Objection: The sentence of the serpent is just a fable
Answer: Going on its belly and eating dust (Genesis 3:15) shows the complete humiliation of the serpent. In its fullest extent it is a symbol of death. The whole thing is scorned but it gives the source, explanation and judgment of what has characterised the human race, everywhere and at all time.
Man has worshipped the serpent, perhaps more than anything else, with the possible exception of the Sun in Greece and Rome. Ophiolatry, or serpent worship, is found in China, Egypt, Babylon, England (Stonehenge), Ireland, France, North and South America, Russia, Scandinavia, India and Africa. People kept serpents as household gods, wore ornaments as talismans, and tattooed images of the serpent and the sun on their skin. It is often portrayed erect, being fed with sweet cakes, with a naked woman as priestess in attendance. The Hivites who were driven out of Palestine by Joshua were serpent worshippers. Scripture presents that old serpent as the one who elevated himself as god of all the world. Yet the serpent is a venomous prostrate reptile. So when we see the whole world of these traditions of the serpent, of the worship of the serpent (erect), a sober mind must deduce the immense moral importance of this phenomenon, as exposing, the terrible and real secret of it all – the ruined condition of rebellious and disobedient man. Scripture has not invented these facts.
Also, the notion of gaining wisdom from serpents is universal. Satan seized upon the idea of God in men’s minds, and, where possible has connected man’s obscure traditions with himself. The sun is seen as the benefactor; the serpent the one giving intelligence, and both became associated with the idea of the unity of deity and the universe. Moreover, in Egypt above the serpent-worshipping temple of Isis there were the words ‘I am all that hath been, and is, and shall be; and my veil no mortal hath ever removed’. All wisdom was purported to be there.
Sometimes the worship of the sun drove out serpent worship, yet it was always remained connected with it. Apollo (the sun), established his worship at Delphi by slaying Typhon, an immense serpent, who was also said to have been cast down from heaven by Jupiter. He then gave oracles in his place, Delphi. Scandinavian mythology is similar, the great serpent being Loke. Hercules, Thor and Krishna kill serpents. (or dragons).
It would appear that idolatry came in after the flood. There is a vague tradition of a reign of bliss under Saturn, his three sons, Jupiter, Neptune, and Pluto, becoming the supreme gods of heaven, earth, and sea. In some way these correspond to Shem, Ham and Japeth. They carried a statue about in a kind of ship. Indeed they used the same word for ‘temple’ and ‘ship’.
There is the pain of childbirth, a pain borne by the woman, the man being exempt. But faith can lay hold of the real meaning of the statement that the woman’s seed will crush the head of the serpent.
Summary by Sosthenes of J.N. Darby’s original article. For the source please click here.