Series: Thru the Bible
Message – The Brass Serpent – Numbers 21
The Brass Serpent – Thru the Bible
I struggled on what to call this message since – in my opinion – the largest topic covered is concerning killing and murder – so I toyed with calling this “Kill them all”…I mean, NO, this chapter never actually says “Kill the all” but the concept is first introduced here and so it seemed like an appropriate topic to address as we progressed through this chapter.
Since revealing Jesus is what the main purpose of scripture is all about, I settled on “The Brass Serpent”.
Later in this post I reference two articles I’ve written which go into greater depth on the topics of God’s Sovereignty and jurisdiction over human life – both of which are VERY relevant to topics addressed in this chapter.
Num 21:1-3 NKJV “The king of Arad, the Canaanite, who dwelt in the South, heard that Israel was coming on the road to Atharim. Then he fought against Israel and took some of them prisoners. (2) So Israel made a vow to the LORD, and said, “If You will indeed deliver this people into my hand, then I will utterly destroy their cities.” (3) And the LORD listened to the voice of Israel and delivered up the Canaanites, and they utterly destroyed them and their cities. So the name of that place was called Hormah.”
Why was the promise from Israel one God took them up on? Because this is the same group of people who defeated them when they rebelliously attempted to take the Promised land without God’s help and they fell by their sword. So Israel was saying, “If you will GRANT it, we will do it this time!”
The Bronze Serpent
Num 21:4-9 NKJV “Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way. (5) And the people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.” (6) So the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died. (7) Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD that He take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. (8) Then the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.” (9) So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.”
Why do you think they became discouraged?
- Esau had a land and they didn’t
Notice that they were pretty quick to “repent”.
Moses AGAIN prayed for them.
God gave an answer…but not a quick or completely satisfying one.
This took a while, brass serpents are not molded in a day…they had to live with their bad decision for a while.
Why do you suppose God did it this way? To train them to look up – not on earthly things.
Jesus referenced this passage while speaking to Nicodemus in John 3:1-15,
“There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. (2) This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” (3) Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (4) Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (5) Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. (6) That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (7) Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ (8) The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (9) Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?” (10) Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? (11) Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. (12) If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? (13) No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. (14) And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, (15) that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
The Song of the Well
Num 21:10-35 NKJV “Now the children of Israel moved on and camped in Oboth. (11) And they journeyed from Oboth and camped at [Lie Ab-a-rim] Ije Abarim, in the wilderness which is east of Moab [descendants of Lot’s son by incest] , toward the sunrise. (12) From there they moved and camped in the Valley of Zered. (13) From there they moved and camped on the other side of the Arnon [this was later to become a boundary of Rueben’s land by lot], which is in the wilderness that extends from the border of the Amorites; for the Arnon is the border of Moab, between Moab and the Amorites. (14) Therefore it is said in the Book of the Wars of the LORD: “Waheb (a location in Moab) in Suphah (a stormy wind), The brooks of the Arnon, (15) And the slope of the brooks That reaches to the dwelling of Ar [a land of the Moabites], And lies on the border of Moab.” (16) From there they went to Beer, which is the well where the LORD said to Moses, “Gather the people together, and I will give them water.” (17) Then Israel sang this song:
Translation of the song:
Spring up, O well! Answer ye to it.
The well, the princes searched it out.
The nobles of the people have digged it.
By a decree, upon their own borders
And from the wilderness they went to Mattanah, (19) from Mattanah to Nahaliel, from Nahaliel to Bamoth, (20) and from Bamoth, in the valley that is in the country of Moab, to the top of Pisgah [the mountain on which Balaam later tries to curse Israel] which looks down on the wasteland.”
King Sihon Defeated
“(21) Then Israel sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, saying, (22) “Let me pass through your land. We will not turn aside into fields or vineyards; we will not drink water from wells. We will go by the King’s Highway until we have passed through your territory.”
(23) But Sihon would not allow Israel to pass through his territory. So Sihon gathered all his people together and went out against Israel in the wilderness, and he came to Jahaz and fought against Israel. (24) Then Israel defeated him with the edge of the sword, and took possession of his land from the Arnon to the Jabbok, as far as the people of Ammon; for the border of the people of Ammon was fortified. (25) So Israel took all these cities, and Israel dwelt in all the cities of the Amorites, in Heshbon and in all its villages. (26) For Heshbon was the city of Sihon king of the Amorites, who had fought against the former king of Moab, and had taken all his land from his hand as far as the Arnon. (27) Therefore those who speak in proverbs say:
“Come to Heshbon, let it be built;
Let the city of Sihon be repaired.
(28) “For fire went out from Heshbon,
A flame from the city of Sihon;
It consumed Ar of Moab,
The lords of the heights of the Arnon.
