Church of God, New World Ministries

Bible Q & A

Q. I would like to know why God told Moses to put a snake on a pole and say if the people would look at it they would be healed.
A. Thank you for your question. The answer to your question is found in Numbers the 21st chapter and the third chapter of John.

Numbers 21:4-9. The Israelites became discouraged and “spoke against God and against Moses…” Because of their complaining God sent fiery serpents to kill them. The fiery serpents were snakes with poisonous venom for which there was no antidote. The bites caused raging fevers and agonizing deaths.

The pain of the venomous bites drove the people to repent, and they begged Moses to intervene on their behalf. God instructed Moses to make an image of one of the serpents and to “set it on a pole.”

Anyone who had been bitten and looked at the image lived. The raising of such a contemptible symbol on a pole ordinarily would have caused the people to shrink away in revulsion. But, in this case the Israelites had to look at the serpent’s image in order to live.

Jesus pointed to the stunning image in His dialogue with Nicodemus (John 3:14-15) as an analogy to His own execution by crucifixion. To the Jews, crucifixion was a sign of a curse. Therefore, just as the Israelites had to look on the repugnant, uplifted image of a serpent to be saved, we today have to look at the uplifted image of Jesus on a stake, or cross, in order to be saved from our sins.
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