March 14: “Snakes, A Picture, and Jesus”

7 Minute Read


Numbers 21:1–22:20
Luke 1:26-56
Psalm 57:1-11
Proverbs 11:9-11


Numbers 21:8 (CSB): “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a snake image and mount it on a pole. When anyone who is bitten looks at it, he will recover.'”


In yesterday’s post, “The Seriousness of Breaking God’s Picture,” I noted that there are a boatload of pictures (types) in the Old Testament that point to a reality that is found in the New Testament. Honestly, there are hundreds.

As far as I can tell, they appear in virtually every Old Testament book. We just need to look for them.

But, be very careful not to force something on the text. God’s Word is God’s Word and we have no right to whimsically make it say something it doesn’t say.

Fortunately, there are some instances that are clearly pointed out for us. Some of the New Testament writers made it clear that a person, or event, or object in the Old Testament was clearly a shadow of a New Testament reality.

If you have already read Today’s Bible readings, you probably saw it.

Numbers 21:8-9 (CSB): “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a snake image and mount it on a pole. When anyone who is bitten looks at it, he will recover.’ So Moses made a bronze snake and mounted it on a pole. Whenever someone was bitten, and he looked at the bronze snake, he recovered.”

In Numbers 21:4-9, we read that the Israelites started complaining … again. It’s as if griping and bellyaching was their favorite pastime. They did it over, and over, and over.

And God’s reaction was always the same – He got angry. He cannot stand complaining anymore than you or I can.

So, He punished them. He sent poisonous snakes among them. When the snakes bit the people, they died. The complaining was quickly replaced by cries for help.

Therefore, God instructed Moses to create a bronze pole with a bronze snake on it. When the people looked at it, they were cured.

Numbers 21:9 (CSB): “So Moses made a bronze snake and mounted it on a pole. Whenever someone was bitten, and he looked at the bronze snake, he recovered.”

What is this a picture of? What New Testament reality does this foreshadow?

We don’t have to guess at the answer. The answer comes out of Jesus’ own mouth.

John 3:14-16 (CSB): “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

The Old Testament snake on a pole was a picture (type) of the New Testament reality when Jesus hung on a cross.

 Old Testament Type   New Testament Reality
The people were not content to follow God nor to gratefully receive what He had provided for them. Refusal to submit to Jesus as Lord and the refusal to thank Him for His provision are just two of the signs that demonstrate the lost condition of one’s heart. Romans 1:21 (CSB): “For though they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became worthless, and their senseless hearts were darkened.”
God grew angry with them and severely (fairly) punished them by allowing snakes to bite them Satan came in the form of a snake in the Garden of Eden. God will punish lawbreakers by sending them to suffer with that snake forever in Hell. Matthew 25:41 (CSB): “Then he will also say to those on the left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels!’”
God provided a remedy. They would look to a snake, the very thing that caused their problem, and in so doing they would be cured. As we look to Jesus, who became the sin-bearer on the cross, we are completely forgiven and spiritually healed. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (CSB): “He made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

We can easily see how the story of the bronze serpent is a shadow, a picture, a type of the New Testament reality found in Christ.

But, there’s one more thing I want to point out. While yesterday’s blog post points out how serious an offense it was to break God’s picture (just as Moses hit the rock rather than speaking to it), so God’s Old Testament picture can be distorted. Once it serves its purpose, mankind’s sinful heart is capable of messing up the picture.

While the New Testament believer should regularly look to the cross and worship our resurrected and living Lord who hung on that cross for us, it was utterly sinful for the Old Testament Israelites to continue looking to the bronze snake.

That bronze snake eventually had to be destroyed because it became an object of worship, something that was never intended for an Old Testament type.

2 Kings 18:3-4 (CSB): “He (King Hezekiah) did what was right in the LORD’s sight just as his ancestor David had done. He removed the high places, shattered the sacred pillars, and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake that Moses made, for until then the Israelites were burning incense to it. It was called Nehushtan.

I hope this blog post has been helpful. I hope you will look for more Old Testament pictures (types) that picture a powerful New Testament principle.

The Bible is a fascinating book that is multi-layered. It is so simple and yet so complex at the same time. There is simply no other explanation than to say that it had One Divine Author who wrote it, using 40 or so men to accomplish the task.

You and I now have this Book in our hands. Read it. Learn from it. Enjoy it. Be changed by it.

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I have an incredible wife that God gave to me on May 10, 1997. Since then, the Lord has blessed us with three wonderful boys. I am also the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Polk City, Florida.

One thought on “March 14: “Snakes, A Picture, and Jesus”

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