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management, one of a different species. When the egg is crushed the young viper is disengaged, and leaps out prepared for mischief. It may be objected, that the viper is not an oriparous, but a viviparous animal ; and that, consequently, the prophet must refer to some other creature. But it is to be remembered, that although the viper brings forth its young alive, they are hatched from eggs perfectly formed in the belly of the mother. Hence, Piiny says of it, “The viper alone of all terrestrial animals, produces within itself an egg of an uniform colour, and soft like the eggs or roe of fishes.” This curious natural fact reconciles the statement of the sacred writer with the truth of natural history. If by any means the egg of the viper be separated from the body, the phenomenon which the prophet mentions may certainly take place.
In Genesis xlix. 17, the dying patriarch compares the Danites to the shephiphon, probably the cerastes, a serpent of the viper kind, of a light brown colour, which lurks in the sand, and in the tracks of wheels in the road, and unexpectedly bites the legs of animals as they pass along.
To the depraved hearts and malignant dispositions of the Scribes and Pharisees, both our Saviour and John the Baptist allude, in these words: “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come ?” (Matthew iii. 7); “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell ?” (ch. xxiii. 33)— Terribly expressive speeches ! A serpentine brood, from a serpentine stock.
As their fathers were, so were they, children of the wicked one. This is God's estimate of a sinner, whether he wade in wealth or soar in fame. The Jews were the seed of the ser
pent, who should bruise the heel of the woman's seed, and whose head should be bruised by him. (Dr. A. Clarke).
To tread upon the ASP is attended with extreme danger; and to express, in the strongest manner, the safety which the godly man enjoys under the protection of his heavenly Father, it is promised that he shall tread with impunity upon the adder and the dragon (Psalm xci. 13). No person of his own accord approaches the hole of these deadly reptiles; for he who gives them the smallest disturbance is in extreme danger of paying the forfeit of his rashness with his life. Hence, the prophet Isaiah, predicting the conversion of the Gentiles to the faith of Christ, and the glorious reign of peace and truth in those regions, which, prior to that period, were full of horrid cruelty, declares, “The sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the
(Isaiah xi. 6 – 9). The cow and the shebear shall not only feed together, but they shall lodge their young ones, for whom they used to be most fearful, in the same place. All the serpent kind shall be so perfectly harmless, that the sucking infant, or the newly weaned child, shall put his hand on the basilisk’s den, and play upon the hole of the asp. The lion shall not only abstain from preying on the weaker animals, but also become tame and domestic, and feed on straw like the ox. These are all beautiful circumstances, not one of which, as Lowth observes, has been touched by the ancient poets.
The incantation of serpents is one of the most curious and interesting facts in natural history. This wonderful art, which soothes the wrath and disarms the fury of the deadliest snake, and renders it obedient to the charmer's voice, is not an invention of modern times, for we discover manifest traces of it in the remotest antiquity. It is asserted, that Orpheus, who probably flourished soon after letters were introduced into Greece, knew how to still the hissing of the approaching snake, and to extinguish the poison of the creeping serpent. Pliny says that serpents were drawn from their lurking places by the power of music, and this wonderful effect which music produces on the serpent tribes, is confirmed by the testimony of several respectable moderns. Adders swell at the sound of a flute, raising themselves up on the one half of their body, turning themselves round, beating proper time, and following the instrument. Their head, naturally round and long like an eel, becomes broad and flat like a fan. The tame serpents, many of which the Orientals keep in their houses, are known to leave their holes in hot weather, at the sound of a musical instrument, and to run upon the performer.
But on some serpents, these charms seem to have no power; and it appears from Scripture that the adder sometimes takes precautions to prevent the fascination which he sees preparing for him; for the deaf adder shutteth her ear, and will not hear the voice of the most skilful charmer (Psalm lviii. 4, 5). The same allusion is involved in the words of Solo
Surely the serpent will bite without enchantment, and a babbler is no better” (Eccl. x. 11). The threatening of the prophet Jeremiah proceeds
upon the same facts; “I will send serpents (cockatrices) among you, which will not be charmed, and they shall bite you” (Jer. viii. 17.) In all these quotations, the sacred writers, while they take it for granted that many serpents are disarmed by charming, plainly admit that the powers of the charmer are in vain exerted upon others. They are like creatures destitute of hearing, or whose ears are so completely obstructed, that no sounds can enter. The same phrase is used in other parts of Scripture, to signify a hard and obdurate heart : stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard " (Prov. xxi. 13.)
It is used in the same sense of the righteous, by the prophet: “That stoppeth his ears from the hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil ” (Isaiah xxxiii. 15). He remains as unmoved by the cruel and sanguinary counsels of the wicked, as if he had stopped his ears.
The unyielding cruelty of the Chaldean armies under Nebuchadnezzar, the appointed ministers of Jehovah's vengeance on the Jewish nation, whose iniquities had made him their enemy, is expressively alluded to in the following passage : “For, behold, I will send serpents, cockatrices, among you, which will not be charmed, and they shall bite you, saith the Lord” (Jer. viii. 17.)
In Egypt, and other Oriental countries, a serpent was the common symbol of a powerful monarch; it was embroidered on their robes, and blazoned on their diadem, to signify their absolute power and invincible might; and also, that, as the wound inflicted by the basilisk is incurable, so the fatal effects of their displeasure were neither to be avoided nor endured. These, says Paxton, are the allusions
involved in the address of the prophet, to the irreconcileable enemies of his nation :- Rejoice not thou, whole Palestina, because the rod of Him that smote thee is broken; for out of the serpent's roots shall come forth a cockatrice, and his fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent” (Isaiah xiv. 29.) Uzziah, the king of Judah, had subdued the Philistines; but taking advantage of the weak reign of Ahab, they again invaded the kingdom of Judea, and reduced some cities in the southern part of the country under their dominion. On the death of Ahab, Isaiah delivers this prophecy, threatening them with a more severe chastisement from the hand of Hezekiah, the grandson of Uzziah, by whose victorious arms they had been reduced to sue for peace, which he accomplished when “he smote the Philistines, even unto Gaza, and the borders thereof” (2 Kings xviii. 8.) Uzziah, therefore, must be meant by the rod that emote them, and by the serpent from whom should spring the fiery flying serpent, that is, Hezekiah, a much more terrible enemy than even Uzziah had been.
It is impossible, perhaps, to identify the fiery serpent, which the Lord sent among the people of Israel, when, "journeying from Mount Hor, by the way of the Red Sea, to compass the land of Edom,” they murmured against God and against Moses, and were thus chastised and brought to repent of the evil they had committed (Numb. xxi. 4–9). The word seraphim, which we render fiery, is taken by the LXX., and by the Arabic version of the Pentateuch, to describe, not the appearance of the reptile, as some think, but the sensation of burning which attended its bite. “Serpents of burning bites,” the Arabic calls them.