Antidote for deadly snake venom

Every story in Scripture teaches us what to do and what not to do—and sometimes both. These teaching stories were written down so that we could gain wisdom from them.

But why do people step on the same rake? Why can’t we just avoid the mistakes of the past? There is one ancient account of poisonous snakes infesting the camp of Israel, which is mentioned in the Holy Scriptures five times by four different authors (Num. 21:4-9; Deut. 8:15; 2 Kings 18:4; John 3:14; 1 Cor. 10:9), each of which gave weight to the importance and authenticity of those events.

Paul explains why this story is still relevant today:

 Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.… We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes.… All these things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us.” (1 Cor. 10:6, 9, 11).

Israel has just gone through a difficult time of national mourning. Exodus 20 describes how Miriam and Aaron died within months of each other, and the entire nation was emotionally devastated (Num. 20:1, 22-29). They again could not find water, but even when God used Moses to miraculously bring water from a rock, their happiness did not last very long (Num. 20:8-11).

In addition, the king of Edom refused to allow them passage through his land, so the people had to take a long detour (Num. 20:14-21). They then won a battle against the army of King Arad (Num. 21:1-3). It was like they were on a rollercoaster of ups and downs. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Don’t be a yo-yo Christian, going up and down, flying high one day and sinking to the bottom the next. Our emotions will fluctuate, but our commitment must remain constant.

“But the people grew impatient on the way;” (Numbers 21:4, NIV)

Loss of spirit, that is, despondency, is one of the most important tools in the devil’s bag of dirty tricks. To become discouraged means to “lose courage, hope, or confidence; become discouraged, disappointed, or lose enthusiasm.” We all struggle with discouragement when we feel like we are on a spiritual treadmill and not making any progress.

When the future seems hopeless, we begin to feel helpless. But remember: “Life without Jesus is a hopeless end; life with Jesus is endless hope!” Continue to fight the good war of faith. Continue to pray despite negative thoughts and emotions. Surround yourself with positive friends. Feed your faith and starve your doubts. Sometimes it is the last key on the bunch that opens the lock. So keep asking, seeking and knocking because eventually a breakthrough will happen.

When the people of Israel faced problems, they used their good old scheme:

People complain
The people remember Egypt with a kind word,
The people blame Moses for everything.
They remembered fondly the abundance of food in Egypt, but naively forgot about the downside of being there (slavery). When we exude negativity and unbelief, we open the door to demonic influence, and “whatever is not of faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23). Snakes crawled into the camp following the complaints of the people.

Crisis: God sent fire adders (poisonous snakes) to punish His people. The sight was like a scene from a horror movie: snakes biting people, the victims shuddered in pain and slowly died in agony. Chaos reigned: people were running, screaming and killing snakes with shovels and sticks. Imagine the panic when these slimy creatures crawled into people’s tents.

Many graves were dug, bodies were buried and funerals were held. Snakes symbolize demons, and their poison represents the poison of sin with which we have all been infected (Rom. 3:23, 6:23). The people begged Moses to pray that God would “remove” the snakes. Notice that God did not remove them immediately, but provided a way to salvation.

Remedy: God told Moses, “Make The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.”” (Num. 21:8). Copper or bronze is mentioned in Scripture when it comes to judgment. The altars and lavers of the Tabernacle of Moses and the Temple of Solomon were made of copper or bronze. They were located in the outer courtyard, where sin was dealt with before the priests entered the holy place, where the entire interior was made of gold.

Moses most likely learned metalsmithing from Hobab’s wife’s brother or his father-in-law Jethro (Num. 10:29; Judg. 4:11). They were Kenites, a race of blacksmiths renowned for their skill. Remember, Aaron created the golden calf from melted jewelry (Ex. 32:1-4). Both brothers were skilled metalworkers. When the bitten Israelites looked at the brass serpent, the poison lost its potency.

Christ’s Commentary: Jesus said to Nicodemus about 1,400 years later: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that whoever believes in Him would not die, but had eternal life.” Why did Jesus compare Himself to a vile snake—the embodiment of evil? Because He became sin on the cross for us. “He made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that through Christ we might be declared righteous before God” (2 Cor. 5:21, ERV). Like a sponge, He absorbed our lust, pride, greed, hatred, selfishness, jealousy and bitterness. The poison of sin has infected us all, but Jesus has provided the antidote! When we look to the cross with faith and repentance, the poison of sin loses its power.

I recently heard a story about a tourist being bitten by a rattlesnake. He was in the middle of nowhere, but luckily he had a first aid kit with an antidote in his backpack. It saved his life. Based on the bite marks, the doctor determined that it was an adult snake, and without an antidote, the guy would never have survived. The Blood of Jesus is our antidote to sin! Keep your eyes on Jesus, focus on the cross – it is your source of salvation and victory!

Hezekiah’s Crusade: Hezekiah, the 13th king of Judah, led a spiritual awakening and crusade against idolatry approximately 680 years after Moses created the brass serpent. People began to burn incense and worship this ancient relic as an idol. And so Hezekiah destroyed him: “ He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. (It was called Nehushtan.)” (2 Kings 18:4). Nehushtan simply means “piece of copper”.

Hezekiah said: “You are worshiping a piece of brass, which in itself has no supernatural powers. It was simply an instrument in the hand of God.”

Lesson: Don’t worship the tools God uses; worship a God who uses tools. He has real power! We often put people on a pedestal of honor, idolizing celebrities, movie stars, singers, musicians, athletes, politicians, and even ministers. They are human vessels just like us. If you look up to people, you will be disappointed. Therefore look to Christ (Heb. 12:2).

The sculpture by Italian artist Giovanni Fantoni, combining a copper serpent and a cross, stands on Mount Nebo – the same place where Moses saw Canaan before his death. Indeed, the cross is our passport to the promised land. Two badges also used in medicine are the Caduceus (two snakes entwined on a winged pole, often used as a pin badge for medical graduates) and the Rod of Asclepius(a snake wrapped around a pole – used as logos on ambulances and hospitals ).

Although these symbols come from Greek mythology, they still point to the brass serpent of Moses, which points us to the cross. Now we do not turn to the brass snake on a pole for help and healing; we are looking at the living Son of God. Look to Him and live!

By Ben Godwin /
Translation – Yulia Okereshko for


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