23 July 2009

God sent fiery serpents to bite the people for complaining about the lack of food and water

When it comes to this Bible story, there are only two kinds of believers: those who have never heard of it, and those who are embarrassed by it.

Here's the story.

The Israelites began to complain about the lack of food and water.
And the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way. And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread. Numbers 21:4-5
So God sent fiery serpents to bite the people.
And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people... Numbers 21:6a
And many of the people died.
... and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. Numbers 21:6b
Then the people apologized to Moses and God for complaining, and they asked Moses to do something to get rid of God's nasty fiery serpents.
Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. Numbers 21:7
God told Moses what to do. Make a fiery serpent out of brass (they had lots of that lying around) and put it on a pole. Then when a bitten person looks at it, he or she won't die. (Only God could come up with a plan like that!)
And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. Numbers 21:8
So Moses made a brass snake and put it on a pole. And it worked just like God said it would.
And Moses made a serpent of brass, 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. Numbers 21:8
Now that's a lot more entertaining than a damned holy war massacre, isn't it?

If there is a believer who is actually proud of this story, I'd love to hear about it. The rest of you can just go on being embarrassed by it.

Well, I guess there are some believers that like this story, since it is highlighted in the Green Bible. I bet that's because it has snakes in it. God loves snakes.

God's next killing: Phbinehas' double murder


busterggi said...

Um, Yahweh, no one was complaining about you, they were complaining about what a lousy leader Moses was. I know he was your pet kiss-ass but don't you think this was a bit of an overreaction?

Matt said...

I love reading your accounts of God's killings. Keep up the good work.

RsD said...

I think that you need a running scoreboard at the top of your page. Like a McDonalds' sign. "Over one billion killed"

Cristiano SamZZ said...

Another great one Steve, but it's not numbers 24, but numbers 21.

Mountain Mom said...

I always thought this was a weird one. So much for the 2nd Commandment which forbids the creation of graven images.
Also, God hates golden calves to be sure, but brass snakes are cool. Why? A feminist theory of this myth might say that's because a calf represents a more feminine symbol of the divine since cows produce milk and calves are fed upon milk. Humans who worship bovine images worship feminine deities, whereas humans who worship serpentine images worship masculine images since the snake is quite phallic. The Israelite religion is very male-centric. Another theory of this myth might say that calves were associated with Baal, an older Hebrew god whom the Israelites were trying to disassociate themselves from. But what of the snake? A remnant of Eden? A fascinating myth, so long as a person doesn't believe it to be fact. Such a literal belief would be the real biting, fiery snake!

Brendan said...

I was going to respond to each "killing" at the summary for the book, but for whatever reason, I felt compelled to comment here.

You seem to think you are either "proud" or "embarrassed" by something. That's ridiculous. This is one of the stories that I really couldn't care less about. Of course I've heard it (read it, too), and I'm not "embarrassed" by it. I've never been "embarrassed" by a Bible story. Disgusted, yes (conquest of Midian, conquest of Canaan, etc), but those are all other stories for another time.

When you get a story like this, you can approach it as a reformist, conservative, or atheist.

The atheist sees the story and says "That's bad. All they did was complain. They didn't deserve to die."

The conservative can approach it a couple ways:

The first is the "You can't question G-d" way. This is a terrible method, because it's simplistic and narrow-minded. The second way would be "Perhaps there are deeper reasons and the people who died actually got what they deserved". In the latter, one could argue that G-d is entitled to kill anybody, because he knows what their deepest thoughts, emotions, etc are.

The reformist approaches this in a couple of ways, too. One is "Well, the Torah is fictional stories based on real stories". I don't like this method because it brings up the question of "What's real, and what isn't?"

The other method for a reformist, and the one that I favor, is "The Bible was written by human hands and therefore occasionally ascribes events to G-d that might not have actually been divine acts." This view believes that the Torah and bible (Or at least the OT, which is what Jews believe in) were compiled from existing documents, although these documents were recorded at the time of the even, or close to it. In this view, this story would've been written by a bystander (Unless G-d and Moses don't know their pronouns). If a bunch of people were complaining about G-d and Moses, and all of a sudden, a bunch of snakes bit them, wouldn't tribal religious fanatics believe it to be the wrath of G-d?

