A close-up shot capturing the coiled snake's fangs sinking into Paul's flesh, questioning the divine purpose behind God's allowance of this intense moment.

Why Did God Allow The Snake To Bite Paul?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: According to the Bible, God allows suffering to fulfill His divine purposes, build character, and draw us closer to Him. The story of Paul’s snake bite demonstrates God protecting and strengthening His faithful follower.

In this article, we will explore the biblical context around Paul’s snake bite, analyze potential reasons why God allowed it, and extract lessons of faith and trust in God’s sovereignty even through trials.

The Background Story of Paul’s Snake Bite

The Shipwreck

In around 60 AD, the apostle Paul was traveling by ship to Rome as a prisoner when a terrible storm struck, causing the ship to be wrecked off the coast of Malta (Acts 27). After 14 days of being battered by the storm, the ship was destroyed but all 276 passengers were able to reach land safely – thanks to Paul’s encouragement and faith in God.

This was an incredible deliverance and no lives were lost.

Paul Miraculously Unharmed

After coming safely ashore, Paul helped gather brushwood and made a fire to warm the shipwrecked crew and passengers. But as Paul was placing sticks on the fire, a venomous snake suddenly came out and fastened onto his hand!

The people looked on in horror, expecting Paul to swell up or suddenly drop dead. But Paul simply shook off the snake into the fire and suffered no ill effects (Acts 28:3-6). The people waiting for him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead.

But after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.

The Snake Bite

This account of a poisonous snake bite is remarkable on several levels. First, Paul was bitten but remained completely unaffected by the venom. This miraculous protection allowed Paul to continue his mission of preaching the gospel in Rome.

Second, the incident showed Paul’s courage and faith in action. He did not panic when bitten but calmly shook off the snake, trusting God to protect him. Third, it served as a powerful testimony to the watching crowd that Paul was a special man of God.

They went from expecting his demise to calling him a god! Finally, the snake bite foreshadowed how Paul would suffer harm in his ministry but be unaffected by it (2 Corinthians 11:23-28). Like with the viper, the “bites” of persecution could not ultimately stop Paul from fulfilling his calling.

Why Would a Good God Allow Suffering?

The question of why suffering exists in the world has puzzled philosophers and theologians for centuries. For many, intense suffering seems at odds with the existence of a loving God. While there may be no fully satisfactory answer to this dilemma, examining some perspectives on suffering and God’s allowances of hardship can provide insight.

Suffering and Spiritual Growth

From the Christian perspective, suffering, though profoundly unpleasant and troubling, can lead to spiritual growth and a more intimate unity with God. Hardships can provide opportunities to cultivate virtues like patience, compassion, mercy, resilience, and empathy toward others experiencing pain.

If used spiritually, suffering can be contributing factor in the shaping of moral character and can clarify what truly matters in life.

Additionally, suffering can lead to deeper reliance on and relationship with God. Turning to God in times of distress seeks comfort from a place of wisdom and eternal reassurance. As expressed in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Surrendering suffering to God also requires faith and hope in God’s ultimate plan.

Rather than viewing pain as an aberration, some understanding of hardship finds roots in spiritual training and soul-nourishment to counter the indolence of prosperity.

Suffering and Free Will

From a philosophical perspective, allowing pain and suffering maintains human free will. If God continually intervened against all moral and natural evils, there would be little room for freely chosen growth experiences or spiritual lessons.

Removing suffering would inhibit humans from choosing goodness, compassion, courage, and their own reliance on God.

God’s gift of free will necessitates the ability to choose paths that lead to hardship for ourselves and others. However, Scriptural lens views suffering as a consequence of humanity’s misuse of free will through actions causing pain and hardship.

While suffering tests free will and stirs difficult questions, free will allows for the deepest expression of bond with God through intentional connection back to God amid life’s hardships.

Considerations and Complexity

There is much more to be said on this age-old dilemma. Suffering evades simplistic explanations. Caution must be applied when framing suffering in purely positive or redemptive terms. Additionally, philosophical reasoning falls emotionally short when applied to intense, undeserved pain.

Considering questions of suffering requires nuance between different types and scales of hardship. The complexity defies singular perspectives. Space must be held for grief, sustained support, consented guidance from those suffering, and deep wrestling with theological questions that may forever remain unresolved.

Potential Reasons God Allowed Paul’s Suffering

To Demonstrate God’s Power and Protection

God allowed Paul to face suffering and persecution to demonstrate His power and protection in Paul’s life (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Though Paul faced many trials, God delivered him from them all, showing that He is more powerful than any enemy or circumstance.

Paul saw firsthand how God can use our weaknesses to display His strength. This built Paul’s trust in God’s faithfulness.

To Build Paul’s Character and Dependence on God

Suffering has a way of refining our character and increasing our dependence on God. James 1:2-4 tells us to consider it joy when we face trials, because they produce perseverance and maturity in us. For Paul, the “thorn in his flesh” kept him humble and dependent on God’s grace (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).

God uses difficulties to shape us into the image of Christ and build our faith in Him.

Romans 5:3-5 says suffering produces perseverance, character, and hope in us. As Paul experienced persecution for the gospel, he grew in godly virtues like courage, patience, and perseverance. His trials also helped him rely fully on God rather than himself. Suffering deepened his walk with Christ.

To Encourage the Faith of Others

Paul’s life demonstrated immense faith and endurance through suffering. His unwavering commitment to Christ in the face of persecution encouraged other believers to stand strong. Paul told Timothy to “join me in suffering for the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:8).

His example inspired countless Christians in the early church and even today.

Seeing Paul rejoice in prison, face danger courageously, and endure mistreatment with grace challenged believers to live wholeheartedly for Christ. Paul wrote that his trials brought glory to God and advanced the gospel (Philippians 1:12-14).

His steadfast faith under suffering continues to stir the church toward greater devotion to Christ.

Principles of Trusting God Through Trials

Life often brings difficulties and trials that can shake our faith. In the biblical story, Paul was bitten by a venomous snake yet miraculously suffered no harm. This incident reveals key principles for maintaining trust in God during hardships.

Acknowledge God’s Sovereignty

As the Creator, God has supreme authority and control over all of life’s circumstances. Though we may not understand why trials happen, we can rest in the fact that God has permitted them for ultimate good (Romans 8:28).

Maintaining this big-picture perspective helps sustain faith when adversity strikes.

Lean Into God’s Presence

Hardships can tempt us to pull away from God in anger or confusion. Yet scripture urges drawing near to Him as a refuge and strength (James 4:8). By leaning into God’s presence through prayer and meditating on His word, peace and perspective can displace doubt and despair.

Trust God’s Purposes

The Bible declares that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God,” including troubles (Romans 8:28 ESV). While the reasons may be unclear now, we can trust God to ultimately use trials for good purposes like refining character, deepening wisdom, or equipping us to serve others.

Hope in God’s Promises

Scripture contains incredible promises that trials will not separate us from God’s love and He will sustain us through hardships (Romans 8:35-39). Anchoring our hope in these trustworthy vows stabilizes faith when storms arise.

We can confidently declare with Paul, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

While snake bites and shipwrecks make for dramatic Bible stories, principles for weathering those literal storms apply to regular troubles today. Maintaining perspective of God’s complete authority and trusting His constant presence and promises sustains faith through every trial.


In conclusion, while we may not fully understand all of God’s reasons, we can trust His goodness and sovereignty. Paul’s snakebite illustrates key principles of how God can protect, strengthen and even use suffering to accomplish His divine purposes in our lives.

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