Numbers 21-22: Type

OT5 - Moses and the Bronze Serpent

So I’m going to teach you some philosophy today.  Nothing terribly deep but something that can be useful to you as you read through the Bible.  As I’ve been pointing out through our journey so far, there are patterns in the Bible that repeat.  Those patterns often show us important things about who God is, how he operates, the nature of humanity, the nature of sin, the process of salvation and the story of God’s redemptive purposes.  Themes like repentance, sacrifice, justification show up all through scripture and carry a common thread throughout the entirety of God’s redemptive story.

There is another way that the Bible show us commonalities, and that is by using something called “types”.  Without getting too technical, a type is the basic pattern for something, and it is most often a concept that is then lived out in a specific person or object.  So, when I say the word “bird” you have a mental image that comes to mind.  Spindly feet and legs, feathered body, wings that extend out the side, quick, beady eyes and a pointed beak.  That is a type.  A specific red-winged blackbird is a token or specific representation of that type.  Still with me?

All through scripture, we find images or tokens of the saviour type.  The bronze serpent in Numbers 21 is an example.  It shows us elements of the true concept of what a saviour is to be.  We know, from our New Testament understanding of things, that the bronze serpent is a foreshadow of the perfect Saviour Jesus Christ.  That when it was lifted up and looked upon by the Israelites, they were saved from the venom of the snakes that were biting them.  In the same way, Jesus was lifted up on the cross, and anyone who looks upon him in faith is saved from the “venom” of sin and the condemnation it brings.  Melchizedek is another Old Testament figure who follows the type of Christ (Hebrews 7:1-17 talks about this), as was Adam (Romans 5) and Aaron (Hebrews 5).

St. Augustine put it this way: “The New is in the Old contained; The Old is by the New explained.”  We often read concepts in the New Testament that are laid out for us in illustration in the Old Testament; the illustrations in the OT then find explanation then in NT.  Another simple example of this pertaining to Jesus is the Passover lamb offered up by Israel to commemorate their redemption from slavery in Egypt.  God commanded that no bones in the Passover lamb were to be broken…just as none of Jesus’ bones were broken during the crucifixion.

You will find, as you pay attention to these relationships between things in the OT and things in the NT, that the Old Testament images offer us the imperfect version of what Jesus either did for us or wants to supply to us through his sacrifice.  Aaron was the imperfect version of the perfect High Priest that Jesus is.  Adam was the imperfect first human, while Jesus redeemed what it meant to be human by living perfectly.  And the bronze serpent brought only physical healing, while Jesus brings holistic and eternal healing.

There, a philosophy lesson for you that hopefully will help you see the patterns that exist between the Old Testament images and their New Testament relevance.

Happy reading.

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture?  What was something I already knew?
  •  What was new from this piece of scripture?  What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  •  How does this passage apply to my life, here and now?  Do I need to do anything about it?
  •  What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Numbers 23-25

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