So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live. Numbers 21:9 NRSV
Aaron has just died and his son Eleazar is now the High Priest. The people have been camping at Mount Hor and have just fulfilled a vow to God by defeating the Canaanites near Negeb. Now they are leaving Mount Hor but having had a taste of victory, they become impatient. "Why are we still traveling in the desert? Are you going to have all of us die just as our parents did in the wilderness? And this food of manna and quail - we detest it!" they complain.
Obviously, the people have made God mad. Certainly they have not learned their lesson that complaining and fussing will lead to certain suffering and possible death.
This time they are punished by what the bible says are poisonous snakes/serpents. Another translation could be fiery serpents. The Hebrew word for this is seraphim or seraphs. Remember seraphs? They are the same winged creatures surrounding God's throne in Isaiah's vision of heaven (Isaiah 6). So, are these poisonous serpents or angels attacking the people? Obviously, God is behind the attacks and it is going to take a very different treatment to save them.
Enter the snake on a stick. Or perhaps a fiery angel on a stick. Here are the people who aren't supposed to worship idols and Moses makes one to save them from God's wrath. All they have to do is look at this figure on a pole and be saved.
Makes as much sense as the continual unhappiness of the people God has saved and continues to save.
God, keep us from fussing and complaining when you have done so much for us beginning with giving your Son, Jesus, so that we may have eternal life. In His name we pray. Amen.
Copyright 2010 Amelia G. Sims