Some people believe that Moses’ serpent staff in Numbers 21:8 is part of the inspiration for the symbol for medicine. This is, of course, false. The symbol comes from Hermes. Sometimes it’s easy to get Moses and Hermes confused. They were both “messengers of god,” and they both healed people. Then again, some might argue that Moses and Hermes were actually the same person (or at least living at the same time) (see page 27 in the link for Frances Yates’ thoughts about this claim, which I find rather interesting). Anyway, that topic is for another post, and I digress.
Despite from where the medical symbol came, Moses did indeed have a serpent staff. And through the transitive supernatural properties that all graven images possess, it was supposed to heal the sick, as prescribed by god in Numbers. But that’s not the only time god commanded the construction of an idol. Remember the ark of the covenant? As Exodus 25:18, 20 notes, “You shall make two cherubim of gold; you shall make them of hammered work, at the two ends of the mercy seat.” And, “The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings. They shall face one to another; the faces of the cherubim shall be turned toward the mercy seat.” Y’know, images of heavenly creatures.
But doesn’t this violate one of the ten commandments? In both Exodus 20:4 and Deuteronomy 5:8 god forbids us from making any image that resembles anything in heaven, on the earth, or in the seas. Basically god told Moses to break a commandment. Twice. There are other verses forbidding the making of images, but I don’t want to belabor the point.
Some have argued that this is not a contradiction. The serpent staff was constructed to heal the sick, not to be worshipped. (Apparently god can’t heal sick people without earthly objects). And the ark of the covenant was built to literally house god’s face. But this misses that people have been kneeling before images of the image of the ark and the serpent for thousands of years. The bible is full of ark worship. And the church is full of relics and images and execution tools. If their claim is that there is no contradiction in the bible, then the contradiction lies with them. Their religion contradicts the bible.