A Dragon on a Pole (Numbers 21)

Date: 3/14/2021
More audio from All Saints Church
Type: Sunday Sermon
Topic: Numbers
Organization: All Saints
Price: FREE

In the story of the Bible, the serpent and his offspring craftily alternate between deceiving and devouring. The hero’s mission: kill the dragon, get the girl. This story never gets old.

Numbers 21:4–9 “Then they set out from Mount Hor by the way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the people became impatient because of the journey. 5 The people spoke against God and 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 loathe this miserable food.” 6 The LORD sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. 7 So the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, because we have spoken against the LORD and you; intercede with the LORD, that He may remove the serpents from us.” And Moses interceded for the people. 8 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live.” 9 And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived.”?
Fiery Wounds - One of the repeated themes in Numbers is holy “fire” (9:15) and this altar fire consumes the disobedient (3:4, 11:1, 16:35, 21:28, 26:10, 31:10). Here the “burning” or “fiery” serpents are the fire. They bite and create a fiery wound with their poison.The color of death-wounds is red.

Fiery Serpents - “Fiery” is the word “seraph,” just as is used for angelic Seraphim (Is. 6). God told Moses (literally), “Make a seraph (figure) and mount it” (v8). Isaiah speaks of a viper as a “flying fiery serpent [seraph]” (Is. 14:29 and 30:6). A fiery red serpent with wings is simply a dragon (Rev. 12:3, 9, Gen. 3). The color of the dragon is red.

In the case of the copper serpent similar principles operate. Those inflamed and dying through the bite of living snakes were restored to life by a dead reddish-coloured snake. It may be that copper was chosen not only because its hue matched the inflammation caused by the bites,15 but because red is the colour that symbolizes atonement and purification. Gordon J. Wenham

Fiery Red - The metal serpent is “copper” (nechoshet). The color of the uplifted symbol, like the serpents and the wounds they cause, is reddish. Red ceremonially saves. Besides all the sacrificial blood, there is also a red symbolic detergent from the ashes of a red cow, along with cedar and scarlet which make a purifying baptism (19:6). The color of salvation is red.?


Advance in Sanctification: We have sinned, because we have spoken against the LORD and you.
Arbitrary Salvation: Like Namaan, like the gospel being folly to Greeks, so looking a serpent on a pole has no intrinsic healing power; a crucifixion of a man on a Roman cross has no intrinsic power of deliverance. However believing in the Word of God is what God counts for both temporal and eternal salvation.

Gregg Strawbridge Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as receive a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more