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ADDER (See Animals: Snake)

ADDER ăd’ ər (פֶּ֫תֶן, H7352, a poisonous snake). This is tr. “adder” (Ps 58:4, 91:13; KJV and RSV, but “asp” (q.v.) in four other passages. This is prob. the cobra.

Heb. (צִפְעֹנִי, H7626, a poisonous snake). KJV tr. “adder” once and “cockatrice” four times. RSV tr. “adder” throughout. Like the other words this is found only in fig. passages and precise identification is impossible. This is true also of Heb. (צֶ֫פַע, H7625, Isa 14:29 KJV) tr. “cockatrice.”

Heb. (שְׁפִיפֹן, H9159, a poisonous snake). This is found only once (Gen 49:17) but the context is more helpful: “Dan shall be an adder in the path” (KJV); “a viper by the path (RSV), that bites the horses’ heels,” KJVmg. “arrowsnake.” This description would fit one of the sand vipers that lies hidden in the sand and strikes out at any large animal that disturbs it.

These three words are all to some extent onomatopoeic, for they suggest both the hissing so characteristic of some vipers and also the noise made by rubbing together the rough, keeled scales that give one of the desert vipers the name of saw-scaled viper. (See Serpent.) A sand viper was, in fact, the origin of the hieroglyph “F” in ancient Egypt.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(`akhshubh (Ps 140:3); pethen (Ps 58:4); tsiph`oni (Pr 23:32); shephiphon (Ge 49:17); tsepha` (King James Version margin; Isa 14:29)): This word is used for several Hebrew originals. In each case a poisonous serpent is clearly indicated by the context. It is impossible to tell in any case just what species is meant, but it must be remembered that the English word adder is used very ambiguously. It is from the Anglo-Saxon noedre, a snake or serpent, and is the common English name for Vipera berus, L, the common viper, which is found throughout Europe and northern Asia, though not in Bible lands; but the word "adder" is also used for various snakes, both poisonous and non-poisonous, found in different parts of the world. In America, for instance, both the poisonous moccasin (Ancistrodon) and the harmless hog-nosed snakes (Heterodon) are called adders.

See Serpent.

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