A Remedy Is Lifted Up

Discovery for Teachers

A Remedy Is Lifted Up



Numbers 21:1-35

“And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.” (Numbers 21:9)


By this time, the Children of Israel had wandered in the wilderness for almost twenty years. As recorded in the previous chapter, Aaron had died and his son Eleazar had become the high priest.

When King Arad in the southern part of Canaan heard that the Israelites were nearby, his army attacked them and took some as prisoners. God gave Israel victory in the ensuing battle and the Israelites destroyed them and their cities completely. This was Israel’s first victory in twenty years; their vow of faith to God (verse 2) was the key to their success.

The Children of Israel continued their journey through the wilderness and again they became weary and discouraged. They complained to Moses, chiding him for delivering them from Egypt and grumbling about the manna and scarcity of water. God was angry with the unthankful spirit of the people and He sent venomous snakes that caused many of the Israelites to perish from their poisonous bites.

One of the most striking illustrations of God’s redemptive plan lies in the brass serpent that God instructed Moses to lift up on a pole in the midst of the camp. Anyone who was bitten by a snake needed only to look at the brass serpent and he would be healed — foreshadowing the time when one “look” at Christ, who was lifted up on Calvary, would bring healing from sin’s curse.

After this momentous occurrence, the Children of Israel continued their journey, traveling from place to place. When Israel approached the land of the Amorites, they sent a message to Sihon the king, asking permission to pass through and assuring him they would disturb nothing along the way. Permission was denied. Instead, Sihon gathered his army together to fight against Israel. The Israelites won the victory and gained many cities and much land. Thus they were able to dwell in the land of the Amorites, which was on the east side of the River Jordan.

After this, Og, the king of Bashan, and his army attacked Israel, but again Israel won the victory and acquired their land.


  1. Why do you think God wanted the Israelites to completely destroy the cities of southern Canaan?

    God wanted the wicked Canaanites completely destroyed because He knew their sinful life styles would be a temptation and stumbling block to the Children of Israel. Also, God knew if allowed to live, they would come back in revenge and attempt to destroy Israel. Ask your class: What does this suggest regarding our connection with worldly influences?

    (You may also wish to point out that the Canaanites were descendants of Ham — a son of Noah. Their destruction was a fulfillment of the curse Noah had directed at Ham, as recorded in Genesis 9:22-27.)
  2. Verse 4 of our text says that the people were “much discouraged because of the way.” Times of discouragement can come to all of us, but what tragic mistake did the Children of Israel make in how they reacted? (Numbers 21:5)

    They spoke against God, and against Moses, complaining that Moses brought them up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness, and that they loathed the food God had miraculously provided for them.
  3. God dealt harshly with the complaining Israelites. What was His response? What do you think God saw in their hearts that motivated their complaints?

    God sent “fiery serpents” among them, and many of those who were bitten died. Discussion of the second question will likely bring out there was a lack of commitment to God; they refused to obey His law and they forgot the miracles God had done for them.

    You may wish to refer your group to Psalm 78, which called these Children of Israel a “stubborn and rebellious generation” and said their “spirit was not steadfast with God” (verse 8). God also said they did not obey His testimonies and they were full of unbelief.
  4. When things in our lives appear to be out of control and we feel overwhelmed, what are ways we can keep a thankful heart?

    We can keep a thankful heart when we remember that God will give us grace for every trial if we seek for it. He has promised a way of escape and victory for every battle. We need to stay focused on Him and count our past and present blessings. Ask for class input as to how they maintain a thankful spirit.
  5. What are some parallels between the brass serpent that Moses erected on a pole and Jesus hanging on the cross?

    Parallels include: The effect of the bite from the poisonous snake stood for sin; both Jesus and the serpent were suspended in the air so that many could behold them for deliverance; and there is no respect of persons with God. Whoever looked on the serpent was healed; in the same way, whoever looks to Jesus for salvation will find it.
  6. Tucked away in this story of Israel’s wanderings in this seemingly forsaken wilderness are two little verses (verses 17 and 18) telling that the Israelites stopped to dig a well and then sang a song, “Spring up, O well.” Why do you think these verses are important?

    It had been a long time, indeed, since the people sang unto the Lord (see Exodus 15). We can be encouraged to know that in dry times we may have to dig a little as we seek the Lord, but that the spring is there waiting to be tapped; there is a song of joy just waiting to be sung. This might be a good time to ask your class to share examples of times when encouragement came their way after a dry spell.
  7. What did the Children of Israel offer to do in the message they sent to Sihon, king of the Amorites? What does his refusal tell us about the heart of this king? What did his failure to honor God’s people cost him and his people?

    Israel told the king of the Amorites that they would not eat of their crops or drink from their wells or even camp in their fields in return for safe passage through the land. The king must have had a hard heart toward God and His people to refuse this. The king lost his life and Israel settled in his land because of this decision.
  8. Do you think God would have wanted Israel to destroy the Amorites if they had been gracious to Israel? Explain.

    God gave the Amorites every chance to show kindness to Israel. He wants all people to have a chance. It is when people reject God and His plan that they are punished.


God will turn His back on those who are rebellious and bitter toward Him. Yet God will bless those who trust and obey Him with a thankful heart.