A species of serpent, more commonly called viper. The word adder is used five times in the Bible, as a translation of four different serpents of the venomous sort. In Ge 49:17, it seems to mean the cerastes, or horned viper, of the color of sand, and very deadly bite; accustomed to lie hidden in the tracks in the sand, and dart up on the unwary traveller. In Ps 58:4; 91:13, it is probably the asp. In Ps 140:3 perhaps the tarantula, or some serpent that strikes backwards. See SERPANT, VIPER.
(Ps 140:3; Ro 3:13, "asp") is the rendering of, (1.) Akshub ("coiling" or "lying in wait"), properly an asp or viper, found only in this passage. (2.) Pethen ("twisting"), a viper or venomous serpent identified with the cobra (Naja haje) (Ps 58:4; 91:13); elsewhere "asp." (3.) Tziphoni ("hissing") (Pr 23:32); elsewhere rendered "cockatrice," Isa 11:8; 14:29; 59:5; Jer 8:17, as it is here in the margin of the Authorized Version. The Revised Version has "basilisk." This may have been the yellow viper, the Daboia xanthina, the largest and most dangerous of the vipers of Palestine. (4.) Shephiphon ("creeping"), occurring only in Ge 49:17, the small speckled venomous snake, the "horned snake," or cerastes. Dan is compared to this serpent, which springs from its hiding-place on the passer-by.
(2) Pethen, Ps 58:4; 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 (Jer 8:17; Ec 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) Tziphoni, translated adder only in Pr 23:32; "at the last wine biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder," In Jer 8:17 "cockatrices," from a root "to dart forward and hiss." The Greek basilisk, fierce, deadly; distinct from the "serpent" (Hebrew, nachash), Isa 14:29; oviparous (Isa 59:5); subterranean in habits (Isa 11:8).
(4) Shephiphon, from a root "to creep"; Jacob's image of Dan (Ge 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 (Nu 21:6).
There are four words thus translated.
1. akshub. Ps 140:3. This word occurs but once, and simply compares the wicked to adders who have 'poison under their lips.' It cannot be identified.
2. pethen. Ps 58:4; 91:13, reading in the margin of both 'asp.' The wicked are compared to the deaf adder that stoppeth her ears. There is an old tradition that the adder sometimes laid one ear in the dust and covered the other with its tail; but they have no external ears: that all known adders can hear is well attested by those called serpent charmers, though some species are more easily attracted than others. The above name is held to point to the deadly Cobra. The same Hebrew word is translated 'asp' in De 32:33; Job 20:14,16; Isa 11:8, simply pointing to it as poisonous or dangerous.
3. tsiphoni. This is only once translated 'adder' in the text, Pr 23:32, but is four times translated 'cockatrice,' in Isa 11:8; 14:29; 59:5, referring to its poison, and Jer 8:17 to the fact that it will not be charmed, but will bite. This is supposed to be the 'yellow viper' of Palestine, which lurks in dens, and whose poison is deadly. It is said to resist the arts of the serpent charmers. The cockatrice was a fabulous creature, and was perhaps adopted by the translators to designate some unknown deadly snake.
4. shephiphon. Ge 49:17. This is identified with the Cerastes, or horned viper, so called because of having two short horns on its head. It is a small destructive snake, rarely more than two feet long. It is called in the margin 'an arrow-snake.' It lies in holes or ruts and darts upon an animal passing: and this well agrees with the above text, where Dan is compared to "an adder in the path that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward:" typical of apostasy and the power of Satan.
This word is used for any poisonous snake, and is applied in this general sense by the translators of the Authorized Version. The word adder occurs five times in the text of the Authorized Version (see below), and three times int he margin as synonymous with cockatrice, viz.,
It represents four Hebrew words:
1. Acshub is found only in
and may be represented by the Toxicoa of Egypt and North Africa.
2. Pethen. [ASP]
3. Tsepha, or Tsiphoni, occurs five times in the Hebrew Bible. In
it is it is translated adder, and in
it is rendered cockatrice. From Jeremiah we learn that it was of a hostile nature, and from the parallelism of
it appears that the Tsiphoni was considered even more dreadful than the Pethen.
4. Shephipon occurs only in
where it is used to characterize the tribe of Dan. The habit of lurking int he sand and biting at the horse's heels here alluded to suits the character of a well-known species of venomous snake, and helps to identify it with the celebrated horned viper, the asp of Cleopatra (Cerastes), which is found abundantly in the dry sandy deserts of Egypt, Syria and Arabia. The cerastes is extremely venomous. Bruce compelled a specimen to scratch eighteen pigeons upon the thigh as quickly as possible, and they all died in nearly the same interval of time.
ADDER, a venomous serpent, more usually called the viper. In our translation of the Bible we find the word adder five times; but without sufficient authority from the original.
??????, in Ge 49:17, is probably the cerastes; a serpent of the viper kind, of a light brown colour, which lurks in the sand and the tracks of wheels in the road, and unexpectedly bites not only the unwary traveller, but the legs of horses and other beasts. By comparing the Danites to this artful reptile, the patriarch intimated that by stratagem, more than by open bravery, they should avenge themselves of their enemies and extend their conquests.