And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and every one 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 any man, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.Numbers 21:8-9 RSV
The great significance of this derives from Jesus’ mention of it as follows:
“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth may in him have eternal life” (John 3:14-15).
Also John 12:32-33, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto myself. But this he said, signifying by what manner of death he should die.”
It is nothing short of amazing that the Christ should have found foreshadowings in this event of his own redemptive work on the Cross, but there cannot be any doubt of it, and we therefore receive this event in certain particulars of it as a Type of Christ.
Not through the discernment of man, but by the preordination of God, being one of the typical histories, applied by the Saviour to himself.
TYPICAL OF CHRIST
- Man’s enemy, Satan, appears here in the form of the venomous serpents, which like “That Old Serpent” (Revelation 12:9), were the cause of sin and death.
- The uniqueness of the remedy God here proposed is like that of Christ himself, being no other.
- The lifting up of the serpent foretold the manner of Jesus’ death on Calvary.
- Just as the brass serpent had the likeness and form of the serpents themselves, Jesus also was “made in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Romans 8:3). And just as the brass serpent which was lifted up was without any evil whatever; so was Christ.
- Faith in what God commanded, demonstrated by “looking unto” the serpent was like the faith that obeys the Word of God with reference to what Christ commanded. Healing in both cases resulted from hearing, believing, and obeying the Divine commandments.
- Some have equated “looking unto” with “faith alone” as the means of appropriating healing and salvation, but there is a fatal flaw in that analogy. “Looking unto” was a positive and obedient objective action. “Saving faith” as understood by solifidians is none of this!
- The “lifting up of the serpent upon the standard” is typical of the “Lifting up of Christ,” not solely restricted to this death on a cross, but also applicable to the worldwide, and perpetual “lifting up” of the Saviour himself in the worship and adoration of all nations and tribes and tongues and peoples.
The student is invited to contrast the marvelous richness of this great event set forth in the above analogies with the snide comments that see nothing here except, that of sympathetic magic – the belief that the fate of an object or person can be governed by the manipulation of its exact image!
This of course gives the same status to this event as that encountered in the Voodoo cults of Africa and the West Indies.
One other question of interest is that of “What became of the brass serpent?”
The brazen image of the serpent was taken by the Israelites to Canaan, and preserved until the time of Hezekiah, who had it broken in pieces because the idolatrous people presented incense-offerings to this holy relic (2 Kings 18:4).