In this view, the way it happened would be:
People get killed by snakes. Moses prays. G-d saves a bunch of people. Everyone thinks G-d smote them for complaining.
This is only a problem for literalists (or, perhaps, atheists who would like to paint up the G-d of the Bible as cruel).

By the way, the area in which they were traveling in this story has an abundance of snakes.

Markus Arelius said...

Snakes! Seriously?

You do have to admire God's angry, raging alcoholic-like whims. I wonder, you know, after everyone is supersaturated with snake venom, whether he suddenly awakes from his dark side rage and asks the question...."Gee, did I really do all that?".

Snakes? Come on! Why not bring in some sharks with freaking LazerrRR Beams on the Heads?

Steve Wells said...

Thanks for the correction, Cirstiano, I've changed the chapter reference to Numbers 21.

Steve Wells said...

Oh, so you don't think it actually happened, eh Brendan? I guess you're not really a believer then. (You just pretend to be.)

And you you're OK with the Torah saying that God sent fiery serpents to bite and kill people for complaining about not having food and water. The Torah has lots of vile, stupid stories that never happened in it, and this is just one of them. You're not embarrassed by it all.

Is there anything in the Torah that you do believe in, Brendan? Or do you just pretend all the way through?

Brendan said...

I figured someone would say that. I suppose you've never been to a Reform synagogue before. That's pretty much what they believe. Or are you calling reform Jews "pretenders"? I find that kind of offensive, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who would. I did not say I didn't believe it happened. In fact, it most likely did happen. I was questioning the involvement of G-d. You don't have to be a literalist to be a "believer".

I'm really not sure how to respond to this second part here. The Torah actually cites its sources (As does much of the Bible). You can't say none of it ever happened. I guess I could buy the argument that the first 10 generations are completely habricated (I believe this is the figure I read recently), but the Torah reports on things outside of the Israelite kingdoms. The Israelites would have no knowledge of these things.

This is what I *do* believe, Steve:
Bereishit is compiled from several documents. The accuracy of such documents is something that I am not 100% certain of.
Shemot is a recording of actual events by various people (scribes?).
Vayikra is a recording of Moses speaking things which G-d told him. It was recorded by scribes.
B'midbar is a record kept by a large group of scribes.
D'varim is a record of sermons which Moses gave shortly before his death. There is a possibility that it was fabricated by King Josiah (he was recorded as having "found the book of Moses"), but I don't believe that.
Beyond the Torah, Yehoshua and Shoftim were recorded by various scribes, and compiled into single sources during the United Monarchy. Shmuel, Melachim, and Divrei Hayamim all appear to be compiled of documents written during the United Monarchy. They were compiled into documents after the destruction of the first temple. Beyond that, everything, with the exception of Iyov, was written at the times they are supposed to have been written, by the people who supposedly wrote them. Iyov is something I've never been to sure about, and nobody ever has been. The Talmud records rabbis having mixed opinions as to the authenticity of Job, and that was 2,000 years ago. Are the rabbis of the Talmud "pretenders", too?

The snake is not being "worshipped". A few hundred years later, Israelites began worshipping the statue, so it was destroyed. The remnants of the statue have been uncovered through archeaology. The idea is that the snake catches the eyes of the people, and they look up, to G-d.

Steve Wells said...


You said, "I did not say I didn't believe it happened. In fact, it most likely did happen. I was questioning the involvement of G-d."

You believe that it happened? You believe that God sent fiery serpents (snakes, guinea worms, whatever) to punish the people for complaining about not having enough to eat and drink? That many of the people died from the bites? And that God told Moses to make a serpent out of brass so that when people looked at it they wouldn't die from the bites of the serpents that he sent to kill them for complaining? Is that what you believe, Brendan?

I don't believe that you believe any of these things happened. You don't believe it any more than I do. You are just pretending. And you can't even admit it to yourself.

Is there someone who really does believe this story? A believer who is proud of God for the way he behaved in Numbers 21:4-8? Who is glad this story is in the Bible?

If so, please tell us about it.

Brendan said...

Again, Steve, your comment is filled with ignorance that's downright offensive to Reform Jews. The Union For Reform Judaism's commentary of the Torah asserts the same thing (actually, it goes even further).

