[ Note: This week's Torah (Chukat) includes three amazing pictures of the coming of the Messiah of Israel: 1) the mysterious Red Heifer sacrifice, 2) the Striking of the Rock at Meribah, and 3) the image of the Bronze Serpent on a pole. It is certainly one of the most fruitful portions of Torah to share with your Jewish friends... ]
The third great picture of the Messiah given in this amazing Torah portion (Chukat) concerns the image of the Bronze Serpent (i.e., nechash nechoshet: נְחַשׁ נְחשֶׁת). Upon leaving Mount Hor to go around the land of Edom, the people grew impatient and another rebellion brewed. Consequently, the LORD sent "burning serpents" (ha-nechashim ha-seraphim) that bit the people and many Israelites died (the verb saraf means "to burn," and is related to seraphim). The people confessed their sin and appealed to Moses for help, who then interceded on their behalf.
The LORD then instructed Moses: "Aseh lekha" (make for yourself) a "saraf" (lit. a "burner," in reference to the burning of the serpents) and place it upon a pole (i.e., a nes, a "banner" or "standard"). And it shall be that anyone who was bitten, when he looks upon it, shall live. And Moses made a bronze serpent (נְחַשׁ נְחשֶׁת) and placed it on a pole, and it was that if the serpent bit someone and he would stare intently at the copper snake, that he would live (Num. 21:8-9).
Yeshua referred to this episode when He spoke to Nicodemus about the way of salvation. "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life" (John 3:14-15). Humanity as a whole has been "bitten by the snake" and needs to be delivered from its venom. Just as the image made in the likeness of the destroying snake was lifted up for Israel's healing, so the One made in the likeness of sinful flesh (Rom. 8:3) was to be lifted up as the Healer of the world. Bless His Holy Name.
Note: Yeshua himself used the picture of the nachash (serpent) lifted up on the pole to indicate His sacrificial death to Nicodemus (John 3:14-15). The story of the "lifted up serpent" is a PICTURE, a METAPHOR, or a SIMILE of something greater. It was a "shadow" of a greater Substance given in the Person of the Messiah... There are hundreds of these pictures in Scripture, and Yeshua Himself used them all the time: "I am the DOOR...," "I am the TEMPLE...," "I am the Bread of Life/Living Water," etc.