This is a chapter from my book, “New Israel” (link in the header of this site). Here, I lay down a flurry of patterns that were laid in the earliest texts of the Bible that should affect how we view Israel & the Church across history.
From the mouths of Christianity’s opponents, Jesus’ passion and resurrection set in motion a cascade of events that would “turn the world upside down.” Had someone told a Roman official of the day that a single Jew’s death would, 300 years later, completely upend the religious life of the empire and create the most prominent religious institution in the world, certainly laughter would have been an appropriate response. In Adam, man was to walk before God and converse with him. Adam and Eve fractured that relationship and it sustained a death in the flood, but it was renewed in Abram’s departure from Ur of the Chaldees after the flood and the scattering at Babel. It died again in Israel’s idolatry, and the remnant of Israel was called out of Babylon after the scattering of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel and endured a second Egyptian captivity after Nehemiah. This “it” is a covenant relationship with God based in a promise and was reborn in Christ as a New Israel. It did indeed turn the world upside down.
In explaining the importance of Adam, the flood, etc. to the Christian context, every aspect and detail of the stories and characters in relation to Christ’s words and deeds is significant. Each of the “first versions” of the patterns in this section – Adam, Cain & Abel, Abram vs. Abraham, Esau & Jacob, Israel, and Moses – is meant to highlight an aspect that Christ redeems, renews, or sets in place for the purposes of his Church. Natural Israel had been cut to a stump, and Jesus was sent to raise it back up again. All Israel had left were the promises of Abraham and the words of the prophets. Therefore, the Church becoming “New Israel” follows naturally in the text – it is a second attempt at fulfilling the promises made to Israel. Jesus spoke countless parables whose punchline was essentially the following:
[Mat 21:43] 43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits.
In this section we will explore the various examples of “the elder serving the younger,” or a first version (or firstborn) which fails or does not fulfill its promise, which causes a second version to fulfill the responsibility given to the first. God spend hundreds of years drilling this concept into the psyche of natural Israel and into their core literature. The foundation from which Christ was operating was laid long before his arrival, even though his passion and resurrection was and is the central event of human history.
In every era, there is a dispensation given by God to a nation or collection of tribes who is called to be “God’s imagers” on earth[i]. They are charged with teaching and showing outwardly the light that God has placed within them to the other nations, which are ruled by other “gods.” This concept is called “The Divine Council,” and is relevant to every era discussed in this work, since this organizational concept mirrors that of natural Israel and New Israel. A brief exposition of that concept will be helpful to frame the various eras, since even Israel’s history has patterns prefigured in what occurred prior to Israel: the period before the flood.
The Divine Council
We must think about the statements made of Adam, Abraham, and Israel before we get to the endpoint of modern Christianity. Israel believed itself to be the reclamation of the scattering that occurred after the corruption of the earth by the “sons of God” in Genesis 6. Christians have often skipped over this event and focused nearly entirely on Adam & Eve. This requires a little deprogramming of convenient, commonly held theology by the introduction of a concept that connects and undergirds the reason God sets aside a people for himself – the Divine Council.
Psalm 82 is very troublesome to interpret without this concept. A full exposition of that chapter is warranted:
[Psa 82:1] 1 A Psalm of Asaph. God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
This Psalm describes a meeting of God and other “Elohim” (this word is typically used of God but can also be used of “gods” in the polytheistic sense) where he renders judgment. Academics sometimes argue that the Hebrew religion was polytheistic until it evolved into monotheism, but I opt against it because there is a consistent and categoric difference between “The LORD God,” or “Yahweh God” as opposed to other Elohim. Likewise, there is a categoric difference between Yahweh and the “Sons of God” throughout the scriptures, which is distinct from other regional mythologies.
If we are sticking to the scriptures and available texts, Yahweh takes a central, primary, unique role in his divine council, even though the other beings present are also “divine.” They are not beings of flesh and blood and are greater than men in strength or intelligence, but less so than God himself and are created beings, whereas God is not. Hebrews states that for a time Jesus was a “little lower than the angels.”
[Psa 82:2–4] 2 “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah 3 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. 4 Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
This verse, as will become evident from the rest of the biblical passage, is God commanding the “gods” on how they should render judgment and how they should administer their rule. David’s conquest of the nations of Philistia, Moab, Ammon, Edom, and diplomacy with the surrounding nations was not only a natural military campaign, but the subjugation of these gods who had fallen in their purpose and convinced the people to whom they were assigned to worship gods other than Yahweh. This is where Solomon committed critical errors, allowing Edom and Damascus to rise as enemies and worshiping other gods. Solomon’s fall echoes that of the divine beings that fell in Genesis 6 – being enamored with the daughters of men and allowing them to lead him astray.
[Psa 82:5–7] 5 They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. 6 I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; 7 nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.”
This third portion of the chapter details how those “gods” failed in their mission and were therefore subject to judgment from God. The parallel to Israel failing in its calling is obvious.
[Psa 82:8] 8 Arise, O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations!
If God judges the “gods”, who is left to administer rule where they once were? God is saying he will arise and show that he is the only God, all belongs to him, and he will give that inheritance to others. God did this to the divine beings that fell in Genesis 6, he did it to Solomon, and the Church was called to not repeat the same mistakes; but alas, it did.
The sons of God were a part of or the entire “Elohim” of the divine council. A difficult and textually disputed passage gives an interesting place to root the inheritance concept:
[Deu 32:8] 8 When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God.
The translation of “Sons of God” here is correct, but this is an extremely loaded passage which isn’t often mentioned in the Sunday schools of Evangelical churches or homilies at your local Catholic parish. First, there are translation issues based on textual variants – that is, the sources from which the biblical text is derived differ slightly for this verse. In translations such as the KJV or NIV you will see the translators favor the Masoretic text in this instance, which gives “Sons of Israel.” However, the Septuagint has “Angels of God” and a Qumran fragment (from the discoveries of old scrolls near the Dead Sea in the 1940s and 1950s which date back to around the time of Christ) has “sons of God.” For the purposes of this writing, suffice it to say that I agree that the original reading was most likely “sons of God.”
Deuteronomy 32:8 seems to refer to the events that occurred immediately after the flood and before Abraham’s call. It begins with “when he gave the nations their inheritance [and] divided mankind…” meaning at the Tower of Babel, he “fixed the borders of the peoples,” meaning the nations of the earth, according to the number of the “sons of God.” So, God gave the various nations their own land and inheritances according to the “sons of God.” While the nations were ruled by the “sons of God”, Israel was specifically Yahweh’s portion. He ruled them directly and wanted them to rule the rest of the earth through him. Abraham’s call is intensely significant with this context in mind. Abraham was called by God to walk with him and be perfect, and to do this he had to leave the land of the gods of his fathers to seek an inheritance. The concept of the inheritance is carried forward with New Israel, the Church, in countless verses including the early portion of Galatians.
Deuteronomy 32:8 describes things that happened at Babel – the nations were divided and “sons of God” were appointed over them. What occurred immediately after Babel was Abraham’s calling, and the promises on which Israel is based came through Abraham. In the very next verse, God places a difference between Israel and the rest of the nations:
[Deu 32:9] 9 But the LORD’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage.
The promise given to Abraham was “through you, all nations of the world shall be blessed.” The book of Isaiah records what Israel was supposed to be:
[Isa 42:6–7] 6 “I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, 7 a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.
[Isa 49:6] 6 he says: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
[Isa 60:3] 3 And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.
“I will make you as a light for the nations” and “Nations shall come to your light” should turn the memory of any Christian to remember the famous statement of Jesus: “You are the light of the world.” Jesus brought a new dispensation; that is, a further unveiling of accepted truths and a new form of relationship to God, and therefore he worked almost exclusively with conceptual material already present in Israel’s history. Isaiah 42:7 above echoes the Isaiah 61 passage Jesus read at a synagogue (Luke 4:16–21). Isaiah 61 is a passage rich with imagery that reflects the calling of the nation of Israel and eventually the Church as a light to the nations, but a notable section of the chapter reads:
[Isa 61:11] 11 For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations.
