Tuesday, April 12, 2022

The Hebrew word נחשׁ (nāḥāsh) means "snake." An apparent onomatopoeia, the easiest way to remember נחשׁ (nāḥāsh) is to listen to the sound as you press the air out of your mouth while you complete the shhh sound at the end of the word. You can almost hear the snake hissing right behind you.

The most famous use of נחשׁ (nāḥāsh) is likely the serpent in the garden, seen first in Genesis 3:1: "Now the serpent (והנחשׁ) was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made." Another famous occurrence of נחשׁ (nāḥāsh) is the bronze serpent of Numbers 21:9: "So Moses made a serpent (נחשׁ) of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpentנחשׁ) bit someone, that person would look at the serpent (נחשׁ) of bronze and live."

Second Kings 18:4 later describes the destruction of this hand-crafted bronze serpent among Hezekiah's reforms: "He removed the high places, broke down the pillars, and cut down the sacred pole. He broke in pieces the bronze serpent (נחשׁ) that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it; it was called Nehushtan." Interestingly, the name Nehushtan appears to be a combination of the words snake, נחשׁ (nāḥāsh), and bronze, נחשׁת (nǝḥoshet), thereby creating a name formed from the essential elements of the items.