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Reference: Brazen Serpent


An image in brass prepared by Moses, resembling the fiery serpents so destructive to Israel in the desert, and set up in the midst of the camp in the view of all, that whosoever would evince penitence, faith, and obedience by looking to it, might live, Nu 21:6-9. Our Savior has shown us that this was typical of himself and of salvation through him-a gratuitous salvation, free to all, on the easy terms of faith and obedience, Joh 3:14-15. The brazen serpent was long preserved, as a memorial of the gracious miracle wrought in connection with it; but being regarded as an object of worship, it was broken to pieces by king Hezekiah, as Nehushtan-a mere piece of brass, 2Ki 18:4.

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Brazen serpent.


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BRAZEN SERPENT, the, was an image of polished brass, in the form of one of those fiery serpents which were sent to chastise the murmuring Israelites in the wilderness, and whose bite caused violent heat, thirst, and inflammation. By divine command "Moses made a serpent of brass," or copper, 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," Nu 21:6-9. This brazen serpent was preserved as a monument of the divine mercy, but in process of time became an instrument of idolatry. When this superstition began, it is difficult to determine; but the best account is given by the Jewish rabbi, David Kimchi, in the following manner: From the time that the kings of Israel did evil, and the children of Israel followed idolatry, till the reign of Hezekiah, they offered incense to it; for it being written in the law of Moses, "Whoever looketh upon it shall live," they fancied they might obtain blessings by its mediation, and therefore thought it worthy to be worshipped. It had been kept from the days of Moses, in memory of a miracle, in the same manner as the pot of manna was: and Asa and Jehoshaphat did not extirpate it when they rooted out idolatry, because in their reign they did not observe that the people worshipped this serpent, or burnt incense to it; and therefore they left it as a memorial. But Hezekiah thought fit to take it quite away, when he abolished other idolatry, because in the time of his father they adored it as an idol; and though pious people, among them accounted it only as a memorial of a wonderful work, yet he judged it better to abolish it, though the memory of the miracle should happen to be lost, than suffer it to remain, and leave the Israelites in danger to commit idolatry hereafter with it. On the subject of the serpent-bitten Israelites being healed by looking at the brazen serpent, there is a good comment in the book of Wisdom, chap. 16:4-12, in which are these remarkable words:

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