Mark A. Awabdy


This study pursues the question of why Yhwh, who in the Decalogue prohibits the creation and worship of divine images, would order Moses to create a snake image as the mode of healing snake bites in the desert (Num 21:4–9). This question is legitimated as the Judahites subsequently burn incense to Moses’ bronze snake, which Hezekiah destroys as an act of loyalty to Yhwh. Adopting a definition of meaning from symbolic action theory in cultural psychology, this essay explores what the bronze snake image would have meant for the earliest audiences of these stories. In the core of the essay, the biblical, iconographic, and mythologic contexts are investigated and prove to be suggestive for identifying the meaning(s). In the conclusion, recent studies in psychology offer insight for canonical reflection.