Paul, the Viper, and the Barbarians #4

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm (Acts 28:3-5 KJV).

What is the Holy Spirit teaching through this bizarre passage?

It is wintertime at Melita (verse 11). Furthermore, a storm out in the Mediterranean Sea has brought rain and chilly, violent winds (verse 2). The island’s foreigners, considerate of Paul and his fellow shipwrecked travelers, start a fire to warm them. As Paul collects wood and throws it onto the fire….

Firstly, the heat forces a snake out into the open. Secondly, it strikes Paul’s hand, biting and firmly latching on. Thirdly, the inhabitants of Melita observe the subsequent strange incident as utter pagans—Gentiles under Satan’s control. Their superstitions cause them to surmise Paul is a murderer that “bad karma” is punishing. He survived the shipwreck, but he will definitely perish with that toxic snakebite! Fourthly, Paul is uninjured, merely shaking the snake off into the fire! Read verse 6, immediately following today’s Scripture: “Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.”

The events and imagery are stunning; the symbolism is even more remarkable. “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Matthew 3:7; cf. Luke 3:7). “O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matthew 12:34). “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” (Matthew 23:33). Could the Scriptures be plainer? Unbelieving Israel is that viper that attacked Paul!

Yet, there is more, much more, to see here….