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An individual named the Adversary appears in Job 1:6-12 (NJPS):

One day the divine beings presented themselves before the Lord, and the Adversary came along with them. The Lord said to the Adversary, “Where have you been?” The Adversary answered the Lord, “I have been roaming all over the earth.” The Lord said to the Adversary, “Have you noticed My servant Job? There is no one like him on earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and shuns evil!” The Adversary answered the Lord, “Does Job not have good reason to fear God? Why, it is You who have fenced him round, him and his household and all that he has. You have blessed his efforts so that his possessions spread out in the land. But lay Your hand upon all that he has and he will surely blaspheme You to Your face.” The Lord replied to the Adversary, “See, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on him.” The Adversary departed from the presence of the Lord.

It's hard not to draw a straight line to the serpent in Genesis 3:1-4 (NJPS):

Now the serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild beasts that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say: You shall not eat of any tree of the garden?” The woman replied to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the other trees of the garden. It is only about fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said: ‘You shall not eat of it or touch it, lest you die.’” And the serpent said to the woman, “You are not going to die, 5but God knows that as soon as you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like divine beings who know good and bad.”

But while they both seem to be intent on interfering with God's design, there are many differences between the two beings:

  1. The serpent is a beast created by God yet the Adversary seems to be a divine being.

  2. The serpent speaks to Eve alone yet the Adversary speaks directly with God.

  3. God curses the serpent yet no mention is made of consequences for the Adversary.

So should these two characters be identified with each other or are they different beings altogether.

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The variations of interpretations on this subject seem directly related to the doctrine through which it is interpreted. –  Richard Nov 6 '11 at 20:49
    
I plan to self-answer sometime next week since I think I arrived at a solution based on my answer to a related question. –  Jon Ericson Jan 28 '12 at 1:50
    
This feels like a doctrine-based question; it only arises because Christians say the snake in the garden is the same as Job's adversary, but there's no textual connection between the two. It's an interesting question, but now feels like it's off-topic here (and not a good example of what we want people to emulate). Reluctantly voting to close. –  Gone Quiet Jan 21 at 19:09

4 Answers 4

up vote 15 down vote accepted

The text does not use the same word to describe both of them, so in a sense the "burden of proof" is on the argument for association, not the argument for difference, no?

The serpent is described as an Earthly creature (with consequences for others of its kind, as noted by @Richard), so "heavenly being disguised as (or possessing) an earthly being" seems hard to support from the text. The serpent speaks to the humans but does not address God until spoken to.

The adversary in Job (ha-satan) is a heavenly being who interacts with God. (Jewish tradition understands this role as "prosecuting attorney".) The text suggests that he acts as an agent of God or at least with God's permission.

So a plain reading of the text seems to suggest that the serpent is a clever trouble-maker acting on his own, while Job's adversary is acting with divine involvement. These seem pretty different, so to tie them together using (what I understand of) hermeneutical principles we would need a textual similarity that seems to be lacking here.


Please note: This answer was written for a neutral, academic audience and is not intended to be interpreted in the context of a religious belief or doctrine.

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On a purely textual level, I agree. So, +1. However, here's one common thread: They opposed God. One (the serpent) opposed God back when all the humans were innocent. The other (the adversary) opposed God in heaven, where (presumably) there are no others opposed to God. There's a pretty common thread linking them. –  Richard Nov 4 '11 at 17:05
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So Satan is God's devil's advocate? ;-) –  Jon Ericson Nov 4 '11 at 17:28
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@Richard, does that mean we have to look at all instances of biblical entities opposing God (or at least opposing through speech, the common thread here so far)? For example, Avraham when arguing over wiping out Sodom? –  Gone Quiet Nov 4 '11 at 18:30
    
God is above all, we can all agree. Beyond that, there are two choices. (1) The multitude of entities that oppose God (Satan, fallen angels, and errant humans) are on equal terms and oppose God equally. (2) Satan is the primary, top-most entity that opposes God and all others that oppose God are doing the will of Satan. Because of John 8:44, I believe the latter. Believing the latter shows that all who oppose God are of Satan. Through this lens, we can see that the serpent and adversary are the same. –  Richard Nov 4 '11 at 19:09
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@Richard, or (3): many oppose, challenge, or question God, but they aren't necessarily (a) the same, (b) on the same level, or (c) related. –  Gone Quiet Nov 4 '11 at 21:23

Yes, the adversary and the serpent are generally accepted by Christians to be the same being.

