Listen to this blog post which will, at a future date, be added to The Explanation Podcast
The meaning of the subtil serpent is its malicious wisdom in contrast to Adam and Eve’s virtuous perception. Awareness of this single principle opens up Bible understanding.
The meaning of the subtil Serpent in the first verse of Genesis 3 is a 180° switch from Genesis 2. It is in contrast to the pure state of mind of Adam and Eve in the last verse of the preceding chapter. The introduction to the Serpent is capital to understanding the opening scenes of the Bible. Let’s understand its role in the Agony of Humankind.
(Agony of Humankind, chapter 1.1)
NB: Hope you have a happy start to this next decade and wish you all the best. I have plenty of plans for expanding The Explanation but I need your help please. Could you tell me the ONE pressing question about the Bible you’d like answered? If you wanted to solve ONE enigma in the Bible, what would it be? I’d appreciate it if you take a few seconds to answer. Use the contact form here. This will help create a course on how to use Biblical Hebrew to solve Bible issues. You’ll have free access to this course.
We left Adam and Eve in the idyllic setting of the Garden of Eden in a state of nakedness (6174 from 6191 aram) associated with the wisdom, prudence, and purity of their minds. They’d spent time with God and learned that He placed them on earth for two primary purposes: To serve and honor their Creator and subdue and dominate this planet as a couple with their descendants.
So then, why does chapter 3 open with the presence of that wily Serpent who turns this plan upside down, or does it? or, to go a step further, can this Serpent upset the desires of Almighty God?
25 And they were both naked (H6174), the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.
1 Now the serpent was more subtil (H6175) than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, Yea, has God said, You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
And we come to possibly the biggest Bible obscurity, certainly the most misunderstood mystery, not to say fairy tale of all times.
We must broach a short history of this serpent because getting this piece right is paramount to comprehending The Explanation. Whether we like it or not, believe it or not, accept it or not, the serpent has a central role to play, and it’s in line for an Oscar statuette, because he plays it outstandingly. The only descriptive used here to describe its character is subtle, or subtil in King James’ English. This one single trait indicates the WHY and WHO of the Serpent.
It is the inventor and master of subtlety. To the point that 99.9% of humanity thinks this serpent thing is all a farce and hoax. And for those who believe there may be something to this devil thing, the origin and depth of the deception are thoroughly out of focus.
Common questions are, “If God is good, how come there’s evil’?” “If God is so powerful, why didn’t or doesn’t He put an end to evil?” “Life is difficult enough as it is, what’s the point of a devil’?” “Just like the God’ theory, isn’t the Devil theory just a man-made concept to subjugate naïve believers?” And the questions go on and on. It’s time for some clear answers.
Naked and subtil
Let’s show the exact shape of this piece, the meaning of the subtil serpent, and where it fits in the puzzle of God’s Plan.
Please watch the above video. Here’s the text.
Let’s dig into this Biblical Hebrew enigma that I found some 30 years ago. You can follow along with me by going over to UnlockBibleMeaning.com. On that screen, under References, find the Bible book Genesis chapter 2 verse 25 and then click on Go. You’ll read, And they were both naked, the both refers to Adam and Eve. In the very next verse, Genesis 3:1, we read: Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field.
I won’t go any further to remain focused on what I found, as I said some 30 years ago. I was reading this in the Interlinear Bible. You can also read it in the Interlinear. I noticed that the words naked and subtil are identical in the Hebrew. To see this at UnlockBibleMeaning.com, switch to the Strong’s Concordance where you’ll see the same verses, “they were both naked” with naked having Strong’s Hebrew reference H6174. Click on that reference, and it will display in the right-hand column.
Now, go down to Genesis 3:1, “The serpent was more subtil …” (H6175). You can see that these two numbers follow each other. When you look at the Hebrew, even if you can’t read Hebrew, you can see that these four letters for naked are identical to the four letters for subtil. The only difference is in the third letter, we’re reading from right to left, where the dot is either above or in the middle of the Hebrew letter vav, the name of this third letter.
