Jesus’ Early Life, Moses, Israel

Another chunk from some work on my New Israel book…


Jesus embodies the man Israel as well as Israel the people in a number of ways relevant to the New Israel concept. This is exemplified in the narratives of his early life. First, he is taken into Egypt as an infant until the death of Herod the king, who sought (like Pharaoh) to kill the male Israelite children with potential to deliver Israel from Egyptian captivity. The scripture is curious in its use of a particular passage from the prophet Hosea (as mentioned in the introduction of this book) which refers explicitly to Israel as applying to Jesus:

[Hos 11:1] When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.
[Mat 2:14-15] And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
Often when Christians talk of Jesus fulfilling prophecy, they are very nonspecific about how and why. The reason for this must be that they know there is something special about what he did; they see the silhouette of something, but they don’t know really what it is or how to describe it. Jesus’ fulfillment of various patterns – of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob/Israel, of Moses – these are intrinsically God’s way of communicating Jesus’ role and significance. They hint at other parallels between Jesus and some other figure in biblical history. They lead us naturally to view Jesus in the light of those individuals and the patterns they represent.

So, when the New Testament writer curiously links Jesus to the prophetic statement of Hosea, he is saying that Jesus embodies Israel. He is Israel, in a typological way. However, Jesus’ travel does not well resemble that of Israel. His egress into Egypt is brief and all of this occurs without his direct involvement. Why the statement of fulfillment of Hosea 11:1? Why is Jesus likened to Israel simply because he took a brief trip into Egypt?

I think the answer is more profound than simply a change in geography. Israel’s story as a nation was defined by Egyptian captivity and slavery until after the Exodus. Afterward, it was now defined by God’s direct involvement in their destiny, he empowered them to defeat their enemies, and he pressed them onward to reclaim the inheritance of Abraham.

Likewise, Peter writes:

[1Pe 2:9] 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

This is another direct reference to Mosaic writings:

[Exo 19:5-6] 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”

The period following Jesus’ passion is a Mosaic or Apostolic period, when the new nation – New Israel – is led out of captivity into a greater inheritance. As Moses explained Israel’s role and destiny to them as well as establishing laws and procedures for the life of the nation, the Apostles laid the foundations of a new nation that would be patterned after their predecessor, natural Israel.

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