The Proof is in the Patterns: How Typology Demonstrates the Trustworthiness of the Bible

empty gray and white concrete spiral stairs

In a few weeks, I will be teaching a class on Scripture at my church, followed by teaching Systematic Theology at Indianapolis Theological Seminary. In preparation for those classes, I have begun thinking through many of the facets related to the doctrine of Scripture, especially as it pertains to Scripture’s trustworthiness.

For those who question Scripture and its veracity, they often make claims regarding errors in the manuscripts, discrepancies in the text, or immoral teachings in the Law or Paul. Each of these must be and can be answered by a careful reading of the text. But one aspect of Scripture that has repeatedly born witness to its reliability, unity, and even its divine authorship is typology—namely, the way that types and shadows, patterns and persons (in their public actions and offices) are repeated and fulfilled throughout the Bible.

Most recently, I encountered this in the book of 1–2 Kings, where Solomon is presented as a new Joshua. Previously, I had seen Solomon as a new Adam, but in reading again from Peter Leithart’s commentary on 1 and 2 Kings, I found his observations compelling, in that the author of 1–2 Kings presents Solomon as a new Joshua. Here’s what Leithart observes from 1 Kings 2,

David’s charge to Solomon is one of several key farewell speeches in Scripture (e.g., John 13-17), but the closest analogy is Moses’s speeches to Joshua, Moses encouraged Israel, Joshua especially, to be “strong and courageous” as it entered the land (Deut. 31:1-8), and Yahweh repeated this exhortation (Josh. 1:7-8). David says the same to Solomon. Hence: Moses is to Joshua as David is to Solomon. Solomon is a “new Joshua,” who spends the early part of his reign wiping out the “Canaanites” that remain in David’s kingdom, bringing rest” to the land, and building a sanctuary for Yahweh, recapitulating the sequence of events in Joshua (which climax in Josh. 18:1). Because building the temple completes the conquest, replacing the Canaanite shrines with the house of Yahweh, that project in particular demands a Joshua-like strength, and determination. (p. 36)

So, if Leithart is correct, we should see Solomon as a better David, just as Joshua was a better Moses. Indeed, Joshua fulfilled what Moses began (leading Israel into the Promised Land), and so too Solomon fulfilled what David longed to begin (the building of God’s house). Similarly, 1 Kings 4 shows in Solomon other Joshua-type attributes.

As noted above, 1 Kgs. 2 begins with a Solomon-Joshua typology. David urges Solomon to be “strong and courageous” and to follow the law of Moses (2:2-3), just as Moses urged Joshua to be strong and courageous in the invasion of Canaan (Deut. 31:6-7, 23; Josh. 1:6). As Joshua’s spies stayed with the prostitute Rahab, so Solomon passes judgment in the case of the two prostitutes. Joshua led Israel in the conquest of Jericho and Ai, while Solomon rules the kings west of the Euphrates River (1 Kgs. 4:21). Solomon divides the land into administrative districts (4:7-19), as Joshua earlier divided the land into tribal areas (Josh. 13-21). The Gentile Gibeonites tricked Joshua into forming an alliance with them (Josh. 9), and Hiram of Tyre, a Gentile ruler, forms an alliance with Solomon (1 Kgs. 5). Between these two events, Israel never cuts covenant with Gentiles. Solomon tells Hiram the land is at “rest” (5:4), a condition that Joshua achieved by defeating Canaanites in the north and south (Josh. 11:23). At the climax of his conquests, Joshua set up the tabernacle at Shiloh (18:1), and the high point of Solomon’s reign comes with the building of the temple (1 Kgs. 6-7). (48)

While some may find a few of these connections spurious, the sum is greater than any one of their parts. Solomon is clearly bringing into fruition events that harken back to Joshua, and from the looks of it, the author of 1–2 Kings is presenting Solomon by means of Joshua’s attributes and actions. (And yes, I presuppose that the author of 1 Kings expects his audience to recall the great feats of Joshua, such that they could make some of these connections).

In addition to these observations, there is something else important in this Joshua-Solomon typology, something that further unites the canon of Scripture. In Solomon, we find the “Son of David” who sits on his father’s throne. In fact, 1 Kings 1–2 is all about how Solomon came to sit on David’s throne. And if this is the main point of 1 and 2 Kings, how Solomon will reign and bring peace and rest to God’s people, there is not only a backwards-look to Joshua, there is also a forward-look to another Joshua, namely Jesus Christ, who is the true Son of David, who will forever sit on David’s throne.

