An adder is a kind of snake that is known for its venomous and painful bite. While all snakes are identified with Satan’s temptation of Eve, the idea of an encounter with a snake that hurts you is this
Bible Occurrences: Psa 140; Rom 3:13.
A poisonous snake of the Vipera genus referred to as an “adder” or “asp”. It is snake that does not bear its young in eggs but gives live birth to its young. It has black spots on its back, and its belly is very blackish, and is often called a viper.
In the original languages there are four words which are translated with our English word:
1. Akshub (coming from a meaning of “coiling” or “lying in wait”). Psa 140:3.
2. Pehten (“twisting”) which is a viper or venomous serpent identified with the cobra (Psa 58:4; 91:13;140:3), identified with the asp.
3. Tziphoni (“hissing”) Pro 23:32, and elsewhere the cockatrice (Isa 11:8; 14:29; 59:5; Jer 8:17. (also called “basilisk”).
4. Shephiphon (“creeping”) only in Gen 49:17, is a small speckled venomous snake, the “horned snake” or cerastes, and is probably the blood snake, the color of sand. This is like an animal that lies in ambush for someone who passes by (referred to the tribe of Dan).
There are four words thus translated.
1. akshub. Ps. 140:3. This word occurs but once, and simply compares the wicked to adders who have ‘poison under their lips.’ It cannot be identified.
2. pethen. Ps. 58:4; Ps. 91:13, reading in the margin of both ‘asp.’ The wicked are compared to the deaf adder that stoppeth her ears. There is an old tradition that the adder sometimes laid one ear in the dust and covered the other with its tail; but they have no external ears:that all known adders can hear is well attested by those called serpent charmers, though some species are more easily attracted than others. The above name is held to point to the deadly Cobra. The same Hebrew word is translated ‘asp’ in Deut. 32:33; Job 20:14, 16; Isa. 11:8, simply pointing to it as poisonous or dangerous.
3. tsiphoni. This is only once translated ‘adder’ in the text, Prov. 23:32, but is four times translated ‘cockatrice,’ in Isa. 11:8; Isa. 14:29; Isa. 59:5, referring to its poison, and Jer. 8:17 to the fact that it will not be charmed, but will bite. This is supposed to be the ‘yellow viper’ of Palestine, which lurks in dens, and whose poison is deadly. It is said to resist the arts of the serpent charmers. The cockatrice was a fabulous creature, and was perhaps adopted by the translators to designate some unknown deadly snake.
4. shephiphon. Gen. 49:17. This is identified with the Cerastes, or horned viper, so called because of having two short horns on its head. It is a small destructive snake, rarely more than two feet long. It is called in the margin ‘an arrow-snake.’ It lies in holes or ruts and darts upon an animal passing:and this well agrees with the above text, where Dan is compared to “an adder in the path that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward:” typical of apostasy and the power of Satan.