In Numbers 21:4-9, Moses makes a bronze serpent on a stick to heal the Hebrews' snake bites, as per God's instructions. They don't worship it, but they are to look at it in order to live.

Why did God order a statue of a serpent knowing very well that a serpent is used to refer to Satan himself(Genesis 3:1)??? Help me understand the connection between the serpent used by God and the one symbolising His adversary...

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    John 3:14 and 15 are crucial to the understanding of the spiritual interpretation of the brass serpent : And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: [KJV].
    – Nigel J
    Feb 21 '20 at 19:59
  • Satan identified as fallen Lucifer is not a seraph but only a cherub. Seraph is mostly identified with the serpent symbol. Lucifer's pride in choosing to indwelt a serpent instead of an ox,lion or an eagle wanted to project a higher image and it is rooted in pride. (Ezekiel10:14) Feb 21 '20 at 22:01
  • @AnonymousP I don't know if you will receive this comment as the question is closed (I don't understand why it is considered off topic). If so, please respond and we can perhaps chat as I have an answer. Feb 22 '20 at 0:26
  • See also Matthew 10:16. Both there, as well as in Genesis (3:1), the primary characteristic of serpents is their wisdom (because of the clever and elegant way in which they hunt), not their deadliness. The episode you quote, on the other hand, has a different meaning, related to pagan totemic practices (which, as a matter of fact, are still practiced today by many polytheistic populations).
    – Lucian
    Feb 29 '20 at 0:57

Dr. Michael Heiser, a scholar in Old Testament and the Ancient Near East, wrote this article Why Would Jesus Compare Himself to a Snake? explaining how the serpent reference in Genesis 3 is NOT the same as the serpent reference in Numbers 21:

We might incorrectly link the serpent on the pole (Num 21) and the serpent in the garden (Gen 3), but the only similarity between these two passages is the word “serpent” (נחש, nachash). The nachash of Genesis 3 is a figure acting independently of—and in opposition to—the will of God. In Numbers 21 the biting serpents are God’s instrument of judgment for sin, and the nachash on the pole is God’s instrument of healing for those punished for sin.

Then he explored 3 possible explanations why God used the serpent symbolism in Numbers 21:

  • Magic

  • Regenerative healing power, common in ancient Near East

  • Egyptian symbol of protection

He concluded with Jesus's use of this passage:

Some of these messages are conveyed in both Numbers 21 and John 3:14–15. First, Yahweh was not a God with which to trifle. He could punish faithlessness by commanding the forces of nature—sending venomous serpents against the Israelites. But He also had the power to reverse the effects, offering His divine healing through a bronze serpent. Healing came with one condition: The Israelites had to exercise faith in the offer.

Jesus’ use of this test of the “obedience of faith” creates a fitting analogy to His own destiny. Death, the natural world’s most consuming force, would be reversed for all who looked to Jesus, raised up on the pole of the cross—if only the afflicted would believe.

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