The role of Israel is described in the prophets in terms of the “sons of God.” God’s promise in John 1 and in Galatians is to become heirs – sons of God – and therefore rule over and be a light to the nations. But what about the angelic “sons of God” that originally held that position? The phrase “sons of God” appears notably in the below passages:
[Job 1:6] 6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them.
[Job 2:1] 1 Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD.
[Job 38:4–7] 4 Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. 5 Who determined its measurements––surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? 6 On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, 7 when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
[Gen 6:1–4] 1 When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. 3 Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” 4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.
[Deu 32:8–9] 8 When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God. 9 But the LORD’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage.
There are a few important things we can theorize about the original sons of God based on the verses above and the Old Testament context:
- They are not human beings. This is evidenced by their presence with Satan in Job and the fact that they are mentioned as having “shouted for joy” when God laid the foundation of the earth, which presumably occurred before the creation of humankind. However, they apparently can procreate with human women.
- The interaction of the sons of God with humankind influenced biblical history and is necessary study material. In Genesis 6, the offspring of the sons of God produced powerful humans and it is theorized that the “giants” such as Goliath of Gath came from these types of unions.
- While Israel was the “Lord’s portion” per Deuteronomy 32:8–9, the borders of the other nations were by the “sons of God” that corresponded to them. Some apocryphal texts present a narrative of the angels of God being given the charge of teaching and instructing those over whom they had dominion, and for whom they were a form of priesthood. Paul references a sort of hierarchy of angels and writes that “our battle is not with flesh and blood, but with rulers, principalities and powers of this world”, meaning that behind various nations are specific beings that influence the governmental affairs of these nations in some way. Those beings ruling those nations are apparently the ones Israel was supposed to replace, had it achieved its destiny.
- Jude (and Peter) indicate that “those angels who did not stay within their position of authority” are “kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day.” Not all the original sons of God fell due to disobedience and alliance with the divine rebel, and those who did not fall into sin serve those called “heirs of salvation” according to the first chapter of Hebrews. The ones who did fall are those that are bound in the earth, waiting their punishment. Those in the earth are to be replaced by whoever are God’s chosen human “imagers” – natural Israel, initially – and those former sons of God resist Christ through their positions as “principalities, powers, and rulers” as well as through direct spiritual oppression and possession as described in the gospels.
- These “sons of God” ruled in the earth prior to the flood and prefigured Israel.
Israel was meant to be the beginning and the firstborn of his human imagers, and the nations of the earth were intended to be won over by the light that was placed first in Abraham and carried forward in Israel. Israel would be God’s “firstborn son” (as God describes Israel in Exodus) among the nations of the world that would culminate in God’s rulership of the entire world. This is another pattern which Jesus would renew – and fulfill through his own acts and through his church.
The failures of the dispensation of time from Adam through Israel contrasts with the success of Christ and the eventual (albeit tumultuous and through great suffering) success of the “Israel of God.” Paul mentions the term “Israel of God” in the latter portions of Galatians after he lays down an argument about the ways that Israel fell and became a type of Hagar rather than Sarah – a son of bondage, not a son of a miraculous promise.
The importance of mediating angels is pervasive in other biblical writings:
[Gal 3:19] 19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary.
[Act 7:52–53] 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”
[Heb 2:1–2] 1 Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. 2 For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution…
[2Pe 2:4] 4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment…
[Jde 1:6–7] 6 And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day–– 7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.
[1Co 6:3] 3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!
With a new understanding of what it means to become a “son of God,” the concept of Israel as God’s son and the destiny of disciples of Jesus as the new “tribes of Israel” is clearer:
[Exo 4:22] 22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, Israel is my firstborn son…
[Jhn 1:12] 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…
The devil was originally the most beautiful and wise divine being who corrupted himself in his beauty and led astray many other angels in rebellion. It is believed that this divine rebel said that he would not serve the “heirs of salvation” as was his role, and instead desired to do what are described in the five “I will” statements in Ezekiel. Jeremiah said of Israel, echoing that of the original rebellion:
[Jer 2:20] 20 “For long ago I broke your yoke and burst your bonds; but you said, ‘I will not serve.’ Yes, on every high hill and under every green tree you bowed down like a whore.
For every act of heaven, including the rebellion, there are usually corresponding acts by Israel, and for every act by Israel, there are usually corresponding acts of the Church. Each era is an evolution of the same pattern. The devil, enamored by his own beauty, refused to lower himself to serve the fleshly beings made of both dust and spirit, and exalted himself in rebellion. In Jude’s terms, he and those who joined him did not stay within their function and therefore are chained and reserved until judgment. Many exorcists who have written in the public sphere about their experiences such as Gabriele Amorth and Malachi Martin have emphasized that there is a geographic significance to demonic activity, implying that their “chains” are indicative in some sense to the regions which they are given to work their influence – a corrupted remnant of the authority they were once given which was intended for use toward service to the eventual inheritors.
Israel was called to replace the divine rebels on earth as God’s chosen imagers and God’s own portion, and as a “stiff–necked people” fell into similar sin as the original sons of God. That statement alone is a summary of the Old Testament, into which more detail we will go in the following chapters. The fact that Israel was meant to replace some of the angels and the Church is joined into that mission (and supersedes it) is highly significant to the New Israel theory.
The most important story in the Bible regarding a Christian’s view of the world is the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Jesus’ ministry, life, death, and resurrection are interwoven into the Old Testament, so much so that on the Road to Emmaus, the two disciples said, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” In retrospect, it seemed so simple to the disciples.
The earliest story it draws from and illuminates is that of Adam and Eve. Every human being who hits the age of about four begins to ask some important questions about life: where did I come from? Why are things the way they are? What is death and why have people always died?
The story provided in the scriptures indicates that God originally made a very comfortable, desirable place to live where dominion was easy to maintain, and work was not difficult or harsh. This relative utopia came with a caveat – there was one tree whose fruit was off–limits to the new race of sentient beings. Adam was first given a mission: naming the animals, maintaining the garden, and walking with God in the cool of the day. He was then given another person, a different kind of person, to join him in that mission. So far, so good.
However, a third being is somehow present in this environment which creates problems. The serpent, described as the “craftiest” beast that God had made, asks a simple question: “did God really say that?” He follows this question with a denial of the consequence God promised: “you will not surely die.” The serpent targets the woman with a calculated deception.
But it is remarkable that God did not confront the woman and the serpent with immediate consequences for this series of events – he allows Adam to confront the situation instead and make a choice. Here is where Jesus made the opposite choice. Adam had the power to stop the bleeding immediately, but he chose overt sin. The woman committed a sin of ignorance, while Adam’s sin was with firsthand knowledge of the consequences. Mosaic Law, in some situations, prescribed sacrifices of male or female animals depending on the type of sin; that is, whether it was a sin of commission – done on purpose – or omission.
The Law also provided for vows made by women to be nullified by a male guardian. Vows by men had no recourse and they dealt with the full weight of their words. These laws were not made without reason; they were derived from principles affirmed at the very beginning. The responsibility for sin and death that trails humanity is partly upon Adam for his unwillingness to impose hierarchy on the situation and therefore to take up responsibility for reality. Blaming the woman alone for the expulsion from the garden is not appropriate. The bottom line is to recognize that the character of original sin for male and female are different.
[1Ti 2:14] 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.
[Hos 6:7] 7 But like Adam they transgressed the covenant; there they dealt faithlessly with me.
[Rom 5:12] 12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…
[1Co 15:21–22] 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
Jesus: The Last Adam
[1Co 15:45] 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life–giving spirit.
