“You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for I had ordained you. You were on the holy mountain of God; you walked among the fiery stones. From the day you were created you were blameless in your ways until wickedness was found in you.”[Ezekiel 28:14-15 – BSB]
So far in this series, I have investigated the Biblical descriptions of the Hebrew terms, Elohim, and bene Elohim. From the very beginning pages of God’s story, we are introduced to the Most High God and Creator of the universe, and also to the spiritual sons of God, aka the host of heaven.
The LORD God finished His perfect work of creation in 6 days, and as the LORD rested from His work, He made an emphatic declaration.
“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.”
“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.”[Genesis 1:31-2:1-2]
God’s initial creation was “very good” – without flaw or blemish. Awesome in power. Perfect in beauty. Everything in all creation – both visible and invisible – was declared very good. Based on God’s own appraisal of the original creation, it is safe to say that no corruption, no evil, no transgression, no iniquity had been found in the heavens or on the earth.
God placed man in the garden of Eden, that holy mountain where heaven intersected with earth and where man freely communed with His God. Adam was found walking in fellowship with the LORD during the cool of the day. Eve was crafted by God from Adam and for Adam to compliment and come alongside him in his work. All was well in the world, with God, with man, and with the heavenly host.
And then like a sudden flash of light, a new character abruptly emerges onto the scene. He initially is identified as the serpent – which in Hebrew is nachash. As we continue to read God’s story, however, we come to know him by many different names. By the end of the Bible, the Apostle John confirms the identity of God’s arch enemy and primary adversary.
“And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world.”[Revelation 12:9]
More than a Talking Snake
Moses, the human author of Genesis, casually inserts the serpent into the story like business as usual. There are at least two ways to look at this. First, Moses was giving a bizarre zoology lesson about a talking snake in the garden of God. After all, Moses later tells us about Balaam’s talking donkey (Numbers 22:30), so maybe he wants us to picture a slithering snake getting cozy with Eve, hissing lies in her ear. Considering that most people are repulsed by snakes, it is hard to imagine this serpent had any resemblance to a cold-blooded reptile.
On the other hand, Moses was trying to convey an entirely different image to his original audience by using the Hebrew term, nachash. Perhaps Moses actually was attempting to describe a supernatural being who is stunningly brilliant, breathtakingly beautiful, and infinitely wise.
After all, if Eden was originally the paradise of God and holy mountain of assembly, it is entirely likely that Adam and Eve regularly saw and interacted with divine beings like the sons of God. Maybe it wasn’t out of the ordinary for Eve to suddenly find herself talking the nachash, and at the same time being enthralled by him.
My point is that the serpent was more than a slithering, hissing, talking snake. He was a morning star, a bearer of light, a divine being who undoubtedly captivated the woman at first sight.
Nachash – the Shining One
One of the translations for the Hebrew word nachash can be rendered as bronze, brass, or copper. Obviously these reflective metals provoke imagery of brightness and luminescence. This should come as no surprise when we consider one of the most commonly used names for the serpent is Lucifer, which is the Latin equivalent for the Hebrew, helel. Lucifer literally means shining one or day star.
When Eve encountered the serpent in the garden, he was shining brighter than a star in the night sky. Lucifer was created the most beautiful of God’s heavenly beings. He was set apart among the sons of God. He was stunningly beautiful in appearance. Consider some of the passages that describe the nachash as the shining one, the morning star.
“How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star (Lucifer), son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low!”[Isaiah 14:12]
“You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God every precious stone was your covering, sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle; and crafted in gold were your settings and your engravings. On the day that you were created they were prepared.”[Ezekiel 28:12-13]
And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”[Luke 10:18]
“And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.”[2 Corinthians 11:14]
Nachash – the Cherub Throne Guardian
The LORD had initially created Lucifer to serve as one of His primary throne guardians in the highest heaven. The third heaven is the place where God, who is beyond time and space, meets with his heavenly host. God’s throne room is there, and because God’s glory cannot be contained, the LORD assigned throne guardians, cherubim and seraphim, to hover around His throne to protect and set boundaries around this holy space. The Hebrew word seraphim literally means fiery serpent, which is a fitting description for the shining one.