The differences that you noted can be reconciled fairly easily, depending on the doctrinal stance from which you're viewing these books.

  • From one stance, the Garden of Eden can be viewed as a metaphor and "the serpent" would not be an actual physical being. From this stance, the serpent would simply be a metaphor referring to the adversary. Similarly, Adam and Eve wouldn't be real people, but merely a metaphor for the ancestors of our unrecorded past.

  • From another perspective, the Garden of Eden actually took place, but the characters weren't so much physical beings as they were spiritual. From this standpoint, both Adam and Eve (who were immortal at this point) along with the serpent were all spiritual, divine beings. Therefore, the accounts that took place in the Garden of Eden were among spiritual/divine beings and calling the adversary "a serpent" was simply a way to portray him. This concept is supported by the fact that God walked among Adam and Eve and talked with them normally.

  • From another stance, it could be assumed that the serpent was simply an earthly form taken by the adversary. This is pretty straight forward, except that the idea that all serpents from that point would no longer have legs is kind of strange taken in this context.

  • Finally--a much more literal interpretation--it's possible that the Adversary possessed a serpent--that the serpent was real and the adversary took control of the physical body of the serpent. In this sense, God would be punishing all serpents for something that they did not have control over.

There are probably more interpretations of the Garden of Eden. But ultimately, it depends on your interpretation of the events in the Garden of Eden.

However, it's generally accepted by Christians that the serpent and the adversary are one and the same.

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From a Christian perspective, your 3rd and 4th options make sense as a sort of "anti-Incarnation." And of course, we are cursed as men and women because of the sins of Adam and Eve--things we have no control over. –  Jon Ericson Nov 4 '11 at 15:56
    
I'm not claiming that any of these perspectives are from any given doctrine (Christian, Jewish, Luciferian Christianity, etc.). I'm just giving a few examples of how some ideas might reconcile these concepts, rather than trying to address the doctrine behind the concepts. Ultimately, the correct answer to this question would be more of a doctrinal answer than an exegetical answer. I'm just completely sidestepping that by throwing a few theoretical doctrines out there. –  Richard Nov 4 '11 at 16:02
    
My comment was putting two of your exegetical suggestions in a particular doctrinal context. (My own. ;-) I notice you didn't argue for the connection, but argued that the objections are not deadly to the connection. I think that's fair, but it's not the whole story. (And perhaps the texts don't address my question at all. That seems likely if the authors of Job and Genesis didn't know the other text.) –  Jon Ericson Nov 4 '11 at 16:11
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Milton's Paradise Lost, describes the fourth option in some depth. –  Amichai Nov 4 '11 at 17:50
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Generally accepted by whom? That assertion (made at the beginning of your answer and again at the end) could use some clarification; could you edit some in? Thanks. –  Gone Quiet Dec 19 '13 at 1:58

should these two characters be identified with each other or are they different beings altogether

Would be like asking

What is the relationship between the rate of traffic light over-runs in Maine and the homicide rate in NYC

Traffic light over-runs and homicide are both infractions on society so I just can't resist drawing a straight line between them.

Let me propose the hypotheses

Satan

  1. Satan is a position, not a person.

  2. Those who hold the position are loyal and faithful agents of the Most High.

  3. The Satan is an exacting job - to ensure all laws in the Universe are carried out exactly without deviation, without mercy. The Satan is the Quality Control Manager of the Creation. The Satan's role is to sit in counsel of Gevurah which complements the counsel of Chesed on the Sephirot.

  4. The Satan means the Adversary, or the Barrier. Like the Verizon advertisement: Raise the bar. The Barrier has to raise the bar on the collective performance of the human race.

  5. Therefore, the position of Satan is of such severity that normal humans would not even like or dare getting associated with it/him/her. The person holding it can be a very brutal policeman. So brutally and mercilessly playing by the book that at times intervention had been necessary.

The serpent

In my view, the introduction of sin was not only a necessity, but it would be a great disappointment and failure to our Creator if Adam and Hawah had not sinned.

The Hebrew word for sin (חטא) in that Genesis passage (and through out the Bible) would mean, as many Jews with at least a cursory understanding of their religion know, missing the target. Missing the target means deviation. Deviation has a statistical implication. Deviation means outliers. Outliers mean mutation. Mutation means diversity.

