God told Moses to make a copper serpent transfixed to a pole, the copper picturing perfect humanity. The serpent had to be reasonably large—larger than life-size—in order for the nation to view it. To hold the copper serpent, the pole required a crosspiece. Otherwise, the serpent would circle the pole all the way up, giving the appearance of a barber pole. With the crosspiece at the upper end of the pole and the serpent wrapped around the crosspiece, the result resembled the symbol for medicine, Aesculapius. How interesting, for if those who were bitten looked upon the serpent on the pole, they were cured!
It is a known fact in chemistry that poison is fought with poison. Sometimes medicinal cures even have a skull and crossbones on the outside. The “X” crossbones is a symbol of Christ, and the skull indicates death. Of course the average person does not understand the symbolism, but it has been overruled, just as many places and events have been overruled to teach spiritual lessons. Thus it took death to cure death. The fiery serpents were a curse to whomever they bit, but looking at the brazen serpent, pictured as a curse, had a negating or blocking effect that disannuled the death penalty. In the antitype, the serpent on the cross is Jesus, who said, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up” (John 3:14). The serpent on the pole is probably more representative of Jesus’ death than of his resurrection, for it pictures his crucifixion and his being made a curse upon a tree. God pronounced a malediction on Adam for his sin, and it takes a curse to nullify a curse. A tree brought the curse upon Father Adam, and subsequently the dying race was started in his loins.