For Christians, reading the Old Testament in light of the New Testament is sometimes almost like a game: Where is Jesus hiding? How is Jesus prefigured this time, in a story set thousands of years before he was born?
In today’s readings, we have a weird one: The Hebrews complain that they’re hungry, that they would have been better off in Egypt. God, annoyed, sends snakes to bite them, and many of them die. Then the people ask Moses to ask God to take the snakes away.
So Moses prayed for the people, and the LORD said to Moses, ”Make a saraph and mount it on a pole, and whoever looks at it after being bitten will live.” Moses accordingly made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole, and whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.
The people are wounded; they look at this thing raised up on a pole at God’s command, and they are saved. This is clearly a prefiguring of the Crucifixion.
So in this scenario, Jesus is prefigured by…a venomous snake. That’s weird! It’s not how we think about our beloved savior, prefigured or otherwise. It’s not how we think about salvation…Read the rest of my short scripture reflection for America Magazine.
Image: Photo on Mt. Nebo in Jordan by Dennis Jarvis, Halifax, Canada, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons