Two disciples walked the road to Emmaus in puzzlement with their heads hung in mourning. Days earlier they had seen the one they thought would deliver Israel from bondage suffocate to death on a cross. Suddenly they encountered this ex-corpse on the roadway but did not recognize him. Jesus went on to show them something else they did not recognize – how to read the Scriptures. Jesus opened their eyes to see how the entire Old Testament is about him. He showed them how the OT presents the Gospel message that the suffering of the Messiah at the cross is the pathway to his glory and the forgiveness of sinners (Luke 24:13-35, 36-49).
Baptist 21 wants to make you aware of a website that is devoted to providing materials to help the church read the Bible in this way. It is www.beginningwithmoses.org. This site wants to help the Church and ministers understand the Bible from a biblical-theological perspective. Here’s how it accomplishes that:
These briefings are very helpful tools for understanding the mechanics of Biblical Theology in preaching. We would recommend them to you as a resource. Also, join the Beginning with Moses group on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=149607846965&ref=ts
The website has just updated its look and is well worth checking out. The editor of the website, Mark Owens, is a recent graduate with his ThM from SEBTS and is currently working on his PhD in NT at Aberdeen.
Baptist 21 is excited to see a website that helps preachers think through preaching the theology of the Bible. This is desperately needed in our pulpits. Please check it out!
Baptist21 is committed to seeking gospel-centrality among the nations through the church to the glory of King Jesus. Part of seeking gospel-centrality is learning to read the Bible rightly and understand how the gospel of King Jesus is the central theme of the entire bible (Lk. 24). So, B21 author Jon Akin (who is completing a PhD in O.T. Studies) has written several blogs showing how to read the Bible Christocentrically throughout the Old Testament.
In addition, Jon has written a blog on the importance of “Preaching the Gospel Every Week,” both to believers and unbelievers.
In an effort to help our readers think through the Gospel-Centered interpretation of the Old Testament, Jon has submitted a blog entitled “The Gospel of King Jesus in the Life of King Joash.”
The inter-connectedness of the Bible is breathtaking. Years ago, I was able to preach through the story of Joash. Joash points quite vividly to the greater Son of David, Jesus Christ. The parallels in this story to the story of Christ are amazing. In 2 Chronicles 22:10, wicked Queen Athaliah “destroyed ALL the royal heirs of the house of David,” but Joash is hidden away in the Temple. This is a dark time in the history of Judah. Again, all of the promises to David about a Son who will sit on an eternal throne over an eternal kingdom lie dead in Jerusalem tombs!
The evil queen, the seed of the serpent, has played a part in the cosmic war raging throughout the centuries. Genesis 3:15, right after the fall, tells us that the “seed of the woman” will crush the head of the serpent, but the serpent will bruise the heel of the head crusher. This enmity and warfare rages on across the world stage. John pulls back the curtain on this war in Revelation 12:4 where he writes, “the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born.” This refers back to Gen. 3:15 and Matthew 2 where Herod tried to destroy Messiah as soon as he was born, but it also engulfs every attempt that the dragon/serpent made to destroy the Messiah before he came.
Holywood has shown a similar storyline in the first two “Terminator” movies. In Terminator 1, the machines send a cyborg terminator back in time to destroy the man who will be their undoing. On this attempt they try to kill his mother before she has him. In Terminator 2 they send another cyborg back through time to kill the man while he is a boy and weak.
We see a similar play in the biblical storyline. As soon as the promise of a deliverer is made, Eve gives birth, and yet Satan moves Cain to kill Abel. The promise is dead, but God raises up Seth. Pharaoh is killing the male Hebrews when they are born, but God delivers Moses. Later in Israel’s history, Hamaan will attempt genocide against the Jews, and then Herod will try to kill Jesus when he is a baby. All of these are attempts by the serpent to kill the line before the Messiah King comes! Athaliah participates in this by wiping out the sons of David. The promises lie dead in the tombs of Jerusalem! Yet, one is saved, King Joash.
Joash is rescued and hid away for 6 years. Joash is not the first child and will not be the last child hidden away from an evil ruler. Moses was hid from Pharaoh, and Jesus will be hid from Herod. All three will have similar ministries, Exodus! In the seventh year, Jehoiada the priest orchestrates a coup to set Joash on the throne. They bring Joash out of the temple, which shows that he is the true Son of God/King. They crown him and proclaim him as king. Athaliah hears the shouts and songs of the people as they bring Joash to the throne. Then the Bible says that she looks and sees the king “standing” by his pillar (2 Chr. 23:13). This is similar to the heavenly vision of Revelation 5. John sees the lamb, as though slain, but standing! Yahweh has brought life out of death. Yahweh has brought victory out of defeat. And what is the crowning and victory of Joash accompanied by? Singing and praising (cf. Rev. 5:6 & 13)!
