Serpents of Death
They set out by the way to the Red Sea going around the land of Edom. Because the Edomites refused them passage through their land. Much of the time we look at the event of the exodus as a long journey because the people would not listen and that is a big part of the reason. But in this instance we see that the journey was made a little longer because the Edomites would not grant them passage.
In these times the leader of the Exodus (Moses) would have sent delegates to the Edomite King requesting passage. Often times the journey might have been granted with restrictions. Such restrictions often meant that passage was only granted on the king’s highway and no water or food could be eaten from the passage.
Imagine the destruction that could occur during the passage of millions of people. Imagine the cost of loss of food, taken during the journey.
5 The people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.” This is not the first time that the people have spoken against the Lord.
6 Then the Lord sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. I want you to understand that the serpents were no small affair. It is reported that up to one third of the population of Israelites were killed. According to , the Israelites numbered "about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children", plus many non-Israelites and livestock. gives a more precise total of 603,550 men aged 20 and up.
Over 600,000 men 20 and up, so you see how it could number in the millions because of women that were not counted along with children. One third of that number could easily have been 600,000. These people were bitten by the serpents and died.
7 The people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.
Perhaps the strangest turn of events is the idea that God tells Moses to make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole. The people who are bitten, when they look upon the image they will live. Does this strike you as strange. That the God who despises idols and false gods would have Moses make an image that allows those who look upon it to live?
Perhaps we should look at it like this: the Lord sent the serpents to prove a point, that the people should remember that He is God and that Moses is in charge. This is much like what He does with us today. He is Gos and through Him we can do all things but without Him we are dead.
Sometimes we need to remember that God does not take away the stone that causes us to stumble but He does save us when we call out His name. If God took away the serpents the Israelites would return to their wicked ways, but god didn’t take the snakes away but gave them an escape.
14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.