Rebel on the Mountain of Eden

The long war between God and the lesser gods who rebelled began on a mountain, and it will end on a mountain.

First things first: The rebel gods are real. That’s not something you’re likely to hear in church. Not only have we been taught that the pagan deities of the ancient world were imaginary, most American Christians today don’t even believe in Satan or the Holy Spirit.

That’s not an exaggeration. The Barna Group found in a 2009 survey of American Christians that only about one in three believes Satan is real and not just a concept. Likewise, nearly 60% of American Christians said they didn’t believe the Holy Spirit is living entity. So it’s not surprising that when we think of Baal, Asherah, Moloch, Dagon, Chemosh, Marduk, and the rest of the pagan pantheon mentioned in the Bible (if we think of them at all), we assume they were nothing more than lifeless blocks of wood and stone.

We couldn’t be more wrong.

The true story begins on a mountain: Eden.

But wait, you say, Eden was a garden! Yes, it was. A garden on a mountain.

In Ezekiel 28, God tells the divine rebel from Eden:

You were an anointed guardian cherub.
I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God;
in the midst of the stones of fire you walked.

Ezekiel 28:14 (ESV)

If you read the Old Testament carefully, you’ll notice many references to God’s holy mountain. The prophets knew that the war between the rebellious fallen gods and the Creator was all about who would establish their holy mountain—the “mount of assembly” or “mount of the congregation”—as supreme.

The most obvious reference is in Isaiah 14, a section of scripture that scholars generally agree is a parallel to Ezekiel 28:

“How you are fallen from heaven,
O Day Star, son of Dawn!
How you are cut down to the ground,
you who laid the nations low!
You said in your heart,
‘I will ascend to heaven;
above the stars of God
I will set my throne on high;
I will sit on the mount of assembly
in the far reaches of the north;

I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.’
But you are brought down to Sheol,
to the far reaches of the pit. [Emphasis added]

Isaiah 14:12-15 (ESV)

Over the course of this special five-week series, we’ll dig deeper into the conflict between God and the rebels and explore the importance of cosmic mountains. We’ll identify key battles in the long war and lay out a prophetic scenario for the final battle of this age.

Above all, we’ll show you a glimpse of this long war in the heavenlies, and where you can find it in the Bible. It’s a conflict that the prophets and apostles knew was real, but over the last two thousand years our churches have teaching us about it. With this war stripped out out of the Bible, we’re left with an incomplete story of God’s plan to save us from the gods who want to kill us and destroy everything we love.

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So let’s start at the beginning. What do we know about the enemy? Was it a talking snake?

In a word, no.

So who or what was the serpent? Most of us assume it was Satan, but maybe not. The serpent isn’t named in the book of Genesis. In fact, Satan wasn’t even a personal name in the Old Testament.

Satan means “accuser,” written ha-shaitan in the OT. It’s a title, the satan, so it really means “the accuser.” Think of it as a job title, like “prosecuting attorney.”

The adversary in the Garden is the nachash, which is the word translated into English as “serpent.” It’s based on an adjective that means bright or brazen, like shiny brass. The noun nachash can mean snake, but it also means “one who practices divination.”

In Hebrew, it’s not uncommon for an adjective to be converted into a noun—the term is “substantivized.” If that’s the case here, nachash could mean “shining one.” And that’s consistent with other descriptions of the satan figure in the Old Testament.

For example, in Isaiah 14, the character called Lucifer in the King James translation, based on the Latin words chosen by Jerome (lux + ferous, meaning “light bringer”), is named in Hebrew Helel ben Shachar—”shining one, son of the dawn.”

Now, consider this in Daniel 10:

I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold, a man clothed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist. His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a multitude. [Emphasis added]

Daniel 10:5-6 (ESV)

Obviously, “shining one” is a good description of the angel who battled the prince of Persia, another supernatural being, to bring his message to Daniel.

About 900 years before Daniel, when the Israelites started complaining on their way out of Egypt (see Numbers 21:4-9), God sent saraph nachash (“fiery serpents”), to bite them. Saraph is the root word of seraphim, which roughly means “burning ones.” But the key point of these verses in Numbers 21 is that the Hebrew words saraph and nachash are used interchangeably. So rather than “fiery serpents,” the translation should read “saraph serpents”.

Deuteronomy 8:15 praises Yahweh for bringing Israel through “the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents,” reinforcing the interchangeability of saraph and nachash.

