ASK THE POSEK
BRONZE SNAKE/FIERY SERPENT
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Shalom Rabbi Bloomenstiel,
Numbers 21 : 4-8 The Lord commanded Moses to make this snake...
2 Kings 18 : 4 King Hezekiah had this snake destroyed.....
Is looking at this snake idolatry since people has to believe that looking at it will bring healing. Why not have it destroyed? Is it an idol now?
Would like some insight on this.
Hashem sent the serpents as the instrument of G-d’s punishment. G-d also commanded the construction of the copper serpent to show that just G-D can give the power to a living serpent to punish on His behalf, so too he can give to a “fake” serpent the power to heal on His behalf. This lesson involved was the opposite of idolatry. Idolatry is the belief that objects, persons, and things have their own intrinsic powers and qualities. The lesson of the serpent was that the power and quality of any particular thing was only the result of G-d’s will. The way in which the serpent brought healing was that people had to look at it and realize that just as G-d can send a living serpent to punish, He can send a fake, sculptural serpent to heal. The power and abilities of a serpent are only the result of G-d’s will, and not the serpent itself.
This lesson was related to the events at hand here in the Torah. The Jewish people had just seen HaShem directly answer their prayers at Hormah (Lev. 21:1 – 3). Immediately thereafter, the people, rather than be greatful, immediately began to complain to HaShem and claim that He could/would not provide for them appropriately. The message of the incident with the serpents was that all things, natural and unnatural were within HaShem’s Hand.
In the days of Chizkiyahu, the copper serpent’s entire meaning became corrupted because people began to ascribe to it its own powers. Having then been made into an item of idolatry, the law required that it be destroyed.
For a far more in-depth and advanced study of all the Seven Noahide Laws consider taking the Noahide Laws Yeshiva Course.