Vol. 18 New Series October, 1956 No. 5

Gen. 3:14: And dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life.
Isa. 65:25: And dust (shall be) the serpent's meat.
Mic. 7:17: They shall lick the dust like a serpent.

Do these statements mean that the serpent subsists upon dust as its food? There is not the slightest need to think so. Nor is there any need to take the statements in a figurative sense, as did Dr. Bullinger in his Companion Bible (Appendix No. 19). He said, "This is not true to the letter, or to fact, but it is all the more true to truth." He added, "It tells of constant, continuous disappointment, failure, and mortification."

Is it likely, however, that the serpent would make this singular distinction between "fact" and "truth"? What must the serpent have understood by the sentence passed upon it?

The solution to our problem is to be found in Gen. 3:17. "Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shall thou eat (of) it all the days of thy life. . .." Note carefully the italic word "of," which is not found in the Hebrew. Actually the Hebrew only says, "In sorrow shalt thou eat it. . .

"Now we may be assured that Mankind does not eat the ground, any more than the serpent eats dust. Man lives on that which comes of the ground. The serpent eats of that which comes of the dust or soil. Man eats out of that which he can walk over; the serpent eats out of that which it crawls among.

Micah 7:17 comes to our help here, saying that some, like the serpent, shall lick the dust. The meaning of Isa. 65:25 is that "as for the serpent, dust (or soil) (shall be) what it devours." There is every right to take the word for "dust" here as meaning dusty; "as for the serpent, what it devours shall be dusty."

The Greek version reads in Gen. 3:14, "earth shalt thou eat all the days of thy life," while in v. 17 it reads, "in sorrows shalt thou eat it (Le. the earth) all the days of thy life." The usual construction would be to insert the word for "from" (Heb. min; Gk. apo), but here the absence of this word shews that Adam was to eat what the ground stood for, or produced; while the serpent was to eat what the soil stood for, or produced.

In any case, even though the serpent does eat dust, there is not the slightest ground in the Scriptures for thinking that this is its sole food. The serpent licks the soil, devours some of it in the process, but lives upon very various and different forms of food, as is well known.

A.T. Last updated 31.12.2005