Numbers 21:4-9

The Bronze Snake

4 They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea,[a] 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 died.
7 The people came to Moses and 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 Meaning and Commentary

INTRODUCTION TO NUMBERS 21

This chapter gives an account of the defeat of King Arad, the Canaanite, Nu 21:1-3 of the murmurings of the children of Israel, because of difficulties in travelling round, the land of Edom, for which they were punished with fiery serpents, Nu 21:4-6 and how that upon their repentance a brazen serpent was ordered to be made, and to be erected on a pole, that whoever looked to it might live, Nu 21:7-9 and of the several journeys and stations of the children of Israel, until they came to the land of the Amorites, Nu 21:10-20, when they sent a message to Sihon their king, to desire him to grant them a passage through his country; but he refusing, they fought with him, smote him, and possessed his land, concerning which many proverbial sayings were used, Nu 21:21-32 and the chapter is concluded with the defeat of Og, king of Bashan, Nu 21:33-35.

Numbers 21:4-9 In-Context

2 Then Israel made this vow to the LORD: “If you will deliver these people into our hands, we will totally destroy their cities.”
3 The LORD listened to Israel’s plea and gave the Canaanites over to them. They completely destroyed them and their towns; so the place was named Hormah.
4 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 died.
7 The people came to Moses and 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.
10 The Israelites moved on and camped at Oboth.
11 Then they set out from Oboth and camped in Iye Abarim, in the wilderness that faces Moab toward the sunrise.

Cross References 18

  • 1. Numbers 20:22
  • 2. Numbers 14:25; Deuteronomy 2:1; Deuteronomy 11:4
  • 3. S Numbers 20:21
  • 4. Deuteronomy 2:8; Judges 11:18
  • 5. Psalms 78:19
  • 6. Numbers 11:20
  • 7. S Exodus 14:11; Numbers 14:2,3
  • 8. Numbers 20:5
  • 9. S Numbers 11:5; Numbers 11:6
  • 10. ver 7; Deuteronomy 8:15; Deuteronomy 32:33; Job 20:14; Psalms 58:4; Psalms 140:3; Jeremiah 8:17
  • 11. 1 Corinthians 10:9
  • 12. Psalms 78:34; Hosea 5:15
  • 13. Numbers 14:40
  • 14. Exodus 8:8; 1 Samuel 7:8; Jeremiah 27:18; Jeremiah 37:3; Acts 8:24
  • 15. S Numbers 11:2
  • 16. John 3:14
  • 17. 2 Kings 18:4
  • 18. John 3:14-15

Footnotes 1