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us up out of Egypt to die in water: and our soul loatheth the wilderness ? for there is no this light bread. bread, neither is k there any 6 And 'the LORD sent fiery
k Ps. 68. 6. c. 11. 6.
I Deut. 8. 15. 1 Cor. 10. 9.
face or presence, in whom was all the miscarry, either for hunger or thirst? infallible virtue of the divine pame, Ex. But no bread will answer for them, save 23:20, 21. Is. 63 : 5. In accordance that which the earth yields; no water with this the apostle says, 1 Cor. 10:9, but that from the natural wells or riv“Neither let us tempt Christ, as some ers.”—Bp. Hall.— - Our soul loathof them also tempted, and were de- eth this light bread. Heb. kelokël, from stroyed of serpents.” Their unbelieving a root signifying primarily to be light, hearts here find murmuring tongues. and thence to account light, vain, vile, They show themselves herein lineal contemptible. Here, as the radicals are descendants of the generation whose doubled, the meaning is intensified, carcases had fallen in the wilderness. and the idea conveyed is that of bread Nothing could be more heinous in view which is regarded as exceedingly vile of all the circumstances. To speak and despicable. Chald. “This manna against the servant was a great offence; the light food.” Gr. “ This vain, or but to speak against the Master himself empty bread;" i. e., bread unsubstanwas a still greater. But the mind, once tial, innutritive, and worthless. This thrown off its balance by the power of was not only a wicked disparagement sharp or long continued temptation, is of the natural gift which the Lord beprone to go even the length of “charg- stowed upon them from heaven, but it ing God foolishly” rather than of bow- was a virtual turning away with loathing submissively and saying, "I was ing from that spiritual or heavenly dumb, and opened not my mouth; for manna which we are taught to recogthou didst it." - For (there is no nize in the Lord, the Saviour, whose bread, neither (is there any) water. How own words authenticate this interprestrangely does excited feeling discolor tation. See John 6 : 48–51. Comp. Ps. and distort the objects at which it looks! | 78:23, 24. “This manna rained upon The fretful impatience of the people them from heaven was both corporeal renders them incapable of seeing and and spiritual food for them, a figure of acknowledging the truth of their con- the 'hidden manna' with which Christ dition. They cannot admit that they feedeth his people unto life eternal. are supplied with either bread or water. Rev. 2:17. So the contempt thereof The bread which the Lord gave them was the contempt of Christ and his from heaven is not worthy the name. grace; and into this sin do all they fall “ As an angry child casts away that that loathe and leave Christ and his which is given him, because he hath gospel for the momentary pleasures of not that he would, so these foolish Is- life.”—Ainsworth. raelites ; their bread is light, and their water unsatisfying, because their way
The Plague of Serpents and the displeased them. Was ever people fed
Remedy. with such bread, or such water? Twice V. 6. The Lord sent fiery serpents hath the very rock yielded them water, among the people. Heb. hannehishim and every day the heaven affords them hasserâphim, lit. the serpents the serabread. Did any one soul amongst them phim, i. e. as generally interpreted
serpents among the people, and they bit the people ; and much
people of Israel died.
fiery or burning serpents, from sâraph, drought, where there was no water.” to burn, whether so called from their “This description,” says Mr. Kitto, glowing, fiery color, or from the intense "answers, to this day, with remarkable and excruciating heat and thirst pro- precision to these desert regions, and duced by their bite, or finally from the particularly to that part, about the head red and inflamed appearance of the of the gulf of Akaba, where the Israelskin of those who had been bitten. ites now were. Scorpions abound in The original term is a substantive, and all the desert, and are particularly comnot an adjective, as it is rendered in our mon here, and they inflict a wound version. It denotes some class of the scarcely less burning than the serpents serpent tribe which were ordinarily of the same region. As to the serpents, somewhat abundant in that region, both Burckhardt and Laborde bear witalthough now probably miraculously ness to the extraordinary numbers multiplied to answer a special end of which are found about the head of the the divine providence. The popular gulf; but it to be regretted that neiidea has for some cause invested these ther of these travellers speaks particuserpents with wings; but there is noth- larly of the species. Burckhardt, who ing in the original to warrant it. The at the time of making this observation epithet is simply “fiery,” not “fiery did himself not see much of the head of flying” serpents. The prophet Isaiah, the gulf, and was only on the western ch. 14:29. 30:6, makes mention of coast, nearly opposite the spot where “fiery flying serpents,” but even in this the Israelites appear to have been thus case it is supposed that the epithet visited, says:— Ayd told me that ser“flying” was given from their power pents are very common in these parts; of leaping to a considerable distance in that the fishermen were much afraid of passing from tree to tree. Chald. them, and extinguished their fires in “Burning serpents.” Gr. “ · Deadly the evening before they went to sleep, serpents.” Syr. “Direful serpents." because the light was known to attract Arab. “Serpents of burning bites.” them. As serpents then are so numeBochart, Michaelis, and others have rous on this side, they are probably not undertaken to identify the species, but deficient towards the head of the gulf as all attempts of this kind can lead on its opposite shore, where it appears only to conjectural results, we shall that the Israelites passed when they waive them entirely, confining our re- journeyed from Mount Hor, by the way marks to points capable of being satis- of the Red Sea, to compass the land of factorily illustrated. The most impor- Edom, and when the 'Lord sent fiery tant lessons to be derived from the serpents among the people.' (“Tour narrative are of a practical nature, and in the Peninsula of Sinai,' p. 499.).... these do not depend upon the kind of It would thus appear that no creation serpent alluded to. In Deut. 8:15, it of serpents for this occasion was reis said of the region through which the quired, but that they were collected Israelites wandered, probably with a perhaps in extraordinary numbers, and reference to this particular part, “The endued probably with a stronger progreat and terrible wilderness wherein pensity than usual to assault all persons were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and I who fell in their way, until it pleased
7 Therefore m the people came the LORD, and against thee; pray to Moses, and said, We have sin- unto the Lord, that he take ned, for we have spoken " against
o Ex. 8. 8, 28. Deut. 9. 20, 26. 1 Sam. 12. 19. IK 13.6. Job 42.8, 10. Jer. 15. 1. Acts 8. 24. Jaines 5. 16.