Why would I "pretend" to be religious? That's a downright stupid thing to say.

In fact, I told you exactly what I believe truly happened in this incident. Maybe if you tried reading my comments...

Steve Wells said...

You're not pretending to be religious, Brendan. You're pretending to believe in Bible stories that you know aren't true. And you're glad they're not true, because if they were, it would mean that God is a monster. And you'd prefer to believe that God is (more or less) good.

Did God send the serpents to punish people for complaining about the lack of food and water, Brendan? Did he tell Moses to make a brass serpent to magically heal the people after they were bitten? Did he stop killing people when he saw the brass snake?

If you can't answer these questions with an unequivocal "Yes", then you don't believe this Bible story actually happened. (And, therefore, the Bible is lying when it says that it did.)

Brendan said...

Again, Steve, I'd like to point out that this is the belief of Reform Jews.

But since you think you've got me trapped, I'll bite. Let's say every single "killing" happened exactly as the Bible says. That doesn't make G-d a monster. I've read pretty much the entire "cruelty" section of the SAB (as well as the "insults to homosexuals" and "insults to women" sections). People do terrible things in the Bible. But G-d? G-d's "killings" all have rational explanations (in at least 2 cases I've seen, no one actually died, but I'll get to that later). Since there isn't a complicated answer to this story, specifically, I reinterpreted it based on the words of my rabbi.

But I'll play your game here: If it actually happened exactly the way the Bible says, then perhaps the people were on the verge of attacking and killing Moses. It is a Jewish belief that it is permissible to kill someone if that person is attempting to kill another person. If it didn't happen the way the Bible says, the Bible didn't "lie". Again, I have never believed it to be the inerrant word of G-d, and therefore it wouldn't be a "lie" so much as a "mistake" by the Israelite scribes.

Even the Bible stories that I find disgusting I believe happened. The massacre of the Midianites has got to be the most gruesome Bible story ever. I believe it happened.

I did not pretend to believe this story the exact way it was written to have happened, but I am open to the possibility that it did occur exactly the way it was written.

busterggi said...

So Brendan, just what does Reformist mean?

That you can decide what's true & false in the bible by whether or not you personally like it?

That you can interpret the bible to mean what you like rather than what it says?

That belief & faith are just buzzwords for personal preferences?

Matthew Blanchette said...

You know, the only time I found this mentioned in a positive light in church was in reference to John, chapter 3, where Jesus compares himself to the brass snake (don't know why; he just does).

In hindsight, not the best thing in the world to be comparing yourself to if you're the "Prince of Peace" (wink, wink).

TWF said...

This may not apply to Brendan, given that he is Jewish, but let's not forget that the Bible asserts that Jesus believed in this story too!

John 3:14
"Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up," NIV

In fact, it seems that Jesus not only believed in the story, we see that the concept behind it was central in God's plan for mankind, a "shadow" of things to come.

That is what I call a menacing shadow! :-)

(I also find it increadibly ironic that the snake was used, given that Christianity associates serpent symbols with Satan.)

Mountain Mom said...

Brendan, You wrote: Misty:
The snake is not being "worshipped". [sic]

However, I think there is indication that it was being worshiped. John 3:14-15 says "Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, in order that everyone who has faith may in him have eternal life." Jesus is being compared to Moses' snake. Jesus is clearly someone who is worshiped by the writer here. So, if he is worshiping Jesus, he clearly understands the snake to be an object of worship as well, and is using that snake to illustrate Jesus' divinity and life giving power. Even if you do not believe that Jesus is the Messiah, you can see from the writing of one who considers him to be divine that Moses' snake was also considered divine, and an object of worship. If Jesus is "just as" or equal to Moses' snake in the wilderness, then that snake was surely an object of worship.

This may be objectionable to folks who would never worship snake statues today, but it is in the Bible, both the Hebrew and New Testament. And it seems to have been perfectly acceptable back then, despite the prohibitions against graven objects, and gods other than Yahweh.

Ian said...

There are motherf'n SNAKES in the motherf'n desert!

Someone needs to make a movie about the Book of Numbers starring Samuel L. Jackson.

