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Fiery Serpent

The Numbers context seems to refer to a poisonous viper living in the desert regions around Biblical Moab. It has been identified tentatively with Heb. אֶפְעֶה, H704, which is, in turn, identified with Echis carinatus, “a viper living in sandy plains” (“Serpent,” IDB).

In other usages, the term saraf refers to legendary creatures (e.g. the flying serpents of Isa 14:29; 30:6) or supernatural angelic beings (e.g. seraphim of Isa 6). This raises the possibility that saraf is used in Numbers 21:6 not because the term normally designated a particular kind of snake, but rather to emphasize the supernatural, miraculous character of the plague. See Brazen Serpent.


G. E. Post, “Serpent,” HDB (1905); F. S. Bodenheimer, “Serpent,” IDB (1962).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

See Serpent, 3, (2).

See also

  • Serpent