Forgotten: Giving Voice to the Genesis Serpent

I have always been fascinated by the recurrence of Serpents in Ancient Near Eastern literature (this is the literature that matches the Bible in both geography and time). I have also found myself frustrated with views that place the Serpent in Genesis 3 as Satan (something that was not a concept at the writing of Genesis) as well has being frustrated with those who say that the Serpent is nothing more than an animal.  For Serpents were seen as cunning agents of wisdom – something that comes to light when one reads ancient literature. Therefore, I decided to give the Serpent that is displayed in Ancient literature (including Genesis) a voice.

The following story is told from the Serpent’s perspective.  And this Serpent combines three famous Serpents into one character.  These serpents come from Genesis, The Epic of Gilgamesh, and Atrahasis. Some readers may have a problem in the way I approach the subject becaue I do not start the story at Genesis. To this, I will answer that I approach the subject as the scribe going throughout the major written works and putting them in written order.  My intent it to give modern readers an ancient understanding of what snakes were and how that image influenced the philosophy of the Serpent. So without further ado, I would like to introduce you to: The Serpent.

——————

I’m disappointed in you. I’m sad that I need an introduction to be recognized. Is it true that you don’t know who I am? After all, I am very familiar with you.

Oh how far you’ve fallen!

Allow me to tell you my proliferate history: I once knew all the ancient gods, I knew their names and I knew when they were born. I knew what gods loved what goddesses, and who lusted after whom. But most importantly, I knew who wanted to kill who. And . . . if it was in my best interest – I may have been known to assist in those deaths. (Always behind closed doors of course.) And yet . . . you still don’t recognize me. You and I share an intimate history, yet . . . you don’t remember me at all? Am I not worth remembrance?

I go by many names. I have been called Cunning. I have been called Wise. But you – you pitiful creatures – call me Serpent, reducing me to nothing more than a dumb beast that wanders the land! To be nothing more than one line in your holy book!

Oh how far I’ve fallen!

My beginning starts long before your book of Genesis was written. The ancient goddess Tiamat made me who I am – back at the beginnings of the world, she and her husband had many children. And like families do, they feuded. Her divine children just wanted her power I guess,  so they decided to kill her. Well, Tiamat wasn’t willing to die for them, so in preparation for the coming war with her offspring she turned herself into me. Well, not me specifically. But us. My kind: snakes, lizards, and reptiles.

And when she committed this beautiful act she forever changed me. Instead of teeth, I developed fangs. And the warm blood that once ran within my body became poisonous venom. And with this goddess’ blessing, I became deified.

Well, Tiamat’s children won the battle. They killed her. But it’s no skin off my shed becasue I got what I wanted. I got life . . . And she got death. No longer a mere beast, I became something more. Something . . . powerful. For her memory, her very essence existed within me.

And that was just the beginning, because theses new gods (her children) and I, we had an understanding. If they did not step on me, I would not slither on them because we both feared each other. I feared their unending life while they feared my power. For when they looked at me they saw me for what I was: a remnant of the old way. A remnant of ancient power. A remnant of their mother-goddess.  And so we co-existed.

And as the generations passed I gained more and more wisdom and I learned a very important truth: gods come and go. However, I remain. Cities fall, new kings rule, a new god’s name is brought into power – always temporarily of course. Names pass out of memory, but I never do becasue I am always around. And I constantly remind you humans of this fact.

I camouflage myself in your thatched roofs and terrorize your children. I sit coiled under bushes and strike your husbands. And if I strike true . . . they don’t come home. Large beasts compare very little to the threat I bring; you can hear them roar, so your numbers and your spears protect you from their bite. But me? If you are lucky you might hear me rattle.

I bring down kings. Not even the gods can do that.

Your fear of me was my absolute favorite thing. I relished it. Perhaps you recall my victory over King Gilgamesh? No? Well, he was some sort of hero among you people: an adventurer, a ruler. Well, he decided that he wanted to live forever, he wanted what the gods had. Well, his long life wasn’t going to work for me – only I get to be the powerful one. So I plotted and plotted over how to steer him away from this life. Gilgamesh found a magical herb that would allow him to live forever. So… I tricked him. I took the herb out from under his nose . . . and I ate it instead.