Jesus was clear from the beginning in Luke 4:16–21 (a verse analyzed in the introduction to this book) that his mission was to restore the promises once given to Israel. But the vision of Isaiah 61 – the chapter in which Jesus stopped a synagogue reading mid–verse and proclaimed as fulfilled in the hearing of those present – reaches much farther back in human history than merely Israel or even Abraham:
[Isa 61:11] 11 For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations.
Adam’s failure to choose correctly occurred in a garden, but Jesus had a famous and crucial experience in another garden: The Garden of Gethsemane.
[Luk 22:41–44] 41 And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
Jesus knew what the culmination of his mission had to be: the violent inversion of Adam’s sin and everything that followed, with the full consequences poured out on him. Adam attempted to save his own skin by pointing out that it was the woman who gave him the fruit and God who gave him the woman, and this choice was the first step of a cascade of degeneration that would fall upon the earth and its inhabitants. Adam’s sin, once you roll up all the theological concepts and get down to brass tacks was to blame God instead of repent.
Jesus did not blame Israel and mankind in general for having fallen into their current state, although their own culpability was plain. A fully mature Adam could have stood in front of the woman and said, “God, my life for hers,” knowing that God could remake him, as he was but dust anyway. Jesus confronted the fullness of his own humanity and resolved that it behooved him to suffer to begin the restoration of all things in starting by correcting the errors of Adam.
Cain & Abel
A deposit of Adam’s sin would exist in all men who would come afterward. A short time after the expulsion from the garden, Eve conceives and gives birth to Cain and Abel. Cain kills Abel in the world’s very first act of fratricide. Cain is marked and cursed for this sin, but a pattern was established which was mirrored in Ishmael and Isaac, Jacob and Esau, and even Jesus and the Jewish authorities of his day – that of a failed or corrupted firstborn that persecutes the second.
As Cain was born before Abel, Ishmael and Esau were born before their counterparts but bore a burden related to being “children of the flesh” – the firstborn was of the earth, the second was righteous and heavenly. But among Jewish leadership of Jesus’ day, the prize of being in a blood lineage of the “correct” son became more intrinsically valued than their relationship with God, and had become their sole source of pride given their low political status in the world:
[Jhn 8:39–40] 39 They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, 40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did.
Christians consistently made the argument that one’s “sonship” was not only a matter of natural verification or genetics in the modern understanding:
[1Jo 3:10–12] 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. 11 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12 We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.
The reference here to “Children of God” vs “Children of the Devil” should not be missed.
[Jhn 8:42–44] 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
“Murderer from the beginning” is a reference to Satan but also to Cain, since the first recorded murder in biblical history was that of Cain. Cain’s service to God was not accorded with due credit in his eyes, so he persecutes the righteous one, as Satan eventually persecuted Israel, then the Church.
Jesus is being theologically deliberate here in calling the Jewish leaders the children of the devil. Jesus was specifically calling them the first iteration of a set of God’s imagers who had now fallen, and the other parables he tells indicates they are being replaced, as the “sons of God” had fallen in Genesis 6 in the Divine Council paradigm had fallen and needed to be replaced. The devil engineered the killing of Jesus because his own works were evil, and Jesus’ were righteous:
[1Jo 3:12] 12 We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.
Abel’s blood is compared to Jesus’ in another place:
[Heb 12:22–24] 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
Jesus was made for a little while lower than the angels, so he could be given dominion over all.
[Heb 2:7–9] 7 You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, 8 putting everything in subjection under his feet.” Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. 9 But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
Note this important description of the relationship between angels and humans and how that connects us to the purpose of the Divine Council:
[Heb 1:13–14] 13 And to which of the angels has he ever said, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”? 14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?
Jesus was like Abel in that he died after offering himself as a pleasing sacrifice by the hands of those who had preceded him (the Jewish leaders). Cain was before Abel, but Abel was righteous. For a little while, Jesus was made to be at the level of men and was killed by the Israel that came before, under the influence of the evil one, but rose from the dead in defiance of the act of Cain.
So not only did Jesus defy the pattern of Adam and redeemed the woman – the church – by his own sacrifice – but he also made right the death of Abel by the same pattern in which he overcame a death he voluntarily submitted to at the hands of the “children of Cain.” Angels were made ministering spirits, and Satan and those fallen angels refused to serve humans who were made lower than they were at the pleasure of God. Likewise, the Jewish leaders refused to recognize Jesus and instead had a hand in his death, worried that the substance of Jesus’ teaching and the power of his movement would cause them to lose their worldly authority that was reinforced by the Romans.
It was an accurate assessment that if Jesus truly was the Messiah, they would have to give up their worldly authority, and many years of persecution awaited the church for believing that there was a king superior to Caesar and that Jesus was the Messiah and king of the universe. Jesus’ sacrifice was that of Abel, while that of the Jewish leaders was of Cain. For that he was killed, and his blood cries to us as Abel’s did.
Jesus’ role as “the last Adam” and he whose blood was better than that of Abel leads to the next major fulfillment and renewal Jesus enacted – that of Abraham’s promise, which then filters down to resurrecting the patterns and promises of subsequent figures such as Isaac, Israel, Judah, and David.
Jesus’ Redemption of Old Testament Patterns through Moses
Jesus’ origins are connected to notable figures in the Old Testament by the New Testament writers:
[Mat 1:1–2] 1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. 2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers…
[Luk 3:23, 38] 23 Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli, … 38 the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.
The Book of Matthew connects Jesus to David and Abraham through his adopted heritage through Joseph, while the Book of Luke connects Jesus to Adam through Mary. Jesus would redeem the heritage of Adam by sacrificing himself for what would be his Eve. However, he would also redeem the first patterns of Abraham, Isaac, David, and Judah, and re–lay the foundation for a New Israel in embodying all of those foundational figures and restarting their patterns.
Abraham’s origin is given only light treatment by the biblical text. In brief, following the Tower of Babel event, he was drawn out of “Ur of the Chaldees” (the nation of the city of Babel, and the future location of the Babylonian Empire) and given the promise to be a father of many nations, but would only see the initial stage of that fulfillment in his son Isaac and his grandsons Jacob and Esau. He sojourns for a brief time in Egypt, which is likely where he and Sarai acquired Hagar – the same way Israel brought its own baggage out of Egypt and most of Israel died before entering the promised land to get rid of that baggage.
As Abram, he also repeats the sin of Adam; instead of protecting Sarai by taking God’s words at their direct value since Abram was the one given the promise, he goes along with her notion of how she is to have children – surrogacy, which was a relatively common practice in the ancient world. When God said, “one through your own loins,” didn’t he mean through the wife to whom he was faithful up to that point? When Sarai had justified it by saying “The Lord has prevented me from having children,” shouldn’t Abram have known that to clash with the promise? This was “Did God really say…” from the garden all over again. Abram had to have known. Nevertheless, Abram acquiesced, and a son named Ishmael was born.
After Ishmael’s birth and before Isaac’s birth, God renames Abram and Sarai to Abraham and Sarah. The principle that the sin committed would require a rebirth of identity was laid down symbolically here. Ishmael and Isaac were not merely half–brothers – they were of entirely different stock. To quote Paul’s letter to the Galatians, “one by a slave woman and one by a free woman.” Also, God makes his promise more explicit this time, that Sarah and not a bondwoman would have a son:
[Gen 17:16] 16 I will bless [Sarah], and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.”
God also makes it clear that although Ishmael would be a great nation, God’s covenant would go with Isaac. Paul’s writings explain at length that Hagar and Sarah represented two covenants, and natural Israel that rejected Christ was symbolized in Hagar:
[Gal 4:21–26] 21 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. 23 But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. 24 Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.
