Questions From Readers

Did the serpent that spoke to Eve have legs?

As recorded at Genesis 3:14, Jehovah God addressed the serpent that had deceived Eve in the garden of Eden. God said: “Because you have done this thing, you are the cursed one out of all the domestic animals and out of all the wild beasts of the field. Upon your belly you will go and dust is what you will eat all the days of your life.” The Bible does not specifically state that the animal used in tempting Eve had previously had legs but lost them. While the wording of Genesis 3:14 might lead some to think so, we need not necessarily conclude that prior to this curse, serpents had legs. Why not?

Principally because the real object of Jehovah’s judgment was Satan​—the invisible spirit who had misused that lowly animal. The Bible describes Satan as “the father of the lie” and “the original serpent.” Both of these expressions apparently point back to Satan’s using a visible animal, a serpent, as his mouthpiece to induce Eve to disobey God’s command.​—John 8:44; Revelation 20:2.

God created serpents, and Adam had apparently given serpents their name before Satan’s deceptive act. The unreasoning serpent that spoke to Eve was not to blame. It would have been unaware that Satan was manipulating it, and it could not understand the judgment that God rendered against the disobedient parties.

Why, then, did God speak of the serpent’s physical abasement? The behavior of a serpent in its natural environment, crawling on its belly and flicking its tongue as if to lick up dust, fittingly symbolized Satan’s debased condition. Having previously enjoyed a lofty position as one of God’s angels, he was consigned to the lowly condition referred to in the Bible as Tartarus.​—2 Peter 2:4.

Further, as a literal serpent might wound a man’s heel, Satan in his debased state would ‘bruise the heel’ of God’s “seed.” (Genesis 3:15) The primary part of that seed proved to be Jesus Christ, who temporarily suffered at the hands of Satan’s agents. But the symbolic serpent’s head will, in time, be permanently crushed by Christ and his resurrected anointed Christian companions. (Romans 16:20) Thus, God’s directing his curse toward the visible serpent aptly pictured the debasement and ultimate destruction of the invisible “original serpent,” Satan the Devil.