They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; 5 they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!”
6 Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites die
d. 7 The people came to Mosesand said, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.
8 The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.” ~Numbers 21:4-9
As an Advanced Placement Literature student, I like to talk a lot about symbolism in writing. The Bible is filled with symbols throughout its many books, and this story is one covered in symbols not only of the future, but for us to apply this story to our lives.
First, we see venomous snakes unleashed among the Israelite people after they complained and grew impatient with God. Snakes are almost always in all types of literature a symbol of Satan and sin after the devil appeared as a snake in the Garden of Eden. The snakes’ venomous bite is a symbol of how when sin gets a bite of us, it will unleash darkness inside of us and brings us to our destruction. This story illustrates how when we as Christians grow impatient and complain, instead of clinging to God’s promises and trusting His judgment, we are turning our backs on Him. This gives Satan the chance to get a hold of us and destroy us.
But there is always hope with Jesus! The bronze snake lifted on a pole is a symbol of Jesus’s crucifixion:
“14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” ~John 3:14-15
When we sin, we can look up to the cross, asking God for forgiveness and cleansing. Jesus will forgive us and set up free from our sin (1 John 1:9), so we can enter into a relationship with Him, and live with Him in the Kingdom of Heaven forever just as the Israelites would live when they looked to the snake.