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Reference: Viper


A genus of serpents noted for the virulence of their poison, which is said to be one of the most dangerous in the animal kingdom. Hence the viper is a symbol of whatever is most evil and destructive, Job 20:16; Isa 30:6. As such the term was applied by Christ and by John to certain classes of the Jews, Mt 3:7; 12:34; 23:33; Lu 3:7. Paul's escape from the bite of a viper in Malta led the people to believe that he was a god in human form, Ac 28:3. A species of viper in Northern Africa, though little more than a foot long is called the most formidable serpent there; and Hasselquist speaks of a viper in Cyprus, whose bits produces a universal gangrene, and occasions death within a few hours. See SERPENTS.

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In Job 20:16; Isa 30:6; 59:5, the Heb word eph'eh is thus rendered. The Hebrew word, however, probably denotes a species of poisonous serpents known by the Arabic name of 'el ephah. Tristram has identified it with the sand viper, a species of small size common in sandy regions, and frequently found under stones by the shores of the Dead Sea. It is rapid in its movements, and highly poisonous. In the New Testament echidne is used (Mt 3:7; 12:34; 23:33) for any poisonous snake. The viper mentioned in Ac 28:3 was probably the vipera aspis, or the Mediterranean viper. (See Adder.)

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(See ADDER; SERPENT.) Epheh (Isa 59:5); viviparous, as the derivation of viper implies. Symbol of hypocrisy and malignity (Mt 3:7; 12:34; 23:33).

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epheh, cidna -->??????. All we learn from the passages that speak of the viper is that its bite was poisonous: "the viper's tongue shall slay him." When one fixed on Paul's hand they expected that he would drop down dead. What species of serpent is alluded to is unknown. It is only otherwise referred to in the N.T. as symbolical of evil ones. John the Baptist called the multitude who came to be baptised 'a brood of vipers,' and the Lord applies the same term to the scribes and Pharisees, showing the deadly character of their opposition. Job 20:16; Isa 30:6; 59:5; Mt 3:7; 12:34; 23:33; Lu 3:7; Ac 28:3.

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See Serpent


VIPER, ????, Job 20:16; Isa 30:6; 59:5; ??????, Mt 3:7; 12:34; 23:33; Lu 3:7; Ac 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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