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The Oldest Books in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible

As anyone with even a cursory familiarity with the Judeo-Christian Bible knows, that book is composed of a collection of writings which were...

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Jesus in the Torah: Exodus

Like Genesis, the book of Exodus is literally full of allusions to Jesus Christ. And, as with the previous book, the historicity of the events and people portrayed in the narrative is immaterial to the spiritual reality the author(s) was/were attempting to portray. In other words, in this treatise, we are NOT concerned with whether or not a person named Moses actually led a large group of Israelites out of physical servitude in Egypt. Likewise, we are not concerned with the historicity of the birth narratives in two of the gospel accounts of the life of Jesus Christ. Indeed, it takes nothing away from the thesis that Jesus can be found throughout the book of Exodus to acknowledge that scholars have pointed out problems with the historicity of both the Old and New Testament narratives. Obviously, for Fundamentalists, such concerns will not even appear on their radar, but I think that even Christians of a more scholarly or progressive inclination will see the spiritual value and significance of these allusions as we proceed.

As the book opens, we find that "there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph." (Exodus 1:8) Hence, no longer protected by their savior (Joseph) or Pharaoh's favor, the people of Israel found that they had slipped into a state of servitude to the Egyptians and had begun to suffer mightily at the hands of their oppressors (Exodus 1:10-22). In this connection, it is interesting to note that, just as Moses was charged with delivering God's people from slavery to the Egyptians and the control and whim of Pharaoh, Jesus Christ was charged with delivering God's people from their slavery to sin and the control and whim of Satan the Devil! (John 8:34-36) And this brings us to one of the principal ways that Christians can see their Savior in the pages of the book of Exodus: Moses was a figure of the Messiah that was to come later. Indeed, we are informed by the book of Deuteronomy that Moses predicted that "The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken." (18:15)

How was Christ like Moses? Like Moses, Christ served in the capacity of a prophet to (and leader of) God's people. Like Moses, Christ began his life as an innocent and helpless infant whose life was threatened by an edict of a ruthless king to exterminate all of the male babies of the Israelites in the region. Like Moses, Christ expounded upon God's Law and served in the capacity of the mediator of a covenant between God and his people. And, as has already been mentioned, like Moses, Christ led God's people out of bondage.

In the third chapter of the book, we read: "And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: AND SAID, thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you." (Verse 14) In this connection, it is interesting to note that the Gospel of John relates a story where Christ clearly identified himself with this passage from Exodus. We read there: "Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. Then took they up stones to cast at him." (John 8:58-59) The Pharisees tried to stone Jesus, because they were just as aware of that passage in Exodus as he was and believed that he was blaspheming by applying it to himself!

In the twelfth chapter of Exodus, we are given an account of the first Passover that the Israelites celebrated. We read there: "Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house...Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats: And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening." (Verses 5-6) In this connection, it is interesting to note that John the Baptist identified Jesus of Nazareth as the "Lamb of God." (John 1:29 and 36) Moreover, all four of the canonical gospels equate the Passover with the events surrounding Christ's death (Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, and John13). In his first letter to the saints of Corinth, Paul clearly identified Christ as the Passover of New Testament Christians (I Corinthians 5:7). Likewise, in the first epistle attributed to Peter, we read: "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot." (I Peter 1:18-19) Finally, the book of Revelation identifies Christ as "the Lamb that was slain." (Revelation 5:12) And, God's people who "came out of great tribulation" are depicted as having "washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." (Revelation 7:14)

After the Israelites had celebrated that first Passover, we are informed that Lord led them out of Egypt by the hand of Moses (Exodus 12:51). Unfortunately, according to the narrative, Pharaoh changed his mind about letting Israel go and decided to pursue them and attempt to bring them back to Egypt (Exodus 14:1-9). Even so, God miraculously opened up the Red Sea and allowed the Israelites to pass through the midst of the waters (verses 13-31). For the Apostle Paul, this experience of the Israelites had special significance for Jesus Christ's followers. He wrote to the saints of Corinth: "Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come." (I Corinthians 10:1-11)

Even so, the Israelites feelings of gratitude for their deliverance from Egypt proved to be short-lived. In fact, we read in the sixteenth chapter of Exodus that "the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness, "because they were hungry" (verses 2-3). As a consequence, we read that God told Moses: "Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no." (Verse 4) Then, we are told that God caused a heavy dew to fall on the camp of Israel (verse 13). Later, when the dew had finally evaporated, we read: "Behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground. And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat." (Verses 14-15)

What does all of that have to do with Jesus? In the Gospel of John, we are informed that Christ fed a large crowd with five loaves of bread and two small fishes (John 6:5-13). Impressed by the fact that Christ had fed them, the crowd pursued him into the wilderness (verses 24-25). And, when they finally caught up to him, they reminded him that God had given their ancestors "bread from heaven to eat." (Verse 31) In response, Christ told them: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not. All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day." (Verses 32-39)

Nevertheless, after God gave them manna to eat, we are informed that the Israelites complained that they were dying of thirst (Exodus 17:1-3). Once again, God provided for their needs - giving them water to drink (verses 4-6). In this connection, the Gospel of John informs us that Christ had some interesting things to say about thirst and water to a certain Samaritan woman at a well (John 4:5-9). After asking her for a drink of water (which shocked the woman that a Jew would even deign to talk to a Samaritan), Christ told her: "If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water." (Verse 10) The woman expressed some skepticism and supplied a brief history of the well (verses 11-12). Jesus responded: "Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." (Verses 13-14)

In the nineteenth chapter of Exodus, Moses and the Israelites arrived at Mount Sinai and set up camp (verses 1-2). Then Moses went up into the Mount, and God proposed a covenant between himself and the people of Israel (verses 3-6). Next, acting in the capacity of a mediator, Moses carried the Lord's offer to the people, and they happily accepted his terms (verses 7-8). In this connection, it is interesting to note that the author of the epistle to the Hebrews observed that Jesus Christ "is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises." (Hebrews 8:6) Indeed, earlier in the letter, the author of the epistle had written to his Christian audience about the respective roles of Moses and Jesus relative to God's plans. The author observed: "Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house. For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house. For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God. And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end." (Hebrews 3:1-6) Hence, although both men had clearly been chosen to mediate a covenant between God and his people, Christ was superior to Moses, just as the New Covenant was superior to the Old.

Nevertheless, the book of Exodus informs us that God did go on to give Moses his "Ten Commandments" (20:1-17). Now, in the beginning of this series, we observed that Christ had said, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law...I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill." (Matthew 5:17) And, in other posts on this blog, I have pointed out that part of that fulfillment of God's law involved him distilling the Law of Moses into two great principles (and this distillation of the law is nowhere more apparent than as it relates to the "Ten Commandments"). When asked about the greatest commandment of the Mosaic Law, the Gospel of Matthew informs us that Christ replied: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." (22:37-40) Later, the Apostle Paul further condensed the principle by stating that love constitutes the fulfilling of the Law (Romans 13:10).

After the giving of the "Ten Commandments," the book of Exodus records that God gave Moses further judgments and instructions for the people of Israel (chapters 21-23). Of particular interest to us with regard to the thesis of this post, is the outlining of three festivals which the Israelites were to observe as part of the terms of the Old Covenant (23:14-17). They were: The Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Firstfruits, and the Feast of Ingathering. In this connection, we have already noted that Christ referred to himself as the "Bread of Life." Likewise, we have already referenced Paul's statement that Christians are unleavened because "Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us." (I Corinthians 5:7). With regard to the second festival outlined in Exodus, we know that Paul referred to Jesus as "the firstfruits of them that slept." (I Corinthians 15:20, 23) Paul also told the Romans that we (Christians) have "the firstfruits of the Spirit." (Romans 8:23) Likewise, several of the New Testament authors referred to early Christians as a kind of firstfruits (Romans 16:5, I Corinthians 16:15, James 1:18, and Revelation 14:4). Finally, relative to the great harvest at the end of the agricultural year which was celebrated by the Feast of Ingathering, we know that Christ compared his salvific work to a harvest of souls (Matthew 13:24-30 and 36-43). Likewise, when Christ sent his disciples out to preach to the people, the Gospel of Luke informs us that he told them: "The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth laborers into his harvest." (10:2) Indeed, the Gospel of John informs us that Jesus told his disciples that the fields were "white already to harvest." (4:35) Hence, Christ and his followers clearly compared his work with the observance of these Exodus harvest festivals.

In the twenty-fourth chapter of Exodus, we are informed that Moses built an altar and sacrificed some animals to God (verses 4-5). Next, we read that "Moses took half of the blood and put it in basons; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. And he took the book of the covenant and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient. And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord hath made with you concerning all these words." (Verses 6-8) In this connection, it is interesting to note that on the occasion of his last meal with his disciples (just prior to his death) that Jesus "took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." (Matthew 26:27-28) Along the same lines, the author of the epistle to the Hebrews observed that Christ's sacrifice and blood was superior to the sacrifices and blood which confirmed the Old Covenant (Hebrews 9:11-15). This anonymous author then went on to observe that "when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you. Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry. And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself." (Hebrews 9:19-26)

Now, the remaining chapters of Exodus (25-40) are primarily concerned with the construction of the Tabernacle, the Ark of the Covenant, and the establishment of a priesthood under Moses' brother, Aaron. Once again, the author of the epistle to the Hebrews nicely summarizes for us just how all of this related to Jesus Christ. He/she wrote: "Then verily the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary. And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly. Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God.But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation. But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us." (Hebrews 9:1-12) Moreover, in the first post in this series, we discussed how Christ was called by God to be a "high priest after the order of Melchisedek" - replacing the Aaronic priesthood (Hebrews 5).

Thus, we see that Christians find Jesus of Nazareth throughout the second book of the Torah, Exodus. For them, the allusions to Christ are numerous and deeply embedded in the content and structure of the book. Nevertheless, as we will see in the posts about the remaining three books of the Torah (Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy), for Christians, Jesus Christ embodies/personifies/represents the entire corpus of the Torah!

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