Chukat: The Singular Serpent
'remove the serpent from within'
Numbers 19 – 22:1
(Presenters at HRM are given further sub-divisions to focus on. Mine for this year was focused on Numbers 21.)
Chukat is a fun Torah portion and there is definitely no shortage of material to study here. From Moses and the rock to the battlefields of God’s enemies; the mysterious heifer to the bronze serpent, this Torah portion is full of lessons.
Today we will focus our energy on the bronze serpent in Numbers 21 but we will cover a few other things first;
The term chukat simply means ‘statute’.
For English speakers, the various terms statute, ordinance, commandment etc. are in ways just terms used interchangeably for the word law. We don’t like repetition in the English language and when writing, English speakers tend to use synonyms for a word in order to break things up and keep things flowing etc.
Whilst that may be the case in English, it is definitely not the case in your Bible. The terms statute and ordinance, Biblically speaking, are different Hebrew words which refer to different parts of the law. So, the term statute, is not a synonym for the word Torah, it is a specific part of the Torah.
When referring to Chukim, the Scripture (see I’m using a synonym for the word Bible now to mix things up) is referring to commandments for which there is no rational explanation for.
Compare this to ordinances. This a Hebrew word ‘mishpatim’. Ordinances generally refer to commandments which govern man’s relationship with man. Things like ‘do not kill’, ‘do not steal’ etc. Mishpatim make sense and just about any society could figure out that ordinances are needed and that it’s probably not a good idea to commit murder or to steal one another’s stuff.
Chokim (plural of chukat) make little sense. We may understand the command itself but the wisdom behind it, the rational for it, is ‘far’ from us.
The Sages have long taught that when Solomon wrote these famous words;
Ecclesiastes 7:23 (KJV 1900)
23 All this have I proved by wisdom: I said, I will be wise; but it was far from me.
That when referring to the thing which was far, that he was indeed referring to the red heifer, the quint-essential choke, or statute, of the Torah.
From the Midrash Rabbah;
When G‑d came to the section of the red heifer, He said to Moses: “This is its manner of purification.” Said Moses to G‑d: “Master of the universe! This is a purification?” Said G‑d: “Moses, it is a chok, a decree that I have decreed, and no creature can fully comprehend My decrees.”
From what can we learn then from a command which makes no sense?
Well, first, you must understand that there is much to learn. Just because something cannot be fully comprehended by mankind does not mean that we cannot study it and learn from it.
Indeed, the chokim teach us primarily about humility and faith.
It does not take a genius to see the benefit of living in a society where people do not murder or steal. Been that there is no obvious benefit in fulfilling the chokim it can be said that fulfilling these statutes is an act of faith. Keeping a statute communicates to God that ‘I don’t understand this, but I believe you are God, my God, and I will obey. I put my faith in you’.
In turn, this requires humility. To fulfil a statute, and our example is obviously the red heifer (from Numbers 19), takes something special. The red heifer, to do practically, is something that borders on been weird, for those don’t read their Bible than it is weird and outrageous. So, to practically do it, to put aside your own rational, to submit and follow YHWH’s commands, because He said so, requires humility.
Due to these lessons, we can begin to understand why the root of the word chukat (chok) means;
- to carve
- to inscribe
- to decree
- to chisel
Because these things, these chukim, take such faith and humility, that they cause God’s love to be inscribed on our hearts, cause God decree our salvation, to be inscribed in the book of life, and to truly leave our mark in this world.
When we are faithfully obedient to YHWH, His name and His law are chiselled onto our hearts.
To maybe hep understand, think of a word engraved on stone. Are the words different to the stone? They are not, the words are not ink that it could separate, that it could run off the page, but when something is engraved, the word is there, irremovable, yet in essence all there is, is stone.
So it is with faith and in the keeping of the statutes. They cause God’s name to be inscribed onto the hearts of man.
The Book of God’s Wars?
I know this is a complete topic change, but I could not help myself from mentioning this verse;
Numbers 21:14 (The Scriptures)
14 Therefore it is said in the Book of the Battles of יהוה, “Wahěḇ in Suphah, the wadi Arnon,
I think it is very profound, but what I want to say about it might cause some people discomfort.
Now to begin to explain this verse and why I’m talking about it I want to mention a doctrine we all grew up with. It’s called;
It’s a latin phrase. It means ‘scripture alone’ and it’s a doctrine I think that is engrained in the consciousness of all Christian believers.
