What Did The Bronze Serpent Mean?
The bronze serpent (RSV), also known as the bronze snake (NIV) and the serpent of brass (KJV) was made by Moses, at God's command, during the Wilderness Journey. The Israelites had been speaking bitterly against God, to which The Lord responded by sending poisonous snakes among the rebels. The bronze serpent was provided as a visible means for repentant believers to be saved from their sin, and was, as Christ Himself plainly stated (see "Fact Finder" below), symbolic of Someone far greater to come.
The Bronze Serpent
The bronze serpent was made according to God's instructions:
"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 [see Rock Of Ages] 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 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 21:4-9 RSV)
What Happened To The Bronze Serpent?
Centuries later, the bronze serpent was destroyed because the Israelites had turned it into an idol, in violation of The Second Commandment:
"In the third year of Hoshea son of Elah, king of Israel, Hezekiah the son of Ahaz, king of Judah [see Kings of Israel and Judah], began to reign. He was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Abi the daughter of Zechariah."
"And he did what was right in the eyes of The Lord, according to all that David [see King David] his father had done. He removed the high places, and broke the pillars, and cut down the Asherah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had burned incense to it; it was called Nehushtan."
"He trusted in The Lord the God of Israel; so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him. For he held fast to The Lord; he did not depart from following Him, but kept the Commandments [see The Ten Commandments and The Ten Commandments Now?] which The Lord commanded Moses." (2 Kings 18:1-6 RSV)
Fact Finder: What did Jesus Christ have to say about the symbolism of that bronze serpent? How was the bronze serpent referred-to in regard to one of the most famous verses of the Bible, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life"?