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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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אפעה , Job 20:16 ; Isaiah 30:6 ; Isaiah 59:5 ; εχιδνα , Matthew 3:7 ; Matthew 12:34 ; Matthew 23:33 ; Luke 3:7 ; Acts 28:3 ; a serpent famed for the venomousness of its bite, which is one of the most dangerous poisons in the animal kingdom. So remarkable, says Dr. Mead, has the viper been for its venom, that the remotest antiquity made it an emblem of what is hurtful and destructive. Nay, so terrible was the nature of these creatures, that they were very commonly thought to be sent as executioners of divine vengeance upon mankind, for enormous crimes which had escaped the course of justice. An instance of such an opinion as this we have in the history of St. Paul, Acts xxviii, whom the people of Melita, when they saw the viper leap upon his hand, presently concluded to be a murderer; and as readily made a god of him when, instead of having his hand inflamed, or falling down dead, one or other of which is usually the effect of these bites, he without any harm shook the reptile into the fire: it being obvious enough to imagine that he must stand in a near relation at least to the gods themselves, who could thus command the messengers of their vengeance, and counterwork the effects of such powerful agents.

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Viper'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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