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Morrish Bible Dictionary


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There are four words thus translated.

1. akshub. Psalm 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. Psalm 58:4 ; Psalm 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 Deuteronomy 32:33 ; Job 20:14,16 ; Isaiah 11:8 , simply pointing to it as poisonous or dangerous.

3. tsiphoni. This is only once translated 'adder' in the text, Proverbs 23:32 , but is four times translated 'cockatrice,' in Isaiah 11:8 ; Isaiah 14:29 ; Isaiah 59:5 , referring to its poison, and Jeremiah 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. Genesis 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.

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Bibliography Information
Morrish, George. Entry for 'Adder '. Morrish Bible Dictionary. 1897.

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