General LDS Information
Basic LDS Beliefs
LDS Videos
Critics' Questions
Submitted Questions
Scriptures/LDS Literature
LDS Temples
Music and Arts
LDS Online Stores
Priesthood, Humor, Miscel.
Site Map

Suggest a Site
Now accepting banner ads!

Bookmark and Share

SANDRA - When the Israelites were wandering in the desert and started complaining about their lot, God was angered and punished them by sending poisonous serpents and many were bitten and died. (Numbers 21:4-9). Then God commanded Moses to make a bronze or brass serpent and put it on a pole and anyone who looked at it would be healed of the serpent bites. Isn't that making graven images? The people had to use faith in a graven image to be healed. Please explain.

JOEL - It's only a graven image if people worship it as a God. Because God told them to do it we have to assume that He did not consider it a violation of any of His commandments.
In this case the brass serpent was being used as a symbol of salvation and a test of their obedience. They weren't asked to worship it, only to look at it as an act of faith on their part, the result of which was to be healed. They were not showing faith in the graven image; they were showing faith in Moses and God who commanded them to do it.
This can be compared to the time when Naaman was told by Elisha to wash 7 times in the River Jordan to wash away his leprosy (2 Kings 5). It seemed ridiculous to Naaman to believe that washing in the muddy Jordan would actually heal someone and at first he rejected the idea. He later demonstrated his faith by doing as asked and his leprosey was cleansed. It must have seemed equally ridiculous to some of the Israelites that just looking at something would heal them.
Speaking of this incident Nephi said:

"He sent fiery flying serpents among them; and after they were bitten he prepared a way that they might be healed; and the labor which they had to perform was to look; and because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished." (1 Ne. 17: 41).

But those who were obedient to what God told them, were healed of the effects of the poison. The serpent of brass is a prophetic representation of Jesus Christ and His atonement. As Moses lifted up the brazen serpent in the wilderness on a pole, even so Jesus was lifted up on the cross. As Jesus was lifted up on the cross, those who look to will be lifted up into heaven. As we read in the Book of Mormon:

"Yea, did he not bear record that the Son of God should come? And as he lifted up the brazen serpent in the wilderness, even so shall he be lifted up who should come.
And as many as should look upon that serpent should live, even so as many as should look upon the Son of God with faith, having a contrite spirit, might live, even unto that life which is eternal." (Helaman 8: 14-15).

If we look to Jesus and have faith in him he will heal us of our sins and give us eternal life. In our time one might equate the act of looking at the brass serpent to the act of baptism or partaking the Sacrament each Sunday to renew our covenants and make the atonement work in our lives.

An interesting side note to the brass serpent story is that later during the reign of King Hezikiah, the brazen serpent that Moses lifted up that day, actually did become an object of improper worship by apostates and as a result was destroyed by the King himself.

"He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan." (2 Kngs 18:4)

Return to top
Return to Questions