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The child that is still nursing

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will amuse himself

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over the hole of the venomous snake,

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and the weaned child will put his hand into the hole of another venomous snake.

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The innocent ones who are inexperienced at perceiving danger will take no risk in constantly playing right

where grave danger usually resides; those who are only slightly more experienced in the dangers of life will not be in danger of harm even if they do what always provokes an aggressive response.



This word, which is usually translated simply as “child” actually means “to suck, or to nurse.” It refers to a small child that is still of nursing age. However, don’t interpret that like a modern American, because they usually nursed their children until age 3 or even 4.


The verb I have rendered as “will amuse himself” comes from a root word that means “to be smooth, to smooth over, to smear.” From the idea of “smoothing over” they got the idea of something that is now “pleasing, a source of delight.” From that they also got the idea of “taking delight in something, being pleased,” even “sport and general play.”


What I have rendered as “venomous snake” comes from a word that means simply “to twist.” It is usually applied to venomous snakes, but we cannot be sure which species of snake. When dealing with plants and animals scholars figure they can be confident only about 50% of the time or less. The names given to animals in ancient times usually were a description of how the animal looked, acted or moved. For instance, would the name “climber” be a squirrel, a cat, a sloth, a monkey, a raccoon, or some other kind of animal? This word means “twister;” are there other animals that twist? Well, I recall that the honey badger fits loosely in its skin and when grasped in the mouth of an enemy, it can twist around and bite the nose of its attacker. So even something like “twister” is not a sure thing. But the various uses give us a good idea it is a type of snake (not a honey badger). We don’t know what species of snake because “twister” doesn’t help us distinguish between them. Its usage implies it is venomous and therefore dangerous, and that is the important thing for this verse.


I have rendered this word as “another venomous snake” because it is a totally different word, but it has a very similar usage. It comes from a root meaning to “extrude, or stick out,” which probably refers to the snake’s habit of sticking out its tongue. Its various uses give scholars the idea that it is also venomous, and dangerous. Which of these is more dangerous than the other we cannot know. Maybe this is intended to escalate from a younger child to a slightly older child, and from a dangerous snake, to a more dangerous snake. However, it could also be simple parallelism in which the two halves of the sentence mean the same thing but communicate it in slightly different ways. I believe it is parallelism because the meaning is the same each time with the emphasis on there being no danger where it normally would reside.