Please don’t misunderstand me. It is a good thing to believe that all you need in life is ‘scripture alone’. It’s also a good thing to hold to because the Scripture is our authority, not commentaries, but the word of God. It’s also a good thing because if you only ever read one book then it better be your Bible.
But what do we do when the Bible quotes another book?
Because absolutely, just like the book of God’s Wars above, your Bible does quote other books.
Some examples include;
- The Book of Jasher (Jos 10:13)
- The Acts of Solomon (1 Kings 11:41)
- The Annals of King David (1 Chron 27:24)
- Chronicles of the Kings of Israel and Judah (1 Kings 14:19, 29)
So, whilst I have immense amounts of love for people who hold dearly to sola scriptura there are times where it is warranted to look at other books as part of your Bible study.
I know we don’t have the above books. However sola scriptura in some cases extends so far that to study any other kind of book is frowned upon. Especially when it comes to Jewish texts which form a huge part of the context and understanding that is required to grasp so much of your Bible.
Here the references are obvious because the Bible is telling us where it is quoting from. In many cases it does not, especially when we come to our New Testament.
There is one such example from our Torah Portion which is a stand out.
Think of the rock and the water.
Numbers 20:11 (The Scriptures)
11 Then Mosheh lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod. And much water came out, and the congregation and their livestock drank.
Prior to this incident, Israel had water for 40 years. The first incident where Moses struck the rock and provided water was a long time ago prior to this portion.
So, the Sages ask how then did Israel receive water in the wilderness?
Their answers border on the ridiculous.
The Sages explain that the rock which first provided water for Israel followed Israel. There are different theories as to how this happened, whether it dragged behind them, whether it appeared at every campsite, but this idea has been taught for thousands of years. Ridiculous?
It is very deep however when you consider that the Rock is Messiah and that on a level the Sages of Judaism are teaching (and they are doing this intentionally) that the Messiah, the Rock, followed Israel and provided them with the water of life whilst in exile, as the Rock does to this day.
It’s a ridiculous belief to think the rock really follow Israel though. But then it is, like the Book of God’s Wars, quoted in your Bible.
1 Corinthians 10:1–4 (The Scriptures)
For I do not wish you to be ignorant, brothers, that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea,
2 and all were immersed into Mosheh in the cloud and in the sea,
3 and all ate the same spiritual food,
4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed, and the Rock was Messiah.
There are many more. And what I wonder, what does this mean for the sources which the Bible quotes?
In the very least, I just hope and pray that people can grow in their discernment of what is acceptable to study and what is not acceptable to study. I at least hope that people can get to a place where it is not heresy to mention a book which is not the Bible which can assist us to understand the Bible and assist us to understand its very ancient context.
We need Sola Scripture, but a little outside help, at least to help study the Jewish context of scripture does help.
Herein lies the bulk of our discussion. The peculiar incident of the Serpent on the Pole.
This story is incredibly short but it’s incredibly fascinating.
It starts in Numbers 21:5 and concludes in verse 9. Just 4 short verses to describe one of the most fascinating incidents in the Old Testament. Basically, verse 4 starts with the people growing impatient ‘because of the way’ (interesting reference to the Torah on a deeper level). Verse 5 has the people complaining against God and Moses and in response YHWH sends serpents which bite and kill many of the people. When the people repent, YHWH instructs Moses to erect a serpent saying that when people look at the serpent that their bites will be healed. Then in true Bible fashion the story continues and we’re left blown away wondering ‘what just happened?!’
For many this story is simply about faith and submitting to YHWH. It is taught this way in the Church and is taught this way in Judaism too. The Talmud teaches;
Rosh Hashanah 3:5
It means when the children of Israel looked up toward heaven for help and submitted their will to that of their Father in heaven they were healed, but when they did not they perished.
And whilst the lesson of faith and surrender to YHWH is true, there is so much more.
To begin learning more about this story we must dissect the Hebrew to fully understand what is happening here.
Firstly, something stands out when the Bible describes the people dying;
Numbers 21:6 (The Scriptures)
6 And יהוה sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people. And many of the people of Yisra’ěl died.
There are redundancies here. We already know that the people of Israel grumbled against YHWH, the Bible says serpents went amongst the people, and then at the end of verse 6 the Bible again stresses that it was the people of Israel which died from the snake bites. By this time that bit of information is unnecessary because we clearly know who was dying without the Bible saying it so explicitly again.
