3:1 serpent. The “serpent” was not merely a talking snake, but was Satan himself (Revelation 12:9; 20:2) possessing and using the serpent’s body to deceive Eve. Satan had been originally “created” (see notes on Ezekiel 28:14,15) as the highest of all angels, the anointed cherub covering the very throne of God in heaven. He, along with all the angels, had been created to be “ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation” (Hebrews 1:14). Not content with a role inferior in two important respects to man (angels were not created in God’s image, nor could they reproduce after their kind, there being no female angels), Satan led a third of the angels (Revelation 12:4, 9) to rebel against God, seeking to become God himself. Evidently, he did not really believe that God was the omnipotent Creator, but rather that all had evolved from the primeval chaos (probably the explanation for the widespread ancient pagan belief that the world began in a state of watery chaos). God, therefore, “cast [him] to the ground” (Ezekiel 28:17), thus allowing Satan to tempt the very ones he had been created to serve.
3:1 subtil. The physical serpent was clever, and possibly originally able to stand upright, eye-to-eye with man (the Hebrew word is nachash, possibly meaning originally a shining, upright creature).
3:1 he said. There is a possibility that some of the animals may have originally been able to communicate on an elementary level with their human masters, an ability later removed by the Curse. More likely, God merely allowed Satan to use the serpent’s throat (as He later allowed Balaam’s ass to speak–Numbers 22:28) and Eve was, in her innocence, not yet aware of the strangeness of it.
3:1 hath God said. The root of all sin is doubting God’s Word. Satan used this approach successfully even with one who had never sinned before and who had no sin-nature inclining her to sin. Satan merely implanted a slight doubt concerning God’s veracity and His sovereign goodness. The approach so successful in this case has provided the pattern for his temptations ever since.