Paul’s statement is extraordinarily offensive to Jews and his view of their history is part of the reason Jewish authorities attempted to kill him many times. His argument was that natural Israel was spiritually born of Hagar, and was under slavery, while those who accepted the promises of Christ were spiritually born of promise and were the continuation of Abraham’s legacy – not the Jewish authorities who claimed the authority of Moses. Paul’s claim to continuance of Abraham’s legacy is a statement to Jewish authorities that natural Israel failed and had been cut off. Jesus’ word choice in the Greek of the New Testament marks a difference between “I know you are offspring [sperma] of Abraham,” versus “If you were Abraham’s children [teknon], you would be doing the works Abraham did”:
[Jhn 8:31–44] 31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” 34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. 38 I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.” 39 They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, 40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. 41 You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father––even God.” 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
The timeline of Abraham’s life also correlates to two distinct periods: Abram, and Abraham. Initially Abram attempts to travel to Canaan but settles in Haran until the death of his father. Abram was given Hagar and fathered Ishmael before his name was changed to Abraham, and afterward Isaac was born; again, Paul likens natural Israel who rejects Jesus to Hagar, who was born to Abram, not Abraham.
Esau & Jacob
The patterns of the origin of Israel continue in Esau and Jacob. Again, we see patterns that prefigure and lay foundational concepts that are a part of Christianity’s role as redeemer of Israel’s heritage.
Esau’s choice of women – he had married Hittites – was a source of continual frustration to Isaac and Rebekah. Esau was a paragon of manliness, being as hairy as an ox and probably as physically capable. Esau was a skilled hunter (possibly mentioned by the biblical writer to bring Nimrod to remembrance, who in nonbiblical texts is a rebel against God), but by his actions showed that he despised the lineage and destiny he had been given by his father. He preferred to focus on the here and now – the next hunt, a better bow, a sharper blade, the food in front of him, and alluring foreign women. He is only referred to as “Edom” after a certain point in biblical history; it is fitting that this is the same set of Hebrew letters as for the word “Adam,” since he represents a man who had reverted to a prior state of interaction with God – man before the flood.
Solomon represents an intellectualization of the same qualities of Esau – the focus on the here and now, skill and wisdom over spirituality, pleasure over lineage and responsibility, and of physicality over the eternal. Solomon’s many wives and concubines also tell the tale of a man enamored with humanity, not God. It is surprising that only three of Solomon’s children are named in the Old Testament. With hundreds of wives and concubines, one would expect substantially more – perhaps they are simply not mentioned, but this illustrates pleasure over fruitfulness and possibly some sort of primitive contraceptives used by Solomon or his wives. A contraceptive, scarcity mentality which spurs moderns to keep the standard of living party going comes to the fore in every advanced society. Eventually, some excuse is given as to why procreation or more people is a strange or even bad thing. Given Solomon’s corruption, it is no surprise that Mary’s Davidic lineage goes through Nathan the son of David rather than Solomon the son of David.
Esau’s fault (and Solomon’s) goes much deeper, however, than a mere rejection of the divine. Esau did not care about what would come after him. His birthright – the responsibility to carry the family’s destiny, heritage, and eternal purposes – meant nothing to him. All it took was one bout of hunger and he would sell it for lentil soup. The writer of Hebrews calls him “profane” or “ungodly,” and it is also written, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau I hated.”
Atheism is a belief that has only been in vogue for the past few hundred years, but much of human history is men acting as if there is no single higher being or purpose to which they will be held accountable in time. Even the temptation of the fruit of the garden was the desire to “know good and evil,” on human terms. Solomon desired to know the world as he could perceive it, and thus denied himself no pleasure. What we do every day is what we believe, whether we realize it or not.
Israel is a continuance of the pattern of a failed first version and a subsequent second which replaces it on multiple levels. Cain was born first from Adam and Eve, but murdered Abel – thus Seth was born to carry a godly lineage. Ishmael was born first but was not a product of God’s promise as Isaac was. Esau was born first but was not the one who would carry the birthright and the blessing of Isaac because he despised his birthright. Reuben was born to Jacob through Leah first, but lost his preeminence to Judah because of sin. Joseph was born first to Rachel, and Manasseh born first to Joseph, but Joseph’s son Ephraim carried the birthright.
The pervasiveness of this pattern when applied to historical Israel and Christianity via Israel is quite instructive, as it ties together the words of the New and Old Testaments and creates the continuity out of which the new was born. God called Israel “my firstborn son.” Yet, the promise wasn’t to the firstborn in so much of Israel’s history – it was to one who came later. However, the promise and the birthright were offered to the firstborn son, even if he would reject it. Jesus makes many statements to the effect that he and his disciples’ mission was first to Israel, and even that his twelve apostles would judge the twelve tribes of Israel:
[Mat 10:5–6] 5 These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
[Mat 15:24] 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
[Mat 19:27–28] 27 Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” 28 Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
[Luk 22:28–30] 28 “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, 29 and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, 30 that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
Jesus’ mission was first to Israel, but many times he conveys via parables and even in direct word that those who were invited to the kingdom did not come, so it will be given to others:
[Mat 21:43–45] 43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. 44 And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” 45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them.
It is fascinating that the Epistle to the Corinthians included that they would “judge angels” and Jesus’ own words indicate the Apostles would judge the tribes of Israel, given the argument I have laid out that the Divine Council was a prefiguring of Israel itself. Israel was the vessel through which Abraham’s promise of being a “blessing to all nations” was intended to be fulfilled:
[Deu 26:18–19] 18 And the LORD has declared today that you are a people for his treasured possession, as he has promised you, and that you are to keep all his commandments, 19 and that he will set you in praise and in fame and in honor high above all nations that he has made, and that you shall be a people holy to the LORD your God, as he promised.”
However, Paul explains that Israel failed in the covenant even though the gospel itself had been preached to Abraham prior to the law:
[Gal 3:7–8, 13–14] 7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” … 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us––for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”–– 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
Israel entered a covenant through Moses and did not fulfill its terms. This meant that covenant would be liquidated and replaced by a new covenant which was a better version of the original. Obviously, this was foreseen by God, no less than the fact that he knew Adam would sin, and therefore need to be liquidated by death. The writer of Hebrews makes the point that covenants are effective until death:
[Heb 9:15-16] 15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. 16 For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established.
Frequently in Christian circles, Jesus’ death is seen as a personal propitiation, as a death that was meant for every individual. It is more than that – it takes a central place in human history and formed a new orientation toward God. As with the Exodus, Jesus’ death marked the beginning of an entirely new demarcation of time:
[Exo 12:1-2] 1 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, 2 “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you.
The Exodus changed the calendar. What was now the 1st month was formerly considered the 7th month. The Exodus event split the year in half and created an entirely new orientation to the year. Jesus’ death split history into halves. Everything afterward would be known in relation to that event.
Instead of a Hebrew family losing their firstborn son, the lamb would be slain on their behalf, while those who rejected the mark of protection would see their firstborn son die. Natural Israel itself would cease to wield its religious authority based in the Temple, as Jesus had predicted. The veil of the temple would be torn in two from top to bottom, symbolizing an Exodus from “Sodom and Egypt,” as the Apocalypse refers to Jerusalem.
Israel as an entity in covenant relationship with God needed to be reborn, as Jesus indicated to Nicodemus in his conversation by night. Abraham’s covenant of promise hadn’t been violated as Israel’s had; God only needed to cut Israel’s tree to the portions that went back to Abraham. Abram had been reborn as Abraham, and Jacob had been reborn as Israel. Jesus’ characterization as “the branch” in the gospel narrative is interesting:
[Mat 2:23] 23 And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.
Nazarene is a word play for the word “branch” in Hebrew. Nazareth was a place in Palestine, but NTZR in Hebrew is the word for branch. How interesting that the prophets tied the branch to the Messiah:
[Isa 11:1] 1 There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
Israel – represented primarily by the remnant of the tribe of Judah at the time of Jesus – had been cut to the stump. Jesus was the branch that would shoot forth from the stump of Jesse and bear fruit.