Please keep in mind that these things are not related to some literary style of writing and that when dealing with Word of God, these things are to be examined.
But it was the ‘people’ that died, from the Hebrew, it was the ‘am’ of Israel. ‘Am’ been the Hebrew pronunciation of the word for people. But, unbeknown to most people there are different Hebrew words to say the English word for people. You could say the kahal, the adar or the am, which can all translate as ‘people’. It’s also like how we described statute and ordinance earlier. We may think that these words describe the same thing but in Hebrew these different words, which all refer to people, are referring to specific groups of people.
Kahal is a word which is more specific to a congregation of people. Kahal implies a group of people who are together, but that are not necessarily unified. So, you’ll see many congregations called Kahal, because whilst we are all congregated together, and yes we are unified in many things, we are not completely in agreeance and are not completely unified. Thus, most religious groups are ‘congregations/kahal’.
Adar, which is also translated as ‘people’ is literally an assembly of people. Typically, when talking about the adar of Israel, the Bible is really referring to the leadership of Israel.
Adar implies complete unity unlike a kahal. This makes sense for the leadership as our leaders are to be unified and in turn unified with the people. The leaders of Israel are to also be witnesses to the kahal and the rest of the world. So we like adar, we want to be completely unified with other believers and we want to be witnesses for the rest of the world. God willing this will happen one day.
Of the three ways that you can say people, the am of Israel is the least preferable. The best way to understand the term for am is to understand the phrase ‘am ha’aretz’. This phrase is translated as referring to ‘people of the earth’, meaning, people who live life in the flesh and people that are not spiritual.
It is the ‘am’ of Israel that make an appearance in our story today. So, when the scripture says the the ‘am’ of Israel complained, it was the people that were not connected with God, people not walking in the Spirit, that complained and protested against Moses and YHWH.
The implication of this teaches us a few things.
Whilst the ‘am’ of Israel complained, the punishment came upon all of Israel. Thus, we must understand the need to live in community and to keep one another upright;
Luke 17:3 (The Scriptures)
3 “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.
This explanation of am however, does not answer why there is that redundancy in verse 6.
The answer is that the Hebrew word used for ‘people’ at the end of the verse changes. Whilst Am Israel complain, at the end of the verse, it reiterates that ‘many of the people died’.
In Hebrew the verse reads ‘Rav mi am Yisrael Yamot’
Literally this is translated as ‘great people of Israel died’.
You see the word for rav, which is translated as ‘many’ or ‘great’, refers to a specific type of person. It’s translated as many, meaning numerically lots of people died, but it’s really referring to ‘great people’. This is because Rav, which means great, is a reference to the leaders and teachers of Israel, or really anyone spiritually ‘great’. It is also the root of the word for ‘Rabbi’.
This is profound. The am, the fleshly people of Israel complained, but the leaders of Israel, the great spiritual people within Israel died with them. Again, we see the need for community but we also see just how important it is for leaders and spiritual elders to take charge within their communities. God holds them responsible for the actions and behaviour of the community.
There is another level to this I want to touch on because when we read the Bible, sure we can understand this as lessons for our community, but we can also understand it as a lesson which is referring to our own physical and spiritual make up. If we apply these stories just to our own selves, then we can understand that within every person is Am Israel, the fleshly nature which grumbles against YHWH, but there is also, within every person, the rav, something great. So, for every person we learn that we must control and lead our Am Israel, our flesh, in order for what is great within us, the rav, corresponding to the spirit, to thrive.
Every person has the potential to be Am Israel, or to be part of the Rav, to be great.
The Singular Serpent
There are further ‘textual peculiarities’ within this story we need to discuss.
Verses 6 and 7 refer to the serpents that YHWH sent among the people.
Numbers 21:6–7 (The Scriptures)
6 And יהוה sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people. And many of the people of Yisra’ěl died.
7 Then the people came to Mosheh, and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against יהוה and against you. Pray to יהוה to take away the serpents from us.” So Mosheh prayed on behalf of the people.
The word for serpent used here is the word ‘nachash’. Keep that in mind.
The problem with the serpents is this.
Verse 6 uses the word nachash in the plural. Meaning that YHWH sent serpents among the people, exactly like the English says.
Verse 7, when the people ask for the serpents to be removed, ask in an odd way. They say literally, remove from us, the serpent.’ Singular.
Midrash Rabbah picks up on this in a real obvious way;
Pray unto thee Lord, that He take away the Serpent -Num 21:7
It was actually only one serpent!
