3:1 Now1 the serpent2 was more shrewd3 than any of the wild animals4 that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Is it really true that5 God6 said, ‘You must not eat from any tree of the orchard’?”7
tn The chapter begins with a disjunctive clause (conjunction + subject + predicate) that introduces a new character and a new scene in the story.
sn Many theologians identify or associate the serpent with Satan. In this view Satan comes in the disguise of a serpent or speaks through a serpent. This explains the serpent’s capacity to speak. While later passages in the Bible may indicate there was a satanic presence behind the serpent (see, for example, Rev 12:9), the immediate context pictures the serpent as simply one of the animals of the field created by God (see vv. 1, 14). An ancient Jewish interpretation explains the reference to the serpent in a literal manner, attributing the capacity to speak to all the animals in the orchard. This text (Jub. 3:28) states, “On that day [the day the man and woman were expelled from the orchard] the mouth of all the beasts and cattle and birds and whatever walked or moved was stopped from speaking because all of them used to speak to one another with one speech and one language [presumed to be Hebrew, see 12:26].” Josephus, Ant. 1.1.4 (1.41) attributes the serpent’s actions to jealousy. He writes that “the serpent, living in the company of Adam and his wife, grew jealous of the blessings which he supposed were destined for them if they obeyed God’s behests, and, believing that disobedience would bring trouble on them, he maliciously persuaded the woman to taste of the tree of wisdom.”
tn The Hebrew word עָרוּם (’arum) basically means “clever.” This idea then polarizes into the nuances “cunning” (in a negative sense, see Job 5:12; 15:5), and “prudent” in a positive sense (Prov 12:16, 23; 13:16; 14:8, 15, 18; 22:3; 27:12). This same polarization of meaning can be detected in related words derived from the same root (see Exod 21:14; Josh 9:4; 1 Sam 23:22; Job 5:13; Ps 83:3). The negative nuance obviously applies in Gen 3, where the snake attempts to talk the woman into disobeying God by using half-truths and lies.
sn There is a wordplay in Hebrew between the words “naked” (עֲרוּמִּים, ’arummim) in 2:25 and “shrewd” (עָרוּם, ’arum) in 3:1. The point seems to be that the integrity of the man and the woman is the focus of the serpent’s craftiness. At the beginning they are naked and he is shrewd; afterward, they will be covered and he will be cursed.
tn Heb “animals of the field.”
tn Heb “Indeed that God said.” The beginning of the quotation is elliptical and therefore difficult to translate. One must supply a phrase like “is it true”: “Indeed, [is it true] that God said.”
sn God. The serpent does not use the expression “Yahweh God” [Lord God] because there is no covenant relationship involved between God and the serpent. He only speaks of “God.” In the process the serpent draws the woman into his manner of speech so that she too only speaks of “God.”
tn Heb “you must not eat from all the tree[s] of the orchard.” After the negated prohibitive verb, מִכֹּל (mikkol, “from all”) has the meaning “from any.” Note the construction in Lev 18:26, where the statement “you must not do from all these abominable things” means “you must not do any of these abominable things.” See Lev 22:25 and Deut 28:14 as well.