The Canaanite king of Arad, ruling in the Negev, heard that Israel was advancing up the road to Atharim. He attacked Israel and took prisoners of war.
Israel vowed a vow to God: "If you will give this people into our power, we'll destroy their towns and present the ruins to you as a holy destruction."
God listened to Israel's prayer and gave them the Canaanites. They destroyed both them and their towns, a holy destruction. They named the place Hormah (Holy Destruction).
They set out from Mount Hor along the Red Sea Road, a detour around the land of Edom. The people became irritable and cross as they traveled.
They spoke out against God and Moses: "Why did you drag us out of Egypt to die in this godforsaken country? No decent food; no water - we can't stomach this stuff any longer."
So God sent poisonous snakes among the people; they bit them and many in Israel died.
The people came to Moses and said, "We sinned when we spoke out against God and you. Pray to God; ask him to take these snakes from us." Moses prayed for the people.
God said to Moses, "Make a snake and put it on a flagpole: Whoever is bitten and looks at it will live."
So Moses made a snake of fiery copper and put it on top of a flagpole. Anyone bitten by a snake who then looked at the copper snake lived.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)