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And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in the wilderness, for there is no bread or water, and we[a] detest this worthless[b] food.”

So the Lord sent venomous[c] snakes[d] among the people, and they bit the people; many people of Israel died. Then the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord that he would take away[e] the snakes from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.

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  1. Numbers 21:5 tn Heb “our souls.”
  2. Numbers 21:5 tn The Israelites’ opinion about the manna was clear enough—“worthless.” The word used is קְלֹקֵל (qeloqel, “good for nothing, worthless, miserable”).
  3. Numbers 21:6 tn Heb “flaming serpents”; KJV, NASB “fiery serpents”; NAB “saraph serpents.” This figure of speech (metonymy) probably describes the venomous and painful results of snakebite. The feeling from such an experience would be like a burning fire (שָׂרָף, saraf).
  4. Numbers 21:6 tn The designation of the serpents/ snakes is נְחָשִׁים (nekhashim), which is similar to the word for “bronze” (נְחֹשֶׁת, nekhoshet). This has led some scholars to describe the serpents as bronze in color. The description of them as fiery indicates they were poisonous. Perhaps the snake in question is a species of adder.
  5. Numbers 21:7 tn The verb is the Hiphil jussive with a vav (ו) consecutive from the verb סוּר (sur); after the imperative this form may be subordinated to become a purpose clause.

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