The Bronze Serpent

From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. And 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 food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” Then the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you. Pray to the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.
(Numbers 21:4-9 ESV)

The Tanakh (Old Testament) was revealed to us by God (YHWH) and often was written as a shadow of a new and better things to come (typology) which would be provided by the B’rit Chadashah.(New Testament). Any true scholar of Scripture would concur to this fact.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15 KJV). Unfortunately, many believers never have read the Tanakh and consequently have no foundation for understanding the B’rit Chadashah. They often discount the Tanakh as the “Old Testament” and reject many of its teachings with the attitude that the B’rit Chadashah has replaced the Tanakh and somehow has made it obsolete. Approximately thirty-three percent of the prophecies in the Tanakh have not been fulfilled yet, so how can it be old? Approximately eighty-five percent of the B’rit Chadashah is quoted from the Tanakh, so how can it be new? The Bible is a book of eight covenants and every Word is alive and relevant for yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

The passage about the Children of Israel and the Bronze Serpent (Nehushtan) in the Book of Numbers is symbolic of Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus Christ). The Apostle Paul wrote, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:13-14 KJV).

In the third chapter of the Gospel of John, we find Yeshua having a conversation with a man named Nicodemus. Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin. He was someone who knew the Tanakh very well and it was obvious to him that there was something special about Yeshua. Unfortunately, he didn’t know enough to be able to see Yeshua as the Messiah. This was not due to some deficiency in Yeshua. It was because there was a deficiency in Nicodemus’ understanding of who the Messiah was supposed to be and what he was supposed to accomplish. So Yeshua gave him an example he should have been able to understand.

  • Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
    (John 3:10-15 KJV)

The Children of Israel were complaining about the manna (food descending from heaven) was because it was not a perfect food. It met their needs, but it did not meet the human desire for variety. Purely spiritual food may have lacked a certain earthiness, and this may well have been at the core of the complaint. So when the Children of Israel complained about manna, God reminded them that the things that are purely from the earth (like serpents) are not good in themselves either.

Snakes are the creature least able to elevate themselves. As a result of the serpent deceiving Eve in the Garden of Eden, the serpent is the animal that was brought the lowest. Unlike kosher animals, serpents make full contact with the earth. Venomous snakes remind us that lots of natural (earthly) things are in fact very bad for our health. Humans are the only ‘animals’ on the planet that walk fully upright. This is also a shadow of what we need to try to accomplish during our lives, to ascend to heaven.

If we see a snake elevating on a pole, we perceive a fortiori argument. If a snake can ascend, then surely we can as well. We realize that if we try to aspire to greater heights, then God will be willing to play an active role in our lives, and change the natural progression of things. God is willing to meddle with nature, but we must first understand that our relationship with God does not come about because we are in harmony with the earth, but because we are striving for a relationship with Him.

The Bronze Serpent had no healing properties whatsoever. It did nothing to save the Children of Israel that had been bitten in the wilderness by venomous serpents. It was an object of faith. By looking at the Bronze Serpent that Moses made and lifted up on pole, the Children of Israel acted on their faith in God’s instructions that were revealed to Moses.

  • Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
    (Hebrews 11:1-3 ESV)

This emblem (a brozne serpent raised on a pole) is distinctive in that Yeshua the Messiah personally applied it to Himself. The more you examine it, the stranger it appears. Brass was the Levitical symbol of judgment and brass was the metal that was associated with fire (as the brazen altar, etc.). The serpent was symbolic of sin, introduced in the Garden of Eden. This is a strange emblem, indeed, for the Savior of mankind. The deadly serpent is transformed into an emblem of healing and life, just as the death that came in the Garden of Eden was defeated by the gift of eternal life offered through Yeshua’s atonement on the cross.

There is only one way we can assure that we will satisfy our goal of ascending to heaven. That way, the one and only way, is through faith in Yeshua the Messiah.

  • “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
    (John 3:16-21 ESV)
  • Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.
    (John 14:6-7 KJV)

The Apostle Paul wrote, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed” (Romans 10:9-11 KJV).

Have you completely trusted in Yeshua and in nothing else for the forgiveness of your sins?  Are you relying on Yeshua and Him alone for your righteousness, for your safety, your forgiveness, or are you putting even the smallest bit of your works before God as part of the reason you are to be saved?  If you are relying in anyway on your efforts, then you are in great danger of damnation, if you’re redeemed at all.  Righteousness before God does not come by your efforts, but through the sacrifice of Yeshua. If you could get to earn eternal life through righteousness, then there was no need for Yeshua to die on the cross and make atonement for our sins (Galatians 2:21)..

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