Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Parallelisms in Scripture

Stephen Dempster, in his book, Dominion and Dynasty, points out several interesting parallels between the Exodus and Moses, Moses and the Flood, and the Tabernacle and Eden. Here are some of the highlights:

Moses' salvation from the water [the River Nile] echoes backwards and forwards in the text; backwards to the salvation of humanity from the judgment of the flood by Noah (Gen. 6-8), and forwards to the Israelites' future escape from the waters of the Reed Sea (Exod. 14). Significantly, as Fox (1997:253) shows, the figure of Moses, this child born as a type of saviour figure, not only saves Israel but also embodies Israel at times. His rescure from the water prefigures the nation's salvation from the water; his escape after the death of the Egyptian (Exod. 2:11-15) is a prelude to the Israelites' flight after death of many Egyptians (Exod. 12:29-39); his experience of being in the desert for forty years (Exod. 2:21-25) foreshadows the same for Israel (Num. 14:33); his divine encounter before the burning bush (Exod. 3) anticipates Israel before the fire at Sinai (Exod. 19-24). (p. 95)

When viewed against the wider context of the biblical storyline, the subsequent account of the ten plagues is another expression of the battle between the seeds, which culminates in the Passover. Israelite firstborn males are spared while those in Egypt are not. If the Passover is a sacrifice, it is the first one since the act of Abraham in Genesis 22 [offering of Isaac, the firstborn]. Similarly, the Passover rite suggests substitutionary death. A male yearling sheep or goat is slain and its blood spattered on the doorposts and lintels of an Israelite dwelling in order to save the firstborn child from death. (pp. 98-99)

The goal of the journey out of Egypt is to relocate Israel in the land of promise in fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant. The pathway through the Canaanite armies in the land of promise will be much like passing through the Reed Sea (Exod. 15:14-16). As the Israelites passed unscathed through a watery gauntlet, they will now pass through a human one [this seems also to be a parallel with the Flood and Tower of Babel, where you have a scattering of waters and a scattering of peoples following one after the other]. (p. 100)

The next chapters depict Moses' ascent of the mountain, where he spends forty days receiving plans for the creation of the tabernacle, which is patterned after a heavenly archetype (Exod. 25-31). There are enough clues in the text to suggest that the tabernacle to be made on earth is also a microcosm of the creation of the world [perhaps even a foreshadowing of New Heavens and Earth?], and its innermost sanctuary a garden of Eden. It takes place in seven actions, with the sixth stressing the installation of two human beings filled with the Spirit of God to implement the making of the structure [footnote: Exod. 25:1; 30:11, 17, 22, 34; 31:1, 12 are the introductions to the seven actions]. The seventh action stresses the importance of Sabbath-keeping and its basis in the creation of the world (Exod. 31:12-18). (p. 102)

As you can see in only a few pages (and I didn't post all of the possible examples) Dempster labors to uncover the many parallel types within the narrative of Scripture (or, in particular, the Old Testament). These parallels are helpful in keeping the unity of the Scriptures in mind, and weaving an overarching theme or plot from which to understand the smaller details of Scripture that often escape our notice or understanding (he has a very good literary explanation for the near death and circumcision of Moses' son in Exod. 4, for example).

No comments: