Moses = Mini-Israel = Jesus (Or, Theological Inception)

inceptionOne principle of Christian theological interpretation of Scripture is the practice of identifying typology. To over-simplify it, in the flow of redemptive-history, the sovereign God who ordains all things, prefigures the salvation to be accomplished through Jesus Christ by way of types (events, persons, symbols) to which Jesus Christ’s person and works are the anti-type.

For instance, Adam points to Jesus as Second Adam through whom God is creating a new humanity (Romans 5; 1 Corinthians 15). Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his only son Isaac points to the true Sacrifice of God’s only Son (John 3:16). The Tabernacle and Temple where God dwells with Israel points to the ultimate Tabernacling of God with humanity in Jesus Christ (John 1:14). Once you start to think in these terms, it’s almost impossible not to see Christ on every page of the Scriptures.

A particularly important type of Christ in the OT is Israel’s greatest prophet and deliver–Moses. In various ways, the NT reveals Jesus as the New Moses. Like Moses, Jesus escapes the death at the hands of a murdering king as an infant (Matt 2:13-18); he goes up on a Mount to give a new Law (Matt 5-7), which fulfills the old Law; he also institutes a new covenant that supersedes the old one (Lk 22); he rescues his people in a New Exodus of the Egypt of sin, death, and oppression into the Promised Land of salvation (Col 1:13-14). The list could easily be expanded.

While I’d known about these typological parallels between Moses and Jesus, I was nonetheless struck by this passage drawing out the way that Moses functions as a type and representative of Israel as well:

Moses, who narrowly escapes disaster by being placed in an ark in the River Nile (Exod. 2:1-10)…Moses’ salvation echoes backwards and forwards in the text; backwards to the salvation of humanity from the judgment of the flood by Noah (Gen. 6-8), and forwards to the Israelites’ future escape from the waters of the Reed Sea (Exod 14). Significantly…the figure of Moses, this child born as a type of saviour figure, not only saves Israel but also embodies Israel at times. His rescue from the water prefigures the nation’s salvation from the water; his escape after the death of an Egptian (Exod. 2:11-15) is a prelude to the Israelites flight after the death of many Egyptians (Exod. 12:29-39); his experience of being in the desert for forty years (Exod. 2:21-25) foreshadows the same for Israel (Num, 14:33); his divine encounters before the burning bush (Exod. 3) anticipates Israel before the fire of Sinai (Exod. 19-24).

Stephen G. Dempster, Dominion and Dynasty: A Theology of the Hebrew Bible, pg. 94

Moses is not only a type of Christ, but a type for Israel. Israel, God’s firstborn son (Exod. 4:22) is another type of Christ, who also wanders in the desert for 40 days and is tested (Matthew 4), so on and so forth. Moses is also Israel’s embodiment at times, which is a type for Christ’s representative embodiment of his newly re-formed Israel. We could chase the connections for pages, but what I’m saying is that this is like a theological version of Inception: we have found a type within a type within a type.

The intricacy, beauty, and inter-canonical-coherence of the biblical history of redemption should lead us to awe and worship. While human authors create inter-textual resonances, the sovereign Lord of time creates inter-historical ones.

Soli Deo Gloria

10 thoughts on “Moses = Mini-Israel = Jesus (Or, Theological Inception)

  1. That there is a real like – not a “hey I liked your post so come and give me at least 5 pageviews on my blog” kind of like. This is such a blessing.

    • Ha! Thanks, Justin. I’m glad you enjoyed it. It’s crazy how many of these could be written with how jam-packed the Scriptures are with these riches. That book I quoted, Dominion and Dynasty, is an excellent place to look for insights like that.

      • I’m currently researching Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho, and though he leans into the allegorical, there is also a rich trove of Old Testament Christ gold in his argumentation.
        Thanks for this, bro.

  2. Excellent! Jesus plays all these roles, because they are all roles humanity is supposed to play, and he is the true human. (What’s more, and I get into this in my book, if we are “in Christ” then we get caught up in those roles ourselves.)

    • Yeah, we could have gone Adam on this whole thing, but then we’d have to basically copy and past the Bible into this post. The thing is so intricately connected that you can’t come to the end of it.

      • Which means that (unlike systematic theology) Biblical Theology never ends…and how much fun is that!!! 🙂

      • True. Although, what’s really fun is deepening your systematics with increasingly deep biblical theology. Michael Horton’s someone who does this quite well.

  3. The strange thing is what you put up is only half. It seems the types are both forward pointing, and backward(beyond) pointing.

    The Tabernacle is said to be based on Heavenly designs, or in otherwords, patterned on a reality beyond the Israelites (Exodus 25; Hebrews 8).

    Even Adam, confusingly, is said to be patterned on the one to come (Romans 5:14).

    It seems to me that not only do these christs (lower-case c) and figures stand as a thing to be fullfilled, but were themselves patterns of the One. Thus it moves something like this: the One -> pattern/shadow -> the One.

    Weird, but really makes the OT what it is supposed to be: revealing the Christ.

    Cal

  4. Pingback: It’s all the Aragorn Parts | Reformedish
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