Death is an achievement, not a disadvantage. Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it will not grow to bear fruit.

Without deviation, without sin, there would be no death. Without death there would be no diversity. Without diversity, there would be no perfection of the Sabbath Bride at the end of days.

So that when the Creator took a rest from active role of creation, there had to be a scheme/framework for Creation to continue the creation process spontaneously and autonomously. And Evolutionarily. And that is the purpose of Deviation, imso (in my statistical opinion), where the only interface to implement, the only contract to fulfill and the only path to salvation for Creation is the Sabbath.

Conclusion

The above hypotheses by themselves would have no bearings to being an answer to the question. That the above are corollaries and hypotheses derived from Jewish literature and scriptures as well as some creative thinking. Very creative thinking!!

With the above corollaries, would I be able to draw a straight line or a squiggly faint dotted line to the serpent in Genesis?

The point is, how and whence you draw your corollaries. If you had drawn your corollaries from the so-called new testaments, then of course, you would draw thick straight line. But, if you had drawn corollaries like mine, you might be tempted to propose that the serpent might just be a K9 unit of the Satan.

The serpent is statistically divergent - i.e., its intent is to cause divergence and hence triggers proliferation of life.

The Satan is statistically convergent - i.e,, its intent is to cause statistical convergence and hence reduction of life.

Statistically and mathematically speaking, what is the equation of a straight line between divergence and convergence? If such a statement even has any mathematical logic.

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Nicely done! And I may never be able to look at our quality-control manager the same way again. :-) –  Gone Quiet Aug 12 '12 at 12:48

It's actually quite difficult, sticking to just the Hebrew Scriptures, to link the two persons. The New Testament contains far more references to Satan - and, of course, Revelation 20:2 pretty explicitly links the two - but in the Hebrew Bible there are only three instances of the Satan/Adversary: Job 1-2; Zechariah 3:-12 and 1 Chronicles 21:1. Even at that, there is dispute whether the Adversary in 1 Chronicles 21 is the same as in the other two.

Supposing we limit ourselves to Job and Zechariah, though, I think the three differences you mention can be somewhat reconciled:

1) The term "sons of God" in Job (though technically not used of the Adversary, as it just says he was with them) doesn't necessarily denote an eternal being. If you compare Job 38:7 and Psalm 148:1-5, it's not hard to see that even these heavenly beings were created. Moreover, this article argues persuasively (even in it's analysis of Job) that the Adversary is subject to God, which suggests he is not simply another divine being on par with God.

2) Simply because we do not see the serpent converse with God in the Genesis narrative, it does not follow that he did not do so. It is simply an argument from silence. The Adversary seems to have two functions in Job: he seeks to discredit Job to God and he seeks to discredit God to Job. He seeks to discredit God to Job by striking Job (cf. Job 2:5). This is similar to the serpent's function in Genesis - he seeks to discredit God to Eve by suggesting that God is not as good as He seems.

3) Again, the lack of consequences to the Adversary mentioned in Job is only an argument from silence and does not establish that there are none. However, in Zechariah 3:1-2 we do see that the Adversary is rebuked by God for his accusations against man.

All that said, this is only to argue that they may be linked, not that they must be linked.

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From a theoretical standpoint, I agree with this. So, +1. However, looking at all this through my doctrine, I believe that they are one and the same. Otherwise, we would have to accept that there are multiple agents actively working against God. From a doctrinal stance, I believe that it's a dichotomy--God vs Satan. And while Satan has agents of his own, it's his initiative, control, and authority that these things are being done. These two instances specifically are Satan himself, in different forms. –  Richard Nov 4 '11 at 17:13
    
@Richard Just curious: would you also link the deceiving spirit in 2 Chronicles 18:18-22? (I do agree with you that they are one person, by the way.) –  Soldarnal Nov 4 '11 at 17:26
    
And I'm curious about the parallel story in 2 Samuel 24, which says God " incited David" rather than Satan. (But that's a whole separate question.) –  Jon Ericson Nov 4 '11 at 17:35
    
@Soldarnal Tough call. I haven't really researched the idea of God deceiving before. However, I did find an excellent blog post about God deceiving. Also, here are verses that seem to indicate that God does deceive on occasion. –  Richard Nov 4 '11 at 17:41

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