By Elizabeth Prata
In around 1400 BC, Moses led the Israelites into the wilderness. They had been released from slavery by powerful acts of God, including ten plagues and parting the Red Sea to aid their escape. (Exodus 1-15)
However, it wasn’t long before the Israelites grumbled. They were sick of manna, they wanted an easier life, they wanted to get there. (Numbers 20:4). So they grumbled some more, against Moses and against God.
God heard their grumbles.
“Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And 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 take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.” (Numbers 21:6-9)
As with everything, God had a purpose. Jesus explained it to Nicodemus.
“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15).
And as with everything, satan is busy, too.
By 700BC or so, satan had encouraged the Israelites to worship the brazen idol, rather than worship the God to whom it pointed. Worse, the Israelites had actually named the idol! They called it ‘Neshutan.’
“He removed the high places and broke the pillars and cut down the Asherah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it (it was called Nehushtan).” (2 Kings 18:4)
Hezekiah removed them, which pleased God, but it was too late. The idol worship had taken root. By ~460 BC Cult of Asclepius was well underway. To the Greeks, and then the Romans and finally Europe, Asclepius became a god, represented as a man holding a rod with a serpent twined around it. This is actually the pale memory of the actual brazen serpent curled around the rod Moses held, where the Israelites were to look at the serpent lifted high and be healed, but since the world hates the Bible, the truth, and anything to do with Jesus, they easily fell into the myth that it was Asclepius. He became known as “Asclepius savior,” in a brazen attempt to remove the righteous place of Jesus in saving souls and bodies.
The Greek Island of Kos seems to be ground zero for the largest of the Asclepius cult followers, with a close second a HUGE cult temple at Pergamum. Remember the church at Pergamum? That Pergamum.
After 400BC or so, Asclepion complexes sprung up, monumental temples with a sanctuary, spas, baths, dormitories, patient intake, and a hall of records. (I.e., scrolls and marble carvings of patients who were served and who got healed)
Hippocrates is said to have received his medical training at an asclepieion on the isle of Kos. Prior to becoming the personal physician to the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, Galen treated and studied at the famed asclepieion at Pergamon. (source)
Asclepius was HUGE in the ancient world. Worship of Asclepius was such a part of Greek life that the false god remained on the Greek currency until 2001 when Greek money was replaced by the Euro.
Here is how the Asclepius worship went:
In honor of Asclepius, a particular type of non-venomous snake was often used in healing rituals, and these snakes – the Aesculapian Snakes – crawled around freely on the floor in dormitories where the sick and injured slept. These snakes were introduced at the founding of each new temple of Asclepius throughout the classical world. From about 300 BC onwards, the cult of Asclepius grew very popular and pilgrims flocked to his healing temples (Asclepieia) to be cured of their ills. Ritual purification would be followed by offerings or sacrifices to the god (according to means), and the supplicant would then spend the night in the holiest part of the sanctuary – the abaton (or adyton). Any dreams or visions would be reported to a priest who would prescribe the appropriate therapy by a process of interpretation. (Source)
Satan sure can twist things, and make them seem complicated and spiritual at the same time. The Gospel is so simple. Moses’ directions from God as to what to do to be saved was so simple. (Look at the lifted up serpent and be saved).
I mentioned Hippocrates a moment ago. You might know the Hippocratic Oath, an oath doctors swear by to this day. It first appeared around 400BC at the time the Asclepius worship got going. The Oath is one of the oldest binding documents in history. In its original version it read:
“I swear by Apollo, the healer, Asclepius, Hygieia, and Panacea, and I take to witness all the gods, all the goddesses, to keep according to my ability and my judgment, the following Oath and agreement:” (Source)
Today, the modified Hippocratic oath doesn’t make the speaker swear allegiance to Asclepius but instead worships science.
“I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant: I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.” (Source)
I also said a moment ago that Pergamon is mentioned in the Bible, and that the largest mainland Asclepion hospital-temple sanctuaries were located there. It is thought by Bible scholars that one reason Jesus called the city of Pergamos in the book of Revelation, the place where satan’s throne is located, could be because of the Asclepion there. Wikipedia describes the main feature of Pergamos:
“I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is...” (Revelation 2:13)
We are grateful to know Jesus, the only deity one should look to in order to be saved. Asclepius might be everywhere today, but Jesus soon will return to erase all the false gods, AND be worshiped rightly.
Charles Spurgeon preached about the rod of Moses in a sermon called “The Mysteries of the Brazen Serpent“. He said,
But the picture blackens; we must have deeper shades to paint it. Behold the people after they were bitten! Can you picture their writhings and contortions when the poison of the serpent had infected their veins? We are told by the old writers that these serpents when they bit caused vehement heat, so that there was a pain throughout the body, as if a hot iron had been sent along the veins. Those who had been bitten had a great thirst; they drank incessantly, and still cried for water to quench the burnings within. It was a hot fire which was lit in the fountain, and which ran through every nerve and every sinew of the man; they were racked in pain, and died in most fearful convulsions.
Now my brethren, we cannot say that sin instantly produces such an effect as this upon the men who are the subjects of it; but we do affirm, that, let sin alone, and it will develop itself in miseries far more extreme than ever the bite of the serpent could have caused. …
And now comes THE REMEDY. The remedy of the bitten Israelites was a brazen serpent; and the remedy for sinners is Christ crucified.
But remember, that much as those who heard of the brazen serpent might have despised it, yet there was no other means of cure. And, now hear me for one moment, while I tell the whole story of salvation. Men, brethren, and fathers, we are born of a sinful generation, and we have ourselves increased our guilt, for us there is no hope; do what we may, we cannot save ourselves.
“Could our zeal no respite know,
Could our tears for ever flow,
All for sin could not atone.”
But brethren, Christ Jesus, God’s eternal Son, came into this world, and was born of the virgin Mary, he lived a doleful life of misery, and at last he died a death accompanied by unutterable pangs—that was the punishment of the sins of those who, as penitents, come to Christ. If you this day so repent, and put your trust in Jesus, you have in your trust and repentance a sure proof that Christ was punished for you.