John 3:14–15 and Numbers 21:4–9
The primary connection being made between John and Numbers is the lifting up of the serpent to the lifting up of Jesus. Secondarily, as the Israelites were to turn to the serpent to preserve (physical) life, people are called upon to believe in Jesus for eternal life. In Num 21:4–5, the sin of the Israelites is referenced. 21:6 relays the consequence of that sin (serpents attacking and killing the Israelites). 21:7 becomes very significant as the people came to Moses and said: “We have sinned, because we have spoken against the LORD and you; intercede with the LORD, that He may remove the serpents from us.” This verse describes the repentance of the Israelites from their sin. In response, God told Moses to place a serpent upon a bronze pole and whoever looked at it would not die. Therefore, the connection between Numbers and the FG is two-fold. Primarily, the author of the FG is discussing Jesus’ lifting up (which Nicodemus probably did not understand until sometime after the crucifixion). Secondarily, just as the Israelites “looked” at the serpent and were given life, so belief in Jesus gives life. However, Numbers 21 portrayed the Israelites as repenting, turning from their sin, and then “‘looking’ in faith.” While the background of Ezekiel 36 proposed for John 3:3–5 was not a direct reference, this background is a direct reference. While Bing has examined the idea of “looking,” he failed to examine the context of the passage and its OT background.
For reference to Bing, see:
Bing, Charles C. “The Condition for Salvation in John’s Gospel.” Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 9, no. 16 (1996): 25–36.