In the beginning was the serpent, and the serpent was given the whisper that questioned what God had said to the man and to the woman. And then, we get into the Gospels, and we see the Pharisees called a brood of snakes, and we can understand why, for they seem to have the same whisper. But by far, the more common rebuke of the Pharisees is not merely snakes, but vipers - not just by Jesus, but by John the Baptist, as well. And the difference between the snake and the viper is that the snake may crawl along his belly, but the viper crawls along his belly and is also poisonous. Every time.
In the beginning, the serpent might have been forgiven, for maybe he didn't know the full implications of his question. Maybe he just had the whisper, and all he intended to do with it was ask it. Let it fall where it may. Put it out there and see what happens with it. Maybe God really did say...then the serpent's whisper could show that.
It wasn't necessarily toxic; it was just a whisper. Just a question.
But the Pharisees? They knew better.
They knew better because they come after man has eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They come after man has figured out what is good and what is not good. They come after thousands of years of God proving that He is who He says He is and that He does punish disobedience and that His Word is what He says it is. They come after man has every opportunity to know the answer to the question, the rebuttal to the whisper.
And they whisper anyway.
They not only whisper, but they answer their own whisper. They raise the question, then answer it. Did God really say? Yes, He did, the Pharisees confess. But here's what He really meant when He said it.
They know exactly what God said, but they go on to add to His Word, to make all kinds of human rules to go on top of it, to put their own interpretations and twists to it, to, as Jesus says, increase the burden on their fellow men and women without lifting a single finger about it.
The serpent said that when you eat of the tree, you will know as God knows the fullness of good and evil. The Pharisees, in their vileness, have claimed to know better than God.
That's why they are not merely snakes, but vipers. They carry not just the whisper, but a poisonous word.
They are not only deceiving the people; they are killing them.
You hypocrites! You speak life, but you bring only death. You brood of snakes! You move through the world by the force of your own will and bite at the heels of the woman who knows you can only but whisper. You vipers! You're killing the faithful of the Lord....
It's fitting that Christ calls them out this way. It's beautiful the way He illuminates what they are doing with a simple rebuke, a simple name, a simple description of how. It's beautiful the way He responds to it....