Sunday School Times
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:…
It is a noteworthy fact that in many of the ethnic religions the serpent was adored as a symbol of life. Horapollon, explaining (wrongly) a particular Egyptian hieroglyph, remarks that among the ancient Egyptians a serpent with its tail in its mouth was a symbol of eternity. The ordinary word for eternity in Egyptian begins with a figure of a serpent. This ancient symbolism, which leaves its traces also in the classics, may have owed something of its origin to the fact of the apparent renewal of the serpent's life when it awakens from its dormant condition, and when it casts its old skin. The adoration of AEsculapius, the Greek god of healing, was always connected with serpent worship. In the chief temple at Epidaurus tame serpents had a place of honour; and the god was said frequently to take the form of a serpent when he appeared to men. In the third century before Christ the help of AEsculapius was invoked by the Romans to avert a pestilence. In response, AEsculapius is said to have appeared in the form of a serpent, to have gone on board the Roman ship, and when the ship arrived in the Tiber to have glided over the side and to have taken possession of an island, where a temple was erected to him. It will be remembered also that Cadmus was changed into a serpent at his own request, when he discovered that serpents were dear to the gods. Among the Arabs the serpent is still the living thing of living things. This is seen in their ordinary speech. The Arabic word for "life " is haya; a common word for a serpent is hayyat, a plural form from hayya, a living thing. When Moses, therefore, lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, it would be recognized by the Jews as a symbol of that life which God had promised to give to those who would look to it in faith. To them it was a most natural symbol; when it ceased to be a mere symbol, and became an object of idolatrous worship, it was destroyed.
(Sunday School Times.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: