Jesus once said, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life (Jn 3:14-15). As the Son of Man, Jesus will do something similar to what Moses’ serpent in did when Israel wandered in the wilderness. When a plague breaks out the Israelites for speaking “against God and against Moses” (Num 21:5), deadly serpents begin to attack the people. When the people cry out for help, God tells Moses to fashion a fiery serpent (נָחָשׁ שָׂרָף; nahash sharaf) and raise it up in the camp, so that when the people gazed upon Moses’ serpent they would be saved (Num 21:6-9). In light of this Torah background, the analogy that John draws between the miraculous salvation of Moses’ serpent and the Son of Man is clear: Just as the serpent in Numbers saved Israel from certain death, the heavenly Son of Man offers eternal life: all it takes is to trust and look upon the Son of Man.

But why did Moses make an image of a serpent and not something else? After all, the serpent (נָחָשׁnahash) seems an odd choice as a means for salvation, since the serpent in the Garden of Eden leads Adam and Eve to a loss of eternal life. Ancient rabbis taught that miraculous healing from God can always be distinguished from a more common, mundane healing. When a doctor does his job, he hurts the patient with a knife and later heals him by putting on bandages. But “unlike a physician, God smites and heals by the same very means” (Exodus Rabbah 26:2).

Moses’ staff was simultaneously a rod of blessing and a tool of great destruction. Likewise, the flood in Noah’s day brought death and judgment, but also renewed the earth and humanity. And that is why, when Israel is in the wilderness, one snake kills but another gives life. The snake that reminds us of our rebellion kills, but he who had no sin became a sin offering for us (2 Cor 5:21) to bring us life.



  1. Buen día, esto me ha estado dando vueltas en mi cabeza y Uds. lo explayan, lo agradezco, sin embargo muy complejo entender, q la simbología de la serpiente q representa caos desolación, sea usada para simbolizar al hijo del hombre?; hay muchas cosas q no son entendibles, esperaré los comentarios y ayuden a dar luz.sholom
  2. Hola. La analogía de la serpiente levantada es el símbolo de la vida de la muerte. De la misma manera en que la serpiente fue levantada en un bastón para que la gente la viera y fuera sanada, también lo fue Jesús levantado en una cruz. La serpiente es un símbolo de la muerte debido a su mordedura de serpiente. Jesús fue levantado en la cruz y su muerte nos compró el derecho de tener vida eterna. Entonces cuando nos dirigimos a Jesús, él nos salva de la muerte y nos da la vida eterna.

    Hello. The analogy of the serpent lifted up is the symbol of life from death. In the same way, as the serpent was lifted up on a staff for people to look upon and be healed, so too was Jesus lifted up on a cross. The snake is a symbol of death because of the snake bite. Jesus was lifted up on the cross and HIs death bought the right for us to have eternal life. So when we turn to Jesus he saves us from death and gives us eternal life.
  3. As the brazen serpent represents sin that is judged, Scripture says that "Yashua became sin" for us. When we are focused on him as redeemer, as those who looked upon the brazen serpent, we are made whole (in every way.)
  4. The serpent has also been known to represent the spine of man. The temptation featured
    the serpent horizontal whereas the serpent lifted up represents the upward consciousness
    not the grovelling in the dirt or lower consciousness. The spiritual man is drawn to Christ in the
    crucifixion - "{Know Christ and Him crucified) So a direct reference is made by Jesus
    to His crucifixion saving by the revelation.
  5. This is one of the ways God spoke to mankind in times past Hebrews 1v1 the serpent being a representation of sin and wickedness. Thus the uplifted serpent representing Our Lord who on the cross took upon Himself that which was our hurt and division between us and our loving Father. Of course only those who looked with a look of faith benefited and only those who look in faith to our crucified Lord will be saved. Wonderful item Prof Pinchas. Thank you very much.
  6. This explanation is an eye opener to wondedful acts of God. This knowledge will definitely bless anyone that reads to realize that God can do wonderful things right in the midst of bad situation. Keep it up, I'll welcome more this type of mail
  7. I am curious what the words “lifted up” mean. I would NOT have known about Jesus becoming Lord (King) at the beginning of my salvation, so I am wondering if “lifted up” is associated with his Kingship (second of the two-fold revelation of Christ). I associate being hung on a cross with justice, but is the pole in Num 21:8 representative of a cross?
  8. Thanks Prof. Pinchas Shir for the provocative question and the answer.
    I also like to add more to this, please correct me if I’m wrong in any part of my comment.
    At the surface it is easy to draw a parallel between the shadow (brass serpent) and the reality(Jesus on the cross) But when we ask the question like this it goes very deep into the technicalities of God’s redemptive works of the fallen humanity.

    Why serpent not a lamb, why brass? Why lifted up..On a pole?
    The scripture says “..He was made Sin”, & “the Word became flesh.”
    The word also says “..He was slain before the foundation of the earth.”
    If we put these verses together we will see that Christ was made a man in whom the serpent was judged (condemned, separated by force, by the Law of the Spirit of Life).
    What I mean by this is that when Christ became a man, He put on the flesh upon Him. The word flesh also mean the fallen nature of man but He was obedient to God unto death. With respect to God He was living but for Sin He was judged. He didn’t touch the Sin that was in His flesh but lived only by the Father. He lived by the Spirit.
    As Christ had/has many functions in His being such as the Word, the lamb of God, the one grain, the Vine...we can say He also was the brass serpent.

    ...the last Adam became the life giving Spirit. He who believe into Him shall not perish...
    • Several observations, Adrian. Serpent in the wilderness and Yeshua - both a reality. Neither is a shadow. The word translated as "brass" can also be bronze (another metal alloy) or simply "fiery" as in shining, red and etc. Why serpent? Because what condemns us also gives life. The judge both justifies and sentences people. Why a pole? What else could it have been? It is an easy way to elevate an item. The word "sin" in Hebrew is also a technical name for the "sin offering" which provided cleansing. Sorry, you lost me on the nature of Messiah. Cannot comment, because I do not fully understand your point.

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