4 Then they traveled from Mount Hor by the road to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom, but the people became impatient along the way. 5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in the wilderness, for there is no bread or water, and we detest this worthless food.” 6 So the Lord sent venomous snakes among the people, and they bit the people; many people of Israel died. 7 Then the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord that he would take away the snakes from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8 The Lord said to Moses, “Make a poisonous snake and set it on a pole. When anyone who is bitten looks at it, he will live.”
15 We hoped for good fortune, but nothing good has come of it.We hoped for a time of relief, but instead we experience terror. 16 The snorting of the enemy’s horses is already being heard in the city of Dan. The sound of the neighing of their stallions causes the whole land to tremble with fear. They are coming to destroy the land and everything in it. They are coming to destroy the cities and everyone who lives in them.” 17 The Lord says, “Yes indeed, I am sending an enemy against you that will be like poisonous snakes that cannot be charmed away. And they will inflict fatal wounds on you.” 18 Then I said, “There is no cure for my grief! I am sick at heart! 19 I hear my dear people crying out throughout the length and breadth of the land. They are crying, ‘Is the Lord no longer in Zion? Is her divine King no longer there?’”The Lord answers, “Why then do they provoke me to anger with their images, with their worthless foreign idols?”
Notes and References
"... Sympathetic magic is based on the principle that like produces like. As previously mentioned, the system is composed of positive and negative precepts (prohibitions) and many of these may be found in the Hebrew Bible with reference to magic. There are a few instances of sympathetic magic which occur in the Hebrew Bible. The episode of the bronze serpent made by Moses that cured people from poisonous snakebite, has a dimension of sympathetic magic. According to Numbers 21:4-9 the people murmur. God sends a plague and the people repent. Moses intercedes and God reconsiders. God said to Moses, "Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole. Everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, should live" (Numbers 21:8) ... ("augur, diviner, enchanter") is associated with two different roots ... Those emphasizing the connection associate it with some form of divination related to snakes. The connection tends to associate it more with magic, particularly with the use of charms and enchantments. References may be found in Isaiah 3:3,20; 26:26 and Jeremiah 8:17; Ecclesiastes 10:11 (McLean 1992:468) ..."
Liedeman, Gwendolene Caren Magic in the Ancient Near East with Special Reference to Ancient Israel (pp. 52-58) University of Stellenbosch, 2002
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