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Fausset's Bible Dictionary


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Five times in the Old Testament KJV, and thrice in margin for "cockatrice" (Isaiah 11:8; Isaiah 14:29; Isaiah 59:5 ). Four Hebrew terms stand for it. (1) Αkshub, (2) Ρethen, (3) Τziphoni , and (4) Shephiphon .

(1) Αkshub, ("one that lies in ambush"), swells its skin, and rears its head back for a strike. Psalms 140:3 quoted in Romans 3:13, "the poison of asps."

(2) Ρethen, Psalms 58:4; Psalms 91:13, "adder" (compare margin), but elsewhere translated "asp"; from a Hebrew root "to expand the neck." The deadly haje naja , or cobra of Egypt, fond of concealing itself in walls and holes. Serpents are without tympanic cavity and external openings to the ear. The deaf adder is not some particular species; but whereas a serpent's comparative deafness made it more amenable to those sounds it could hear, in some instances it was deaf because it would not hear (Jeremiah 8:17; Ecclesiastes 10:11). So David's unrighteous adversaries, though having some little moral sense yet left to which he appeals, yet stifled it, and were unwilling to hearken to the voice of God.

(3) Τziphoni, translated adder only in Proverbs 23:32; "at the last wine biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder," In Jeremiah 8:17 "cockatrices," from a root "to dart forward and hiss." The Greek basilisk , fierce, deadly; distinct from the "serpent" (Hebrew, nachash ), Isaiah 14:29; oviparous (Isaiah 59:5); subterranean in habits (Isaiah 11:8).

(4) Shephiphon, from a root "to creep"; Jacob's image of Dan (Genesis 49:17), lurking on the road, and biting at the horses' heels; the Coluber cerastes, a small and very venomous snake of Egypt. The charmers, by a particular pressure on the neck, can inflate the animal so that the serpent becomes rigid, and can be held out horizontally as a rod. The Egyptian magicians perhaps thus used the haje species as their rod, and restored life to it by throwing it down; at least, so the serpent charmers do at the present day. Shrill sounds, as the flute, are what serpents can best discern, for their hearing is imperfect. Music charms the naja (cobra di capello, hooded snake) and the cerastes (horned viper). Moses' really transformed rod swallowed their pretended rod, or serpent, so conquering the symbol of Egypt's protecting deity. That the naja haie was the "fiery serpent," or serpent inflicting a burning bite, appears from the name Ras-om-Haye (Cape of the haje serpents) in the locality where the Israelites were bitten (Numbers 21:6).

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Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Adder'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. 1949.

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