XXI. (94) It is not unnaturally, therefore, that Moses, singing his song of triumph on the destruction of the riders, nevertheless prays fore complete safety for the horsemen; for these are able, putting their bridles into the mouths of the irrational powers, to check the impetuosity of their superabundant violence. What then his prayer is must be told: he says, “Let Dan be a serpent in the way, sitting in the path, biting the heel of the horse; and the horseman shall fall backwards, awaiting the salvation of the Lord.”{14}{#ge 49:17.} (95) But we must explain what is the enigmatical meaning which he conceals under this prayer, the name of Dan, being interpreted, means “judgment;” therefore he here likens that power of the soul which investigates, and accurately examines, and distinguishes between, and, in some degree, decides on each part of the soul, to a dragon (and the dragon is an animal various in its movements, and exceedingly cunning, and ready to display its courage, and very powerful to repel those who begin acts of violence), but not to that friendly serpent, the counsellor of life, which is wont to be called Eve in his national language, but to the one made by Moses, of the material of brass, which, when those who had been bitten by the poisonous serpents, and who were at the point of death beheld, they are said to have lived and not to have died.

XXII. (96) And these things thus expressed resemble visions and prodigies; I mean the account of one dragon uttering the voice of a man and pouring his sophistries into most innocent dispositions, and deceiving the woman with plausible arguments of persuasion; and of another becoming a cause of complete safety to those who looked upon it. (97) But, in the allegorical explanations of these statements, all that bears a fabulous appearance is got rid of in a moment, and the truth is discovered in a most evident manner. The serpent, then, which appeared to the woman, that is to life depending on the outward senses and on the flesh, we pronounce to have been pleasure, crawling forward with an indirect motion, full of innumerable wiles, unable to raise itself up, ever cast down on the ground, creeping only upon the good things of the earth, seeking lurking places in the body, burying itself in each of the outward senses as in pits or caverns, a plotter against man, designing destruction to a being better than itself, eager to kill with its poisonous but painless bite. But the brazen serpent, made by Moses, we explain as being the disposition opposite to pleasure, namely, patient endurance, on which account it is that he is represented as having made it of brass, which is a very strong material. (98) He, then, who with sound judgment contemplates the appearance of patient endurance, even if he has been previously bitten by the allurements of pleasures, must inevitably live; for the one holds over his soul a death to be averted by no prayers, but self-restraint proffers him health and preservation of life; and temperance, which repels evils, is a remedy and perfect antidote for intemperance. (99) And every wise man looks upon what is good as dear to him, which is also altogether calculated to ensure his preservation. So that when Moses prays that it may happen to Dan, either himself, to be that serpent (for the words may be understood in either sense), he means a serpent closely resembling the one which has been made by himself, but not like the one which appeared to Eve, for then the prayer is an entreaty for good things; (100) therefore the character of patient endurance is good, and capable of receiving immortality, which is the perfect good. But the character of pleasure is evil, bringing in its train the greatest of all punishments, death. On which account Moses says, “Let Dan become a serpent,” and that not in any other place rather than in the road. (101) For the indulgences of intemperance and gluttony, and whatever other vices the immoderate and insatiable pleasures, when completely filled with an abundance of all external things, produce and bring forth, do not allow the soul to proceed onwards by the plain and straight road, but compel it to fall into ravines and gulfs, until they utterly destroy it; but those practices which adhere to patience, and endurance, and moderation, and all other virtues, keep the soul in the straight road, leaving no stumbling block in the way, against which it can stumble and fall. Very naturally, therefore, has Moses declared that temperance clings to the right way, because it is plain that the contrary habit, intemperance, is always straying from the road.