Y O U N G P E O P L E ' S D I C T I O N A R Y O F S C R I P T U R A L • & • R E L I G I O U S T E R M S
This refers to poisonous snake. In Proverbs 23:32 the result of drinking too much
wine is referred to: “At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder”.
Here the word “adder” is the same Hebrew word as “Cockatrice” (“tsepha”).
Another word used to describe poisonous snakes in the Old Testament is “Asp”.
The context in which “cockatrice” is found in the Old Testament is usually bad or
negative. God uses this deadly creature to warn us of the results of disobedience to
Him. In Jeremiah (chap. 8) the Lord warns His people of the solemn results of their
rebellion and idolatry telling them; “We looked for peace, but no good [came; and]
for a time of health, and behold trouble!...For, behold, I will send serpents,
cockatrices, among you, which [will] not [be] charmed, and they shall bite you,
saith the LORD...Why have they provoked me to anger with their graven images,
[and] with strange vanities? The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are
not saved...[Is there] no balm in Gilead; [is there] no physician there? why then is
not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?”
A time is coming after the Lord Jesus calls the true church home (at the “rapture” -
1 Thess. 4) when He will return to earth and set up His glorious millenial kingdom.
For a thousand years this world will enjoy peace described in Isa.11:8 when “the
sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his
hand on the cockatrice' den.” Poisonous snakes (such as cobras and rattlesnakes),
wild animals such as lions and bears, or venomous insects such as scorpions and
black widow spiders, will no longer have the ability to harm. “The wolf also shall
dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and
the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them” (Isa. 11:6).
In the New Testament both the Lord Jesus and John Baptist referred to the
unbelieving Jews (especially the Pharisees and Saducees) as “serpents, [ye]
generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” (Matt. 23:33). Their
hatred of the Lord Jesus (teaching people to reject Him) is infinitely worse than the
bite of a poisonous snake!
When the Apostle Paul was shipwrecked on the island of Melita, he gathered wood
for a fire and “there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand” but he
was not hurt (Acts 28:3). The cockatrice (adder, asp, viper) is a striking symbol of
the Devil (Rev. 20:2) and of sin too—the deadly poison with which the whole human
race has been bitten. “The soul that sinneth it shall die” (Ezk. 18:4). “The wages of
sin is death...” (Rom 6:23). Our Lord Jesus has given believers the victory however.
“The sting of death [is] sin...But thanks [be] to God, which giveth us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:56, 57).