“The Brass (Brasen) Serpent”: Another Foreshadowing of The Substitutionary Atonement for Sin by The Lord Jesus Christ!


The Biblical account that we find in Numbers 21:4-9 of the brazen serpent lifted up on a pole, is a somewhat bizarre and unexpected one when viewed initially from a Christian perspective. However, this historical account forms another “historical parable“, which clearly points us to the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Furthermore, we can rest assured of the correctness of that interpretation, not because it is a generally accepted understanding by Christian theologians and academics (which it is), but rather because God provides that correlation “plainly” to us later in the New Testament as is stated by Jesus in the Book of John.

The Brass (Brasen) Serpent

The first time we read about the “serpent of brass” is in Numbers 21:4-9. There, speaking of the children of Israel with Moses in the wilderness, we read, “¶And they journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of Edom: 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. And the LORD sent fiery serpents (שָׂרָף (śārāp̄))H8314  among the people,and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. ¶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 (נָחָשׁ (nāḥāš)) H5175 from us. And Moses prayed for the people. ¶And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent (שָׂרָף (śārāp̄))H8314, 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. And Moses made a serpent (נָחָשׁ (nāḥāš)) H5175 of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent (נָחָשׁ (nāḥāš)) H5175 had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent (נָחָשׁ (nāḥāš)) H5175 of brass, he lived.

The children of Israel spoke against God and Moses (Moses is a “Type” for the Law of God) and complained about the manna from Heaven [their “soul” “loatheth” that “light bread” (manna), and remember Jesus identified Himself as the Manna from Heaven in John 6:41-58].


Therefore, God brought judgment upon them in the form of “fiery serpents” (שָׂרָף (śārāp̄))H8314 and people were bitten and died. This showed the children of Israel that they were the ones in sin, and they then came to Moses to confess that sin and ask for God’s mercy. When Moses prayed for the people, God instructed Moses to make a brass serpent, and to put it upon a pole, so that the people could be healed from the bites of the serpents by beholding, or looking upon, the brass serpent. There was no other way by which God would heal them from the deadly poison from the fiery serpents.

We must remember as it is stated in Romans 6:23For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God [is] eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” and as we read in 2 Corinthians 5:21For he hath made him [to be] sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”

We should also note the other places that the word “fiery” or “fire” (אֵשׁ (‘ēš)) H784 or “flame” (לָהַט (lāhaṭ)) H3857 can be found in the Bible, as they always are used by God in the Bible to denote “Judgment“.

Psalm 104:4 makes clear that that “O LORD my God” is the One, “Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming (לָהַט (lāhaṭ)) H3857 fire (אֵשׁ (‘ēš)) H784:

God refers back to Psalm 104 in Hebrews 1:7And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame (φλόξ (phlox)) G5395 of fire (πῦρ (pyr)). G4442.”

In Daniel 7:9-14, where we see the foreshadowing account of Judgment Day, “I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery (נוּר (nûr)) H5135 flame, and his wheels as burning fire (נוּר (nûr)) H5135A fiery (נוּר (nûr)) H5135 stream issued and came forth from before him: thousands thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened. I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake: I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame. As concerning the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time. I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.” The Ancient of Days would have to be God The Father, while the Son of man is clearly Jesus Christ.

The last words of Moses before his death in Deuteronomy 33:2&3, “And he said, The LORD came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands of saints: from his right hand [went] a fiery (אֵשׁ (‘ēš)) H784 law for them.  Yea, he loved the people; all his saints [are] in thy hand: and they sat down at thy feet; [every one] shall receive of thy words.

Moreover, the words “flame/flaming” and “sword” are used together almost as bookends in the Bible being present in both Genesis and Revelation (but interwoven throughout all of the Bible).

Regarding Adam and Eve after having been driven out of the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3:24 we read, “So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming (לָהַט (lāhaṭ)) H3857 sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.”

Then in Revelation 1:14-16, which is speaking of Jesus, “His head and [his] hairs [were] white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes [were] as a flame (φλόξ (phlox)) G5395 of fire (πῦρ (pyr)). G4442; And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two edged sword: and his countenance [was] as the sun shineth in his strength.”


