But is this really the case? Are serpents - snakes - really the adversary of humans? Most snakes, in fact, shy away from humans, just as do most other reptiles, mammals, birds, insects and fish. What is so different about snakes? There is actually little difference between the relationship between snakes and humans and most other creatures. Many different creatures can bite and even poison a human in one way or another. In fact, most creatures have a significant defense mechanism that is hurtful or even deadly to some other creature, if not humans.
Sorry, but snakes were not produced by this curse spoken by God in this allegorical parable. Rather, what is accurately being described, using symbolism, is the eventual course that we who rejected God and became envious of Him were destined to take - a course that is unfolding before us in the physical realm.
The reality - as shown in the previous commentaries - is that the serpent represents our envy of the Supreme Being. This type of symbolism - of comparing a characteristic or trait to a particular type of animal is quite common among ancient teachings, as we've discussed. It is also common today, especially when a knowledgeable person tries to explain something complex to someone who is not as knowledgeable about the subject matter. For example, a person might say, "that job was a bear." Or one might say, "he was a tiger" or perhaps "a tortoise."
So how did we become envious of the Supreme Being? We are each created as parts and parcels of the Supreme Person and thus we maintain a small portion of His essence - and the capability to want to be like Him.
While He created us to serve Him and exchange a loving relationship with Him, He also gave us the freedom to love Him or not.
If we choose not to express our natural position of loving and caring for God, this leaves a void within us. This void - or emptiness - causes us to become envious of God.
We can compare this to becoming envious here in the physical world. When a person sees another becoming successful and becomes envious of that success, what does that indicate? It indicates the person is empty inside. He is envious of the person's success because he is not fulfilled within himself.
This is our disease. Each of us has fallen to the physical world and taken on a temporary physical body because we turned our back on our relationship with God - and the emptiness caused by this choice resulted in us becoming envious of Him.
Essentially, we decided that instead of loving and serving God, we wanted what He has: We wanted to be like Him. This is expressed within Genesis by the clear statement of the serpent:
"For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (Gen. 3:5)
With this understanding of the symbolic serpent - as the serpent symbolizes our envy of God - this curse by the Supreme Being becomes clear. By God cursing the serpent, He is saying that our envy of Him will cause us great strife and conflict. And truly, it has.
Just look around. What do we see. We see that everyone within the physical world is involved in some kind of conflict or another, created by our enviousness of what others have. We want what appears to belong to another, so we struggle to obtain what someone else has accomplished or gained.
Most of the world struggles in one form or another, if not to gain what others have, then simply to keep the body alive.
In other words, our struggles to gain what others have curse us to the very need for physical survival. For this reason most of the world lives in abject poverty and must toil daily for our food and shelter. For the more affluent, the struggle might be physically easier, but this is typically replaced with psychological strife as we struggle with each other for positions, titles, paychecks, political power and other resources. Within the more affluent societies, the struggle for survival is replaced by economic conflict and financial battles that must be fought and won for survival.
The more affluent societies must also engage in brutal mechanical warfare to protect their affluence. This comes in the form of sending young men and women to battlefields to engage enemies that threaten that country in one form or another.
In fact, our very existence in the physical world necessitates conflict. From the time we are born into these bodies we fight disease, we fight for authority, we fight for position, we fight with peers, we fight for our rights, we fight against humiliation and discrimination, we fight for political position, we fight for food, we fight for shelter, we fight for jobs, we fight old age, and then we fight death. Our entire life if filled with conflict. Why?
This curse by the Supreme Being explains it. We became envious of Him. We wanted to "be like God," as the symbolic serpent said. We wanted authority. We wanted to be the enjoyer. We wanted to become the center of attention. These are all things He has and we do not have, because we were created to care for Him and love Him. But since we got envious and wanted those things that only He has, our future course is now littered with conflict as we struggle to obtain what is not ours.
Yes, the Supreme Being is explaining that this enviousness of Him will result in constant conflict, where there was previously none (when we loved and cared for God). "I will put enmity between you and the woman" symbolizes the various conflicts we now endure due to our envy of God. And "...he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel" signifies the conflicts necessitated by the struggles required to survive within the physical world - which include struggling for territory and authority.
This is the reality of our existence - for those of us in the physical world. We are all struggling for what essentially belongs to God. We see so many battles being fought for territory around the world. We see the peoples of Israel and Palestine fighting each other to claim property that actually belongs to God. Each side says that the land belongs to them, and both sides say that owning the land is their God-given right.
Yet neither side owns the land. None of us own anything. We come into the physical world with nothing, and leave with nothing. We thus own nothing. Only God owns the land and all the resources of the physical world. Thus fighting over it is senseless.
These two conflicts along with so many others, are the result of this curse - or better, prediction - given by the Supreme Being: Due to our envy of Him, we will suffer continual conflict within the physical world as we struggle to achieve some portion of His position and authority.
Why must we struggle within the physical world? Because envy has no place in the spiritual realm. The spiritual realm is full of love, joy, happiness and loving relationships. In the spiritual realm, God is the center of attention and the One who is loved by all. And He exchanges that love with each spiritual being, and each spiritual being loves each other as well. There is no room for conflict because there is only love and no envy. No one is struggling for His position.
This is the world that we all dream of when we look for peace within the world. When John Lennon sang his song, "Imagine," he was envisioning the spiritual world.
But these visions are usually empty because we still want to ignore God - the One Person who is the Source of the love of the spiritual world. We want to have the spiritual world but we don't want to change. We still want to remain self-centered and envious; but we want to live in a place where no one else is self-centered and envious but us.
God created the physical world to house those of us who became self-centered and envious. The physical world allows us to play out our enviousness of Him by struggling for some part of His position. Here we can work hard and struggle in order to be served by others and respected by others.
This allows us to learn. And what do we learn? We learn that being served by others and being the center of attention does not make us happy. This is evidenced by so many wealthy and famous people who are unhappy despite their success, as they wallow in drug-abuse, alcoholism and depression.
Thus, while the physical world offers us the ability to pretend to be like Him (owning things and trying to be the center of attention) in some respect or another, it is also a rehabilitation center.
The spiritual world is God-centered. The only person who is self-centered in the spiritual realm is God: because He is God. Being self-centered is not the natural position for the rest of us. We are by nature caregivers: We are servants by nature.
This is why even the most powerful and wealthy people are not satisfied with their positions of authority, and eventually find more satisfaction by using their positions to help others. We find more fulfillment being caregivers. This is because by nature we are caregivers and servants.
But our tendency to care and serve is only completely fulfilled when we are caring for and serving the Supreme Person. We do find some fulfillment by serving each other, but this is shallow unless it is connected to a loving relationship with the Supreme Being.
This is what God is trying to communicate to us through this allegorical story of Adam and Eve and the serpent - which functionally describes the path each of us now living in the physical world took. We will only be happy when we return to our natural position: Our loving relationship with Him. When we love God, we naturally want to please Him, care for Him and serve Him. This brings us complete fulfillment.
Loving God means we have to change our consciousness from being self-centered to being God-centered. This is the purpose for the various processes of religious activity: Praying to God, offering to God, praising God and His Holy Names, and studying His scriptures. These activities bring us closer to God, allowing the Supreme Being to slowly and gradually become the center of our lives again. Once this process changes us and purifies our enviousness, we can return to Him and leave this world of conflict behind, as we embrace the core instruction of scripture:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)