Types of the Exodus
The Bible furnishes abundant evidence of the legitimacy of types as a source of meaning in the scriptures (e.g. Rom 5:14, Heb 8:5 and Gal 4:22-31). The basic idea of a type is “likeness” where a historical event serves as a prototype, picture, and exemplar of some more significant future event. A type previews an antitype that is to follow, and the type is always inferior in some respect to the antitype.
The Exodus furnishes numerous types that are instructive to believers. It is clearly parallel to the Christian experience of coming out of the slavery of sin into the freedom of the sons of God. Likewise, the wandering in the wilderness corresponds to the Christian struggle against sin in the wilderness of the present world before we enter into the Promised Land of heaven. Crossing the Jordan has long been held to be typical of the death we must experience before we enter the land of rest.
Hebrews draws a striking type from Israel’s experience at Mt. Horeb and the giving of the Law. The Hebrew writer shows that like Israel had a national experience at the giving of the Law, so also God’s people will have a collective experience at the giving of God’s eternal law at Mt. Zion (Heb 12:22). Like Israel had a temporary and partial giving of the Law when they came out of Egypt that was in place for the fifty days before they came to Sinai, even so Christiantiy has the temporary law of Christ that will be reiterated in its eternal fullness at the general assembly of God’s creatures on the new earth (Heb 12:23-26, Rev 5:11-13). At that assembly, God will give the eternal law that will govern all men everywhere and will never change, just like the Law at Sinai never changed (Dt 4:2).
The wilderness showed Israel her utter dependance upon God for her very existence. God provided the necessities of food, water, clothing, and security in a howling widerness (Dt 32:10) where none of these would have otherwise existed. Likewise, the Christian is utterly dependant upon God for these necessities in a world that is generally hostile to Christianity.
The aspect of the Exodus where only 2 out of 603,550 men that left Egypt entered the Promised Land used to discourage me. I figured if Israel in the wilderness was a type of my journey toward heaven, then I had very little chance indeed of making it there. Then I learned that the antitype is always superior to the type, and therefore I should expect more to make it to heaven than made it to the Promised Land. Another factor that mitigates against the discouragement of so few entering the Promised Land is the fact that in the type of Joshua and Caleb they were saved by their works. We are saved by grace. So you can see how few would be saved by works, but God’s grace saves many more. Even faithful Moses was found wanting when his works were examined.
Another interesting type is found in the fact that it was the children that entered into God’s rest. Jesus said, “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 18:3). The little children of Israel (those less than 20 years of age–Num 14:29-31) were the ones that were successful in entering in and it was these little children that were the ones that were faithful after they got there (Josh 24:31).
There are more types that can be drawn from the Exodus (e.g. the tabernacle), but these serve as an interesting sample of God using living exemplars and actual history to paint a picture of things that are yet to be. Truly, God’s wisdom is of surpassing greatness.