Natural Israel itself would have to be reborn into New Israel through Jesus; a nation with whom God would deal differently than he dealt with other nations on earth. He would have a leading figure in this nation who would be specially consecrated to him to lead his nation. God’s relationship with this man would be unique.
God spoke face to face with Moses and demonstrated to any dissenters in forceful terms that his relationship with Moses was unique (Exo 33:11), as he had met Jacob face to face (Gen 32:30), and as he had considered Abraham “his friend” (James 2:23) and spoke to Moses as he had with Abraham, “mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches.” Jesus spoke plainly to his Apostles and explained the secrets to his preeminent apostles (and to Paul), but only in parables to the masses of people who followed him. His relationship with the Apostles was unique.
Jesus’ Early Life, Moses, Israel
Jesus’ embodiment as the man Israel is central to the New Israel concept. The narratives of his early life provide windows into what he represented. 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 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.”
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 largely defined by Egyptian captivity and slavery until after the Exodus. Afterward, it was defined by God’s direct involvement in their destiny, how he empowered them to defeat their enemies, and how he pressed them onward to reclaim the inheritance of Abraham.
Often when Christians talk of Jesus fulfilling prophecy, they are very nonspecific about how and why and what that means for the future. It is as if they see the silhouette of something they know is familiar, but they only see it “through a glass, darkly.” Jesus’ fulfillment of various patterns – of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob/Israel, of Moses – these are 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. In this case, they are telling us that Jesus is picking up where natural Israel began.
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.
Moses’ name means “drawn out,” or essentially “rescued.” Josephus noted that in Egyptian language two words were apparently combined to form Moses’ name: “…for the Egyptians call water by the name of Mo, and such as are saved out of it, by the name of Uses: so by putting these two words together, they imposed this name upon him.”[ii] Moses’ name is therefore charitably interpreted “saved from the water” in its original context. Moses would be the vessel through which Israel would be saved from the water; they would be saved from the slavery and abyss of domination by the Egyptians.
The Bible indicates that Moses was aware of his heritage to some degree, and he initially attempts to deliver his people by force, which they reject; he murders an Egyptian because he saw him beating a Hebrew, which creates a 40–year detour in Moses’ life.
Moses flees to avoid the penalty of his crime and lives in the wilderness of Midian, where he is given a visitation by God and told to take Israel and leave Egypt for another land. Like Abraham whose circumstances moved him from Ur of the Chaldees to Haran until the death of Terah his father, Moses’ circumstances drove him to be in Midian.
Jesus resembles and transcends the likeness of Moses in many ways.
- Most know that Israel was in Egypt for hundreds of years until the Exodus, but it is just as interesting to note that a period of roughly 430 years passes after Nehemiah’s era of reconstruction to the coming of Jesus. This is likely a contributing factor to John’s description of Jerusalem of his time as “Sodom and Egypt.” The writer of the book of Revelation, if not the other Apostles, likely recognized the parallelisms of the original Exodus and the new Exodus out of Jewry when systematic persecution came upon the Christian community at Jerusalem and the Temple was eventually destroyed. Paul recognized in his letter to the Galatians that many of Israel had chosen bondage to the Law and rejected Christ, going so far as to associate Hagar with natural Jewry.
- Moses barely escapes the decree by Pharaoh to kill all the male Hebrew infants, as Jesus barely escaped Herod’s decree:
[Mat 2:13–15] 13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 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.”
- Jesus came with signs and miracles, as Moses did. God gave Moses three specific signs to perform as a sign for Israel to believe:
- The conversion of the staff to a serpent and back again. Jesus demonstrates total authority over demonic forces, which the serpent represents. Jesus also becomes “the serpent that was lifted up,” echoing Moses’ raising of the serpent on the pole which saved Israel from the serpent’s bite.
- The hand becoming leprous and healthy again. Much of Jesus’ recorded ministry involves lepers. Moses was given many legal commands regarding leprosy, which Jesus himself urged healed lepers to keep.
- Pouring the water from the Nile onto the ground, and it becomes blood. Jesus converted water into wine at the marriage of Cana. He said of the wine at the Passover Dinner, “This is my blood.”
- It was to Pharaoh by Moses that Israel is, for the first time in the scriptures, called “the firstborn son.” Jesus calls for a new people who will be empowered to become the sons of God by adoption, while he was the firstborn son by nature. Israel was called to be that firstborn son but failed to preserve its birthright. Jesus is presented to the world as “the firstborn son.”
- Moses was rejected by a large portion of Israel before the last plague because he made the status quo arrangement with Egypt impossible. To guarantee the Exodus, God made it impossible for Israel to remain in Egypt even if they wanted to stay:
[Exo 6:1] 1 But the LORD said to Moses, “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for with a strong hand he will send them out, and with a strong hand he will drive them out of his land.”
Causing Israel to pack up and leave is different than being driven out by Pharaoh and the Egyptians. Similarly, Jesus would have (and did, for early Christians) made the status quo arrangement with the Jewish authorities and their Roman backers impossible. Therefore, the Jewish authorities were insistent that Jesus be crucified. Jesus would have undermined the seat of authority possessed at the pleasure of the Romans, had they accepted Jesus at face value. Eventually, the Christian churches would need to leave Jerusalem given Jesus’ prediction that it would be destroyed.
- Moses’ word to the people was that God would bring them into the land promised to the fathers: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob:
[Exo 6:8–9] 8 I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the LORD.'” 9 Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery.
Jesus’ promise was greater and was truly global in nature. Instead of merely entering the land of the fathers, the promise was membership into an eternal and enduring Kingdom that would one day bow to Jesus himself. However, one notes that Christianity truly did rule in Europe in the same way Israel ruled in the land of Abraham. Land was given to them in the same way.
For Jesus’ promise to happen, the current authority that the Jewish authorities wielded – and Jesus himself recognized legitimately as the “seat of Moses” – would be taken from them and given to a people who would use it properly.
- Moses’ relationship with God was unique. He was not merely a prophet. Jesus was not merely a prophet, either, and rebuffed attempts to cap his identity at prophet.
[Num 12:6–8] 6 And he said, “Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the LORD make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream. 7 Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. 8 With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?
- Moses was given the pattern of the Tabernacle. Because of Moses’ circumstances, Israel was constantly on the move, and so the dwelling place of God was also on the move. This contrasts with the Tabernacle of David, when David placed the Ark on Zion, and in contrast to the Temple Solomon constructed, which was where the presence of God was finally enshrined in “the place the Lord shall choose”:
[Deu 12:5–6] 5 But you shall seek the place that the LORD your God will choose out of all your tribes to put his name and make his habitation there. There you shall go, 6 and there you shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, your vow offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock.
Jesus begins this same “period of Moses” where he indicates he is present “wherever two or three are gathered in my name.” No preeminent devotional location was established for some time, although the groundwork for it was laid far in advance. The church was largely an underground movement until 312, although the additional significance of the Bishop of Rome has roots long before that, no less than Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac occurred on Mount Moriah, the place Solomon would later install the Temple, and Israel the man had prophesied of the ruling authority of the tribe of Judah.
- Interestingly, Paul went to Arabia after his encounter with Jesus, and he uses this to buttress his apostolic credentials. He claims to have received his revelation directly from Christ, and only after around three years in Arabia and Damascus did he then go up to Jerusalem to verify it with the other Apostles. Much of Moses’ revelation came from two separate 40 day/night periods on Sinai, and Paul’s own parallels to Moses are highly significant as well.
- Finally, Jesus described himself as the one Moses predicted would come. Jesus honored and respected Moses’ authority in his teaching and his parables:
[Mat 23:2–3] 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, 3 so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice.
[Luk 16:31] 31 [Abraham] said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.'”
[Luk 24:27] 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
[Jhn 5:46] 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.
This was also used by the Apostles as an argument for Jesus:
[Deu 18:15] 15 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers––it is to him you shall listen––
[Act 3:22] 22 Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you.
