But what about the vocabulary in Genesis 3? Isn't the chapter crystal clear that the thing
talking to Eve was a snake? Actually, the vocabulary is clear, but the meaning tradition
has given it is not, and has in fact produced the "snake" problem noted above. The
Hebrew word translated "serpent" or "snake" in Genesis 3 is nachash (pronounced,
nakash). More specifically, the word is ha-nachash. The prefixed "ha" is the way
Hebrew denotes a definite article (the word for "the"). So ha-nachash may be said to
mean "the nachash."
The word nachash is a very elastic term in Hebrew. It can function as a noun, a verb, or
even as an adjective. When nachash functions as a noun it means "snake," and so the
traditional translation is possible—but it yields the contradiction with Ezekiel 28 and
Isaiah 14 noted above.iv When nachash serves as a verb it means "to practice
divination."v That meaning could also be possible in Genesis 3 due to the deception or
going on—Lucifer claiming to have the "real" word from God. When a verb receives an
article attached to it, the action of the verb is then transformed into a person doing the
action. Hence the word ha-nachash would then best be translated "the diviner."The third option
—the adjectival meaning of nachash—is the solution to the contradiction
problem. When nachash serves as adjective
, it's meaning is "shining bronze" or
"polished" (as in "shiny"). By adding the article to the word, ha-nachash would then
quite easily mean "the shining one."
Angelic or divine beings are elsewhere described in
the Bible as "shining" or luminous, at times with this very word, nachash.vi We often
don't think about how common this vocabulary of "shining brilliance" is for angels and
other divine beings. The Bible abounds with descriptions of such beings as "flashing" or
"as lightning," or uses the brilliance of jewels to describe the blazing appearance of such
beings. This has important ramifications for solving the "snake" problem.
What's so significant about translating ha-nachash as "shining one" and not "snake" in
Genesis 3? Very simply, "shining one" is the literal meaning of "Lucifer."
"Lucifer" is actually Latin and comes from the Latin Vulgate translation of the Hebrew
Old Testament. In Isaiah 14:12, the Hebrew name of primeval conspirator against God is
"Helel ben-Shachar"—"Shining One, son of the Dawn."
Translating ha-nachash as
"Shining One" removes the contradiction of seeing a snake vs. a supernatural being in
Eden since it provides an explicit parallel between the two passages.http://www.michaelsheiser.com/nachashnotes.pdf