The Mystery Nechushtan
Why did King Hezekiah of Judah destroy the bronze serpent that Moses had fashioned to protect the Israelites?
After all, it had been fashioned by Moses himself a half millennium earlier—and for good purpose.
In the Biblical passage that tells us what Hezekiah did, we learn of several other things the late-eighth century B.C.E. king destroyed: “He abolished the high places (or shrines; Hebrew bamot) and smashed the pillars (or sacred pillars; Hebrew matzevot) and cut down the sacred pole (or post; Hebrew asherah). He also broke into pieces the bronze serpent (Nechushtan)” (2 Kings 18:4).
All but the Nechushtan (which is simply Hebrew for “serpent” or “snake”) are quite understandable, especially in terms of Hezekiah’s well-known religious reform aimed at centralizing worship in the Jerusalem Temple. But the Nechushtan? What is it doing here?
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