God, through an agency which would frame, until the victim sank beneath have been wholly inoperative but his malady; "and much people of Isthrough Him, to heal those who had rael died.” In this we behold a most been wounded and were dying of their striking similitude with the deadly wounds.”— Pict. Bible. The evidence, agency of that “old serpent” who aimthen, is conclusive, that the route of ed at the life of man from the beginIsrael lay over a region infested by ning, and whose venom has slain so venomous serpents, and it must be many thousands of our race. The fatal ascribed to the protecting care of the fang of these serpents of the desert was divine providence that they had not but an emblem of the far more fearful hitherto received barm from this source. wound inflicted by the serpent of Eden. But the time bad now come when they “The sting of death is sin," and this is had justly rendered themselves obnox- a sting which entails perdition to both ious to the plag and when we may body and soul. And as no unguent conceive the Lord as saying, “I will or medicine, no appliance of human command the serpent, and he shall bite device could heal the bite of the fiery them,” Am. 9 : 3.- - And they bit the serpents that now wrought such depeople; and much people of Israel died. vastation in the camp of Israel, so the The remark of one of the Jewish writers remedy for the moral poison which has in this connection, as to a certain anal-corrupted the life of the soul can be ogy between their sin and their pun- supplied by the Lord alone. His alone ishment is worthy of being repeated. it is to administer the balm of Gilead, This sin, he observes, was a virtual for he alone is the physician there. But calumniation of the divine providence; he will order his interposition in such but calumny is at once suggestive of a manner that it shall be appreciated the bite of a serpent. Ps. 140:3, “They and sought for before it is enjoyed. have sharpened their tongues like a V. 7. We have sinned, etc. In the exserpent; adders' poison is under their tremity that was now upon them, what lips.” Comp. Eccl. 10:11. Ps. 58:4. could the people do? It was in vain Jer. 8:17. The divine protection being that antidotes were sought, and as to now withdrawn, these ministers of the arming themselves against the danger, Lord's displeasure were sent to do their this was impossible, for they were aswork of death amidst the guilty congre- sailed on every side, and the assaults gation. They inflicted upon them their were irresistible. The course pursued terrible bites. Being surcharged with was the only right and reasonable one. poison, the effects produced made the They apply themselves to him, who wretched sufferer feel as though the alone was able to deliver. They humcurrent of his blood was changed into ble themselves before God, and entreat tides of fire in his veins, causing the Moses to intercede for them. If the anguish of intolerable fever and thirst. Lord had not mercy on them, they Life was corrupted at the fountain; the must all perish. The very first step in blood ran polluted from the heart, and conciliating the forfeited favor of heaspread its defilement over the whole / ven is the penitent confession of our away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people.
8 And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery ser
P Ps, 106. 23.