(29) Woe to you, Moab! You have perished,
O people of Chemosh! He has given his sons as fugitives,
And his daughters into captivity,
To Sihon king of the Amorites.
(30) “But we have shot at them; Heshbon has perished as far as Dibon [a city of Arnon]. Then we laid waste as far as Nophah, Which reaches to Medeba.”
King Og Defeated
“(31) Thus Israel dwelt in the land of the Amorites. (32) Then Moses sent to spy out Jazer; and they took its villages and drove out the Amorites who were there. (33) And they turned and went up by the way to Bashan. So Og king of Bashan went out against them, he and all his people, to battle at Edrei.
(34) Then the LORD said to Moses,
“Do not fear him, for I have delivered him into your hand, with all his people and his land; and you shall do to him as you did to Sihon king of the Amorites, who dwelt at Heshbon.”
(35) So they defeated him, his sons, and all his people, until there was no survivor left him; and they took possession of his land.”
Notice that in none of these battles was Israel the instigator. They sought only safe passage through a territory NOT war. When threatened they would choose a peaceful resolution of going around the area – like with the sons of Esau in Edom, but when confronted with war – they conquered. In the two examples above both King Sihon and King Og “CAME OUT AGAINST THEM“, so God delivered these kings into their hands.
Now this may seem a contradiction in that some of these lands are owned by people in the promised land, but so far as I can tell – none of these first smaller battles actually breach the outer boundary of the land promised them by God.
Notice also, that protection and advancement is from God ALONE!
“Do not fear him, for I have delivered him into your hand, with all his people and his land…”
Examples of Power, Authority & Advancement coming from God:
Ps.75:4-10 HCSB “(4) I say to the boastful, ‘Do not boast,’ and to the wicked, ‘Do not lift up your horn. (5) Do not lift up your horn against heaven or speak arrogantly.'” (6) Exaltation does not come from the east, the west, or the desert, (7) for God is the judge: He brings down one and exalts another. (8) For there is a cup in the LORD’s hand, full of wine blended with spices, and He pours from it. All the wicked of the earth will drink, draining it to the dregs. (9) As for me, I will tell about Him forever; I will sing praise to the God of Jacob. (10) “I will cut off all the horns of the wicked, but the horns of the righteous will be lifted up.”
Acts 17:24-28, HCSB “(24) The God Who made the world and everything in it–He is Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in shrines made by hands. (25) Neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives everyone life and breath and all things. (26) From one man He has made every nation of men to live all over the earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live, (27) so that they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. (28) For in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’
Jamieson-Fausset & Brown say, “Paul, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit here opposes both Stoical Fate and Epicurean Chance, ascribing the periods and localities in which men and nations flourish to the sovereign will and prearrangements of a living God.”
Gill says, “how long the world he has made shall continue; and the several distinct periods, ages, and generations, in which such and such men should live, such and such nations should exist, and such monarchies should be in being, as the Assyrian, Persian, Grecian, and Roman, and how long they should subsist”
But truth is, either a simple reading of the text or an in-depth study of them all reveal the same obvious truth – God, in His Sovereignty does what He does – and all He does is Just, honest, righteous and true. Since God IS both the Creator, Owner and sustainer of all – it is NOT wrong for Him to do with those things He made and owns as He wills.
Here is an article on the sovereignty of God…
A number of years ago, we had a question in here about whether God could “murder”. Meaning, if right and wrong are predicated upon the character and nature of God – then why is killing wrong for man and not considered murder if God does it?
I wrote an article about this and let everyone know the article was there and addressed the question though I have serious doubts if anyone has ever read it – BUT I will place the link here should anyone be interested entitled Can God Murder…
I will offer a simple explanation here though and that is – Man IS able to take life under certain circumstances and it NOT be murder and all of those times are at the command of God – either because He has already ordained such in His written law as in Exod. 21:12-14 concerning the need for capital punishment for anyone who commits premeditated murder – or in the instance of these battles, God gave the aggressors over into Israel’s hand.
The reason why killing is wrong for the murderer and NOT for the assembly who inflicts capital punishment is because the murderer is taking something that does not belong to him – murder is stealing a life. Capital punishment is punitive justice for the one who stole a life.
Since God is the Creator, sustainer and OWNER of everyone – He cannot steal a life…they all belong to Him. For them to die He need only to stop sustaining their life and they will expire, but due to His mercy and justice many who deserve to die do not, and many who He could just remove His sustaining power – He brings to justice by other means for the sake or righteousness – such as in the case of the entire assembly stoning a murderer.
I hope this message will bless you richly…not because I taught it, but because it reveals Christ. He alone is our blessing and if in any way – whether big or small, 100% accurate or even just partially so – I have revealed our great God and Savior to you in a relationally knowable way, then this was time well spent on both our parts.
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