Nehushtan: Biblical Serpent and Symbol of Redemption

Nehushtan (Hebrew, NChShThN, «brass object») is the serpent of brass made by Moses and placed on a pole (Numbers 21:8-9) to cure the Israelites of the venomous bites of the fiery serpents in the wilderness. The word Nehushtah «thing of brass» contains a Hebrew pun, the first three letters, NChSh, mean «serpent» and the final two, ThN, mean «dragon.»

In Christian interpretation, the lifting up of the brass serpent on a pole is generally held to be a prefigurement of Christ, to cure humanity from the «snakebite» of original sin. By Hebrew gematria there is some basis for this assumption, the numerical value of MShICH, «Messiah» and NChSh «serpent» are identical, 358.

During the first and second centuries CE the serpent was worshipped with reverence by the Christian Gnostic sects of the Ophites and Naasseners. These sects worshipped the Biblical serpent of the Garden of Eden that gave knowledge to Adam and Eve. The serpent was considered the hero because he supplied «gnosis» to the first people which God, considered the demiurge, kept from them.

Some magical theorists claim that Nehushtan, the brass serpent, resides in the upper astral plane possesses redemptive powers while Nachash, the serpent of the Tree of Knowledge, resides in the lower astral and possesses negative powers. A.G.H.


Expanded Understanding of Nehushtan

Biblical Origin and Purpose

Nehushtan, the brass serpent created by Moses, is a significant artifact in biblical history. As mentioned in Numbers 21:8-9, it was constructed to heal the Israelites who were bitten by venomous serpents in the wilderness. The act of looking upon the brass serpent on a pole was enough for an afflicted person to be cured, symbolizing divine intervention and mercy.

Hebrew Puns and Symbolism

The word ‘Nehushtan’ is not only a reference to its material composition (brass) but also carries a Hebrew pun. ‘NChSh’ denotes ‘serpent’, while ‘ThN’ relates to ‘dragon’, linking the object to both earthly and mythical realms. This duality in meaning underscores the symbolic significance of Nehushtan in Jewish tradition.


Christian Interpretation and Messianic Connection

Prefiguration of Christ

In Christian theology, the elevation of Nehushtan is often interpreted as a foreshadowing of Christ’s crucifixion. Just as the brass serpent was lifted to cure the Israelites, Christ was raised on the cross to redeem humanity from original sin. This parallel draws a direct line from Old Testament symbolism to New Testament salvation.

Gematria and the Messiah

The Hebrew practice of gematria, where letters have numerical values, further connects Nehushtan to Messianic symbolism. The numerical equivalence of ‘Messiah’ and ‘serpent’ (both summing to 358) suggests a mystical correlation between the act of Moses and the coming of the Messiah.


Gnostic Worship and Interpretation

Ophites and Naasseners

During the early centuries CE, certain Gnostic sects like the Ophites and Naasseners revered the serpent as a symbol of knowledge and enlightenment. They viewed the Biblical serpent in the Garden of Eden, often equated with Nehushtan, as a liberator who brought gnosis (knowledge) to Adam and Eve, challenging the authority of the demiurge, or creator god.


Magical Theories and Astral Beliefs

Redemptive and Negative Powers

Some esoteric and magical traditions differentiate between Nehushtan and Nachash (the serpent in Eden) in terms of their astral presence and powers. Nehushtan, residing in the upper astral plane, is seen as a symbol of healing and redemption. In contrast, Nachash, associated with the lower astral plane, represents temptation and the knowledge that led to humanity’s fall.



Greer, John Michael. The New Encyclopedia of the Occult. St. Paul, MN, Llewellyn Worldwide. p. 325
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