Brendan said...

I'm not sure if this comment went through last night, but since it isn't up after 24 hours, I'll assume it didn't go through (that happens sometimes).

Again, Steve, I'd like to point out that this is the belief of Reform Jews.

but let's say every single "killing" happened exactly as the Bible says. That doesn't make G-d a monster. I've read pretty much the entire "cruelty" section of the SAB (as well as the "insults to homosexuals" and "insults to women" sections). People do terrible things in the Bible. But G-d? G-d's "killings" all have rational explanations (in at least 2 cases I've seen, no one actually died, but I'll get to that later). Since there isn't a complicated answer to this story, specifically, I reinterpreted it based on the words of my rabbis.

But I'll play your game here: If it actually happened exactly the way the Bible says, then perhaps the people were on the verge of attacking and killing Moses. There is a Jewish belief that it is permissible to kill someone if that person is attempting to kill another person.

Also, if I didn't really believe the Torah & Bible, why would I be defending it?

Brendan said...

Also, to add to that last comment, the way I phrased my beliefs about this story, the Bible wouldn't be "lying" so much as the scribes recording it would be "mistaken", since I do not believe the Bible to be the inerrant word of G-d.

madcat said...

Great job in opening up the christians' eyes.

They need to start to see how Yahweh and his people were so vicious.

Ya like so idolatry is wrong but if YAHWEH or his beloved followers do it then it's OK?

MURDER, rape, stealing are all immoral but if YAHWEH does it, it's all good?

What a sick god.

Steve Wells said...


"I did not pretend to believe this story the exact way it was written to have happened, but I am open to the possibility that it did occur exactly the way it was written."

OK. So you don't know whether you believe it or not.

God might have killed the people who complained about the lack of food and water by sending serpents to bite them. Or he might not have.

God might have told Moses to make a brass serpent to cure people from the the serpents' bites. Or he might not have.

And the people who were bitten by the serpents might have been cured by looking at the brass serpent that God told Moses to make. Or they might not have.

You're 100% OK with it whatever happened.

It might have happened or it might not have happened. You believe it either way, with equal fervor. (Do you believe that it both happened and didn't happen, Brendan?)

Brendan said...


I'm Jewish. I don't believe in the NT.

Wise Fool:

The NT claims several OT events are precursors to Jesus.


"Reformist" means that you are allowed room for interpretation. You have a problem with it only because it stands in the way of your "Bible is cruel" ideology.


I am open to the possibility that it happened the way it is written. I don't believe it did. I am 100% OK with it if it happened the way the Bible says it did. I am 100% OK with it if I didn't. In regards to this story, I believe that G-d may or may not have sent the snakes. I believe everything else happened the way it says.
As I explained, I don't find it cruel if G-d sent snakes after a bunch of people, because if he did it would have been to stop them from attacking Moses.

busterggi said...

""Reformist" means that you are allowed room for interpretation."

So I was right, you pick & choose to believe the parts you like & ignore the rest.

Thank you for an honest answer.

Brendan said...


"Pick and choose" is a line that's been recycled over, and over, and over again. Try coming up with original material.

I don't "pick and choose", especially not the way Penn & Teller (and Jack Black, etc, etc, etc) say it. I acknowledge that all these things are there. I talk about them.

Going through the Bible, I don't say "Hmmm, I don't like that, therefore I don't believe it." I happen to think this story in particular could've happened differently than it was written. No, if I find something I "don't like", I try to figure out what the meaning is and why it's there. Being allowed to interpret isn't "Picking and choosing", it's being rational. The book is somewhere around 3,000 years old. Interpretation is completely justified.

Steve Wells said...

Thanks matt311 and wisefool for pointing out Jesus' belief in the silly snake-on-a-pole story of Numbers 31. I've added a note in the SAB to John 3:14.

Mountain Mom said...

Brennan, you wrote:
I'm Jewish. I don't believe in the NT.

You don't have to believe in the NT to see that the folks back then worshiped the snake. The point I made was not that you had to believe in the NT or the Christian Messiah, but that Jesus, an object of worship, was compared to the snake, a previous object of worship. See the relation? Brennan, neither do I believe in the NT as anything other than an interesting collection of myths, just as the Hebrew Bible is. However, I can clearly read those myths and see which objects written of are considered objects of worship. Moses' snake is one of those. Read the story again. I'm not attacking you, just challenging you to read the story for what it is.

