4 From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. 5 And 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 loathe this worthless food." 6 Then the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. 7 And the people came to Moses and said, "We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you. Pray to the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us." So Moses prayed for the people. 8 And the LORD said to Moses, "Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live." 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.
The metaphors in this story are incredible! God sent these fiery serpents as a judgment upon the people of Israel. When the people repented, God told Moses to make a serpent and put it on a pole and when the people who had been bitten saw it, they would live. The bronze that Moses made this serpent out of was symbolic. Bronze is a metal associated with judgment in the Bible because it is made by being passed through fire. The serpent represents evil. Therefore, a bronze serpent represents evil being judged and dealt with, just as our sin was judged in Jesus as He hung on the cross. Such an amazing thing! Then as if God's greatest gift to us wasn't enough, He made it so easy for us to find healing and be saved. "And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live" (Numbers 21:9). We are saved not by doing anything, but by simply looking to Jesus.