Now, if the mental image of flaming snakes isn’t weird enough, the prophet Isaiah twice referred to flying serpents (saraph `uwph, in Isaiah 14:29 and 30:6). And in his famous throne room vision, Isaiah saw:

…the LORD sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.

Isaiah 6:1-2 (ESV)

Again, the root word of seraphim is saraph, the same word translated “serpent” in Numbers and Deuteronomy. In fact, aside from Isaiah 6, every single mention of seraphim in the Old Testament refers to serpentine beings!

The flying serpent was a well-known symbol in the ancient Near East, especially in Egypt. It would have been very familiar to the Israelites. The uraeus, a cobra standing on its coil with its hood extended, was a royal symbol of protection used by pharaohs and Nubian kings. Tutankhamun’s death mask is an excellent example; the uraeus’ hood is depicted with six distinct sections that look a lot like wings.

Of course, some scholars cite this as evidence that the Hebrews’ understanding of seraphim was influenced by, or borrowed from, Egyptian cosmology. That’s a common message from skeptics—Israel copied its religion from its neighbors. We’ll deal with that later.

The bottom line is this: What Adam and Eve saw in the Garden wasn’t a talking snake, but a nachash—a radiant, divine entity–one that very likely had a serpentine appearance.

11 Comments

  1. I want to thank you both for your many hours of hard work and study to make it easier for people like me to understand parts of Scripture that many have a feeling about, but don’t know where to turn. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
    May The Mighty Lord continue to bless the ministry He has entrusted you both with.
    Many blessings
    Rudy V

  2. Amazing insight. I always wondered why Eve could have been deceived by a snake. Your explanation makes sense. Thank you.

    1. This very interesting. My husband and I love listening and reading all the hard work you and sister Sharon do! We thank God we found your program and feel like ours eyes have truly been opened! We believe that God has chosen you precious souls to enlighten us. Thank you so much
      God bless your work

  3. I’m not understanding the conclusion – last sentence – of your paragraph from Rebel on the Mountain on Eden.

    You write: About 900 years before Daniel, when the Israelites started complaining on their way out of Egypt (see Numbers 21:4-9), God sent saraph nachash (“fiery serpents”), to bite them. Saraph is the root word of seraphim, which roughly means “burning ones.” But the key point of these verses in Numbers 21 is that the Hebrew words saraph and nachash are used interchangeably. So rather than “fiery serpents,” the translation should read “saraph serpents”.

    The whole point of a translation is to move something from one language to another, so why are you using the same word “saraph” to translate “saraph” – ? What am I missing? …if it’s not supposed to read “fiery serpents” from the translation “saraph serpents” – how IS it supposed to read? Seems that there is little distinction between fiery, burning, shining, etc.

    1. Author

      Thank for asking! The point is that the nachash in the garden was not a snake, but a divine being similar to, if not identical to, a saraph.

  4. Thank you Derek,

    what do you think it means when in Gen 3:14 God tells the “serpent” that “You are cursed above all the cattle & living creatures of the field, on your belly you will crawl and dust you will eat all the days of your life” ? serpents crawl on the ground but they don’t eat dust.

    1. Author

      That’s probably a reference to the Mesopotamian concept of life after death. The underworld was believed to be a dreary place where the dead existed on water and dust or clay. It appears to be God’s way of saying, in an ancient Mesopotamian context, “You’re dead.”

  5. Thank you so much for sharing your insight. I’m looking forward for further information. I was disappointed with the water-down interpretation of the church. Praise the Lord for your mission!

  6. Thank you for this information about nachash. Going forward, would you please site sources at the bottom of your email where I could go for more info on that exact topic you are speaking of?

    1. Author

      Hi, Ann: Thanks for asking! Most articles will have footnotes. This one just happened to draw mostly from the Bible.

  7. Love your work! You and the Mrs are such a joy to watch and I’ve learned so much from you guys this past year. I don’t think (speculating here) Eden was a garden or a mountain but is the planet on which we find ourselves now – a cursed planet btw (Gen 3:17). “The Garden” was just that – the garden spot of Eden (which, I’m sure includes a mountain) and most likely a portal between the seen and unseen realms. Unfettered access between the realms until the fall. After the fall, He closed the portal and stationed a cherubim and a whirling sword of flame…. just food for thought. Keep up the good work. Love you guys!

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