Israel then are being attacked by plural serpents, but they ask for one singular serpent to be removed. Further, the ‘definite article’, which in English is simply the word ‘the’, in Hebrew, is implied. In English the word ‘the’, which we use to make our sentences make sense, but we also use when referring to something specific, is unnecessary in Hebrew. The word ‘the’, in Hebrew, is usually not there (but implied and correctly added in English translations so it makes sense for us). But if ‘the’ in Hebrew is present, than it should catch your eye because it most definitely is referring to something very specific.
When reading ‘the serpent’ in this passage, it’s more like ‘THE SERPENT’
For those that don’t know a ‘definite article’ is;
a determiner (‘the’ in English) that introduces a noun phrase and implies that the thing mentioned has already been mentioned, or is common knowledge, or is about to be defined.
It is interesting that the definition of a definite article teaches us that ‘the’ thing been referred to ‘has already been mentioned’.
In relation to the singular serpent of which we are reading of this is very true. It has already been mentioned. The phrase in verse 7 is ‘ha nachash’ in Hebrew is found in the book of Genesis.
Genesis 3:1 (The Scriptures)
And the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which יהוה Elohim had made, and he said to the woman, “Is it true that Elohim has said, ‘Do not eat of every tree of the garden’?”
The singular serpent we are reading of, is the serpent himself.
So how then is it that the people came to Moses asking for the serpent to be removed?
The answer lies in a deep revelation we all would do well to learn. You see the people realised that it was not necessarily the snakes that were killing them, but that that it was their sin. Just like in the garden where man fell into sin, the people repeated the same mistake here and they knew it.
The people were asking Moses to remove their sin from them, or arguably, sin himself, the serpent.
It’s interesting as well, the phrase ‘remove the serpent from among us’.
I’ve been taught that this phrase can be understood as (remember Hebrew is complex);
‘remove the serpent from within us’
I mentioned earlier that the Torah can be understood on a level that refers to our very own physical and spiritual make up. So (and I’m speaking a d’rash for those that know what I mean), one could argue that within all men is the serpent, sin. That which we refer to in Hebrew as the ‘yetzer ha’ra’, our ‘evil inclination’, and it is for every man to subdue our evil inclination and to ask Moses, a picture of our Messiah, to remove the serpent from within us.
The process in which Israel had to look at the serpent teaches us many things about coming to terms with sin, and I believe this story is intimately related to confession.
You see we have forgotten as a society what it means to be truly repentant. We think this refers to saying ‘sorry’ and moving on. But what the Torah demands, and what Yeshua teaches, is that repentance is a process. It requires confession of our sin, repentance which literally means to turn away from our sin, and it requires us to make complete restoration to the person we have wronged. If you steal from someone, ‘sorry’ doesn’t cut the mustard, and Jesus is no excuse for not making restoration and righting our wrongs.
But I want to draw your attention to confession because it’s something that causes man to come face to face with his sin. It’s something, which prior to repentance and restoration, causes us to come to terms with the sin we have committed, to look at the serpent within ourselves, and to realise the mercy and grace that God extends to us. I think this is a huge part as to why YHWH commanded the serpent to be erected. The serpent represents sin, YHWH is causing man to fully face his sin and I believe that when we do so, coming to terms with what we have done in order to truly make restoration, then we can truly begin to live.
YHWH does not intend on man ignoring his sin but actively looking to be like Messiah and to make restoration.
Moses the Middle Man
There are further peculiar things in the text itself but first, I want to point out that none of this happened without Moses.
Noticer verse 5;
Numbers 21:5 (The Scriptures)
5 And the people spoke against Elohim and against Mosheh, “Why have you brought us up out of Mitsrayim to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our being loathes this light bread.”
Somehow Judaism holds to the belief that there is no middle man required in order to connect with YHWH. In a way this may be true, but it is also not true, and Moses in our portion stands up again as a stark picture of our Messiah who connects us to YHWH.
Interestingly enough, Moses is equated to YHWH elsewhere in scripture;
Exodus 14:31 (The Scriptures)
31 And Yisra’ěl saw the great work which יהוה had done in Mitsrayim, and the people feared יהוה, and believed יהוה and His servant Mosheh.
But today I want to look at why was it, in this story, was it Moses that the people went to. Yes, because YHWH put him in charge, but this story I’ve found has an interesting connection to Moses and the serpent back in Exodus.