offences, for “he that confesseth and prayers, which at a former period they forsaketh sin shall find mercy.” Such had scorned.”—Henry.- 1 And Mohad been the people's course on former se8 prayed for the people. Heb. yithoccasions, and always with a happy re- pallël, in the Hithpael or reflexive form, sult, and to this fact we have allusion implying that he interposed himself and Ps. 78: 34, “When he slew them, then prayed as a mediator. The meekness, they sought him; and they returned patience, and forgiving spirit of Moses and inquired early after God.” Past appeared conspicuous on this occasion. experience prompts them to the same Though so often the subject of their recourse now, and with like results; for proaches and provocations, yet upon though the plague was not immediately the slightest evidence of repentance and removed, yet an effectual antidote was amendment, he turns with a parental graciously provided.- Pray unto yearning towards them, and virtually the Lord, that he take away the serpents says in the language of Samuel on a from us. Heb. “And let him take like occasion, 1 Sam. 12:19, 23, “As away the serpent from us,” col. sing. for me, God forbid that I should sin for plur. as in multitudinous instances against the Lord in ceasing to pray for elsewhere. “They had spoken against you; but I will teach you the good and God and Moses, and now they humbly the right way.” speak to Moses, that he would pray to V. 8. Make thee a fiery serpent. This God for them. Now the people are is expressed in the Heb. by a single glad to seek to Moses unbidden. Ever word scrâph, sâraph, or burner, renheretofore they have been wont to be dered by the Gr. a serpent. As appears sued to and entreated for without their from the following verse it was a “serown entreaty; now their misery makes pent of brass,” i. e., the brazen image them importunate; there needs no soli- of a serpent, which was now to be concitor where there is sense of smart. It structed, and elevated as a signal in were pity men should want affliction, the sight of the congregation. The since it sends them to their prayers and material ordered was no doubt well confessions. All the persuasions of adapted to represent the fiery quality Moses could not do that which the ser of the serpents, as it is said of the pents have done for him.”—Bp. Hall. cherubim seen in Ezekiel's vision, ch. They seem to be conscious of their own 1:7, that “they sparkled like burning unworthiness, and therefore crave the brass.” This will be seen to be still intercession of one who they believed more apropos if we bear in mind, the had more power with God than them- brass of the Scriptures is supposed to selves. “How soon is their tone alter- have been really copper, the livid hue ed! They who had just before quar- of which comes still nearer to that of relled with Moses as their worst enemy, poisonous serpents. Such was the denow make their court to him as their vice of the divine wisdom and goodbest friend, and choose him as their ness. Misery here gives occasion for advocate with God. Afflictions often mercy. A remedy is pointed out equal change men's sentiments concerning and suitable to the disease. Had the God's people, teach them to value those I serpents been merely removed, accordpent, and set it upon a pole: / every one that is bitten, when and it shall come to pass, that he looketh upon it, shall live. ing to the prayer of the people, yet that it, shall live. Targ. Jon. “He shall would not have healed the wounded. A look upon it and live, if his heart be inremedy was to be provided that should tent upon the name of the Word of the also recover the dying, and save the Lord.” It is evident, to the most superliving. Such a remedy is provided in ficial glance, that the remedy, viewed the brazen serpent now ordered to be in itself, was entirely inadequate to the set up. Its efficacy as a means of heal- effect to be produced. As Bp. Hall ing was not inherent in itself. Obvi- well remarks, “A serpent of brass ously there was nothing in the repre- could no more heal than sting them. sentative semblance that could possibly What could a serpent of cold brass pretend to effect a cure. Its potency in vail against a living and fiery serpent?” this respect was due entirely to the di- | Yet although neither Moses nor the vine appointment. This fact is thus wounded Israelites had any suitable wisely recognized and discoursed upon conceptions of the full import of the in the apocryphal book, entitled “The divine ordination here recorded, still Wisdom of Solomon,” ch. 16:5–8, “For with the light afforded to us in regard when the horrible fierceness of beasts to its typical bearings, we can recogcame upon them, they perished with nize a wonderful adaptedness in the the stings of crooked serpents. But measure to the ends to be attained by they were troubled for a small season, it. The healing of the body was dethat they might be admonished, having signed to be an emblem of the healing a sign of salvation, to put them in re of the soul, and as this moral cure was membrance of the commandment of to be compassed by means such as huthy law. For he that turned himself man reason would never have devised, toward it, was not saved by the thing so it was fitting that the symbolical rethat he saw, but by thee that art the covery should be effected by a process Saviour of all. And in this thou madest equally strange, extraordinary, and inthine enemies confess, that it is thou credible. If a resort had been ordered who deliverest from all evil.”- -T And to the virtues of herbs or balsams, the set it upon a pole. Heb. da nës, signi- divine power would bave been apt to fying properly a banner-staff. It is have been lost sight of in the natural often used in the Prophets and Psalms properties and operations of the remein the sense of an ensign or banner, as a dies. Had the serpents been removed signal for the assembling of the people, at the solicitation of the people, the and which, with a view to its being mercy of heaven would indeed have more conspicuous, was frequently erect- been conspicuous, but no intimation ed on the summit of a hill. So it may would have been given of that hatred
presumed the present case, that of sin and that delight in holiness which the standard-pole, surmounted by the were figuratively displayed in the susappointed symbol, was elevated in some pension on the pole, corresponding to position which made it visible to the the Saviour's suspension on the cross. greatest extent throughout the camp. The representation, or typical relation, The object of this appointment between the lifting up of the serpentin nounced in what follows. 1 Every the wilderness and the lifting up of one that is bitten, when he looketh upon Christ upon the cross is expressly af