Published: 19 April 2021

Did God Turn Humans Into Snake Food?

Not too long ago I heard an unusual teaching. A teacher called attention to God’s curse on the serpent:

“And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:” (Gen. 3:14 KJV) 

The teacher concluded that since mankind is made of dust (Gen 2:7), this was God’s way of stating that the serpent (Satan) would always be trying to devour and destroy mankind. 

This sounded intriguing. It called to mind something said in 1 Peter:

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Pet. 5:8 ESV)

After a few minutes of reflecting on this idea a couple of problems surfaced.

Eat my dust!

Another “dust” passage came to mind:

“The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,” says the LORD.” (Is. 65:25 ESV)

Isaiah was describing a time when God’s enemies will be defeated. This scene is in the context of the “new heavens and a new earth” (Isa 65:17) where former pains and trials will “not be remembered or come into mind.” 

Isaiah says that even after the defeat of God’s enemies the serpent will still be eating dust! Does this mean the devil will still be attempting to destroy mankind? Won’t our adversary have been eliminated at this point? Indeed he will have been eliminated.  

This passage in Isaiah poses a serious problem to the notion that Gen 3:14 teaches that mankind is the dust that the serpent would be eating. What then does it mean that the serpent will eat dust?

Total defeat

This curse does not necessarily suggest that the snake had previously walked with feet and legs as the other land animals. The point is rather that now and for the rest of his life, as a result of the curse, when the snake walks on his belly, as snakes do, he will “eat the dust.” This expression elsewhere carries the meaning of “total defeat” (cf. Isa 65:25 and Mic 7:17). The curse of the snake, then, as a result of his part in the Fall, is to be the perennial reminder of the ultimate defeat of the rebellious “seed.” So strongly was this imagery of the snake’s defeat felt by later biblical writers that in their description of the ultimate victory and reign of the righteous “seed,” when peace and harmony are restored to creation, the serpent remains under the curse: “dust will [still] be the serpent’s food” (Isa 65: 25).[1]Sailhamer, John H.. The Pentateuch as Narrative: A Biblical-Theological Commentary (pp. 106-107). Zondervan. Kindle Edition. (emphasis added)

Is this where our modern expression “eat my dust” comes from? It’s the same idea. The phrase is meant to express total and certain defeat. God is telling the serpent, “Eat my dust.”

God didn’t give Satan permission to devour the pinnacle of His creation

There is another serious problem with this idea of mankind being food for the snake. God was the one who told the serpent dust would be his food. If we conclude that dust is symbolic of mankind, then it was God who gave the snake its marching orders to devour mankind. This is completely inconsistent with God’s character and the rest of the Scriptures.

God is pronouncing curses on the serpent, not prescribing a diet. The serpent was to be cursed above all other animals (Gen 3:14) and he and his offspring would be at war with the woman and her descendants (Gen 3:15). God predicted the fatal defeat of the serpent by a human descendant of the woman (who turned out to be Jesus Christ).

Let the others weigh what is said” (1 Cor 14:29)

No Bible teacher or student is perfect. We make mistakes and draw incorrect conclusions. This is why it is so important for all of us to ponder and reflect upon what we are taught. We shouldn’t take the word of any teacher as true until we have done our homework and verified the teacher’s conclusions. 

“29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. 30 If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets.” (1 Cor. 14:29–32 ESV)

Even the teachings of those who had the spiritual gift of prophecy, in the early days of the church, were not above being fact checked! God meant for our studies to be group efforts. Listening to the well thought out conclusions of other disciples helps us to see the holes in our logic and flaws in our arguments. 

References

References
1 Sailhamer, John H.. The Pentateuch as Narrative: A Biblical-Theological Commentary (pp. 106-107). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.