That’s what gives it the different sound, AROM, or ARUM, as you can see from the transliteration. But, most importantly, the four letters are identical. I want you specifically to see that both of these words come from H6191. Both naked and subtil come from H6191. Click on H6191 and notice that this word is the primitive root.
The primitive root is the most basic construction of a word. Look at this three-letter construction, and you’ll see that these three letters are identical to the above two terms (naked and subtil) except for that vav, that third letter, that is missing, because it is used, in this circumstance, as a vowel. Now, towards the middle or end of these Strong’s Concordance references, you’re going to find KJV [King James Version], following the KJV are the various translations that were used by the original translators for a particular word.
So ARAM (H6191), in various places in the Old Testament, is translated by beware, take crafty counsel, be prudent, and deal subtilly. Likewise, we see the KJV for this ARUM includes subtil, and AROM has only one translation, which is the word naked.
Please go to UnlockBibleMeaning and check this for yourself. The Explanation sounds somewhat technical, but seeing it with your eyes is vital to your understanding. It will help you grasp that this is a valid method of Bible Study. We’re digging into the meanings, not the interpretations of Biblical Hebrew. In this Bible Study example to do with the meaning of the subtil Serpent, we’re delving into Key 1 of the 7 Keys to Master Biblical Hebrew. Key one is that the same Hebrew word can have multiple meanings. Here aram means both naked and subtle.
What is interesting here is that one basic word ARAM translates in one instance (Gen. 2:25) naked and, in a second instance, in the very next verse (Gen. 3:1), by the word subtil. When I saw that, which you CANNOT SEE IN TRANSLATIONS, but you can see it in the Biblical Hebrew, I was amazed. I couldn’t figure out why this was so. Especially when I later found out that there are seven other Hebrew words translated naked and three other Hebrew words translated subtil.
My question was: Why did the author use the same word in two verses that follow one another? And that is something that I tried to figure out, and that took me months to work through.
Because in one sense, the author is telling us to INVERT the meaning of this word. The author is saying that Adam and Eve were subtil, and the serpent was naked. Now when you think about a naked serpent, it’s quite ridiculous. To me, something was missing; the comprehension wasn’t there. It’s this study method that I’m showing you that helped me find the answer to this because there is an answer and a fascinating answer.
Our Biblical Hebrew Mission
Our mission is to figure out how both Adam and Eve and the serpent could all be aram. How they could all be both naked and subtle. To do that, we have to dig into the meaning of the word ARAM.
Back to the Bible tools at UnlockBibleMeaning.com. In the future, this tool will allow you to be able to study the word aram and all its derivatives directly. For now, use Word and Phrase and search for the word: subtilty, using the King James spelling; you’ll find three verses in the Old Testament in Genesis, 2 Kings, and Proverbs.
Switch over to Strong’s to find if any of these have the same root ARAM. In Proverbs 1.4, subtilty has the root H6195 with our three root letters MRA (ערם left-to-right) that it comes from H6193, which is OREM, which also has our three key letters and that it goes back to our primitive root H6191 ARAM. So this word then is related to the ARAM of subtle and naked that we are studying.
To give subtilty (H6195) to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.
The subtilty we’re discussing here is positive because the young man wants and needs this subtilty; this is NOT the same subtilty that describes the serpent because the serpent’s subtilty is negative. In the right pane on your screen for H6195 the words used by the King James translators, we’re going to find something very very interesting
עׇרְמָה ʻormâh or-maw’; feminine of H6193 (עֹרֶם); trickery; or (in a good sense) discretion:
KJV – guile, prudence, subtilty, wilily, wisdom.
