When God cursed the Earth He also cursed the serpent.

Genesis 3:14 NASB

The Lord God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, Cursed are you more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you will go, And dust you will eat All the days of your life;

Is the serpent specifically Satan? If not, is there a practical outworking of this curse seen in serpents today? We surely see the other curses of labor pains in childbirth and toilsome labor.


6 Answers 6


The curse continues with its most important point

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring[a] and hers; he will crush[b] your head, and you will strike his heel.”

This is thought to mean Jesus (enmity) will crush serpent's head (defeat death), after Jesus suffers (heel struck).

  • I think you need to look up the definition of 'enmity'. How in the world did you conclude that was a substitution for Jesus? May 5, 2013 at 16:33
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    The Wikipedia article on the passage confirms that this is a common Christian interpretation of the passage. Christ isn't mere or catch-all enmity, but enmity between sepent's seed and woman's seed. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seed_of_the_woman
    – pterandon
    May 5, 2013 at 19:59
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    I have heard this taught in a number of Anglican churches in Sydney Australia, although I would have assumed the "he" (as in he will crush your head) is the reference to Jesus, not the 'enmity'
    – Greg
    May 6, 2013 at 3:16
  • @pterandon That wikipedia article you linked says a common interpretation is that Christ is referred to in this passage by "her offspring", not by "emnity". Although I wonder why we argue here in the comment thread, as that is at least an interesting take on the scripture?! Maybe you can find another source for the connection?
    – kutschkem
    May 28, 2018 at 7:20

Poetically, the serpent has always been seen as mystical, crafty, and deceptive. Genesis used the symbolism of the serpent to personify evil generally and satan, the devil, or lucifer, specifically.

The fact that a serpent is now on it's belly instead of legs was a new symbol that the serpent is now weak, though still deceptive. He was further cursed that the son of man would crush his head incapacitating him fully.

The point: very very few christians would say that the serpent, a beautiful creation of God, is inherently evil or deceptive, nor would they say that the serpent as a species was punished in any way. It was satan and his minions that were punished and have had their heads crushed when Christ was hung on the cross.

  • "It was satan and his minions that were punished and have had their heads crushed when Christ was hung on the cross" seems to be conjecture. May 5, 2013 at 16:32
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    @DanEsparza What you have called conjecture the vast majority of christians call primary theology.
    – user3961
    May 10, 2013 at 15:00
  • @fredsbend I too believe this is not true, as a head being crushed is a mortal wound, yet Satan and his demons are still alive. No, the crushing of the head happens after the Second Coming of Jesus. More specifically, at the time of Revelation 20:10-15 Aug 26, 2015 at 18:02
  • @jlaverde As Christians, evil has no power over us. Satan's power was stripped from him as Christ hung on the cross. The serpent was already symbolic. Why would a "mortal wound" in the midst of this symbolism suddenly be literal? Yes, Satan will be thrown in the Lake of Fire, but most Christians believe that the head crushing in this story is referring to Christ's passion.
    – user3961
    Aug 27, 2015 at 5:47

Warning: Catholic answer to not specifically Catholic question ahead.

This passage in Genesis is known as the protoevangelion. The Gospel before the Gospel before the Gospel. There is a lot packed into those two sentences and its often a let down when I read this to my Catechism kids because its so short and so vague.

If you want to read it literaly, go ahead no one is stopping you from believing that in their original conception snakes had arms and legs. A lot of saints and artists didn't see the serpent as a little grass snake, but as a giant Basalisk sort of creature. Something so fearsome that it would shake someone from a state of grace. In any event there's a lot of good and useful ways to read this literally.

Allegorical, the serpent is Satan, the only important distinction to make is that Satan is not literary the Serpent so you ought to keep the literal inferences to.the literal sense and the allegorical inferences to the allegorical sense.

In the moral sense, this might be the curse that all those who lead others out of a state of grace inflict upon themselves. It is a just punishment for being a deceiver. When you lay object your belly you cannot see the heavens and loosing the beatific vision is precisely what Lucifer earned for himself through his pride.

The anagogical sense is probably the most important sense In which to read this scripture because it carries within it God's promise of a redeemer. But since you didn't ask about that line, the next line, there is no sense rehashing it. But what this might mean for eternity is that Satan will be cursed and derided by creation forever, even though some created beings may find him more attractive than the God Himself.


