the recent production we watched of “All Creatures Great and Small” on PBS was delightful. I think they are filming the third season this spring.

Trippy, I am sure there are many reasons it is what it is, but like many of our fellow creatures, it is necesssary that the uterus be prepared for accepting a fertilized egg , and if that does not occur, nature has to start over and prepare for another try.


Thank you for clarifying.

Great question! Here’s an article. It’s only a few animals that do. I don’t think we really understand it all yet.
So what is the purpose of women having to go through a menstrual cycle?

I love the books of James Herriot. I will have to watch the series sometime.


Pain in human childbirth began as soon as our ancestors started to walk on two legs and grow larger brains. Narrower hips and larger heads = dangerous and painful childbirth. That reaches back millions of years. For the most part, domesticated animals don’t experience the pain in childbirth that human women suffer. There are exceptions, but that’s the general rule, which farmers 3000 years ago would’ve been familiar with.

Take a look at the “curses” in Gen. 3. All of them explain “how we got to now” (in ANE terms), which is a feature of mythology. As Christy said early on,

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