Three Animal Stories from the Torah: the Serpent, the Dove and the Camel

    July 2011          
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Three Bible Stories

By Arthur R. Pell

The Sneaky Serpent

It was the fifth day of the Creation. One minute I didn’t exist – and boom!!! There I was. All around me were animals of all sizes, shapes and colors. I saw large animals with big horns, fat animals covered with fur, sleek creatures running wildly about, big beasts that roared. Most had four limbs, a large body and smaller head. In the sky were small flying critters that had wings and sang songs. Most land animals had drab colors: brown, tan, black or grey. Some of the flyers were colored in bright tones – red, yellow, green and blue.

I found myself next to a pond and saw my image in the water. I looked different from any of the other creatures. I was very long and thin with three legs on each side of me. My yellow and green skin was smooth and no hair or fur covered it. My head was small – just a bit larger than my body.

Suddenly a new creature appeared – tall, erect, two legs and two appendages coming from his shoulders in one of which he carried a staff.

All the animals became quiet and we heard a voice coming from the heavens. “I am God. I have created the earth and put you here to populate it. I have chosen the tall erect creature you see here to rule over you. He is Adam – a man. I have made him in my image and he shall rule the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the cattle, the whole earth and all the creatures that live upon it. You will now pass before this man and he will give each of you a name –and that is what you and your descendants will be called for all times. Then you will leave this place and spread over the earth. Be fertile and increase and fill the earth with your descendants.”

We obeyed the word of God and paraded past Adam and he gave each of us a name. Lions, and tigers, and bears, and deer, and cows and camels, and robins, and every creature that exists were named that day. I was at the end of the line and I walked before him on my six legs and he named me “serpent.”

When Adam had finished, the animals started on their journeys to various places on earth. Some went north to live in the snow; some went south to the jungles, some east and west to plains and mountains and forests.

I chose to remain where I was. Why? Because it was an ideal place. God had created a beautiful garden in Eden for Adam and his wife, Eve to live in. Here grew every tree that was pleasing to the sight and good for food. Four rivers in the garden kept it fertile and soft breezes kept it comfortable. I was much smarter than the other animals and I felt it was foolish to travel to some faraway place when everything one could desire was right here in Eden.

It was a joy to live here and share its bounty with Adam and Eve. I spent many hours enjoying the fruits of the trees. I was the only other creature in the garden. After a while I started to think. “Why should this man Adam and this woman Eve rule this land? I am smarter they are. They have only four limbs and I have six. I can run faster; I can climb a tree more easily; and best of all, I can coil up and they cannot. I should be the ruler of all the land and all the animals. I’ll find a way to overthrow them and take over the garden. Then. I -– not those humans –- will be most important. I will crown myself king and be even more powerful than God.”

One day when Eve was sitting under a tree, I approached her. She was surprised to see a serpent in her garden, but soon we became friends and we spent many hours talking to each other.

She told me how happy she was and how she and Adam had everything they wanted. “God has given us the fruit of any tree in the garden to eat -- except for the tree in the very center. It is the tree of knowledge of good and evil and if we eat of it, we are doomed to die.”

“Aha!” I thought: “Here is my chance to get rid of those humans. I’ll persuade Eve to eat the fruit of that tree and they will die, and I will be left in Eden and will be king of all the animals.”

I moved close to Eve and whispered in her ear, “You are not going to die. God knows that as soon as you eat it, you will know what is good and what is bad and become as powerful and as wise as God. It is the most delicious fruit in the garden. Eat it, enjoy it and glory in your newfound powers.”

I quickly climbed the tree with my back four legs, picked a fruit with my front two and brought it to Eve. She ate it and said to me, “it is the most delicious fruit I have ever eaten. Then I picked another fruit and she gave it to Adam.

Now Adam and Eve had always been naked in Eden and felt no shame about it. When they ate the fruit of the tree, the eyes of both of them were opened and they saw their nakedness and were ashamed. They hid behind some trees and covered themselves with fig leaves.

Soon they heard the voice of God calling out to them, “Where are you?” Adam replied, “I heard your voice and I was naked, so I hid.”

God asked, “Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat of the tree from which I had forbidden you to eat?”

Adam responded, “My wife, Eve, gave me the fruit of the tree and I ate it.”

God said to Eve, “What is this you have done?”

She replied, “The serpent duped me and I ate.”