[Act 7:37] 37 This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers.’
Moses’ role was to lead Israel out of Egypt and help them survive the first 40 years after having been extricated from the culture into which they had lived for hundreds of years. This came through the death of the firstborn of the Egyptians and the protection from death conferred by the Passover Lamb. He was to lead them to the very entrance of the promised land. Moses was given the privilege to see the land from Mount Nebo before his death and to bless Israel one last time. Moses’ blessings upon the various tribes were intimate and specific. He calls out tribes by name and tells them of the good that awaits them in the land.
Likewise, Jesus abides with the disciples for around 40 days after his death and resurrection and ascends from the Mount of Olives. He freed them from the ~430 years after the Nehemiah era and Jewish culture that had now become co–opted by the modern equivalent of Babylon, the Roman empire. During that time, he appears to many different people including the eleven apostles and Mary Magdalene. His words are intimate, and he deals with specific disciples, including Thomas’ doubt, Peter’s three denials during his passion, and Peter’s manner of death. He gives them what is now known as the Great Commission and ascends into heaven. Recall that the event of the Exodus was marked by God such that he split the calendar in half and created a new “head of months” or “beginning of months” in Exodus 12:2. Jesus’ act segments history and declares a point at which the covenant began, as Moses’ leadership and the Passover events had marked the true beginning of the journey of the first Israel.
Even more poignantly, the Temple in Jerusalem was razed to the ground 40 years after Jesus began his ministry. With its destruction, Jesus’ words about the temple were fulfilled, and the Jewish religion which preceded Christianity was permanently severed from it and proceeded along its own course to Talmudic Judaism. It also sealed the departure of Christianity from institutional Jewish religion and further cemented Christianity’s identity in Roman and Greek cultures. The Roman flavor of the institutional Roman Catholic hierarchy has not changed much even at present. Christianity had already acquired a distinctly Gentile character – this event merely punctuated the rise of a Gentile Christianity which would continue to swell its ranks and shape the coming inflection points of institutional Christianity. God had seen to it that the distinctly Jewish flavor of early Christianity faded from the Church and Paul commanded Christians not to return to it, no less than he had severed Egyptian culture from Israel and had commanded them not to return to Egypt.
God had taken Israel out of Egypt as a new nation:
[Exo 19:2–6] 2 They set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, and they encamped in the wilderness. There Israel encamped before the mountain, 3 while Moses went up to God. The LORD called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: 4 You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 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.”
Likewise, Peter alludes to this promise directly in the context of New Israel:
[1Pe 2:6–10] 6 For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” 7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” 8 and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. 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. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Jesus’ Great Commission and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost marks the beginning of a New Israel, with a mission equally centered around claiming the inheritance of what would be a new Christian nation – a spiritual nation – that would be superior to and more significant than any empire or nation on earth. However, it would be influenced deeply by the Roman and Greek cultures in which it had its formative years, as history attests, with even Roman Catholic terms and position titles taken straight out of Roman governmental or religious terminology.
The Jebusites of Jerusalem were not conquered until very late in Israel’s presence in the land – the middle years of David’s reign. The Temple of Solomon was built upon the threshingfloor of Ornan the Jebusite at David’s command, and therefore the influence of the Jebusites would have been seen in construction projects in Jerusalem, Hebrew language development, and other cultural factors. The various nations which Israel did not fully drive out would have influenced the developments of norms, daily life, and the ways of thinking for the various tribes of Israel as well.
Thus, the period immediately after the birth of Christianity as “the Way” until they were called Christians in Antioch can be known as an Exodus period for the Church, when they left institutional Judaism and began their wilderness wanderings into the regions of the Roman Empire. During this time without a stable location or place God had established as his own, they would need a mobile means of meeting with God with standards of order, sacrifice, liturgy, etc. God provided Moses with a pattern to serve Israel until something more permanent was set up.
Moses’ Sinai Experience and the Pattern
There are only a few individuals in biblical history who were given a pattern of how a physical dwelling place for God would be constructed and what its attributes and dimensions would be. The second was David, but the first is Moses.
Three months after leaving Egypt, Exodus records that Moses intermittently meets with God and has various conversations with him. Various ad hoc laws are given, including the 10 commandments. It is believed many of the legal codes that are attested in the first five books of Moses were received during these various meetings and the subsequent long–term meetings of 40 days and 40 nights.
God tells Moses to do something strange to our modern minds; he tells Moses to go on the mountain and wait. Moses goes up on the mountain and the cloud – a sign of God’s presence to Israel – descends upon the mountain. Moses waits. He waits for seven days. On the seventh day, God calls to Moses out of the cloud that had descended. Moses enters the cloud, and “goes up on the mountain,” which can be interpreted as probably the summit or the portion which the cloud covered. The scripture records that everyone else below saw the giant cloud as a massive fire. While God had presented himself to Moses first as a fire that devoured a bush (but the bush was not consumed), this time Moses was entering the fire itself.
The way the subsequent chapters are framed, God tells Moses the entire pattern of the Tabernacle of the Wilderness and the manner of the Vestments of the Priests while he was upon Sinai. God hands him the “two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.” The scriptures indicate this first set of tablets were “the work of God,” which Moses broke in his anger at the children of Israel, perhaps subconsciously judging them unworthy of the tablets he was to transfer to the people – an act that would foreshadow the choice Moses made that prevented him from entering the promised land – the smiting of the rock when he was told to speak to it.
The two tablets are also a continuation of the loss of the failed first iteration of something, such as Abram/Abraham, Ishmael/Isaac, Esau/Jacob, Jacob/Israel, and so on. Adam was formed from the dust of the ground by God, who sinned and had to be replaced by Jesus, a man born of a woman. In what would have been a tremendous effort of sweat and suffering, Moses cut a new set of tablets himself and brought them to be written on by God to replace what was written on the original tablets.
Entering the Tabernacle
At God’s request, Moses charges Bezaleel and Aholiab with the task of creating the various furniture, curtains, and instruments that would be used in the first–ever physical dwelling place of God. It was to be a pseudo–mobile structure, with protocol for taking it down and transferring it as Israel followed the strange entity – the cloud by day, fire by night – that led them through the wilderness. Everything in this original structure prefigures the temple that would eventually be constructed by Solomon. Nearly every detail of it is carefully delineated by dimension, materials, and appearance. The spoils of Egypt brought with them out of the Exodus were placed at the feet of the builders at the free will of each Israelite. These materials would be used to build these objects and structures in which God would be physically present and various priestly functions would be performed. This mobile tent structure known as the Tabernacle would be the center of Israel’s religious life during the wilderness wanderings and would last through the time Solomon constructed the Temple. It was also the center of Israel’s camp alignment during their movements in the wilderness.
There was only simple beauty to this Tabernacle from the outside. The entrance was impossible to miss, as it was a red, purple, blue, and white curtain or veil. The rest of the exterior was basically a wall of white curtain. The first thing an Israelite would have seen upon entering the court area inside those curtain walls was the brazen altar. The altar and the ground nearby, as well as everywhere else in the tabernacle, would usually be soaked or splattered with blood from various sacrificial offerings. Between the altar and the smaller building inside the court – a covered tent with curtain walls, insulated from the elements – stood a brazen bowl called the laver, which was a place for the priests to wash their hands during their duties.