Brendan said...

Misty: The statue was actually destroyed in the 7th century BCE because too many people were worshiping it.

In regards to the story, Rashi wrote:

"Our Rabbis said, Does a snake cause death or life? However, when Israel looked heavenward and subjected their hearts to their Father in heaven, they would be healed, but if not, they would waste away."

Interesting side note that I just noticed, Rashi also says:

"Heb. עַלנֵס, on a post, perche in French. Similarly,“and like a flagpole (וְכַנֵּס) on a hill” (Isa. 30:17);“will I raise My standard (נִסִּי) ” (ibid. 49:22);“raise a banner” (נֵס) (ibid. 13:2). Since it stands high, and serves as a signal and is to be seen, it is called נֵס (a sign)."

The purpose is simply to draw attention.

busterggi said...

Brendan, Brendan, Brendan, you can use levels of rationality or likliness to pick & choose what you believe but you're still picking & choosing.

Just be honest and admit it.

Brendan said...

Why don't you get your own damn lines? The phrase "pick & choose" has been beaten to death.

I use rationality to interpret. Interpreting is different than the concept of "picking and choosing", in the sense that "Picking and choosing" is simply denying that there's bad things in the Bible, where as interpretation is used to determine why they're there. There's a major difference between the two, and besides, I've even said that I'd be open to the possibility that it did actually happen. If that's "picking and choosing", then I must be the worst "pick & choose"-er ever.

Markus Arelius said...

If I interpret what someone has said or written, I'm explaining the meaning of it, or translating it for others to understand what was written or said. I'm not necessarily answering the question why they said or wrote it.

We read this passage and it's pretty easy to interpret what happened and some meaning or underlying main idea from it. For example, what I gleaned from it is: Question God and you will suffer dire consequences.

Got it.

That's one thing. Now the question why. Why did God kill these people (men and women) who were complaining about lack of food and water and do it in such a horrifying manner (by poisonous snake bite)?

How are we to apply and use this passage in modern day 21st century life?

It just comes across as pointless fear mongering to me in the form of "Believe in God or else bad things will happen to you".

So are there any good reasons to believe in God other than blackmail?

sconnor said...


No, if I find something I "don't like", I try to figure out what the meaning is and why it's there. Being allowed to interpret isn't "Picking and choosing", it's being rational.

Your not being rational; you're rationalizing -- there's a massive distinction. I wonder if you can discern that distinction?


Brendan said...


Go back and read all my comments again.

I'll make it easy for you and give you the answer again:

A bunch of restless, pissed off, primitive people are getting mad at Moses. Perhaps on the verge of rebellion, which would end in the murder of Moses. Without Moses, they'd have no leader and would surely die in the wilderness.

G-d saved the Israelites by sending snakes after some of them.

And your gleaning- that's not true at all!

You're supposed to question G-d! Think of Abraham and Moses both question G-d on moral grounds, and they were among his favorite people on Earth. Job also questioned G-d, and G-d wound up siding with him in the end.


I suppose in a way you might be right. That doesn't mean it isn't rational to interpret things.

Steve Wells said...

You've come a long way, Brendan!

First you say you're not sure what to think. But you're 100% OK with it whatever happened.

"In regards to this story, I believe that G-d may or may not have sent the snakes."

Now you think it happened just like it said in the Bible.

"G-d saved the Israelites by sending snakes after some of them."

busterggi said...

Brendan is just reinterpreting as he goes along.

Its happened when he wants it to have happened and didn't happen when he doesn't want it to have happened.

That's what make it a miracle.

Brendan said...

Actually, Steve, my position is no different than before. I suppose my last comment wasn't very clear, but I was just explaining to Markus how it could have been a completely justified action. I had done that already, but since Markus missed it, I figured I'd re-post it. Markus asked "why" G-d may have done it, and since he wouldn't take my answer (at least I assume, since he was attacking my "interpretation" stance), I offered another possibility. I still believe it didn't happen, and I'm still 100% fine with it either way.

