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Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [1]

( 2 Kings 18:4) It should seem very plain, from what is said in this Scripture, that what Moses in his days had lifted up at the command of God, and for the most blessed purposes, the Israelites in after-ages had perverted into an idol. We find, by what is said of Hezekiah's destroying it, that the Israelites had preserved it, and brought it with them into Canaan. But what a sad delusion must they have fallen into in setting it up for an object of worship, and burning incense to it! (See  Numbers 21:6 compared with  John 3:14) The name Nehushtan is from Nachash, serpent; so that by Hezekiah calling it not Nachash, but Nehushtan, he meant to shew by the alteration his contempt of it as an idol. It is a sort of play upon the word, somewhat like that we meet with  Isaiah 61:3 where the prophet, speaking of the exchange to be made of beauty for ashes, useth two words in sound much alike, but very different in their meaning—Pheer, beauty, for Epher, ashes. In our English language we have numberless instances of the kind.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [2]

Nehush'tan. (A Thing Of Brass). The name by which the brazen serpent, made by Moses in the wilderness,  Numbers 21:9, was worshipped, in the time of Hezekiah.  2 Kings 18:4.

It is evident that our translators, by their rendering, "and he called it Nehushtan," understood that, the subject of the sentence is Hezekiah, and that when he destroyed the brazen serpent, he gave it the name, Nehushtan, "a brazen thing," in token of his utter contempt. But it is better to understand the Hebrew as referring, to the name by which the serpent was generally known, the subject of the verb being indefinite - "and one called it 'Nehushtan.'"

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [3]

Brazen, a name given by Hezekiah king of Judah to the brazen serpent that Moses had set upon the wilderness,  Numbers 21:8 , and which had been preserved by the Israelites to that time. The superstitious people having made an idol of this serpent, Hezekiah caused it to be burned, and in derision have it the name of Nehushtan, a mere piece of brass,  2 Kings 18:4 . Memorials, relics, and other outward aids to devotion which men rely upon, have the opposite effect; and visible emblem hides the Savior it ought to reveal,  John 3:14-16 .

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [4]

("brazen").  2 Kings 18:4, "a piece of brass." The contemptuous name (so the Septuagint, Vulgate, etc.) given to the brazen serpent when Hezekiah broke it in pieces because it was made an idol of, Israel burning incense to it because of its original use in the typical miracle ( Numbers 21:8-9;  John 3:14). The Targum of Jonathan, the Peshito Syriac, and Buxtorf less forcibly make Nehushtan the name by which the brass serpent had been generally known. A prescient protest against relic worship.

Holman Bible Dictionary [5]

 2 Kings 18:4 Numbers 21:8-9 Nehushtan   2 Kings 24:8Bronze Serpent

Morrish Bible Dictionary [6]

Name of contempt given by Hezekiah to the brazen serpent, when he destroyed it because the Israelites burnt incense to it. He called it a 'piece of brass,' as in the margin .  2 Kings 18:4 .

Easton's Bible Dictionary [7]

 Numbers 21:8 2 Kings 18:4

Webster's Dictionary [8]

(n.) A thing of brass; - the name under which the Israelites worshiped the brazen serpent made by Moses.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [9]

NEHUSHTAN. See Serpent (Brazen).

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [10]

(Heb. Nechushtan', נְחֻשְׁתָּן , ַ Of Copper, with the art.; Sept. Νεεσθάν , v.r. Νεσθάν and even Νεσθαλεί ; Vulg. Nohestan), a contemptuous name given to the copper ("brazen") serpent which Moses had made during the plague in the wilderness ( Numbers 21:8 sq.), and which the Israelites worshipped ( 2 Kings 18:4). (See Brazen Serpent).

"One of the first acts of Hezekiah; upon coming to the throne of Judah, was to destroy all traces of the idolatrous rites which had gained such a fast hold upon the people during the reign of his father Ahaz.. Among other objects of superstitious reverence and worship was this singular metallic effigy, which was preserved throughout the wanderings of the Israelites, probably as a memorial of their deliverance, and according to a late tradition was placed in the Temple. The lapse of nearly a thousand years had invested this ancient relic with a mysterious sanctity which easily degenerated into idolatrous reverence, and at the time of Hezekiah's accession it had evidently been long an object of worship, 'for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it,' or as the Hebrew more fully implies, 'had been in the habit of burning incense to it' ( הָיוּ מְקִטְּרַים , Had Been Incense- burners). The expression points to a settled practice. It is evident that our translators by their rendering, 'And he called it Nehushtan,' understood with many commentators that the subject of the sentence is Hezekiah, and that when he destroyed the brazen serpent he gave it the name Nehushtan, 'a brazen thing,' in token of his utter contempt, and to impress upon the people the idea of its worthlessness. This rendering has the support of the Sept. and Vulgate, Junius and Tremellius, Munster, Clericus, and others; but it is better to understand the Hebrew as referring to the name by which the serpent was generally known, the subject of the verb being indefinite and one called it 'Nehushtan.' Such a construction is common, and instances of it may be found in  Genesis 25:26;  Genesis 38:29-30, where our translators correctly render 'his name was called,' and in  Genesis 48:1-2. This was the view taken in the Targ. Jon. and in the Peshito-Syriac, 'And they called it Nehushtan,' which Buxtorf approves (Hist. Serp. En. cap. 6). It has the support of Luther, Pfeiffer (Dub. Vex. cent. 3, loc. 5), J.D. Michaelis (Bibel fur Ungel.), and Bunsen (Bibelwerk), as well as of Ewald (Gesch. 3:622), Keil, Thenius, and most modern commentators." (See Hezekiah).

