Nehushtan (Brazen Sperpent)

In the biblical Books of Kings (2 Kings 18:4; written c. 550 BCE), the Nehushtan is the derogatory name given to the bronze serpent on a pole first described in the Book of Numbers, which God told Moses to erect. A serpentine cross sculpture (the Brazen Serpent Monument) atop Mount Nebo was created by Italian artist Giovanni Fantoni. It is symbolic of the bronze serpent created by Moses in the wilderness.

circa 100 CE

God told Moses to erect a bronze serpent so that the Israelites who saw it would be protected from dying from the bites of the "fiery serpents" which God had sent to punish them for speaking against God and Moses Numbers 21:4-9. The term also appears in 2 Kings 18:4 in a passage describing reforms made by King Hezekiah, in which he tore down altars, cut down symbols of Asherah, destroyed the Nehushtan, and according to many Bible translations, gave it that name.

circa 100 CE

The sculpture of a Brazen Serpent of Moses Memorial Church, Nehushtan, is the sarpentine cross that stands on the terrace of Mount Nebo was created by the Italian artist Fian Paolo Fantoni. It recalls the bronze serpent on a pole which god told Moses to erect to protect his people from the poisonous snakes that god himself had sent as punishment. It was enough to look at the bronze serpent erected by prophet Moses in order to be healed and saved.

circa 100 CE

Jesus applied it as a foreshadowing event to his own execution on a cross stating, "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:14-16).

circa 100 CE

The apse of the Memorial Church has three stained glass windows, with the middle one (inspect) depicting Moses standing under the Brazen Serpent with Aaron and Miriam. In the biblical story, following their Exodus from Egypt, the Israelites set out from Mount Hor, where Aaron was buried, to go to the Red Sea. However they had to detour around the land of Edom (Numbers 20:21, 25). Frustrated and impatient, they complained against Yahweh and Moses (Num. 21:4-5), and in response God sent "fiery serpents" among them.

circa 1473 CE

For the sake of the ones who were repentant, Moses was instructed by God to erect a "serpent of bronze" which was used to heal those who looked upon it (Numbers 21:4-9). The term also appears in 2 Kings 18:4 in a passage describing reforms made by King Hezekiah, in which he tore down altars, cut down symbols of Asherah, destroyed the Nehushtan. On the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo painted a mural of the Israelites' deliverance from the plague of serpents by the creation of the bronze serpent.

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