Upon seeing the word “serpent”, a believing Christian (even one having only a minimum of Biblical understanding today) would immediately think first the serpent being related to the devil (who precipitated the Sin and Fall of Adam). This is because the first use of the word in the Bible is in found in Genesis 3:1, “Now the serpent (נָחָשׁ (nāḥāš)) H5175 was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made.”  Then, reading on, we find in Genesis 3:2-6, “¶And the woman said unto the serpent (נָחָשׁ (nāḥāš)) H5175, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. ¶ And the serpent (נָחָשׁ (nāḥāš)) H5175 said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.¶ And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it [was] pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.” And we all know what happened next. Sin entered into the world and the whole of creation came under the curse of sin and death.

We can see therefore how this would be perplexing to a Christian. How could God use a symbol, that is Biblically associated with the devil and, therefore, the sin that followed, to be something that could be used in any way to heal someone? It is naturally quite counter-intuitive to a Christian.

However, the solution to this conundrum is found in the following “typologies” (And, again, God provides the corroborative proof of these typologies/allegories to show that this historical account is also an “historical parable”):


The use of the words in the original Hebrew for brass (or brasen) comes from the word: (נְחשֶׁת (nᵊḥš))H5178 that is translated 103 times in the King James Version as “brass”, and never “bronze” as is the case in most modern day translations.

This teacher finds it rather odd that the modern translators, those who reject the King James Version reading of “brass” (נְחשֶׁת (nᵊḥš))H5178 that is translated 103 times in the KJV as “brass” and never “bronze”, have consistently substituted the word “bronze”. This is odd because we know from the New Testament that Jesus is intimately identified with “fine brass” (polished or shiny, and not dull like bronze) as we find in Revelation 1:15, “And his feet like unto fine brass (χαλκολίβανον (chalkolibanon)) G5474 as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.” and Revelation 2:18And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet [are] like fine brass; (χαλκολίβανον (chalkolibanon)) G5474

The words “fine brass” refer to a purification by fire. The unmistakeable point being that the Lord Jesus Christ, The “Son of God”, who is pictured in Revelation as having feet that are of “fine brass” as if they “burned in a furnace”, is to remind us of Jesus’ Sacrifice and His having had to endure the purifying Judgmental flames and fires of Hell for His Elect, the Believers.

Remember the Fiery Furnace account, where Jesus was there to endure the flames on behalf of the three others in that fiery furnace heated “seven times hotter”.

We are thus assured that the meaning of the Hebrew word in the Old Testament (which is correctly translated as “brass” by the King James Translators) and of the Greek of the New Testament, where it is translated as “fine brass”, is to inform us that the featured associated object in focus, 1) the serpent on the pole in Numbers, and 2) Jesus Christ in Revelation, are both spiritually being pictured as having come under, and through, the Judgmental fires of Hell.

Jesus Identifies Himself with the Brass Serpent Pointing to His Death and Atoning Sacrifice

Earlier it was stated that the typology/allegory of the brass serpent being representative of the Lord Jesus Christ was made manifest by God Himself. Here are the proof texts.

In John 3:12-15 Jesus said, “If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you [of] heavenly things?And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, [even] the Son of man which is in heaven. 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.”

Additional clarity on the point and the meaning of being lifted up is explained in John 12:27-33, ” ¶Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father,save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice fromheaven, [saying], I have both glorified [it], and will glorify [it] again.The people therefore, that stood by, and heard [it], said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him.¶Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes. Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all [men] unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die.

Looking Unto Jesus

We are told in Hebrews 12:2 how the believer should be “looking”. We are to be “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of [our] faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

We must be like the certain Greeks in John 12:21, “The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus.“!

Finally, remember what we read in Galatians 3:13, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed [is] every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” Jesus became a curse, just as God cursed the devil (the serpent) in Genesis 3:14¶And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou [art] cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:”

And let us not forget the clearly Messianic verse, Zechariah 12:10¶And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for [his] only [son], and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for [his] firstborn.

And to show that there is no difference between the serpent and the devil that was cursed in Genesis 3, we read in Revelation 12:9, “And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”

So the conclusion of the matter is that either Jesus bore the shame and punishment and became cursed (like a serpent) and paid the full penalty for a person’s sins (by going to Hell as indicated by the brass) or that person will be cursed like the devil and be sent to Hell instead.

