And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks
Had picked up some sticks, and put them in a bundle fit for the fire, as everyone was busy to assist in this extremity; nor did the apostle think such an action below him, who in all things was a man of great humility and condescension:
and laid them on the fire;
to increase it:
there came a viper out of the heat:
a viper is a kind of serpent, which brings forth its young living, to the number of twenty, only one in a day, which come forth wrapped up in thin skins, which break on the third day, and set them at liberty; and so is reckoned among viviparous animals, from whence it seems to have its name, whereas other serpents lay eggs and hatch them. It is said F11, that this remarkable reptile has the biggest and flattest head of all the serpent kind; its usual length is about half an ell, and its thickness an inch; its snout is not unlike that of a hog; it has sixteen small immovable teeth in each jaw, besides two other large, sharp, hooked, hollow, transparent, canine teeth, situate at each side of the upper jaw, which are those that do the mischief: these are flexible in their articulation, and are ordinarily laid flat along the jaw, the animal never raising them but when it would bite The roots or bases of these teeth, or fangs, are encompassed with a vesicle or bladder, containing the quantity of a large drop of a yellow insipid salivous juice.--It has only one row of teeth, whereas all other serpents have two; its body is not at all fetid, whereas the inner parts of the bodies of other serpents are intolerable.--It creeps very slowly, and never leaps like other serpents, though it is nimble enough to bite when provoked.--Its body is of two colours, ash coloured or yellow, and the ground speckled with longish brown spots; the scales under its belly are of the colour of well polished steel. Its bite is exceeding venomous, and its poison the most dangerous. Now when this viper here is said to come out of the heat, the meaning is, that it came out from the sticks, which were laid upon the fire, being forced from thence by the heat of it: and so the Syriac version renders it, "there came out of them" (the sticks) "a viper, because of the heat of the fire"; it lay quiet among the sticks, among which, and such like things, this creature often lies; but when the fire began to heat it, it sprung out:
and fastened on his hand;
or wrapped itself about his hand: the Syriac and Arabic versions render it, "bit his hand"; but that does not seem so likely, since he felt no harm by it; the Ethiopic version, "hung upon his hand"; which agrees with what follows; nor is it inconsistent with its wrapping itself about his hand, which is the more proper signification of the word used.
F11 Chambers's Cyclopaedia in the word "Viper".