But according both to Isaiah and Ezekiel, Lucifer, this son of the dawn, was unmatched and exceptional in power, beauty, and wisdom among the other divine beings God had made. He was distinct among seraphim and cherubim.
“You were an anointed guardian cherub. I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked. You were blameless in your way from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you. In the abundance of your trade you were filled with violence in your midst, and you sinned; so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, and I destroyed you, O guardian cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I exposed you before kings, to feast their eyes on you.”[Ezekiel 28:14-17 ESV]
Isaiah shares a similar description of the nachash.
“You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’”[Isaiah 14:13-14]
Nachash – the Father of Lies
Interestingly, the Hebrew word, nachash, can also be used in verb form, when referring to the practice divination. Divination is an abomination in the sight of the LORD God because it is man’s attempt of using occult rituals and practices to acquire secret knowledge. Divination is the practice of elevating and worshiping the demonic pagan gods of the nations above the One True God.
“When you come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens [nachash], or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD. And because of these abominations the LORD your God is driving them out before you. You shall be blameless before the LORD your God, for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune-tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the LORD your God has not allowed you to do this.[Deuteronomy 18:9-14]
Moses describes the serpent as more cunning or crafty than the beasts of the field. He possessed divine knowledge and wisdom that only a supernatural being could. He wasn’t like the animals. He was a heavenly being offering Eve secret knowledge, promising to make her like a god – like an Elohim!
The seduction for Eve was to become like an Elohim, and she believed the serpent’s lie that something was lacking – that in some way she was incomplete and that God was keeping a secret from her. Had she only believed that she was already immortal – an image bearer of God, created to live forever.
And in one impulsive reach to become like God, Adam and Eve were reduced to mere mortals, cursed by their sin and destined to die.
This is why it is so fitting that the serpent is called the father of lies. Jesus says that when the devil lies, he speaks his native language, and his lies are always used to destroy, as he also has been a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44).
The serpent is the master of deception, and he has been deceiving the nations ever since with his destructive lies from the beginning. Satan offers forbidden knowledge of the gods through occult magic and dark arts of divination, sorcery and witchcraft. Only the God of the Bible speaks truth and only God’s word is truth.
Nachash – the Fallen One
Finally, we must understand the serpent as the ultimate rebel. He is the antithesis of God, violently opposed to all that is good in the universe. His beauty and power provoked pride in his heart, and his pride produced a desire to be on equal footing with His Creator. Satan’s sin was a severe violation of the created order and a direct slap in the face of God. Instead of hovering around the throne of GOD and reflecting His glory, this proud seraph desired his own spot in the lime light. He desired to praised and glorified along with the Most High. And as a result, “iniquity was found in him” [Ezekiel 28:15].
The LORD God cast out Lucifer from the highest heaven and limited him to operate in the second and first heaven, bound by space and time. The rebel made his choice and he will not stop his mission of deception and destruction until he finally is cast into the lake of fire.
“I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit.”[Isaiah 14:14-15]
“In the abundance of your trade
you were filled with violence in your midst, and you sinned;
so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God,
and I destroyed you, O guardian cherub,
from the midst of the stones of fire.
Your heart was proud because of your beauty;
you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor.
I cast you to the ground;
I exposed you before kings,
to feast their eyes on you.
By the multitude of your iniquities,
in the unrighteousness of your trade
you profaned your sanctuaries;
so I brought fire out from your midst;
it consumed you,
and I turned you to ashes on the earth
in the sight of all who saw you.
All who know you among the peoples
are appalled at you;
you have come to a dreadful end
and shall be no more forever.”[Ezekiel 28:16-19]