is the uniform rendering, in the A.V., of עֶפעֶה, eph'êh (from פָּעִה, prob. to hiss), which occurs only in Job 20:16; Isa 30:6; Isa 59:5; and of ἔχιδνα (Mt 3:7; Mt 12:34; Mt 23:33; Lu 3:7; Ac 28:3). In all instances a venomous serpent is evidently denoted, but the particular kind, if anything more than a generic term, is indeterminable. The English name is derived from the Latin vivipara, which signifies "bringing, forth its young alive; " but, though the young are thus produced, they are previously formed in an egg within the parent's ovary, and hence Isaiah's allusion to the hatching of vipers (Isa 59:5) is perfectly justified by physiology and natural history. Hence it is used tropically for deceitful and wicked men (Mt 3:7; Mt 12:34; Mt 23:33; Lu 3:7). From the earliest ages the "viper" has been dreaded for its venomous bite, and made the emblem of everything that is hurtful and destructive; indeed, its poison is one of the most active and dangerous in the animal kingdom. The true viper is the adder (Pelias berus or Vipera berus), which retains its eggs until hatched. Its bite, however, is not necessarily fatal. So terrible was the nature of these creatures that they were very commonly thought to be sent as executioners of divine vengeance upon mankind for enormous crimes which had escaped the course of justice. The people of Melita showed that they were thoroughly imbued with this superstition when Paul was shipwrecked on the island (Ac 28:3). Such a dangerous serpent is known in the East by the name of leffah (i.e. el-effah, equivalent to the Heb. word); it is thus described by Shaw and Jackson as the most venomous of the serpent tribe in Northern Africa and South-western-Asia. It is remarkable for its quick and penetrating poison; it is about two feet long, and as thick as a man's arm, beautifully spotted with yellow and brown, and sprinkled over with blackish specks similar to the horn-nosed snake. These serpents have a wide mouth with which they inhale a. great quantity of air, and when inflated therewith they eject it with such force as to be heard a considerable distance. The modern Oriental name is derived from an Arabic word which signifies "to burn," whence some have inferred that the fiery serpents sent to chastise the Israelites in the desert were leffahs, or vipers. SEE SERPENT.

Bible concordance for VIPER.

Definition of viper

See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

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