The Lord be with you
I have often said that the Old Testament is all about Jesus. This is not a new idea to me. I learned it way-back when I took my catechism classes (7th & 8th grades) and heard Jesus described as the “scarlet thread” that wove the whole Bible together (thank you Pastor Don Koenig). Of course, my pastor didn’t dream this up all on his own. The thought is found in the writings of the Church all the way back to Bible days. So Jesus could say, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5:39). In what I think would have been the greatest Bible study of all time, Jesus “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, … interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). Other passages could easily be added.
This is all fine and good, in theory, but what about practice? How do we find Christ in the Old Testament, especially in those portions that are not explicitly about him? We could demonstrate how the New Testament authors did this, like using the sojourn of Israel in Egypt to find the Holy Families exile in the same foreign country (Hosea 11:1; Matthew 2:15). However, that doesn’t always translate into us being able to do the same with passages and events not referred to in the New Testament.
I have recently begun musing on this topic in reference to the book of Exodus. While this is not completed, I thought I’d share it now. Perhaps it will stimulate someone to think more Christocentricly about the Scriptures. This post will consider the first paragraph of Exodus. The biblical text is in red print.
1:1 These are the names of the sons of Israel [name Israel, which means “struggles with God,” points to Christ, who struggled with God and overcame for us] who came to Egypt with Jacob [name Jacob means “heal,’ and points to Christ, whose heal Satan struck while Jesus crushed him (Genesis 3:15; see v. 4 for “Egypt”)], each with his household [salvation is for all, no matter the age (John 3:16; Acts 2:39; 16:16; 18:8)]: 2Reuben [name means “see, a son,” and points to Christ. First, Christ is the Son of God and the son of Mary, 1st son and born of Leah who hoped that his birth would make her husband love her and Christ reveals God’s love for us (1 John 4:10; Romans 5:8)], Simeon [name means “hearing” or “heard” and points to Christ as, because of him the Father hears our prayers, 2nd son and born of Leah (John 14:13; 16:26)], Levi [name means “attached,” and points to Christ as it is because of Jesus that the Father is attached to us, 3rd son and born of Leah (1 John 4:8-10; Matthew 23:37)], and Judah [the name means “praise” and points to Jesus, because he is the son through whom, and because of whom, we praise God, 4th son and born of Leah (2 Corinthians 1:20; Hebrews 13:15)], 3Issachar [name means “for hire” or “wages” and points to Christ, who paid the wages for our sins, 9th son and born of Leah (Luke 1:68; Galatians 3:16; 4:3)], Zebulun [the name means “honor” and points to Christ as the honored Son of the Father who, by grace, grants us honor, 9th son and born of Leah (John 5:23; Hebrews 2:7; 1 Peter 2:7; 2 Peter 1:17; Revelation 4:11)], and Benjamin [means “son of my right hand” and points to Christ, who sits at the right hand of the Father, 12th son and born of Rachel who died in childbirth, Rachel’s chosen name, Benoni, which Jacob changed, means “son of my sorrows” which also points to Christ as the man of sorrows, or it means “son of my strength” which points to Christ who is the strong right arm of the Father (Isaiah 53:3; Matthew 28:18; Psalm 110:1; Matthew 26:64; Romans 8:34)], 4Dan [name means “judge” and points to Christ, who will come to judge the living and the dead, and by whose life all are judged who believe in him to be righteous; Dan was the 5th born, son of Bilhah (2 Timothy 4:1; 1 Peter 4:5)] and Naphtali [meaning “wrestling” and points to Christ, who wrestled with Satan and won our victory, 6th born and son of Bilhah; Jesus’ wilderness temptations (1 Corinthians 15:57; Revelation 5:7; 12:9)], Gad [means “good fortune” and points to Christ, through whom we enjoy the good fortune of being forgiven, etc. 7th born and son of Zilpah (Romans 3:24; 5:8)] and Asher [name means “happy” and points to Christ who causes our hearts to rejoice in the Lord, 8th born and son of Zilpah (Psalm 32:11; Romans 5:11)]. 5All the descendants of Jacob were seventy persons [same # of horsemen who accompanied Paul from Jerusalem to Ceasarea (Acts 23:23-24); 70 [or 72] disciples sent out by Jesus (Luke 10:1); “age” of Terah when he fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran (Genesis 11:26); many times used of amount in offerings (Numbers 7:13, 19, etc.) and might remind us of Jesus offering up prayers on our behalf (Hebrews 5:7); Jesus offering himself for our sins (Ephesians 5:2); or even our lives of sanctification (Romans 12:1)]; Joseph [name means “may he add” and sounds like “”taken away” and points to Jesus, through whom all God’s children are added to his family and also through him God has taken away our reproach, 11th son and born of Rachel (Romans 15:3; Colossians 1:22)] was already in Egypt [foreshadowing Christ’s exile as a child in Egypt (Hosea 11:1; Matthew 2:15); living in the world but not of the world (1 Corinthians 5:9-11; Romans 12:2)]. 6Then Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation [they died, but God’s blessings do not; Eden curse (Genesis 2:16-17; 5:5-31)]. 7But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them [echo of the Genesis blessing, restated after the flood and foreshadowing the spread of the Church (Genesis 1:28; Genesis 9:1; Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 5:28; 17:6; Romans 15:23-24)].
Though the wives are not mentioned by name, the children are listed by their mothers, not their birth order. This accents the ladies, and especially their role as mothers, which can be thought of as foreshadowing Mary, the mother of our Lord. Their names also are significant. They were: Leah, Rachel, Rachel’s handmaiden Bilhah, and Leah’s handmaiden Zilpah. Leah means “weak eyes” and might remind us that, in Christ, God does not see our sins (Habakkuk 1:13 coupled with passages like Numbers 6:22-27). Rachel means “Lamb of God” and may remind us of John the Baptist’s calling Jesus the Lamb of God who is taking away our sins (John 1:29). Bilhah means “timid” and might remind us that Jesus, in his state of humiliation, was meek and lowly (Matthew 11:29; Isaiah 53:7). Zilpah means “to trickle, as myrrh; fragrant dropping”. Myrrh was one of the spices used to prepare Jesus’ body for burial and so Zilpah’s name might remind us of the atoning death of Jesus (John 19:39). Myrrh was also used to make the “official” anointing oil, which can remind us that “Christ” and “Messiah” both mean “anointed one” (Exodus 30:23; 1 Kings 10:25). Lots of thoughts here, like Christ as our prophet, priest and king, anointed with the Holy Spirit, etc. We might even think of our lives as a fragrant offering to the Lord or Christ’s atoning sacrifice as an offering to the Lord (Romans 12:1; Ephesians 5:2). All this interest in Jacob’s family can also lead us to think, not only how important our families are to the Lord, but the Holy Family in particular.
More might be added from the Genesis stories about the boys, the blessing Jacob gives them in Genesis 49 and subsequent history of the tribes, but that would take us further a field from Exodus. As I develop more of these musings, I’ll post them if there is interest.
One final thought. These are “musings.” I am not saying that the above is “the” only understanding of the first paragraph of Exodus a Christian may have. However, I have sought to follow the “analogy of faith,” meaning that what I’ve written is in harmony with clearly revealed truth and not contrary to it.
May God add his blessings to your reading of His word.
Pastor John Rickert
The Lord be with you