I listened to all of this and shivered with fear. God called out to me: “Because you did this, you will be banned from all other animals – be they cattle or wild beasts. I shall take away your six legs and you shall crawl on your belly and eat dirt all the days of your life. I will make all humans the enemy of you and your offspring for all eternity. They shall strike at your head and you shall strike at their heel.”

I looked down and to my horror saw that my legs were gone. I slithered away down from the garden into the mud and mire. I am no longer the smartest of animals, but the most wretched. All the other animals avoid me. I can do nothing but wriggle from place to place crying over my fate.

The Daring Dove

The rains came. It rained for forty days and forty nights and the water covered all of the earth. Why did this happen? God was displeased with the world – with all the humans and animals that inhabited it and decided to destroy them. All of the earth was flooded and all the men and women and the birds and animals were drowned except for Noah and the others on the ark.

Noah was a righteous man. God chose him to survive the flood and ordered him to build an ark – a great boat. Noah was told to choose a male and a female of every species of animal and take them on the ark. I am a dove and my mate and I were among those creatures.

When the waters had covered the earth for several moons, God caused a wind to blow across the earth and the waters began to subside. The top of a huge mountain was the first land we saw and the ark came to rest on it.

Noah looked out from the ark and saw that most of the earth was still covered with water, so he sent out a raven to look for dry land. The raven flew far and wide, but returned to the ark. He told us that there were no dry places other than the tip of the mountain on which our ark rested.

Seven days later, Noah asked to raven to fly out again, but the raven pleaded with him, “Please, Noah, don’t send me out again. I flew and flew and could find no place to rest. I was so tired that I thought I was going to die. I was lost and could not find my way back to the ark until a strong wind blew me back here. I just cannot go out again.”

Noah brought all the birds together and asked for a volunteer to fly out and survey the land. Not one bird stepped forward. All of us had listened to the raven and were not willing to risk our lives by flying for a long distance.

I looked around. The eagles, the hawks, the condors and the other big birds, hid their heads under their wings hoping Noah would not notice them. The robins, the swallows, the orioles and all the singing birds burst into song, hoping this would distract Noah.

I turned to my mate and said to him. “We doves can fly for long distances and have the ability to find our way back. I want to volunteer.”

I flew over to Noah and offered my services. He rubbed my feathers and said, “Thank you, Dove. God will be with you, so you need not fear. He then gently cast me into the sky.

I flew to the north – saw nothing but water below. I flew to the south – more water. I flew to the east and the west – not a dry place below. I returned to the ark and told Noah and all the animals that the earth was still covered with water.

Noah waited for several more days and then sent me out again. I was much more at ease now and flew closer to the earth. After several hours, I noticed a green spot below and soared down and saw it was an olive tree, sprouting out from a small dry area on the side of a mountain. I alit on the tree and plucked an olive leaf in my beak and flew back to the ark.

I flew right up to Noah and placed the leaf in his hand. Noah said, “This leaf is a sign that the waters are almost gone. In a short time, we will be able to disembark.”

Several days later, Noah sent me out again. This time I found much of the land had dried up and trees and shrubs and grass and reeds were growing all over. I found a large tree in the midst of a meadow and rested there. I searched around and picked up twigs and grass and built a nest.

When Noah saw that I did not return, he prayed to God to thank him for bringing him, his family and all the animals back to dry land. God responded, “Come out of the ark with your wife and family and all the creatures that are with you. Let them swarm on the earth and be fertile and repopulate the earth.”

Noah came out with all the animals and sent them on their way. Now that I had built my nest, I flew back to where the ark had landed to find my mate. Together we flew to our new nest. As we flew over the land that had once been flooded, we saw a beautiful rainbow covering the sky -- a sign that there would never be another flood or destruction of every living being.

The Cutest Camel

I don’t want to sound conceited, but everyone tells me that I am the cutest camel in the flock. Camels are not known to be cute, but all the humans want to pet me and feed me sweets. They ignore my brothers and sisters and want to ride on my back.

Our master, Abraham worships God, the creator of the entire world, and God has blessed him with wealth. He has many sheep, cattle, horses, donkeys – and, of course, camels.

Now, Abraham has a son, Isaac, who was not married. Abraham did not want him to marry a woman from among the Canaanites, the people in the nearby area. One day he called Eliezer, his chief servant and ordered him to go to the land where were Abraham had been born. He said to him, “Go to Nahor, the land of my kinsmen, and find a wife there for my son.”

