Snakes were widespread throughout the Palestine region. Because of their poisonous bites and cunning habits, they were often spoken of as a picture of wicked people and wicked deeds (Gen 49:17; Deut 32:33; Ps 58:4; 140:3; Jer 46:22; Matt 3:7; 12:34; 2 Cor 11:3). The most striking use of the snake as a picture of one who is evil is in reference to the Devil, Satan, who is called ‘that ancient snake’ (Rev 12:9; cf. 3:1,14-15). Some kinds of snakes were used by charmers and magicians in performing tricks (Eccles 10:11). It seems that Egyptian magicians hypnotized snakes to stiffen them, and in this way could imitate Aaron’s miracle of turning a stick into a snake. But Aaron showed that his actions were miracles, not tricks, when his snake swallowed up those of the magicians (Exod 7:8-12; cf. 4:2-4). On the journey from Egypt to Canaan, God punished his rebellious people with a plague of desert snakes whose bite produced burning pains and even death. When Moses prayed for the people, God replied by promising to heal those who stopped their complaining and demonstrated their trust in him by looking on a bronze snake that he had commanded Moses to make (Num 21:4-9; John 3:14-15; 1 Cor 10:9). This bronze snake later became an object of worship and had to be destroyed (2 Kings 18:4).

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