Exodus 4:3–5 (The Scriptures)
3 And He said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent. And Mosheh fled from it.
4 And יהוה said to Mosheh, “Reach out your hand and take it by the tail”—so he reached out his hand and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand—
5 so that they believe that יהוה Elohim of their fathers, the Elohim of Aḇraham, the Elohim of Yitsḥaq, and the Elohim of Ya‘aqoḇ, has appeared to you.”
I believe the answer is simple. Whilst this is a story where we read about the serpent which became the rod, it is on a far deeper level teaching us that Moses is one that had complete command of his ‘yetzer ha’ra’, his evil inclination, the serpent.
Remember the serpent is an image of sin, and Moses been able to take sin in his hand and control it is why the people turned to him.
Exodus 4 has a further relationship to Numbers 21 which is interesting. It’s a verbal tally which connects Numbers 21:8 to Exodus 4:3. In verse 8 of Numbers YHWH commands Moses to erect the serpent on a pole, which is the Hebrew word for nes. Nes has many meanings we’ll explore later. But this is connected to Exodus 4:3 where Moses flees from the snake. The word for flee, in the Hebrew, is ‘ya nos’. It is one letter different from the word for nes. And‘ya nos’, is derived from the word for pole, nes.
The lesson we derive is this, if we do not run from our serpent, our sin, but turn to face it, then we too can subdue our evil inclination, our flesh, and be saved from it.
But it’s not without Moses and in something that is hugely profound, the sages, the Talmud even, teaches thus;
Mechilta Beshalach and Sanhedrin 110a
It is written: “They believed in G‑d and in Moses His servant” (Exodus 14:31). If they believed even in Moses, they certainly believed in G‑d! But this comes to teach us that whoever believes in the shepherd of Israel, it is as though he believes in G‑d.
In the same vein, it says, “The people spoke against G‑d and against Moses.” If they spoke even against G‑d himself, than certainly they spoke against Moses! But this comes to teach us that whoever speaks against the shepherd of Israel, it is as though he spoke against G‑d.
We need Moses, Scripture makes it very clear that we need him.
Now, without the actual Moses running around the way we follow this example is to have faith in our Messiah, the one who truly conquered sin.
The Fiery Angels
More ‘textual peculiarities’, and I think I’ve saved the best for last.
Up until now we have been talking about the nachash, the serpents and serpent which has plagued Israel. Interestingly though, verse 8, where YHWH commands Moses to make a serpent, and to set it on a pole, does not command Moses to make a ‘nachash’.
YHWH says to Moses, make a ‘seraph’, not a ‘nachash’.
What is a seraph?
I’m sure you’ve guessed though that the Hebrew word for seraph, whilst it can be translated as serpent, is referring to something very different.
Serpah is a word which literally means ‘to burn’ and is in actuality a reference to a spiritual being, a being of fire, a being many call an angel.
I’m not making this up. We find the word seraph quite prominently in Isaiah 6 where Isaiah is in the throne room of YHWH.
Isaiah 6:1–3 (The Scriptures)
… I saw יהוה sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the Hěḵal.
2 Above it stood seraphim. Each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.
3 And one cried to another and said, “Set-apart (holy), set-apart, set-apart is יהוה of hosts; all the earth is filled with His esteem!”
It was a seraph that YHWH commanded Moses to erect on a pole. A fiery serpent angel thing which dwells in the throne room of YHWH.
When we read Isaiah 6, and of the seraphim elsewhere in the Bible, we must understand that these men are not on earth, they are not in our 3D realm but in a place you and I cannot even comprehend as existing. So how is it that you create an image of something that we cannot see with normal human eyes, and of which we cannot be even sure of what they really look like?
So Moses makes a Nachash in verse 9, he does not make a seraph, as God commanded.
This is our last ‘textual peculiarity’. That God commanded Moses make a seraph, despite nachash biting the people, and that Moses made a bronze nachash, despite God commanding Moses to make a seraph.
Did Moses disobey YHWH then?
I will suggest to you that Moses did obey YHWH.
You see the serpaph is fire, and fire been a symbol of spirit means that the seraph is a representation of the spirit. Obviously, the nachash then, the serpent, is a representation of the flesh, our sin and our desire to sin.
So I do believe that Moses fulfilled God’s command. Because as we have learnt, if we want to walk in the spirit we must first face our sin, we must confess our sin, repent, flee from our sin and attach ourselves to the one who can subdue it. Finally, having put sin to death, having looked it in its eye and chosen YHWH and his Messiah over sin, having faith, then, you can look upon the seraph, walk in the spirit, and truly connect with God and a realm that you and I cannot comprehend, but have absolute faith in.
