The Bronze Snake – Numbers 21:4-9

This is a relatively short story, but is so important that Jesus refers to it in John 3 as he is talking to Nicodemus. On first reading, this is one of those stories that seems so strange. What? Just because of a little complaining, God sends poisonous snakes to kill his own precious people?? What in the world? But the story gets stranger! God tells Moses to sculpt a snake from bronze, lift it up on a pole, and instruct the people to look at it if they are bitten by the poisonous snake; then, they would be instantly healed! What can this story possibly mean to us???

First, this story emphasizes the difference between how we see sin and the way God sees it. Where we might see “a little complaining,” God sees hearts that are ungrateful; people who lie to themselves and each other about God’s goodness and the food and water He faithfully provided. God saw people, who attributed to a loving and gracious God, evil motives. No wonder God had to teach the people what their sins deserved – death! 

It’s always shocking to us to realize that our sins deserve death. In our minds, we convince ourselves that our sins aren’t that bad, but in the Bible, we see God consistently show us that sin deserves God’s wrath! We deserve to have poisonous snakes biting us, but thanks be to Jesus, who offered Himself so that we don’t have to experience what we deserve!

The story of salvation through Jesus can sound so easy, and indeed, God wanted His people to see how easy it would be to receive forgiveness. All the people had to do was turn their eyes to the snake lifted up on a pole, and they would be saved. Today, all we need to do to be saved from our sins is turn to Jesus. As II Chronicles 20:12b says, “our eyes are on you.” At the very moment a man’s eyes turned to the snake on the pole, he would be saved just as today anyone can be saved in a moment by turning to Jesus.


Activity – Play “Sneaky Snakes” (like the swimming pool game “octopus”)

  • Have kids stand on one side of the room. 
  • In the middle of the room, position one or two kids, who are holding toy snakes.
  • Position one person at the end of the room, who is holding up a snake.
  • At your signal, kids will try to run to the other side of the room without being touched by one of the snakes.
  • If they are touched by a snake, they must fall to the ground immediately.
  • Once they are on the floor, kids may look at the snake, lifted high at the end of the room, and they will be healed and can run to the side of the room
  • The last child to reach the other side of the room should join the “snakes” in the middle of the room


      Talk About the Game

  • Did you know immediately when you had been bitten by the snake?
  • The Bible says we have all been bitten by sin, and we are sinners. Do you think everyone knows that s/he is a sinner?
  • How did you first learn that you are a sinner?
  • What did you have to do to get healed from your snake bite? Look at the snake that was lifted up
  • What do we have to do to be healed from our sin? Look to Jesus and trust Him to save us
  • Have you ever asked Jesus to save you from your sin? 


  • What did this story teach you about God? 
  • He hates sin!
  • He MUST punish sin!
  • He loves us so much that He punished His own Son so that He wouldn’t have to punish us with what we deserve - death.
  • God gives us a choice to follow Him, but if we refuse, we will die.

  • What did this story teach you about people? 
  • People deserve death because they are sinful – ungrateful, blaming, distrustful …
  • People are desperate to be saved.
  • People can be saved if they will just look to Jesus for their salvation.

  • What did you learn about yourself? 
  • I am a sinner.
  • I need Jesus to save me.