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Was Satan in the garden of Eden a literal snake?

Here’s what the passage says:

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ “ “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:1-5

Not once in Genesis 3, from the incident with Eve to the punishment from God, does the Bible say the serpent (also known as a snake) was Satan. It’s not until Revelation that the identity is revealed.

The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Revelation 12:9

He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. Revelation 20:2

Here he’s called “that ancient serpent,” that “snake” from long ago.  So was Satan literally a snake?  Some questions that need to be answered if this is to be taken literally:
  • Was this snake (or this particular breed of snake) really more crafty than any of the wild animals? Mongooses can kill a snake.  They seem pretty crafty.
  • Was this snake so smart that it talked?
  • Isn’t Satan “more crafty” than any other created being?
Literally this reads that this snake was more devious than any other creature, but we figuratively read it is Satan. This moment is always known as the moment Satan tempted Eve. But, Satan is never mentioned in Genesis 3. We read Satan into the passage. It never literally reads Satan.

If we read this literally, than Eve is being tempted by an intelligent, talking reptile. However, we read into this passage that it's Satan and Revelation sort of confirms our belief by calling him the “ancient serpent.”

Satan is not a literal snake.  He is figuratively or has characteristics similar to a snake (slippery, able to sneak away undetected, scary to many, crafty).

But the passage says "snake."  If it were literally a snake that Eve saw, then there are some questions to consider: 
  • Did the snake really talk? Snakes don’t have vocal chords.
  • Did Satan throw his voice?
  • Did Satan speak through the snake?
  • Did Satan turn into a snake?
The snake could not literally speak since it does not have vocal chords. If this were literally a snake, then Satan must have used some kind of a trick or illusion. Also, Satan does not have creative powers, so we could not “recreate” himself and morph into other beings. That’s mythology.

So it's possible Satan used a snake to deceive Eve, talking through it, possessing it or throwing his voice.

Also, if we read this passage literally, God literally took out his anger on the snake population.  Is that true?

So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” Genesis 3:14-15

More questions to ask:
  • Didn’t God make all of the animals good?   Did one snake go rogue?
  • Did God make a mistake with this snake so he had to remake it?
  • Why would God remove the legs of the snake (essentially a lizard) to teach it a lesson?
  • Why doesn’t God remove our legs when we sin?
Why was a snake, if it was an innocent accomplice infiltrated by Satan, cursed? All the snake did was become possessed or was used in the deception.  Snakes do not have freewill.  Animals don't deceive us away from God.

God pronounced this curse on the “snake.”

“Cursed are you above all livestock
    and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
    and you will eat dust
    all the days of your life.
And I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
    and you will strike his heel.”  Genesis 3:14-15
  • Did Jesus literally crush the head of Satan?
  • Did Satan literally strike Jesus’ heel?
  • Did God put a split between snakes and women or Satan and the offspring of women?
  • Does a snake literally eat dust?
Isn’t the mentioning of God crushing/striking its head a prophecy? Isn’t this a metaphor for what Christ will do to Satan?  Jesus didn’t literally crush Satan’s head.  He crushed his plan.  Also, snakes don’t literally eat dust.  That’s expression for a ground dwelling animal.

So much of this chapter is filled with imagery not to be taken literally. Where do you draw the line between literal and figurative? If we read it entirely literally, we run into problems of logic and reason. When reading Genesis 3 we have always applied figurative/metaphorical thinking and applied an unmentioned Satan to the story.

In conclusion, some possibilities that could have existed in this scenario:
  1. Satan knew, in his own form, that he would frighten Eve, so he used a snake to deceive her, throwing his voice like a ventriloquist does. Eve thought a snake was talking and thus responded more openly to it and was amazed by it. "Hey Adam, the weirdest thing.  A snake talked to me!"
  2. Satan, an angel of light, deceived Eve while revealing himself in his own form. Being like a “slippery, elusive snake” - a metaphorical term like Jesus used when describing the Pharisees as serpents in Matthew.
  3. Like he can do with humans, Satan possessed a snake and spoke through the snake like the demons did through people.
We do know this for sure:
  • Snakes are not bad and did not deceive mankind.  They do not have freewill.  
  • Satan caused man/woman to disobey God.
  • The relationship between man/woman and God was ruined by this disobedience.
  • A separation between God and man/woman occurred by this act.
  • God - throughout the rest of the Bible - took steps to reconcile this disobedience in man.