As it is written;
1 Corinthians 2:9 (The Scriptures)
9 … “Eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, nor have entered into the heart of man what God has prepared for those who love Him.”
I hope now you realise that the nachash which Moses created, like the red heifer from earlier in our reading this week, is a choke, a statute. It doesn’t make rational sense but it takes faith, and it carves (chok) the law of God, his spirit, into our hearts and redeems us.
When we look to the serpent, we are redeemed.
It shouldn’t come as a shock for you now, to learn that number of the serpent, I’m not talking about 666, but the numerical value of the word for ‘nachash’ (Hebrew letters also double as numbers), which is 350, is the same numerical value for the Hebrew word Moshiach (which is huge in Hebraic thinking).
Thus, the serpent, the sin held aloft for Israel to look to, is Messiah.
John 3:14–17 (The Scriptures)
14 “And as Mosheh lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so the Son of Aḏam has to be lifted up,
15 so that whoever is believing in Him should not perish but possess everlasting life.
16 “For Elohim so loved the world that He gave His only brought-forth Son, so that everyone who believes in Him should not perish but possess everlasting life.
17 “For Elohim did not send His Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
2 Corinthians 5:21 (The Scriptures)
21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of Elohim.
It is only through Messiah, and His work, that we connect to Father. Then we can truly ascend spiritual heights and see past the nachash/flesh of this world.
Israel ‘looking’ to Him, facing our sin, confessing, repenting, is also very profound for other prophetic reasons.
…And they shall look on Me (like they did the serpent) whom they pierced, and they shall mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son…
The Standard of God, The Miracle of God
Ok there is more...
The word nes.
I mentioned earlier that it is the word for pole, as in referring to the pole that Moses suspended the serpent from.
But Hebrew is a very cool language and words are packed with meaning and various ways that they can be understood. You see the word for ‘nes’, also means miracle, and it also means standard (as in a military banner suspended high in the air).
It’s also very prophetic, and it is fascinating to read the prophets when you have the connection from the word nes, to the incident with the serpent, and the crucifixion of the Messiah.
One of the more prominent mentions of nes in the Prophets is found in Isaiah 11.
Isaiah 11:10 (The Scriptures)
10 And in that day there shall be a Root of Yishai, standing as a banner (nes/miracle) to the people. Unto Him the gentiles shall seek, and His rest shall be esteem.
12 And He shall raise a banner (nes) for the nations, and gather the outcasts of Yisra’ěl, and assemble the dispersed of Yehuḏah from the four corners of the earth.
The Miracle of Messiah
Finally, the sages have another ridiculous midrash I want to share with you. But this time to the incident of the serpent and the word nes. They say, and taught long before Yeshua’s time;
Numbers Rabbah 19:23
Moses made a bronze serpent, and set it on a miracle.
This means he cast it into the air and it stayed there.
As ridiculous as the walking rock, the sages teach that this serpent ascended and floated into the air (there are other references in Jewish texts to this).
But it’s not so ridiculous.
You see the serpent been held aloft for Israel to see is also a reference to the ascension of Yeshua. It is because he died for our sin, resurrected, was a miracle for the world, that he could ascend to his Father having completed His work. In many places in the gospels Yeshua makes reference to his descending into the world, in order for him to ascend, including John 3, just prior to His reference to the bronze serpent. Whilst that statement is referencing the crucifixion, in context it is also referencing Yeshua's ascension. There’s more to this but we’ll end on this thought.
What goes up will come back down 😊
Acts 1:9–11 (The Scriptures)
9 And having said this, while they were looking on, He was taken up, and a cloud hid Him from their sight.
10 And as they were gazing into the heaven as He went up, see, two men stood by them dressed in white,
11 who also said, “Men of Galil, why do you stand looking up into the heaven? This same יהושׁע, who was taken up from you into the heaven, shall come in the same way as you saw Him go into the heaven.”
John 6:61–62 (The Scriptures)
61 But יהושׁע knowing within Himself that His taught ones were grumbling about this, said to them, “Does this make you stumble?
62 “What if you see the Son of Aḏam going up where He was before?
John 3:13–14 (The Scriptures)
13 “… no one has gone up into the heaven except He who came down from the heaven—the Son of Aḏam.
14 “And as Mosheh lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so the Son of Aḏam has to be lifted up…