Upon entering the smaller, covered tent’s veiled doorway within the outer curtain wall, three pieces of furniture immediately present themselves. Straight ahead of you was a golden altar, taller than wide, somewhat similar in appearance to the bronze altar outside. Upon it would be instruments for creating incense, lit morning and evening by a rotation of priestly families. To your left is a large golden candelabra, composed of a central spine with a fire at the top and three branches extending out on each side with its own fire at the top of each. To your right is a golden table with stacks of some sort of bread. You would only see the interior of this area if you were a special type of priest who was called to officiate here. Through the second veil behind the golden altar of incense is something only the high priest saw, and that only once a year, where the very presence of God dwelt. The ark was inside that “holy of holies,” the innermost sanctum of the Tabernacle. The ark was essentially a box of acacia wood overlaid with gold, with the top open and a “mercy seat,” a fitted pure gold top which rested on the box. Inside was placed Aaron’s Rod which had “budded” objects which appeared to be fruit in one of the many disputes Israel’s leaders had with Aaron and Moses to prove the veracity of Aaron’s priesthood. Also, inside were the prior mentioned tablets Moses cut and God wrote upon, as well as a piece of manna that God sent down from heaven. The contents of the Ark changed over time as Israel’s history progressed.
This Tabernacle was intended to be the centerpiece of the religious experience of Israel from the wilderness wanderings through the time Solomon finally built a stone structure in which the Ark and new altars, instruments, and so on were placed. It was a mobile tent designed to serve a function until the “place the Lord your God will choose, to make his name dwell in it” was officially set aside. At that place and at that place only were several things to happen:
- The Passover sacrifice was only to be offered at “the place the Lord will choose” (Deu 16:2,5);
- The firstfruits of the land were to be offered (Deu 26:2);
- Any burnt offering or sacrifice, tithes and contributions, vow offerings, freewill offerings, and consecration of firstborn (Deu 12:2–6);
- Hard legal questions were to be decided (Deu 17:8); and
- The males of Israel were to assemble thrice yearly, at the major feast dates, and the law was to be read (Deu 16:16).
This “place the Lord will choose” was to be the center of religious life. Until the temple was constructed and that “place” was set in stone, it was wherever the Tabernacle and the Ark happened to be. The designated place of sacrifice was absolutely central to Israel’s existence.
The Movement of the Tabernacle
The Tabernacle did a bit of wandering. It was constructed in the wilderness, where it was quite mobile for the remaining 39 years in which Israel wandered and all but Joshua and Caleb died before crossing the Jordan into the land. Afterward, the Tabernacle tended to rest a bit longer in wherever it was situated. Also, certain writers of the Old Testament were less concerned about describing where the tabernacle was than they were at saying where the Ark itself was, since the Ark sometimes moved without the Tabernacle. The Ark was given a prestige and power all its own. The ark was what was borne before the walls of Jericho for seven days (Joshua 6). Joshua “tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord,” rather than before “the tabernacle.” The Ark was brought out against Israel’s enemies and was thought to be a source of power (1 Sam 4:3). Tracing the movements of the Tabernacle means tracing the movements of the ark itself, given it was the central component of the Tabernacle:
- Shiloh is the first place the “tent of meeting” and Ark rested (Joshua 18:1). Jeremiah references this location in a derogatory way, which is not surprising given that Shiloh was destroyed because of Eli and his sons’ corruption.
- The Ark was in Bethel during a portion of the time of the Judges, when the other tribes fought against Benjamin (Judges 20:27).
- The Ark was at back at Shiloh with the “tent of meeting” in the early days of Samuel (1 Sam 3:3, 21).
- The Ark was lost at Ebenezer in a battle and the Philistines brought it to Ashdod, where it caused them many problems – the ark was in the country of the Philistines for seven months. The ark completes a circuit in three of the cities of the Philistines: Ashdod, Gath, and Ekron (1 Sam 5:1, 8, 10).
- The Philistines send away the ark on a cart driven by oxen with five golden tumors and five golden mice as a guilt offering to stop the plagues and mice attacking their people (1 Sam 6:4).
- The ark ends up at Beth–shemesh for a time, but it causes problems even to Israelites because it is not supposed to be openly exposed – Moses was instructed to place it in the Holy of Holies. The inhabitants of Beth–shemesh send to Kiriath–jearim to have the priests come get it (1 Sam 6:21).
- The ark is brought to the House of Abinadab in Kiriath–jearim, where it rests for at least twenty years (1 Sam 7:2).
- Saul uses the Ark as a way to win military battles, the same way it had been used poorly in the days of Eli (1 Sam 14:18). It apparently returns to the house of Abinadab when it is not in use.
- David attempts to take the ark out of the house of Abinadab to Mount Zion using an ox–driven cart as the Philistines had done, and it causes the death of Uzzah (2 Sam 6:2–3). David has to sidetrack the Ark into the house of Obed–edom the Gittite (2 Sam 6:10), where it remains three months while David figures out his error.
- David brings the ark from the house of Obed–edom to the city of David on the shoulders of the priests, performing two sacrifices every six steps (2 Sam 6:12–13), with dancing and “shouting and the sound of the horn.” He pitches a tent in the city of David for the ark, where it rests (with a brief exception) through the rest of his reign and into the first seven years of Solomon’s reign until the completion of the Temple.
- During Absalom’s rebellion, Zadok attempts to bring the ark to go with David, but David tells him to take the ark back to the city (2 Sam 15:25).
- At some point between David moving the Ark to Zion and Solomon’s initial visit to Gibeon at the beginning of his reign (2 Chr 1:3–4), the Tabernacle had moved from Kiriath–Jearim to Gibeon.
- Solomon moves the ark from “the city of David, which is Zion,” (1 Kin 8:1) to the sanctuary of the newly built temple on Mount Moriah, what was formerly the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite (2 Chr 3:1). The ark remains there until the Babylonian destruction of the temple, at which point the ark was “lost.”
Those enumerated stages of the Ark’s travels can be reduced into four historically significant eras:
- Moses’ Tabernacle, Wilderness: The Ark in the wilderness wanderings with Moses up to entrance into the promised land, where it was constantly on the move;
- Moses’ Tabernacle, Joshua/Judges through Saul: The Ark and the Tabernacle move some, but has a longer–term resting location at Shiloh, then at Kiriath–Jearim, which is where it rests until David attempts to bring the Ark to Zion;
- David’s Tabernacle: The Ark in David’s Tent on Mount Zion; and
- Solomon’s Temple: The Ark rests upon Mount Moriah in Jerusalem, where it remains until the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem.
The center and direction of Christian worship wasn’t institutionally centered for a period. Christianity rises after Constantine and centralization of authority occurs with various preeminent locations, such as Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem (although certainly some of these locations, namely Rome, were authoritatively central well before Constantine). Gradually, a crystallization of the order and substance of worship took shape in the 5th, 6th, and subsequent centuries. Some modern liturgies, such as the Byzantine Rite stemming from St. John Chrysostom, still function in nearly the same form today. Some of the pieces of the “Tridentine” or “Extraordinary Form” Latin mass were in place under Pope Damasus I. These liturgies were derived from the original pattern and principles (as best as could be understood) set in place by the Apostles and echoing the patterns of worship from Israel.
For a time, the preeminent Christian political rulers resided in the East while the West struggled under various barbarian rulers and the fledgling Church structure wrestled with filling the political void and meeting the physical needs of the people without a truly Christian ruler (as many of the barbarian tribes were Arian).
This eastward shift of power under Constantine, his successors, and the subsequent dynasties of the Eastern Roman Empire was always problematic given Peter’s recognized stature early in the Church’s infancy and sowed the seeds for the eventual 1054 East–West Schism. The Popes of the centuries leading up that Schism reaffirmed the significance and authority of the Bishop of Rome against the incursions of other Patriarchs and Bishops, although the disputes of authority were not handled in a fully brotherly manner and contributed to the breakup.
The Divine Structure – Moses and David
Returning to the Divine Council format mentioned at the beginning of this chapter, the divine council format is that of a single head: The Lord. Gathered around him and in consultation with him, decrees and judgments are issued. Those in the council are given the responsibility of educating, training, and correcting the rest of creation based on the principles and truths of God they are exposed to in a greater way by their unique access to God.
