[Milton-L] Serpents and their coloring

Horace Jeffery Hodges horacejeffery at gmail.com
Sat Nov 1 04:46:11 EDT 2014


Thanks, Nancy, that fiery color of red and gold recalls the point - which I
recall running across in *Sir Gawain and the Green Knight* - that red and
gold were treated as the same color . . . though I can't quite place the
reference . . .

Jeffery

On Sat, Nov 1, 2014 at 4:32 PM, Nancy Rosenfeld <rosenfeld.n at gmail.com>
wrote:

> Dear Jeffery,
>
> Thanks for raising the question of traditions as to serpents' coloring
> (and for posting the link to the tapestry).
>
> Actually we can start with the Hebrew Bible itself, focusing on Numbers
> 21:6-9, which tells how the Deity sent "fiery serpents" (KJV) to bite
> people as punishment for speaking "against the Lord." In response to Moses'
> prayer, God instructs him to "make a fiery serpent, and set it upon a
> pole." Moses "made a serpent of brass" and held it aloft; everyone who had
> been bitten and looked on the brass serpent was able to live.
>
> [In Hebrew the above is a play-on-words, since nahash (serpent) and
> nehoshet (brass in KJV; copper in the Jewish Publication Society
> translation) come from the same 3-letter root. There's also a problem
> understanding saraf - the word translated as fiery. I looked at 2
> commentaries on these verses - Rashi and Ramban - but couldn't get much out
> of them - my fault; I'm not a biblical scholar.]
>
> But whichever metal the serpent was made of - brass or copper: both brass
> and copper, especially when held aloft with the strong desert sun shining
> on them, would probably have a fiery color which is a combination of red
> and gold (and fire itself is often pictured by combining red and
> yellow-gold).
>
> Hope this helps,
> Nancy
>
> Dr. Nancy Rosenfeld
> Max Stern College of Jezreel Valley, 19300, Israel
>
>
>
>
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