While I will save my textual reflections on how 1 Kings 1–2 connect to Psalm 110 for another blogpost, it does seem that the Joshua-Solomon typology mirrors the two big movements of that messianic psalm. First, Psalm 110 describes the son of David, who is the Lord of David, sitting on the throne (v. 1). Second, Psalm 110, in priestly garb, describes the victory that this king will have over the nations (vv. 4–7). While the mention of Melchizedek in Psalm 110 likely recalls the warfare of Abraham in Genesis 14, it also reflects the enthronement of Solomon and his judgment on God’s enemies in 1 Kings 2—both of which match the role that Joshua had in Israel as he took Moses’s mantle of leadership and drove out the Canaanites.

Similarly, Jesus Christ, who is a greater Joshua and the true Son of David, has sat down at the right hand of God. Accordingly, he too is clearing the land (i.e., his cosmos) of enemies and preparing a place for his people to inhabit the new creation. As to the former, the enemies of God are dying every day and receiving the judgment they deserve. And even though it appears on earth that the enemies of God are winning, Jesus continues to clothe his people with salvation and to prepare them for the day of his glorious appearance. Not one of his people will be lost, and not one of his enemies will escape.

All told, Jesus’s fulfillment of Psalm 110 is prefigured by the actions of Solomon in 1 Kings, which is prefigured by the work of Joshua, which is also prefigured by the actions of Abraham in Genesis 14, which was promised, by the way, in Genesis 3:15.

Do you see how deep this rabbit hole goes?

The entire Bible hangs together, not only by a common set of doctrines (God, sin, salvation, etc.), it also hangs together by a series of patterns, biblical types, that find their ultimate telos in Christ. In 1 Kings 2 and 4, we encounter the way that the Spirit inspired the author of this book to paint Solomon’s portrait with colors lifted from the life and labor of Joshua. Such exquisite detail gives us confidence in the Word of God and helps us follow the storyline that leads to Jesus. In this way, we find another evidence of Scripture’s unity, trustworthiness, and truth.

Truly, such details are not biblical window dressing. They are important aspects of understanding the nature and content of the Bible. To that end, let us continue to read Scripture with an eye to its biblical patterns. And let those patterns lead us to the One who laid those patterns down in redemptive history. Because, after all, seeing the patterns gives proof to the author and artist of the biblical text.

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

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7 thoughts on “The Proof is in the Patterns: How Typology Demonstrates the Trustworthiness of the Bible

  1. The ceremonial anointing with oil upon enthronement of the King of Israel is “typological” of the Holy Spirit “anointing” of Jesus by God after His baptism in the River Jordan by John the Baptist.

    Note also that “David” in Hebrew means “beloved”

  2. Joshua and Solomon unmistakably point to Christ (i.e., are types of Christ). The repetition of themes in the lives of OT figures (themselves types of Christ) are a duplication or reverberation of typological intent. If one character in ages past did a fine job of foreshadowing Christ, thus demonstrating the sovereignty of God through history, then more so two or three such characters. Earlier thematic types are prototypes or archetypes. This conveys a prophetic sense of “already, but not yet” as each notable character in Israel’s history seems promising at first, but who’s failure instills further hope for someone better. So, even with the advent of Christ, who is the unfailing antitype, we anticipate an escalation of that which we already enjoy in Him. Consider reading the brief section “The Temple of Blood” in my book (pp. 157ff).

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  4. Thank you, David. I would take another look at the word choice. A “better” Moses or a “better” David makes it sound as though Joshua and Solomon had more goodness than Moses and David. That is not how the Bible presents them. Moses knew God face to face, and David was a man after God’s own heart. The reputation of Joshua and Solomon is not as stellar. But it does make sense that Joshua and Solomon were fulfilling something that Moses and David were not able to do, and that was greater than what Moses and David had done in a sense. By standing on the shoulders of the giants of the faith, they made the giants’ immediate vision become a reality, the vision for how heaven’s will could be provisionally carried out on earth until the Messiah would come and be the greatest fulfillment.

    Also, being familiar with the “already and not yet” of the Kingdom, I see an “already and yet” that speaks of the two comings of Christ. He has already come (the first time), and is still yet to come (the second time). Where many Jews miss it today, is that they think that all the unfulfilled Messianic prophecies prove that Jesus is not the Messiah. All they are really proving is that Jesus did not fulfill all prophecy at his first coming. Christians and most Jews are alike in waiting for the Messiah to come and do all that the Scriptures say he will when he finally comes; the difference is that Christians believe the Messiah we are waiting for is the same Jesus who has already come once. Hence, “already, and yet”: already come and yet to come. (Compare Hosea 6:3 with James 5:7-8. I think Hosea prophesied the two comings or two appearings.)

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