I was probably in elementary school when my family took a trip through the mountains of PA. My dad was driving and as he rounded a curve a rattle snake slithered across the road. My dad, being my dad, stopped the car alongside the road and with his camera followed the snake into the woods to try and get a picture. My mother, being my mother, fearful her husband would get bitten by a poisonous, deadly snake, was beside herself. I can’t remember if my dad got a picture of the snake; I do remember my mother’s fear about that snake rubbed off on me. I suppose you could say my mother had ophidiophobia, an irrational fear of snakes.
In the Numbers text I just read, snakes weren’t the first thing on the minds of the children of Israel. They were in a foul mood for other reasons:
- They claimed they had no food or water.
- The food they had—manna provided by God—was wretched, is one way to translate the Hebrew. The text might even suggest they were retching over the wretched bread.
- Why, oh why, they complained, did God and Moses bring them out into this wilderness to die?
They realized their sin when poisonous snakes appeared and some people died as a result. They had sinned against both God and Moses due to their cantankerous attitude. Seeing the error of their ways, they asked Moses to tell God to remove the snakes from their midst.
- Numbers 21:4 - 9
- John 3:14 - 17