We have the word guile, prudence, subtilty, wilily, and wisdom. Some of these words could be negative, and some of them could be positive, and some of them could be both. We have already seen that subtilty concerning the meaning of the subtil serpent is negative. We now see a much more specific word, which is negative, and that is the word guile. For the word guile, it’s rather difficult for it to be positive. When a person possesses this, and we’re going to see an example of how ARAM is guile and guile is ARAM.
Let’s stay positive with the word wisdom. Let’s see where ‘ARAM’ and wisdom are used. At the bottom of Strong’s reference for H6195 is a link Hebrew Concordance for H6195. Click that, and all the Bible verses with this Hebrew word will display in the left pane. Note Proverbs 8.5
O you simple, understand wisdom (H6195): and, you fools, be you of an understanding heart.
Wisdom is H6195, the same as our word for subtilty. And now, is it positive, or is it negative? The wisdom here is for the simple so that they can understand; this is positive wisdom. ARAM can be positive; that is very clear.
Now let’s look at the word guile. We continue to use the Hebrew concordance for H6195, where the first reference in Exodus is what we want.
But if a man come presumptuously upon his neighbour, to slay him with guile (H6195); thou shalt take him from mine altar, that he may die.
In this verse, the guile is negative. We have the same word ARAM describing Adam and Eve, on one side, and the serpent, on the other. It is used positively for wisdom and the right type of craftiness of subtlety of prudence in a very positive way. It is also used very negatively for a wrong type of subtilty and specifically and especially, as translated here, with the word guile.
We’re beginning to understand that the subtilty and the nakedness referring to the meaning of the subtil serpent is negative, whereas the wisdom and the prudence and the subtilty referring to Adam and Eve are positive characteristics.
This blog post is an excerpt from chapter 1.1 of the book Agony of Humankind
Further Bible Study
I cannot insist enough that you go over to UnlockBibleMeaning.com and do this study yourself. There’ll be a short adaptation period as you get used to using the Bible tools there. But, it will be well worth your while. This study method will quickly become invaluable for checking the DEEPER meaning of Biblical Hebrew words. Aram, naked and subtle, revealed the first two keys to master Biblical Hebrew.
- One. Hebrew words have multiple meanings.
- Two. Hebrew words can have opposite or conflicting meanings.
- This point is practically UNKNOWN to scholars, yet it is fundamental to comprehension as we’ve seen from just this one example. Adam and Eve and the Serpent all have ARAM, but their ARAM is entirely different.
- We already have seen that Adam and Eve had clean, clear, unconfused minds.
- We are going to see just how dirty and confused the mind of the Serpent is.
As we progress, we’ll see all the other keys. Let’s start our study of the Agony of Humankind, a commentary on Genesis 3, with a dive into Biblical Hebrew. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to let me know. Use the contact form. Thanks.
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I want to know the rest of this study on the serpent and Adam and Eve.
Hello Experanza, thanks for writing. If you haven’t followed the free course, please sign up here. If you have already followed that course I suggest you read Origin of Woman online, especially the last chapter which put the story in a fuller context.
This is amazing!!
Thanks. This is the figurative, spiritual meaning of what many consider a fairytale. Let, what is foolishness to the world open our minds to a deeper comprehension of God’s sure plan for all of humankind.
Thank you for this explanation.
Also, is there an explanation why there was a negative serpent before sin entered the world? Why did God create the serpent with negative characteristic of subtlety? Thought all was good until Adam & Eve’s disobedience, then sin entered…? I agree, all this is extremely fascinating to say the least.
Mary, Glad to help. Agree, an evil Serpent in God’s Garden is one of those enigmatic, paradoxical Bible questions. Please read this episode, https://theexplanation.com/evil-god-deliberately-allowed-it-in-garden-of-eden-heres-why/ for some details. It comes from the book Origin of Woman, https://theexplanation.com/read-all-the-content-of-origin-of-woman-online/ where you’ll find other related explanations. BTW, it’s in that book because The Explanation book series proceeds chronologically through Genesis 1-3 and the Serpent in the Garden precedes the Creation of Woman in Genesis 2. :).