Why was the snake in the Garden of Eden cursed to crawl?


#1

I asked a Jewish friend how can they not believe in the devil when the creation story is filled with references to the serpent tempting Eve. He said the Jewish interpretation of Genesis maintains that the tempter was not the devil but was actually just a snake. If it was really Satan in the form of a snake, why did God condemn the snake and make the snake crawl on its belly? Since Satan does not now crawl on his belly the punishment was apparently meant for the snake which does today crawl on its belly.

I must admit i have never understood this snake crawling reference. Can you shed some light?


#2

First, let’s look at the curse:

The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all cattle, and above all wild animals; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel”
(Gen. 3:14-15).

Satan does not literally “crawl on his belly” because Satan is a fallen angel and angels are pure spirit (cf. CCC 328). They do not have bodies and therefore cannot “crawl” (or literally dance on the heads of pins for that matter). However, because the Genesis story records that Satan used a snake as the means through which he tempted Adam and Eve, God uses the metaphor of the snake’s natural habits to frame his curse of Satan. Just as a snake crawls on its belly, Satan is condemned to “slither” through this world, cut off from any natural satisfaction he might otherwise have enjoyed (he is to “eat dust”), and must await with trepidation his ultimate defeat by the offspring of the woman (who will “bruise his head”).


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