Insights: The Newsletter of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship


Book of Mormon, narrative, Moses, Bible, Nephi


Near the end of the children of Israel’s journey to the promised land following their miraculous escape from Egypt, they once again began to complain against the Lord and against Moses. As a result of this sin, the Lord sent “fiery serpents” among them (Numbers 21:6). Faced with physical death, the people went to Moses, confessed their sins, and entreated him to pray to the Lord to take the serpents away. However, the serpents were not taken away as requested. Instead, in what may have seemed an expression of deep irony—but was in reality a sacred symbol—Moses was instructed to raise up a brass serpent as the means of healing those bitten. This Moses did: “And it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived. And the children of Israel set forward” (Numbers 21:9–10). There ends the story in the Bible account.