"The fact of the preservation of the brazen serpent till the time of Hezekiah is, as Bunsen remarks, a sufficient guarantee not only for the historical truth of the narrative in Numbers, but also for the religious significancy of the symbol; for had it been, as some have supposed. an image of Satan, it would not have been suffered by David or Solomon to remain (Bibelwerk, 5:217). The fact also that it is referred to by our Lord. as in some sense resembling him ( John 3:14-15), not only vouches for the same things, but further imposes on us the duty of seeking in it a deeper significancy than that which the mere narrative of Moses would lead us to attach to it. We may, therefore, dismiss at once all the attempts of rationalists to resolve the facts of the Mosaic narrative into mere ordinary occurrences; such as that of Bauer, who finds in the cure of the Israelites by looking at the brazen serpent only an instance of the curative power of the imagination (Hebr. Gesch. 2:320), or that of Paulus, who thinks that the brazen serpent being at some distance from the camp, and the sight of it moving the Israelite who had been bitten to walk to it, the motion thereby produced served to work off the effects of the poison, and so tended to a cure (Comment. 4:1, 198 sq.); or that of Hofmann, who ingeniously suggests that the brazen serpent was the title of a rural hospital, where medicine and doctors were to be found by those who had faith to go for them. It is sad to see a man like Bunsen falling back on the old exploded rationalistic explanation of this occurrence. The fixing of the gaze on the image brought the mind to a state of repose, and so made the bodily cure possible' (Bibelwerk, 5:217), as if this were all! We may pass over also the notion of Marsham, according to whom the serpent of brass was an implement of magic or incantation borrowed from the Egyptians, who he says 'imprimis Μαγείᾷ Τινί Ἐπιχωρίῳ ob serpentum incantationem celebrantur' (Canon Chronicles page 148); for this is so purely gratuitous, and so opposed to the narrative of Moses, as well as the religious principles and feelings which he sought to inculcate (comp.  Leviticus 19:26), that it must be at once rejected (see Deyling, Obs. Sac. 2:210 sq.). The traditionary belief of the ancient Jews is that the brazen serpent was the symbol of salvation, and that healing came to the sufferer who looked to it as the result of his faith in God, who had appointed this method of cure." See Schachan, De serpentts ennei significatione (Lubec. 1713); Notting, De serp. ten. Servatoris typo (Jen. 1759); Huth, Serpens exaltatus non contritionis sed conterendi imago (Erlang. 1758). (See Serpent).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [11]

nḗ - hush´tan ( נהשׁתּן , neḥushtān  ; compare נחשׁת , neḥōsheth , "brass," and נחשׁ , nāḥāsh , "serpent"):

The word occurs but once, namely, in  2 Kings 18:4 . In the account there given of the reforms carried out by Hezekiah, it is said that "he brake in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made; for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it; and he called it Nehushtan." According to the Revised Version margin the word means "a piece of brass." If this be correct, the sense of the passage is that Hezekiah not only breaks the brazen serpent in pieces but, suiting the word to the act, scornfully calls it "a (mere) piece of brass." Hezekiah thus takes his place as a true reformer, and as a champion of the purification of the religion of Israel. This is the traditional interpretation of the passage, and fairly represents the Hebrew text as it now stands.


There are at least three considerations, however, which throw doubt upon this interpretation. In the first place, the word Nehushtan is not a common noun, and cannot mean simply "a piece of brass." The point of the Biblical statement is entirely lost by such a construction. It is emphatically a proper noun, and is the special name given to this particular brazen serpent. As such it would be sacred to all worshippers of the brazen serpent, and familiar to all who frequented the Temple. In the second place, it is probable that Nehushtan is to be derived from nāḥāsh , "serpent," rather than from neḥōsheth , "brass," (1) because the Greek Vss , representing a form of the Hebrew text earlier than Massoretic Text, suggest this in their transliteration of Nehushtan (Codex Vaticanus Nesthaleı́  ; Codex Alexandrinus Nesthán ); (2) because the Hebrew offers a natural derivation of Nehushtan from nāḥāsh , "serpent"; and (3) because the name of the image would more probably be based on its form than on the material out of which it was made. In the third place, the reading, "and it was called," which appears in the Revised Version margin, is decidedly preferable to that in the text. It not only represents the best reading of the Hebrew, but is confirmed by the similar reading, "and they called it," which appears in the Greek version referred to above. These readings agree in their indication that Nehushtan was the name by which the serpent-image was generally known during the years it was worshipped, rather than an expression used for the first time by Hezekiah on the occasion of its destruction.

Whichever derivation be adopted, however, the word must be construed as a proper name. If it be derived from "brass," then the translation must be, not "a piece of brass," but "The (great) Brass," giving the word a special sense by which it refers unequivocally to the well-known image made of brass. If it be derived from "serpent," then the translation must be, "The (great) Serpent," the word in this case referring in a special sense to the well-known image in serpent form. But the significance of the word probably lies far back of any etymological explanation of it that can now be given. It is not a term that can be adequately explained by reference to verbal roots, but is rather an epitome of the reverence of those who, however mistakenly, looked upon the brazen serpent as a proper object of worship.

In view of the foregoing it may be concluded, (1) that Nehushtan was the (sacred) name by which the brazen serpent was known during the years "the children of Israel did burn incense to it"; (2) that the word is derived from nāḥāsh , "serpent"; and (3) that it was used in the sense of "The Serpent," paragraph excellence . See Images , 6, (2); Serpent , Fiery .

The Nuttall Encyclopedia [12]

Piece of brass), the name given in contempt to what was alleged to be the "Serpent in the Wilderness," which had become an object of worship among the Jews, and was destroyed by King Hezekiah among other idolatrous relics (2Kings xviii. 4).