The Idolatry of the Brass Serpent (Nehushtan)

The word Nehushtan (נְחֻשְׁתָּן (nᵊḥuštān))H5180 occurs one time in the Bible, in 2 Kings 18:4-6, where king Hezekiah removed all the idols, because “He trusted in the LORD God of Israel“… “He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen (נְחשֶׁת (nᵊḥš))H5178 serpent (נָחָשׁ (nāḥāš)) H5175 that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan. He trusted in the LORD God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor [any] that were before him. For he clave to the LORD, [and] departed not from following him, but kept his commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses.” (NOTE that “clave” is like that in a marriage as is found in Genesis 2:24)

While it might be understandable how such an item that brought miraculous healing could become an object of idolatrous worship (hence the burning of incense to it), it was still blatant disobedience to God’s commands (Exodus 20:4&5) The brass serpent was God’s method of deliverance only during the account recorded in Numbers 21. There is no indication that God ever intended for the brass serpent to ever be used again. The message is that we must never worship the tools, or the people, God chooses to use, but to always and only bring the honor and glory to God Alone.

Interestingly, the word Nehushtan appears to simply mean “thing of brass.” Perhaps it was named “Nehushtan” to remind people that it was only a simple thing/piece of brass and nothing more. The brass serpent had no intrinsic value or power in and of itself. Moreover, even during the Numbers 21 account, it was Only God who healed the people from the bites of the fire serpents, NOT thatthing of brass“.

And to wrap up this issue, let us remember what we find in Romans 1:21-25, “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified [him] not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. ¶Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

The “Fiery Serpent” is a Tool That God Uses to Mete Out Judgment

In Isaiah 14:29, we read after God condemns king Nebuchadnezzar (who represents the devil, who was used by God to bring judgment on Judah) in Isaiah 14:12-23 and Assyria (led by king Sennacherib) who was used by God to bring Judgment on Israel, “Rejoice not thou, whole Palestina, because the rod of him that smote thee is broken: for out of the serpent’s root shall come forth a cockatrice (“hissing tongued viper”), and his fruit [shall be] a fiery (שָׂרָף (śārāp̄))H8314 flying serpent (שָׂרָף (śārāp̄))H8314.

This verse is apparently telling us that “Palestina” (which would seem to represent the whole Gentile world at large) had God’s “rod” broken (much like the “hammer” and “axe“, that were previously tools of God’s judgment also broken). Nonetheless, a time of Judgment was still coming, when God would bring again a “fiery flying serpent”, like those that bit the people in the wilderness of Moses’ day, upon the entire earth. This is more clearly foretold in Revelation 20:3 and Revelation 20:7. There are many reasons to believe that this may now b the case for the world today in 2023.


The “serpent of brass” (“Nehushtan“) is another one of God’s magnificently crafted “historical parables”, which, through allegory, give us greater insight on Who God Is, and how He Wrought Salvation through the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus Christ Alone. Just as anyone who was bitten by a fiery serpent (a tool of God’s judgment, like the cursed devil) in Moses’ day could be healed by simply looking unto the brass/brasen serpent that Moses lifted up, so also can anyone look to Jesus Christ (Who was “lifted up” on the cross as the only Atonement for sin and “being made a curse for us“) to be spiritually healed and eternally saved. In order to avoid the fiery Judgment flames of Hell, The Lord Jesus Christ must have had to endure the fiery flames of Hell on behalf of everyone who believes on Him and looks to Him Alone.

The subsequent account of king Hezekiah, who destroyed the brass serpent (“Nehushtan” in 2 Kings), also serves as a powerful reminder to everyone that any earthly or carnal thing (even something or someone that at one time was used by God for our good) can become an idol. The worship of such an idol is not only blatant disobedience to God, it can never be a substitute for the worship of the True Eternal God. Our praise, worship, and adoration must be directed to God alone. Only The Lord Jesus Christ Alone, because of His Eternal Atoning Sacrifice for sin by enduring the fiery flames of Hell, can heal our sin sick souls and mercifully grant us eternal life.

Explore posts in the same categories: Bible Studies

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