to Yahweh, that he take away the serpents from us.” Moses prayed for the people. Yahweh said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole. It shall happen, that everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.”
Numbers 21 [1.] The Canaanite, the king of Arad, who lived in the South, heard that Israel came by the way of Atharim. He fought against Israel, and took some of them captive. Israel vowed a vow to Yahweh, and said, “If you will indeed deliver this people into my hand, then I will utterly destroy their cities.” Yahweh listened to the voice of Israel, and delivered up the Canaanites; and they utterly destroyed them and their cities. The name of the place was called Hormah.
Numbers 21 [4.] They traveled from Mount Hor by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom The soul of the people was very discouraged because of the journey. The people spoke against God, and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no bread, and there is no water; and our soul loathes this light bread.”
Numbers 21 [6.] Yahweh sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people. Many people of Israel died. The people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, because we have spoken against Yahweh, and against you. Pray to Yahweh, that he take away the serpents from us.” Moses prayed for the people.
Numbers 21 [8.] Yahweh said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole. It shall happen, that everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” Moses made a serpent of brass, and set it on the pole. If a serpent had bitten any man, when he looked at the serpent of brass, he lived.
Numbers 21 [10.] The children of Israel traveled, and encamped in Oboth. They traveled from Oboth, and encamped at Iyeabarim, in the wilderness which is before Moab, toward the sunrise. From there they traveled, and encamped in the valley of Zered. From there they traveled, and encamped on the other side of the Arnon, which is in the wilderness, that comes out of the border of the Amorites: for the Arnon is the border of Moab, between Moab and the Amorites. Therefore it is said in the book of the Wars of Yahweh, “Vaheb in Suphah, the valleys of the Arnon, the slope of the valleys that incline toward the dwelling of Ar, leans on the border of Moab.”
- Journeying Through Discouragement:
They traveled from Mount Hor... The soul of the people was very discouraged: The passage sets the scene with the Israelites facing a challenging journey, and their spirits are downcast. The wilderness becomes a testing ground for their faith and endurance.
- Complaints and Rebellion:
The people spoke against God and against Moses: In their despair, the people voice complaints against God and Moses. They question the purpose of their journey, expressing dissatisfaction with their conditions and sustenance.
- Divine Consequence - Fiery Serpents:
Yahweh sent fiery serpents among the people... many people of Israel died: In response to their rebellion, God allows the consequence of fiery serpents, bringing both physical and spiritual peril. This reflects the gravity of the people's actions.
- Repentance and Intercession:
The people came to Moses... 'We have sinned... Pray to Yahweh...': Recognizing their sin, the people turn to Moses, acknowledging their wrongdoing. Their plea for intercession signifies a pivotal moment of repentance and humility.
- Divine Remedy - The Bronze Serpent:
Yahweh said to Moses... 'Make a fiery serpent... everyone who is bitten... shall live': In His mercy, God provides a unique solution. Moses is instructed to create a bronze serpent and set it on a standard. Those who, in faith, look upon the serpent would experience healing and life.
The Wilderness as a Metaphor: The wilderness journey serves as a metaphor for life's challenges and trials. It illustrates how, in moments of discouragement and questioning, our faith can be tested.
Consequences of Rebellion: The fiery serpents represent the consequences of rebellion and complaints against God. It emphasizes the serious repercussions of turning away from divine guidance.
Repentance Leading to Restoration: The people's acknowledgment of sin and their plea for intercession showcase the essential journey of repentance. It highlights the pathway to restoration and healing through humility and seeking God's mercy.
The Symbolism of the Bronze Serpent: The bronze serpent, elevated on a standard, becomes a powerful symbol. It prefigures Christ's redemptive work on the cross. Looking upon the serpent in faith mirrors looking to Christ for salvation.
Relevance for Today:
Navigating Life's Wilderness: In our own wilderness experiences—times of discouragement, questioning, or hardship—this passage reminds us of the importance of maintaining faith and trust in God.
The Call to Repentance: It calls us to recognize our own rebellious tendencies, fostering a spirit of repentance and humility in seeking God's mercy.
Christ as the Ultimate Remedy: The symbolism of the bronze serpent directs our gaze toward Christ, the ultimate remedy for sin and death. Through faith in Him, we find healing and eternal life.
John 3:14-15: "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life." Jesus refers to the bronze serpent, drawing a parallel between its symbolism and His crucifixion, emphasizing belief in Him for eternal life.
Romans 8:1-2: "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who don’t walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death." The bronze serpent and its role in granting life find echoes in the freedom from condemnation through Christ.
In Our Daily Lives: Numbers 21:4-9 challenges us to approach challenges with faith, repentance, and a reliance on God's mercy. It invites us to look to the "bronze serpent" of Christ in our moments of need, finding assurance of salvation and healing.