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Numbers 21:4-6

Context
Fiery Serpents

21:4 Then they traveled from Mount Hor by the road to the Red Sea, 1  to go around the land of Edom, but the people 2  became impatient along the way. 21:5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness, for there is no bread or water, and we 3  detest this worthless 4  food.”

21:6 So the Lord sent poisonous 5  snakes 6  among the people, and they bit the people; many people of Israel died.

1 tn The “Red Sea” is the general designation for the bodies of water on either side of the Sinai peninsula, even though they are technically gulfs from the Red Sea.

2 tn Heb “the soul of the people,” expressing the innermost being of the people as they became frustrated.

3 tn Heb “our souls.”

4 tn The Israelites’ opinion about the manna was clear enough – “worthless.” The word used is קְלֹקֵל (qÿloqel, “good for nothing, worthless, miserable”).

5 tn Heb “fiery.”

6 tn The designation of the serpents/ snakes is נְחָשִׁים (nÿkhashim), which is similar to the word for “bronze” (נְחֹשֶׁת, nÿkhoshet). This has led some scholars to describe the serpents as bronze in color. The description of them as fiery indicates they were poisonous. Perhaps the snake in question is a species of adder.



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