Poisonous fluid secreted by certain snakes and some other creatures. (Nu 21:4-9; De 8:15; Ac 28:3-6) One Hebrew word for the venom of reptiles is che·mahʹ (De 32:24), which is also used to denote “rage,” “fury,” and the like. (De 29:28; Eze 19:12) It is from a root meaning “be hot” (De 19:6) and may allude to the inflammation or burning sensation associated with the bite of a venomous snake. Another Hebrew word (roʼsh, or rohsh) is applied to the “poison,” or “venom,” of cobras, “poisoned” water, and a “poisonous plant.”—De 32:32, 33; Job 20:16; Jer 8:14; 9:15; 23:15; La 3:19; see COBRA; POISONOUS PLANT; VIPER, HORNED.
Though some animal poisons may seem to be only for protection or killing, of interest is this statement by H. Munro Fox: “In some cases we know that poisons play a role in the functioning of the body of the animal which manufactures them. In many instances this may be the real raison d’être [reason for existence] of the venoms, quite apart from any protective value. The poisonous spittle of snakes, for example, has work to do in the digestion of the snake’s food.”—Marvels & Mysteries of Our Animal World, by The Reader’s Digest Association, 1964, p. 259.
Figurative Use. The lying, slanderous statements of the wicked, so damaging to the victim’s reputation, are likened to the deadly venom of the serpent. (Ps 58:3, 4) Of slanderers, it is said, “The venom of the horned viper is under their lips” (or, “behind their lips”), even as the viper’s venom gland lies behind the lip and fangs of its upper jaw. (Ps 140:3; Ro 3:13) The human tongue, misused in slanderous, backbiting, false teaching, or similarly harmful speech, “is full of death-dealing poison.”—Jas 3:8.