Concerning the Fall (Genesis 3), why would it be the serpent’s fault that Satan entered into it? (The serpent was cursed.) What does the Bible mean when it says that “the serpent was more cunning”?
The Bible doesn’t detail how the serpent and Satan dovetail in the account of the fall of man into sin. It appears that God wanted us to focus on what was said instead and on the downward progression of temptation and sin. Some believe that the serpent (animal) was simply Satan or a pictorial and symbolical reference to Satan. (The Bible refers to Satan as an old serpent; see Revelation 12:9; 20:2.) Therefore the curse would be on him, not on a snake.
In this view Satan understandably was more cunning than all other creation (Genesis 3:1), Satan was cursed as inferior even to animals, he would go on his belly (a symbol of abomination), and he would eat dust (speaks of his fall through pride and further consignment to eternal humiliation). Then verse 15 picks up the scenario between Satan and the woman.
Others believe that a literal snake had to be involved somehow. In that base, Satan was able to enter the serpent, an animal chosen as intelligent (“crafty”) like he, or was able to use it in some way to deceive. Keep in mind that Satan’s demons can possess animals, as we see in the demon-possessed swine of Mark 5. According to this view, God would have cursed the reptile, possibly only in that He assigned it to a lower position among animals as a perpetual reminder of the Fall. God as Creator can do as He wishes with His creation. Many holding to this view believe that the serpent before the Fall was completely different in appearance—perhaps erect or having bones or having the ability to entwine itself around trees. But now it crawls. And they point out that to this day most people abhor snakes.
Keep in mind that all animals and all other living things suffered from the Fall, not just snakes. (See Jeremiah 12:4; Romans 8:20‒22; and Isaiah 65:24 and 25.) Even this second view holds that Satan is mostly the one cursed by the Fall (Genesis 3:15; Romans 16:20; Revelation 20:10).
Do you have feedback or a Bible question to submit? Send to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to Norman A. Olson in care of the Baptist Bulletin, 1300 N. Meacham Rd., Schaumburg, IL 60173-4806.