17. The serpent today passed for something quite other than deceit. It is in connection with its form, rather than with its character, that it is associated with wicked suggestions which glide into the mind with the noiseless subtlety of the serpent, and by which we are so often easily led into temptation. Besides, if the serpent on account of having deceived the woman has been doomed to crawl upon the Earth, it must formerly have had limbs when it could not have been a serpent. Why then impose upon the artless faith of childhood as truths allegories which are so evidently such, and which, in misleading judgment, cause children to regard the Bible later in life as a tissue of absurd fables?
We should remark that the Hebrew word nahasch, translated as the word serpent, originates from the root nahasch, which means: to make enchantment; to practice divination; or the art of revealing occult things; it also means: enchanter, guesser. This is the meaning found in Genesis, chapter XLIV: 5 and 15, regarding the instance when Joseph had someone hide a cup in Benjamin’s sack: “Isn’t this the cup my master drinks from and also uses for divination? (nahasch) *– “Don’t you know that a man like me can find things out by divination?” (nahasch)?” From the Book of Numbers, chapter XXIII: 23 - “There is no sorcery (nahasch) against Jacob, no divination against Israel.” Consequently, the word nahasch began to take the meaning of serpent - the reptile used by the enchanters in their rituals.
It was not until the Septuagint’s version that the word nahasch was translated as serpent. That version, according to Hutcheson, presents the Hebrew text corrupted in several passages. It was written in Greek, during the second century before the Christian era. Undeniably, that version’s inaccuracies resulted from modifications the Hebrew language endured during the elapsed time. Note, still, that the Hebrew language of Moses’ time was already a dead dialect, which differed from ordinary Hebrew, just like ancient Greek and literary Arabic differ from the Greek and the Arabic of modern times. **
It is possible that Moses may have deemed the indiscreet desire to know occult things, provoked by the spirit of divination, to be a seducement of women. This meaning is in agreement with the original meaning of the word nahasch - to guess - and with the words of this parable: “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom (leaskil), she took some and ate it.” We should not forget that Moses wanted to ban from amongst the Hebrews the art of divination, which was then practiced by the Egyptians; this fact is evident by his prohibition to question the dead and the spirit of Python. (“Heaven and Hell,” chapter XII)
* Would this fact show that the Egyptians practiced mediumship through the use of a glass of water?
(“Revue Spirite, » June of 1868,” page 161.)
** The word “Nahasch” existed in the Egyptian language, with the meaning of Black, probably because black people had the gift of enchantment and of divination. This is perhaps the reason the sphinx, of Syrian origin were represented by an image of a black person.