Solid Snake: The Nehushtan and Serpents in The Bible

Peace of Christ, everyone!

Is the Nehushtan the same kind of creature that attacked the Israelites in the desert and tempted Adam and Eve in the garden?


1 Like

Truthfully, I had never heard of the Nehushtan, but from what I read about it seems to be a disparaging term used to describe the brass snake Moses raised in the wilderness when it became an object of worship (an idol) in 2 Kings 18:4. So it seems it was not a biologic creature, but the serpent fashioned by Moses.

As to the serpents that attacked the Israelites in the desert, some have postulated that they may have been Guinea worms, a parasite that burrows under the skin and can reach long lengths, and certainly could be described are fiery serpents. Evidently, serpents and snakes are not necessarily the same things. Dracunculiasis - Wikipedia

As to the snake in the Garden of Eden, it seems to be just a garden variety talking snake.


Numbers 21:6-9 (NIV2011)
6 Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died.
7 The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.
8 The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.”
9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.

The story in Numbers explains the origin of the brass serpent. Sadly people take something good that God does for them and turn it into an idol, so it has to be destroyed. Look around you.

I have heard it said that the snake on the medical symbol was from this brass snake, but I thought that was from the Greeks. Vaccination uses a form of the disease to fight the disease just as God used the brass snake to overcome the poisonous snake. In that way the brass snake was a form of medicine that God prescribed to save God’s people. People should take note of that today,

Jesus referred to the brass snake when He said, “if I be lifted up from the earth (by a stick/cross) I will draw all men unto Me.” Jesus is the cure for the sin of the world.

1 Like

Briefly, … no.
Confirming @jpm 's first comment, …

  • “The Nehustan” is the only occurrence of the term in the Bible: i.e. a hapax legomenon in the Bible]. m.n. ‘Nehushtan’ — serpent of brass made by Moses (a hapax legomenon in the Bible, occurring Kin. II 18:4). [Derived from [נְחשֶׁת](/Klein Dictionary,).], נְחֻשְׁתִּי adj. NH brassy, of copper. [Formed from [נְחשֶׁת](/Klein Dictionary,_נְחֽשֶׁת.1) with suffix “yod”.]. In other words, Hezekiah called the object that he destroyed “the nehustan” [the brassy thing], and treated it as an idol, made by human hands.
    • In his commentary, Rashi wrote: " And he [Hezekiah] called it Nechushton. A derogatory expression,3 The additional “nun” to the word נחשת serves to belittle and mock the subject. See II Shmuel 13:20. as though to say, “Why is this necessary?4 The copper serpent was not destroyed before now because it was incorrectly believed that one may not destroy any object that was made as a result of a Divine command. The serpent was originally made to encourage the Bnei Yisroel to pray to God after they were bitten by poisonous snakes. See Bamidbar 21:4-10 and Tosfos in Maseches Chulin 7a. It is also possible that they kept the copper serpent as a remembrance of the great miracle that occurred, just as they kept the jar of manna, in Shemos 16:33-35. It is nothing but a copper serpent.”5
    • Confirming @Relates ’ comment, the sequence of events:
      • Poisonous snakes attacked the Israelites in the desert.
      • The Lord commanded Moses to make an object that looked like a snake and put it on a pole, but the Lord was not commanding Moses to make an object for the Israelites to worship. The Lord wanted the people to remember who is God, to repent, and to live.
      • “The brassy thing” became an idol to which Israelites began offering sacrifices.
      • Hezekiah put an end to that practice along with several others.

The וְהַנָּחָשׁ֙ (ha-nacash), on the other hand refers to the living creature in the Garden who “seduced” Eve. The English translation of the Hebrew noun, (pronounced “nacash”) is serpent. But, notice that in Genesis, the Lord punished the creature for its role in Adam and Eve’s sin by condemning it to crawl on its belly.

  • “Because you have done this, Cursed are you more than all the livestock, And more than any animal of the field; On your belly you shall go, And dust you shall eat All the days of your life; …"
    • In other words, before the Lord cursed the serpent, it didn’t crawl on its belly; it walked on legs. According to Jewish legend, the serpent was originally a four-legged creature, somewhat like a camel, that Samael the Archangel rode on. [Samael was known as “the Angel of Death”.]
      [For my spin on the serpent, see: Notes on the Jewish Roots of the Christian Doctrine of Original Sin].

Personally, I’m surprised that more atheists and heathen don’t claim that the story of the Serpent’s seduction of Eve and its punishment was once some old grandfather’s explanation to kids of “how the snake lost its legs”, when the kids asked: “Why is the snake the only reptile that doesn’t have legs?”

Trivia: the human tendency to attribute miraculous powers to objects made by human hands is a common Protestant (or Jehovah’s Witness) justification for accusing folks who make and use crucifixes in their churches of “idolatry”, versus the preferred crosses without “a body” on them.


Peace of Christ, Sampson!

That was extremely helpful; thank you!

1 Like

I do not think this is trivial. The Roman Catholic Church believes that the Service of Communion is the actual death of Christ upon the Cross with His real blood for our sins. Protestants believe that Jesus died once and for all time for our sins, and we renew our Christian covenant with God and others through Communion when we share His body and blood, His death and resurrection. Protestants do not worship the dying Christ, but the risen Savior,

I called the last comment in my post “Trivia” because I deemed the comment almost “off-topic” and of lesser importance than the preceding information in my post. That said, the fact that you don’t think it’s trivial and your willingness to sum up the beliefs of each and every Roman Catholic in a single sentence tell me more about you than about Roman Catholics.

Proverbs 10:25 says: “When the whirlwind passes, the wicked are no more : but the righteous are an everlasting foundation.”

So, … how many false things can a human believe and still be righteous?

According to many Jews, believing that Jesus is the risen Savior raises serious doubts about their capacity to be righteous.

This topic was automatically closed 6 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

This is a place for gracious dialogue about science and faith. Please read our FAQ/Guidelines before posting.