Q. What is the significance of the serpent of brass in Numbers 21?
A. “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” (Numbers 21:9).
The serpent on the pole is a picture of the Lord Jesus lifted up on the cross. This is confirmed in the New Testament, where we read, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up” (John 3:14).
The whole human race has been bitten with the sting of sin. In order for God to offer eternal life the Lord must die, because, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Brass is often, in Scripture, a picture of divine, righteous judgment. So, we read, “Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed” (1 Peter 2:24). And also, “He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
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