Mountain Mom said...

We all interpret. Modern literary theorists say that a person cannot read a passage without interpreting it. But, for this conversation, how about this question: is there a difference between interpretation and speculation? If something is not written in the Bible, for example, the idea that these Israelites were going to possibly kill or attack Moses, is that idea an interpretation of the story, or is it speculation? What do you think?

Brendan said...

Yes, Misty, you could say that. But think about this:

They're primitive people. Moses himself, however close to G-d, is still just a tribal leader. It's clear that they're all angry, and therefore violent.

It is speculation, yes, but it is based on knowledge of human behavior, and the time period. People today still kill leaders in rebellions. You don't think in 1300 BCE that angry, frustrated people would attack and kill their leader if they weren't satisfied? They still do it today!

David said...

* I'm a believer. I knew of this account in the bible, and I'm not ashamed of it. You can see my comment in the 25th killing for more background.

"The Israelites began to complain about the lack of food and water."

Seriously? They walked across the bed of the Red Sea as if on dry ground, and they want to know why Moses freed them from bondage in Egypt? Moses didn't do it. God did. That miracle wasn't enough to give them faith in Him. They needed to overcome another trial. He gave them one. It worked (for the time being).

"...we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us."

Naturally, the symbol of the brass snake was a type or foreshadowing of the coming of Christ. Looking to Him can save us from our spritual wounds the way looking upon the snake healed the israelites of their mortal wounds.

There are two ways that we can develop our faith: 1) humble ourselves 2) the Lord can humble us. The lesson here is that the former is much preferable to the latter.

sconnor said...


There are two ways that we can develop our faith: 1) humble ourselves 2) the Lord can humble us. The lesson here is that the former is much preferable to the latter.

Riiiiight! So much for free will. Worship me and do what I say or I will cause you to suffer beyond your most horrendous thoughts.

God: If you don't have faith in me I'm going to cause mass suffering; I'll wipe you out with revolting plagues, natural disasters and animal attacks; I'll commit mass genocide that makes ALL genocidal maniacs pale in comparison. AND -- If you commit the most vile of sins (NOT BELIEVING IN ME) I will have you tortured in the flames of hell for an eternity. Oh and BTW I love you.

Your bible god-concept is a sadistic torturer of souls who is so petty and insecure (his poor little feelings were hurt -- po wittle baby) he will cause mass suffering and/or will torture the majority of his earthly children in the flames of hell for an eternity simply because they perpetrated the most vile heinous of sins: (massive sarcasm) UNBELIEF -- rejecting your delusional concept of god.

Your bible god-concept is patently insane and has no reference in reality.


God is Love said...

God stopped protecting people from the firey snakes because they didn't allow Him to becuase of unbelief in Him. Not being One who forces Himself on anyone, the snakes were a consequence of Israel's choice not to let Him protect them.

If you are writing about God as one who creates evil schemes for people, then you are not writing about the God of the Bible.

Jeremiah 29:11 lets us know what God thinks and plans for us (read it and you'll understand God better in relation to your life). God wanted to keep on saving these people from the snakes, but couldn't unless they asked Him to (see the brass serpent made).

This story is all about God and His mercy towards us. Like He raised up the firey brass serpent to save people from the snake venom, He raised up Jesus for us on the cross to save us from sin.

Be careful not to represent God as something that He isn't.

Joseph & Laralyn said...

Moral of this story: If you decide to follow God, stop your bellyaching and whining and decide to trust Him. Don't halfway do this! That's how hypocrites happen. In the middle of your complaining about how life is bad (after He's taken you out of slavery where you were being beaten, overworked, and literally killed), you may discover that it can get worse. God's protection moves with His purpose. If you are following Him and in the place He has scheduled you to be, you are protected. But one of the Hebrew words for complain is "loon" which means to obstinately stop and lodge overnight. So while the protective covering of God was moving, His pouting followers decided to stubbornly sit down and feel sorry for themselves, rather than to simply ask Him for what they needed. When that happens, we are unprotected. Interestingly enough, I Cor. 10:10 says, "Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer." That word destroyer is Olothreutes (ol-oth-ryoo-tace’) a ruiner, that is specifically a venomous serpent. So, complain if you like about what I write. I will have faith that He will provide and protect.

