Genesis 3:14–15

This account is a fiat, not an experience to learn from. The distinction of privileged human over the rest of creation is clear in a comparison between this declaration and the subsequent ones directed toward ’ishah and ’ish. This command reveals what is behind the traditional translation of “having dominion”. It is non-relational.

What “serpent” means here remains unclear. What is clear is that any connection between a serpent and a retrojected understanding of a satan is a false equivalency.

Humans and animals, alike, need a cunning compatriot able to goad or trick. Without a coyote-like character, there is no continuation of a story that begins before us and includes us.

Initially, it is unclear whether an evolutionary forebear of today’s serpents once walked as well as talked, before parseltongue, a universal language. DNA evidence suggests a physical transformation different than other reptilian skitterings.

Culturally, it is unclear  if this serpent is a remainder from Canaanite myths of a primordial sea-serpent whose cunning may be nothing more than its connection with the roiling water pre-Day One and all the possibility that lies beyond the boundaries of a children’s book of literal creatures (unless naming shape-shifted their first form).

It is unlikely this story is simply a folktale account of why snakes crawl. To go just a little deeper, we are invited to look again at the dual categories of good and not-good. One recurrent reality is the cunning ways we have manipulated both good and not-good to advantage particular persons and programs.

Politics at every level from personal to familial to clan and tribe to city- and nation-state slightly shift the conversation until “War is Peace,” “Freedom is Slavery,” and “Ignorance is Strength” and an opponent is a repeatedly sequential treasured friend and implacable enemy. One little word separated Easter and Western Christianities and became a Shibboleth projected into every aspect of everyday life—damning all differences.

A variance does not need a good/not-good differential applied to it such as the same verb here used to distinguish a mere “hiss” (a cunning echo of a big-bang’s background radiation) from an involuntary reaction to “trample” the hisser. This one verb traps us into enmity that also separates us from all the good still available beyond a Day One boundary of light/good and dark/not-good beyond a physical sun, moon, and stars.

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