Numbers 21: The Brass Serpent

Old Testament Seminary Student Study Guide, (2002), 68–69


Like Miriam and Aaron in Numbers 20, it is likely that many of the Israelites died during the thirty-eight years of dwelling in the wilderness. The Lord said, however, that all who were over twenty years old at the beginning of the exodus (except for Joshua and Caleb, who gave positive reports of the promised land) would die before the camp of Israel entered the promised land. Numbers 21 records an incident where many more died. This story is especially significant because it involves a type of Christ—the brass serpent. Because an entire generation of Israelites would not look upon the serpent, they died physically and spiritually and were denied entrance into the promised land. This event appears to have separated those whose faith was weakest from those whose faith was strong, because the rest of Numbers 21 tells how the Israelites conquered those who opposed them and successfully moved toward the promised land. When the Israelites were stronger in faith, they had much more success.
brass serpent

Understanding the Scriptures

Numbers 21

Loatheth (v. 5)Dislikes, hates 
Light bread (v. 5)Manna 

Studying the Scriptures

Do activities A and B as you study Numbers 21.

Activity A iconTell the Story in Your Own Words

Imagine you are a Primary teacher. Tell the story of Numbers 21:4–9 in words that children could understand. Draw a picture or two you could show the children while you tell the story.

Activity B iconFind Important Interpretations from Other Scriptures

Make a chart like the one below and fill it in with insights that relate to the event in Numbers 21.

Scripture Reference

Who Spoke

What He Said

John 3:14–16

1 Nephi 17:40–41

Alma 33:18–22

Helaman 8:13–15