Typology in Exodus and in Exegesis

Gareth Crossley, in his accessible and Christ-centered book on the Old  Testament, The Old Testament: Explained and Applied, provides a sampling of just some of the typological features of Exodus.  With a few adjustments, I find that his list helps us discern the way that the OT prepares the way for Jesus Christ’s greater exodus (Luke 9:31) and provides a good model for a Christian reading of the Old Testament.  Here they are (p. 91):

  • Israel’s bondage in Egypt (1:11-14) is a symbol of the sinner’s slavery to sin (Rom 6:17-18).
  • The Passover Lamb (12:5, 7, 13) is a type of Christ and his precious blood (John 1:29; 1 Pet 1:19; 1 Cor 5:7; Rev 5:6). Not one of his bones shall be broken (Exod 12:46; cf. Num 9:12; Ps 34:20; John 19:30).
  • The pillar of cloud and fire (Exod 14:19; cf. 12:21-22) is a type of Christ’s presence with his people (John 14:18; Matt 28:20).
  • The song of Moses (15:1-19) is a type of songs of spiritual victory (Rev 15:3-4).
  • The mixed multitude (12:38) symbolizes the regenerate and unregenerate in the visible church (Matt 13:24-30, 36-43).
  • The waters of Marah and Elim (15:23-27) are a type of bitter-sweet experiences in the Christian life (1 Pet 1:6).
  • The manna  (16:4) is a type of Christ, the bread of life (John 6:31-35).
  • Water from the rock (Exod 17:6) is a type of Christ, who provides living water (1 Cor 10:4; John 4:10; 7:37-39).

Like I said, Crossley’s list is generally helpful.  He confines his typology to items picked up by New Testament authors, and therefore guards his typology from allegory.  Likewise, his reading of Exodus demonstrates what Paul does in 1 Corinthians 10, explaining that “all these things happened to them [ancient Israel] as examples, and they were written for our instruction, on whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Cor 10:11).  Yet, Crossley also demonstrates the weakness of typology, namely questionable connections and the inevitable reading in our own personal views.

I would demur with making the church an antitype of the ‘mixed multitude.’  Why not the multi-colored human race, instead?  Would it not be better to say that the mixed multitude who joined the Israelites in the Exodus typify the nations streaming to Israel (Isaiah 2:2-3) and later Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God who has taken away the sins of the world (John 1:29).  Revelation 7:9-17 unites three Exodus themes: the Victorious Lamb, the mixed multitude, now the heavenly multitude from all nations, and a victory song liken unto Exodus 15.  Surely, this is a better typological reading– at least, I think so.  Plus the fact that Matthew 13 defines the ‘mixed multitude’ as the world, not the church.  All that to say, theological differences do effect our inter-textual reading.  Reading as a Baptist, I find this type-antitype difficult to follow. 

One other item, it is worth considering whether or not the waters of Marah and Elim are types of the Christian life, or something else.  I suppose in one sense they are typological, but perhaps it is better to simply call them analogical, or simply commonplace for all believers during all ages.  You have to wonder if this commonplace experience carries the escalation that is usually present in typological structures found within the Bible.  As it relates to Jesus Christ, the hunger and thirst in the wilderness do correspond to his experience in the desert, and to his followers, ‘elect exiles’ as Peter calls them, but still I pause to consider if this is ‘typology proper’ or just a common experience that all God’s people experience.  Would love to hear your thoughts. 

Overall, Crossley exemplifies an edifying approach to the Old Testament, one that exalts our Savior and sees all things in his light.  May we all, with the Spirit’s help, endeavor to do the same.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

One thought on “Typology in Exodus and in Exegesis

  1. As I looked through the list my first thought was the same as yours—that the mixed-multitude and bittersweet experiences were a stretch. In fact, I don’t think they are significant (in terms of typology). Also, what about the exodus event itself? The points above are all features that pertain to the exodus (or, that are included in the exodus), but of primary significance is the event in Exod 14—the passing through the sea.

    It is interesting to me that the OT only depicts the single, exodus event as typological. The NT, however, expands upon that event and unlocks some of the other typological features that are all part of that event. So, the significance is even greater in light of the work of Christ.

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