This format was repeated in Israel; Moses was raised up, and when the burden of what he was doing became too great, he had a council of elders and appointed judges to assist. While he did divest authority, he retained ultimate authority to himself. First, his father–in–law pointed out his legal obligations were going to kill him:
[Exo 18:13–18] 13 The next day Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood around Moses from morning till evening. 14 When Moses’ father–in–law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening?” 15 And Moses said to his father–in–law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God; 16 when they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make them know the statutes of God and his laws.” 17 Moses’ father–in–law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. 18 You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone.
Jethro counsels him to find those who are trustworthy and who will not accept bribes (Simony was one of the biggest problems in the medieval Church and gets a lot of ink in Dante’s The Divine Comedy) to set over men in various divisions – thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens – that will provide direction and structure to the people.
Later, Moses is dealing with the people complaining of the type of food they were receiving. The “manna” or the bread God sent from heaven was not enough – they wanted meat. Moses admits his strain and shows he is weighed down by the perpetual grumbling of the people:
[Num 11:11–14] 11 Moses said to the LORD, “Why have you dealt ill with your servant? And why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? 12 Did I conceive all this people? Did I give them birth, that you should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a nursing child,’ to the land that you swore to give their fathers? 13 Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me and say, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat.’ 14 I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me.
God has an elegant solution: some of the “spirit that is upon Moses” will be taken from him and placed upon the elders of the people and the officers, so the burden of spiritual leadership is delegated, as legal authority was delegated at Jethro’s advice.
[Num 11:16–20] 16 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Gather for me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them, and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you. 17 And I will come down and talk with you there. And I will take some of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them, and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you may not bear it yourself alone. 18 And say to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat, for you have wept in the hearing of the LORD, saying, “Who will give us meat to eat? For it was better for us in Egypt.” Therefore the LORD will give you meat, and you shall eat. 19 You shall not eat just one day, or two days, or five days, or ten days, or twenty days, 20 but a whole month, until it comes out at your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have rejected the LORD who is among you and have wept before him, saying, “Why did we come out of Egypt?”‘”
The execution of this plan hits a hiccup when two of the 70 elders didn’t show up to the tent where this was scheduled to happen:
[Num 11:24–29] 24 So Moses went out and told the people the words of the LORD. And he gathered seventy men of the elders of the people and placed them around the tent. 25 Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. And as soon as the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied. But they did not continue doing it. 26 Now two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the Spirit rested on them. They were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. 27 And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” 28 And Joshua the son of Nun, the assistant of Moses from his youth, said, “My lord Moses, stop them.” 29 But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!”
This solution wasn’t faultless. As soon as some authority is divided out, some men become greedy for more of it. In the next chapter, Numbers 12, Miriam and Aaron strive with Moses with the words “has not [God] spoken through us also?” God must make very clear to them and to everyone why Moses is unique, and they are not his equal in authority, mirroring a dispute settled quite easily in paragraphs 880 through 896 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Some of those crucial passages are below:
882 The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter’s successor, “is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful.” “For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.”
883 “The college or body of bishops has no authority unless united with the Roman Pontiff, Peter’s successor, as its head.” As such, this college has “supreme and full authority over the universal Church; but this power cannot be exercised without the agreement of the Roman Pontiff.”
894 “The bishops, as vicars and legates of Christ, govern the particular Churches assigned to them by their counsels, exhortations, and example, but over and above that also by the authority and sacred power” which indeed they ought to exercise so as to edify, in the spirit of service which is that of their Master.
895 “The power which they exercise personally in the name of Christ, is proper, ordinary, and immediate, although its exercise is ultimately controlled by the supreme authority of the Church.” But the bishops should not be thought of as vicars of the Pope. His ordinary and immediate authority over the whole Church does not annul, but on the contrary confirms and defends that of the bishops. Their authority must be exercised in communion with the whole Church under the guidance of the Pope.
Miriam turns leprous and is forced to remain outside the camp for seven days because of this. Other challenges to Moses’ authority follow, as well. In Numbers 16, Korah’s rebellion occurs, where the hierarchy is questioned:
[Num 16:1–10] 1 Now Korah the son of Izhar, son of Kohath, son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men. 2 And they rose up before Moses, with a number of the people of Israel, 250 chiefs of the congregation, chosen from the assembly, well–known men. 3 They assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! For all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?” 4 When Moses heard it, he fell on his face, 5 and he said to Korah and all his company, “In the morning the LORD will show who is his, and who is holy, and will bring him near to him. The one whom he chooses he will bring near to him. 6 Do this: take censers, Korah and all his company; 7 put fire in them and put incense on them before the LORD tomorrow, and the man whom the LORD chooses shall be the holy one. You have gone too far, sons of Levi!” 8 And Moses said to Korah, “Hear now, you sons of Levi: 9 is it too small a thing for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself, to do service in the tabernacle of the LORD and to stand before the congregation to minister to them, 10 and that he has brought you near him, and all your brothers the sons of Levi with you? And would you seek the priesthood also?
The outcome of this event is that the earth itself opened and swallowed up some of the men and fire came out from God and consumed 250 of them who had offered incense. These men had come against Moses and desired the same authority as Moses and the family of Aaron (the High Priestly lineage) and thought they could simply take it, since “all in the congregation are holy.” A plague was also started in a portion of the camp – likely those sympathetic to Korah’s rebellion – and Aaron had to offer incense to stem that judgment. This is no different from Satan’s deception and seduction of other angels to go along with him in his desire for authority.
After Korah’s rebellion, God offers another means of enshrining Aaron’s authority to the people. He collects a staff from each of the chief men over each of the tribes of Israel, twelve staffs in all. Moses puts them in the “tent of the testimony” (the Tabernacle):
[Num 17:8–10] 8 On the next day Moses went into the tent of the testimony, and behold, the staff of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds. 9 Then Moses brought out all the staffs from before the LORD to all the people of Israel. And they looked, and each man took his staff. 10 And the LORD said to Moses, “Put back the staff of Aaron before the testimony, to be kept as a sign for the rebels, that you may make an end of their grumblings against me, lest they die.”
The result of the delegation of authority explains why God placed ultimate authority in one person. History is replete with examples of powerful nobility and councils which hamstring the ability of a nation to set a clear direction, and as the joke goes, a camel is a horse designed by a committee. There must always be a single ruler with the power to set the mission and direction of a nation, and nations and organizations gravitate to this model.
Moses appoints Joshua to be his successor at God’s command, and Joshua leads the people into the land. Interestingly, Moses is a Levite while Joshua is of the tribe of Ephraim. Caleb of the tribe of Judah also enters the land, and only Joshua and Caleb from the Egypt/wilderness generation enter the promised land. Joshua’s role was specifically to put Israel in possession of the land:
[Deu 1:38] 38 Joshua the son of Nun, who stands before you, he shall enter. Encourage him, for he shall cause Israel to inherit it.
[Deu 3:28] 28 But charge Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he shall go over at the head of this people, and he shall put them in possession of the land that you shall see.’
At this point, the tribe of Ephraim and the tribe of Judah take on a special role:
[Num 32:11–12] 11 ‘Surely none of the men who came up out of Egypt, from twenty years old and upward, shall see the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, because they have not wholly followed me, 12 none except Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua the son of Nun, for they have wholly followed the LORD.’
Joshua is given authority to parse out inheritances:
[Num 34:17] 17 “These are the names of the men who shall divide the land to you for inheritance: Eleazar the priest and Joshua the son of Nun.
This sets the stage for the next phase of Israel as a nation. They are expelled from the land they called home for hundreds of years and are now moving into the inheritance of promise – that which was promised to Abraham. Joshua’s initial actions are highly successful, but it would take some time before a united Israel, dominant in their corner of the world, would emerge.
[i] Dr. Michael Heiser has written about the Divine Council in his books “The Unseen Realm” and “Reversing Hermon,” as well as countless valuable peer-reviewed articles on the worldview of ancient Israel. His website is http://drmsh.com/.
[ii] Josephus, Antiquities, Book 2, Chapter 9, section 6