Eliezer asked, “How will I know which maiden to take?”

Abraham responded, “God will give you a sign when the right maiden appears.”

The next day, Eliezer picked several camels to take with him. He loaded the camels with provisions for the journey and gifts for the young woman, who will be chosen and for her family. He did not want to take me because I was the smallest of the flock and could not carry a heavy burden. I wanted so much to go, so I sidled up to Eliezer, rubbed by head against him and smiled at him. “Very well, he said, “All the other camels seem unhappy, and you’re so cheerful. I’ll take you and you can carry me.” He climbed onto my back and we set off to the city of Nahor.

We arrived at a well outside of the city in the early evening – the time when the women come out to draw water from the well. We knelt down beside the well and rested. Eliezer prayed, “Oh God, God of Abraham, my master, give me a sign so I will know which young maiden to choose to be Isaac’s wife.”

God answered: “When the daughters of the townsmen come out to draw water, go to them and say ‘Please lower your jar that I may drink.’ And the one who replies ‘Drink and I will also water your camels’ is the one who shall be Isaac’s wife.”

Soon several women came to the well out with jars on their shoulders. They went down to the well and filled their jars., Eliezer went over to them and said, “Please let me sip a little water from your jar.” Only one of the maidens looked up and quickly lowered her jar so he could drink. He returned to jar to her and she was about to leave, when she looked up and saw me. I smiled at her and she said, “Most camels always look sad.,” she said. “This one is the cutest and most cheerful camel I have ever seen. Let me give her and all the other camels some water.” She ran back to the well and filled her jar and poured it into the trough so I and the other camels could drink. She continued to refill the trough until all of us had our fill.

Then Eliezer asked her, “Whose daughter are you?

She responded, “I am Rebecca, daughter of Bethuel.”

He then asked, “Could your father find room for me and my camels to rest for the night?”

She said, “There is plenty of room and straw and feed for your camels and my father will welcome you as a guest in our house.”

Rebecca ran home to tell her mother and father about the man and his camels. When they arrived, the camels were unloaded and we were given straw and feed and water.

Eliezer was welcomed by Rebecca’s family. He told them about his mission. “I am Abraham’s servant. God has greatly blessed my master and he has become very rich. He has given him sheep and cattle, gold and silver, camels and donkeys. My master has sent me here to find a wife for his son, Isaac, a maiden from among his kinsmen. When I asked how I would know the maiden, he said that God will give me a sign.

“When we arrived at the well outside the city, a voice inside of me said, ‘When the daughters of the townsmen come out to draw water, go to them and say ‘Please lower your jar that I may drink.’ And the one who replies ‘Drink and I will also water your camels.’ She is the one who shall be Isaac’s wife.’ Shortly, Rebecca came out and did offer me water and did water my camels. I beseech you now to consent to Abraham’s wish. It is the will of God.”

Eliezer then gave Bethuel, Rebecca’s father and Laban, her brother and the rest of the family the many gifts we had brought from Abraham.

The next day, Bethuel said, “It is God’s will, so we consent that Rebecca shall be the wife of Isaac, but let her remain with us for ten more days.

Eliezer said, “Please do not delay me, now that God has made my mission successful. Allow me to return at once with Rebecca.”

When Rebecca was told about the mission and that she was chosen to be Isaac’s wife, she said, “It is God’s will and I will go with them now.”

When Rebecca came out with her maidservant, she walked over to me and said to Eliezer, “This is the camel I wish to ride on our journey. This was the camel that I watered first and it is the cutest camel I have ever seen.” She mounted me and I proudly carried her all the way back to the land of Canaan.

When we arrived, Isaac was walking in the field and he looked up and saw us approaching. Rebecca asked, “Who is this man approaching us?” Eliezer answered, “It is Isaac.” Rebecca covered her face with a veil, as was the custom, and waited sitting on my back while Eliezer told Isaac all of the things he had done.

Then Isaac came up to us, helped Rebecca dismount and took her into the tent. Isaac loved her and Rebecca loved him. I rejoined my flock and for many years I have been her favorite camel – carrying her and later her little twins wherever they journeyed.

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For more Jewish Stories, see our Fiction Archives


from the July 2011 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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