Previous Verse


Look! I am sending you out like sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore, you must be as prudent

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as snakes

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and as pure and sincere

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as doves.

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Be Careful! I am sending you out in a seemingly unprotected way right into the hands of those who may choose to kill you. For this reason you will need to be as savvy as possible, and also as innocent as possible.



This word means “prudent, wise, discreet, or cautious.” It is based on a personal, internal perspective on the matter. It is how we “size things up’ using our personal opinions.


From ancient times the snake or serpent was seen as wise in that sometimes it was cautious, and sometimes it was crafty. Most snakes will not strike unless cornered, and much prefer to get away from danger. It is this cautiousness that is in view in this verse. In this case there is no hint of evil intent because it is paired with the symbolism of the dove. Jesus was saying that, even though they were being sent into situations that were potentially dangerous, they should stand for truth without being purposefully obnoxious.


The word I have chosen for the phrase “pure and sincere” literally means “unmixed.” Many things must be pure and untainted with outside elements in order to be proper and useful. This is true of metals such as gold and silver, of liquids such as water, grape wine or olive oil, of vegetables and fruits, and more. For this reason the word “unmixed” came to have the meaning of “pure.”


Jamieson, Fausset and Brown say that, “Alone, the wisdom of the serpent is mere cunning, and the harmlessness of the dove little better than weakness: but in combination, the wisdom of the serpent would save them from unnecessary exposure to danger; the harmlessness of the dove, from sinful expedients to escape it.”