Today I find a grass snake sunbathing on a pink granite boulder. We startle each other and he slithers off (before I can get a picture), probably sulking. He did have the perfect spot to soak up the sun. But I can’t say I’m sorry to see him go. There’s something unsettling about the silent stealth of a snake. Its scaly body, piercing eyes, and forked, flicking tongue don’t help either.
The only living things I dislike more are spiders. They give me the willies! All those legs and eyes and those larger-than-life pinchers… YUCK! The other day one was crawling on me… not on my clothes… on me! I could feel its hairy feet scampering cross my skin. My kids laughed when I did a wild highland jig trying to get the creepy thing off me.
My aversion to arachnids began at a young age. Bulging-bodied grain spiders hung from every nook and cranny in Grandpa’s barn. I kept a watchful eye on them when I helped put up hay, fearing one might attack me when I wasn’t looking. That never happened. The wolf spiders never attacked while I was playing in the water either, nor did the marbled orb weavers jump at me while I harvested wildflower seeds. But I know the sneaky little spiders in our house sometimes attack me at night. They leave clusters of itchy bites.
Exactly why spiders and snakes strike such fear in my heart, I’m not certain. But I find it interesting that both are used in Isaiah 59: 4-5, to describe the deception and lies running rampant in Judah. “No one sues righteously and no one pleads honestly. They trust in confusion and speak lies; They conceive mischief and bring forth iniquity. They hatch adders’ eggs and weave the spider’s web; he who eats of their eggs dies,and from that which is crushed a snake breaks forth.”
Isaiah first compares the lies and wickedness of the people to snake eggs. The eggs that were eaten killed. The eggs that were crushed hatched even more evil. Then Isaiah compares the wickedness in which people were being ensnared to a well-woven spider’s web. What great word pictures! Can’t you just see a nest of snakey babies writhing in a tangled mass, each trying to escape but caught up in the mess? Or an insect vainly struggling to escape the sticky grip of a spider’s web? Perhaps this is the foundation for the old adage, “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.”
There’s nothing inherently evil about spiders or snakes. God created them with care. Their subversive ways, however, are a reminder to us to avoid sin’s entrapment; to keep a watchful eye out for webs of deception that could entangle us, and to be wary of snake-like snares.