Journeys through the Desert

Numbers 20:14-22:1

What follows is a series of incidents that occur as the Israelites travel through the desert. First, Moses requests permission from the king of Edom to pass through his land but is refused and the people are forced to go the long way around.


Aaron’s death approaches, and God instructs Moses to take his brother and Eleazar his nephew to the top of Mount Hor. There, Moses strips Aaron of his priestly garments, passing them to Eleazar, and God gathers Aaron’s soul. The people mourn the passing of the beloved leader. The Israel Bible points out that at a time when the heightened spiritual existence of the desert, where food fell from heaven and water was provided by God, is drawing to a close. God ensures that no vacuum is left in their spiritual leadership as the mantle passes from father to son, from Aaron to Eleazar.


The Canaanite king of the southern city of Arad sets out to fight against Israel and the people make a deal with God: if He grants them victory, they will utterly destroy the cities of the enemy. The Children of Israel are victorious, and fulfil their promise.


The people begin to get impatient on their journey and complain again about the lack of water and ordinary food. They say they are tired of the strange rations which fall from heaven. God sends fiery serpents to punish the people, who quickly realize the error of their ways and beg Moses to intercede with God. God tells Moses to build a brass serpent and place it on a pole, saying all those who look up to the brass serpent will be saved.


Moses sends messengers to Sihon, king of the Amorites, also asking for the right of passage. Instead he brings his army against the people. The Israelites smite the enemy forces, only to similarly confront the forces of Og, King of Bashan. God reassures Moses of Israelite victory and the nation takes the cities of both kings. This, the Israel Bible points out, marks the beginning of the conquest of the Promised Land. Although outside the original borders promised by God, these territories become an important part of the Jewish kingdom.


In addition, the Torah relates a number of destinations along the way, and songs of praise that the people sing in thanks to God for His wonders.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

Why do you think God uses a bronze serpent as the tool to save the stricken Israelites? Keep in mind that in 2 Kings 18, Hezekiah destroys that serpent in the context of eradicating idolatry from the land…

Comments ( 6 )

The comments below do not necessarily reflect the beliefs and opinions of The Israel Bible™.

  • Daliah

    Serpent represents god's living energy among chosen people.
    Kundalini is called in east. He/she chooses to live in certain people to experience life in this dimension

  • The "fiery serpents" surrounding Am israel remind me of the present. All surrounded but still alive and with the help of HIM the Eternal One Who is hovering over us we will survive !!! Serpents are all around in the desert but when frequency of them is numerous they are a real danger. Nevertheless they have been fitting agents of punishment. The primeval serpent had slandered G-d to Chawa and was cursed forever. It was punished in Gan Eden by not enjoying the taste of its food.("eating dust") Now it punished ungrateful slanderers who cursed the food they received from HaShem. Bronze because in the tabernacle this material was used for honoring G-d and for becoming pure, fit for serving in the Mishkan. In later times it was grinded and mixed with the drinking water, in this way going back to its origine. 🙂

  • Diana Brown

    Bronze was used in the altar and laver in the Tabernacle. God was calling them back to Himself and the bronze was the reminder of the metal used to bring Him into their presence. That is Grace!

  • Jesse

    The bronze serpent wasn’t designed to be a conduit of healing. It’s main purpose was to be a reminder to the people of their sins, so when they looked and repented, they would ask God to heal them and he would. It would be their measure of faith that the God who had provided for them would also be the one who would care for them in their sicknesses and diseases.

    • Tsivya Fox

      Hi Jesse: When you say that the snake was a “reminder to the people of their sins”, I think of the Garden of Eden and how Eve listened to the serpent causing the downfall of man. Is that what you are thinking of?

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