So now I shed . . . and shed . . . and I shed, but I never got any older. I just kept living. And in this long life, I became wiser and more powerful. I am the one who gets to live forever. I am the one who gets to rule the land. I am the one who brought down Gilgamesh. I am the one who brought down the gods. I am old. I am wise. I am cunning. I see all. I know and. And I hear all.

And one day, I heard something new. It was a whisper: a whisper of a new god. And even though this god did not rule a major city, I take whispers very seriously. Those who are loud are brought down by their own doing, but whispers . . . whispers possess true power. Therefore, this new god intrigued me becasue, unlike the others, I did not know him. I did not know his parents, nor did I find out who sired him. I couldn’t even find the people who worshiped him. But most interesting was that I could not find out his name, which really irked me because I make it my business to know names . . .

Yet despite all this, this funny little god had this idea to celebrate you. He wanted to give you humans life which I will never understand because you’re weak. I can swallow you whole, I kill you for sport. Yet he wanted to enlist you?

Well, I’m a kind, generous creature. Maybe this god was new to town. Maybe he didn’t know who I was.  So I gave him the benefit of the doubt. I tracked down those miserable, sad, creatures that he wanted to claim for his own and I heard this new god tell a man named Adam that everything was his, except for the knowledge of good and evil.

This was just too perfect! This god didn’t want his people to have what I possessed! He didn’t want them to be cunning! He didn’t want them to be wise! Well, if this god had such an aversion to me, then I really didn’t want this god around. I have an understanding with the gods, remember? If they don’t step on me, I won’t slither on them.

So I plotted once again. Just like I brought down Gilgamesh, it was time to bring down this Adam and this Eve. These humans who only think they were made in the image of God. Haven’t they heard? I am the remnant. I was deified. Only I was made in the image of the gods.

But it was so easy! It took no planning. All I had to do was call out to this young couple. All I had to was reveal myself. I did not bite, nor did I slither. I just sat in my tree and waited for them to see me. After all, this couple was not completely stupid. Everyone knows that you should listen to the wisdom of a serpent.  So I told the girl, “Sister, did God really say you, Eve, cannot partake in knowledge? Because I swear I only heard him say you, Adam, should not.” And I had both of them in that moment. After all, I wasn’t wrong. And once one human has something, all you humans want it. And so I watched gleefully as the man also partook in knowledge after the girl.

And I laughed . . . and I laughed . . . and I laughed.

I heard this God coming, looking for the perpetrators. And I looked forward to meeting Him so He would recognize me for what I was – the image of the gods. I was the one who deserved the life He so flippantly was giving away. But what happened when I finally met Him, I never saw coming.

He cursed me. He cursed ME!

I, the queen of the world, was brought down by a mere god. How was I to know this was possible? When has that ever happened in all the histories of all the worlds? Where? Show me the book! Show me!

I, the cunning, wise, serpent of old, image of the first goddess herself, was brought low by a god who has no linage! A god who has nothing but two humans who worship him, and no name to give himself! Ruined! My long, clever life was stopped. I was demoted, humiliated! I was brought back to the status of a beast!

And as I felt my fangs retract and my cold venom turn to back to blood I felt a slight glimmer of achievement. For my slimy, slippery, conniving self had  passed on. I no longer had to bear the fallen creature that I was. I no longer had to live with what I have become.

But you do.

You bear that slime every day. You slither in it. How does it feel, human? How does it feel to be me? Does slithering suit you?

Now, every time you look in the mirror you will see two things: you will see the image of God warped and wizened by the image of me. So how is it that you still don’t recognize me? We share an intimate history, you and I – both of us had Life in our grasp yet both of us lost it to this nameless God.

We are, the both of us, forgotten . . . Or so I thought.

How is it, that you – you fallen, pitiful, weak, creatures managed to manipulate the most powerful Being in all the worlds? How did you manage to convince Him to take your form and walk on earth? How did you manage to appease Him so much that He would die for you in order to give you the Life that you threw away so flippantly? How is it that you no longer slither! How! TELL ME, FOR IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE MINE!

. . . I hate this god with no lineage. I hate that He picked you when I was in existence the whole time. But mostly, I hate his name: Jesus; it makes me uncomfortable. Jesus: it makes me…slither.

 

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