Charles said...

I am not "embarrassed" by anything in the Bible any more. The chance of such stories being factual is somewhere between zilch and none and therefore I don't not need to be shaken or upset by the excessive cruelty that the Bible authors were so committed to. Once the horror factor is neutralized, such stories can become entertaining. They are the biblical equivalents of modern video games.

Unknown said...

We are healed by faith, it isn't a prayer or getting the words right. Here is another example of how complex the bible is.

When the Hebrews were complaining about the lack of food and water. Numbers 21:4-5

So God sent fiery serpents to bite the people and many died. Numbers 21:6

They repented and asked Moses to have God get rid of the serpents.

God told Moses to make an image of a Serpent on a pole out of brass. If a person looks on it they will not die.

Why did he do this? Why did God put something on the pole, which was killing them? Shouldn't he have put something on the pole that would demonstrate who he is?

It is because the Hebrew people know the Levitical law and they know that anything that is hung on a pole or a tree has been cursed by God.

So when Moses held up the brass serpent on the pole, they know that God heard Mosses prayer so FAITH rose up in their heart and they were healed.

John 3:14-15 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

It is where we get our medical symbol. The story of Moses originates to 1290 BC (I suspect it is older due to tampering with a biblical timeline in Genesis 11) The Greek empire started around 800 BC and there is a similar story about The Rod Of Asclepius, which I speculate was borrowed from Hebraic history.

Unknown said...

Ok friends.. at the very outset, a note on reading the bible. One needs to understand what type of literature the bible is. Many books of the bible are not meant to be read literally; as the Bible is a collection of books (biblios). Depending on the book you read, it has literary genre that is mytho-poetic ( creation story, Noah etc. , ), history (Exodus, Kings, Chronicles, Gospels, Acts etc), apocalyptic ( Daniel, Revelation etc. ), wisdom Poetry ( psalms, proverbs, Job ), Letters ( Hebrews, James, Jude etc. )

So – one needs to read within the interpretive tradition of the Church. And one needs to interpret the Old Testament in light of Jesus Christ, who fulfills about 300+ OT prophecies 4000+ years forward.
In the OT, Yahweh God covenants Himself (Genesis 15, 17 and 22) with a chosen nation- Israel. Israel is chosen especially to be shining examples to the gentile world of everything that is good, beautiful and pure. God asks Israel to obey his commandments and they will have covenant blessings, disobey and there are covenant curses/repercussions. (a bit like obeying traffic rules in a modern society)
Ok so how do we understand this confronting passage? These are the very same Hebrew people who cried out to God for 400 years to free them from the tyrannical slavery of Egypt. Over 400 years, the Hebrew people had inculcated the culture and mind set of the Egyptians and even though God used Moses to lead them out of Egypt towards the promised land of Canaan, their hearts had not left.
God miraculously over a period of 40 years in the desert, saved his people and guided them onwards, even feeding them with mystical bread from Heaven (manna). The israelites however complain in anger and call it “miserable food”. Their loathing is amongst other sins of complaining to God (chap. 11), Miriam and Aaron’s spat with Moses (12), the people’s refusal to conquer the Promised land (14), the rebellion of Korah (16), Moses disobediently striking the rock (20), and idol worship (25) .
The serpent in these passages is a symbol in a technical sense; it has more than one meaning and has substance and is a symbol of life and death. The author of this story uses the serpent image in both senses.
The impact of people breaking God’s covenant is the repercussion of poisonous snakes against the people as a deadly punishment for their complaints. Fortunately, the punishment has its intended effect: conversion. The people come face to face with their sinfulness. They repent and cry out for deliverance. Moses intercedes on their behalf, as he had done several previous times (e.g., Num 11:2; 14:13-19), and God provides a saving path for the penitents. After the people repent, God instructs Moses to set a standard in the form of a bronze snake to give them life. God uses the snake as an instrument of death and life.
How do we make sense of this passage in the light of Jesus Christ?
John 8:14 has Jesus quoting “As Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the desert, in the same way the Son of man must be lifted up so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” and onwards to the world famous John 3:16 “ For God so loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die, but have everlasting life”