The serpent is Satan:

And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years.

Revelation 20:2

But the animal itself was also cursed as you have pointed out. Some say it had wings:

In order to accomplish his work unperceived, Satan chose to employ as his medium the serpent--a disguise well adapted for his purpose of deception. The serpent was then one of the wisest and most beautiful creatures on the earth. It had wings, and while flying through the air presented an appearance of dazzling brightness, having the color and brilliancy of burnished gold. Resting in the rich-laden branches of the forbidden tree and regaling itself with the delicious fruit, it was an object to arrest the attention and delight the eye of the beholder. Thus in the garden of peace lurked the destroyer, watching for his prey.

Patriarchs and Prophets p. 53

This seems to make sense as it wouldn't have been much of a curse from God, to go on its belly and eat dust all the days of its life, if the serpent was already doing this.

However, more important was the curse on Satan that one day the Seed of the woman would crush his head:

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.

Genesis 3:15

This is a prophecy that though Satan would wound Jesus at the cross in Calvary, He would not be defeated, and one day Jesus will crush the head of serpent, Satan, and end his rule on this planet forever.


I believe the Genesis account of Eve and then Adam sinning is true and real, but that the Serpent is a personification for the Satan/Devil/ that Revelation 12:9 reveals are the same entity. The Serpent from old, goes back as far as the serpent with which Eve has a conversation.

The style of writing of the story or Eve, is in line with the style of the story of Jesus's temptation by Satan, the story of Job and the tragedies in Job's life caused by Satan. As in many other instances in the Bible the literary use of personification is used. Once is is understood that Satan has been personified and in the three stories mentioned above, we should see that this entity of Satan, is an apparent character but is really something else that is not a person or a supernatural person.

What then is the Satan/Devil/Serpent? The three can be thought of as aspects of the same entity. The Satan, is the opposer or adversary; the Devil is all that represents evil works and actions; the Serpent is the deceiver and liar. The answer to what this entity is given by James (James 1:13,14) and by Jesus Mat 15:16  And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding?  Mat 15:17  Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?  Mat 15:18  But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.  Mat 15:19  For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:  Mat 15:20  These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.  Jeremaiah also confirms that the heart/mind is the most deceptive of all; Jer_17:9  The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? God knows what is in all our hearts/minds and will see in us the out-workings of the carnal mind which is part of our human nature which in the case of Jesus, we overcame and won the victory. Paul writes; (Rom 8:7)  Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be

Based on all the above, the conclusion I have come to is that the Serpent with which Eve has a conversation is personified to represent the thoughts and reasoning going on in Eve's mind as to why she should not eat the forbidden fruit that she desired to eat. Her selfish desire became the outworking of that part of her nature and mind that is referred to as "carnal". This then means that when God curses the serpent, it is the carnal mind that is cursed.

We see the victory Jesus won over the carnal mind, and because of his victory and resurrection in the form of an immortal nature, the same as will be given to all those resurrected, everyone in God's kingdom will be totally righteous. Death and the cause (sin) will have been totally destroyed (symbolically in the Lake of Fire as described on Revelation. In God's kingdom, all the righteous will have the law (the two Great Commandments) written in their hearts/minds such that only doing good will be the natural order of that time. That is when God will dwell with man and God will have the relationship with righteous man, that God had intended from the beginning and has a plan to make possible.

I hope what I have shown above gives truth and light to those who seek it.

  • You are basically saying that much of the scripture which is spoken as narrative is in fact allegorical (or is, in your opinion, allegorical). If the Entity called Satan, Serpent, Diabolos, Drakon, Antidikos and Poneros is just an allegorical expression of something that you specify as human, then I suppose you must think the same of all that is said of Deity - it is just something inside humanity.
    – Nigel J
    May 28, 2018 at 20:45

I think it is sin. Sin causes you to fall and have a struggling life whether rich or poor. No matter where you stand. But sin is there trying to device even though you know you shouldn't do certain things. So biblically we see that everyday. Don't be the serpent.

  • 1
    Although many questions are based on personal opinions, personal opinions would be more weighty when they are supplemented by evidence in the scholarly literature or official doctrine or document. Please identify the denominational point of view, and make your answer longer. Longer answers aren't always better, but many of them are more in depth without being overly wordy.
    – Double U
    Aug 23, 2014 at 1:49

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