Numbers 21:9; John 3:14-15. The serpent was a slanderer, cursed by God. Why was such an obnoxious creature used to typify our Saviour?
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(All quotations from the King James Version unless stated otherwise).
Numbers 21:9 And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.
John 3:14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: 15 That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
The serpent was more cunning than the rest of the animals that God made.
NKJV Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made.
By this we understand that the serpent’s capacity for animal (non moral) reasoning exceeded the other animals. God endowed the serpent with the ability to speak. We might reasonably conclude that this was in order to put Adam’s obedience to the test. The serpent itself was not evil; it was very good.
Genesis 1:31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
It was the serpent’s animal reasoning which proved fatal to Adam and Eve. By its reasoning Eve was deceived and ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam was not deceived but chose to eat with his wife instead of obey his creator.
1 Timothy 2:13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.
The serpent in Genesis has long since died but it lives on as a metaphor for the consequences of its deception in Adam’s progeny.
The fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil resides within man in the form of an overwhelming propensity to sin.
In the cursing of the serpent the prophecy of the one who would be able to reverse the evil within man caused by the serpent’s deception is given in symbolic language.
Genesis 3:15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
The seed of the woman who would bruise the serpent’s head (and put it to death) is Christ. The serpent is a figure for the propensity to sin within Adam’s progeny which only Christ was able to overcome.
The difference between Adam and Christ was that of obedience.
Romans 5:19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
To ‘bruise the serpent’s head’ Christ was born of a woman with Adam’s nature in order to be tempted to sin in the same way as all men are.
Hebrews 4:15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
By his sinless life and obedience unto death he destroyed the evil which resides in human nature. The evil which resides in human nature is described as ‘that old serpent called the Devil and Satan’. In the book of Revelation its manifestation in the pagan government of the Roman Empire is portrayed as a ‘great red dragon’.
Hebrews 2:14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;
James explains that it is the lust to do evil within us that causes us to sin and die.
James 1:14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
Jesus describes where the evil comes from.
Mark 7:21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: 23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.
Romans 7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. 19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. 20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
This is what Christ overcame within himself. The devil he destroyed was the lust in Adam’s nature. He always submitted his own will to God’s will.
John 6:38 For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.
Luke 22:42... Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.
The bite of the serpent in the wilderness caused death. The significance of fashioning a serpent in brass and raising it upon a pole is that they were cured simply by looking upon a resemblance of that which was destroying them.
The lesson is that when we look upon Christ crucified we should understand what it is that is destroying us. It is the lust within us that causes us to disobey God and die. We do not die because of an outside agent; a fictitious fallen angel called Satan – we die because we disobey God.
The battle for victory over sin has to take place within us.. We need to change the way that we think and act and follow Christ’s example.
Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins...
Romans 6:3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
Reconciliation with God is possible only because Christ was able to overcome the nature which destroys us. This was the figure exhibited by the brazen serpent raised on a pole. Christ crucified displays our nature for what it is. Moreover his crucifixion was the result of the machinations of that same nature in those who purported to uphold the Law of God.
The serpent was classed as ‘very good’ along with all that God had created. That which is obnoxious to God is not the animal that he made but rather the evil that he uses it to represent within mankind.
Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
Romans 7:24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? 25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord...
Luke 9:23 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
Those who looked upon the brazen serpent in the wilderness did so in faith – the belief that it could save them.
Similarly faith is required in those who look upon Christ crucified; a belief that he is able to save us from our sins.
Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
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I hope you have found this helpful.
May God bless you,