Evil Athaliah and her followers are put to death (cf. Gen. 3:15, serpent’s seed is being crushed). This may seem harsh to some, but these verses should be cross-referenced in your study Bibles with John 3:16. God loves the world so much that he will kill the enemies who try to keep the Son from coming. Joash defeats the enemies and he sets worship right again in Judah. The land is quiet.
After this, Joash sets himself to rebuilding the temple. Why? Kings are temple-builders (cf. Solomon, Zech. 6:12-15, etc.). Solomon built the original temple. Joash re-builds the temple, and Jesus will build the final temple.
King Joash is a Moses who leads his people out of bondage to an evil tyrant in order to build a dwelling place for God. His life points to the Greater Son of David, Jesus Christ. Not only does Herod try to kill him at birth, but Jesus is killed on a Cross. The hope for an eternal kingdom once again lies dead in a tomb in Jerusalem. Yet, on the third day, King Jesus does what the sinner King Joash cannot, he walks out of the grave. He crushed the head of the serpent forever. He ascended into heaven, and he sent gifts in order to build his temple (cf. Eph. 4:7-16). They thought they could tear this temple down, but Jesus raised it up in three days, and he is building it now through his Spirit on the foundation of apostles and prophets. This is a greater Exodus and a greater Temple, presided over by a faithful King-Priest!
2 CHRONICLES 17-20: JEHOSHAPHAT
Jehoshaphat takes over for his father Asa in a time of turmoil. He strengthens his position in Judah, placing troops in the fortified cities (built by Asa). Yahweh is “with” Jehoshaphat because he walks in the former ways of His father David, who did not seek the Baals. This is a fulfillment of the promises to David (Obedient Son = Blessing, prosperity, etc.). He has riches and honor in great abundance. Jehoshaphat commits himself to God’s Word by sending out princes and Levites city by city to teach the Word of God. As a result, the fear of the Lord falls on all the surrounding kingdoms, so they don’t make war with Jehoshaphat. They fear the power of Yahweh and His Word. The Philistines and the Arabians bring tribute gifts to Jehoshaphat. We see here “Peace in the Middle East,” as Arabs are bringing gifts to the King of Israel. Just imagine if Bin Laden were to bring camels as gifts to the Prime Minister of Israel.
Jehoshaphat’s great, great grandfather saw this happen during his reign. The nations heard of Solomon’s wisdom, they knew that God was WITH him, so they were afraid (i.e. the God of the Exodus), and they came bringing treasures and gifts. They wanted to learn from Solomon’s wisdom. The nations were recognizing that God had blessed Israel and her king. They wanted to be connected with that blessing. The Queen of Sheba wanted to learn the ways of the Lord. Not only that, the nations realized that Solomon and Israel were so powerful and exalted that they wanted to be on Solomon’s good side, so they brought him gifts.
The prophets prophesy that what happened in Solomon’s reign (and partly in Jehoshaphat’s reign) will happen again in an even greater way in the future. The Prophets tell us that a day is coming when all the nations will stream to Israel. All the nations will bring their gold and their wealth to Israel and ask to walk in the ways of the Lord (Isa. 2:3). The nations’ kings will also recognize the power of Israel’s King and will bring gifts to Him, indeed “all nations shall serve him” (Psa. 72:10-11)! Zechariah 8:23 “In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is WITH you.’” Isaiah 60:1-6 tells of a great light that will rise over Israel, the glory of Yahweh will appear over them, and the nations will come to the light, and they will bring gifts of “gold and frankincense.” Matthew 2 shows a fulfillment of this prophecy, where Magi bring these gifts to the king who has a star over him! But, this story even points forward still to the eschatological fulfillment. Revelation 21:22-26, “The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there).And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it.” What is happening in the reign of Jehoshaphat is only a glimpse, a snapshot, of what will happen when David’s greatest Son rules. The nations recognize the light of Yahweh and His Word that are with Judah, and they fear and bring gifts.
We see this prophecy coming true even now. Jesus came teaching the Word of God city by city. He sent out His disciples two-by-two to teach God’s Word. Then, he sent them (us) out through the Great Commission. They don’t just go out, but they “draw in” the nations to the New Jerusalem, Christ. The nations are being gathered through the teaching of God’s Word, and they are submitting to an Israelite King. They are saying, “Teach us your wisdom. Teach us to walk in your ways, for we have heard that God is WITH YOU.”
Foolishly, Jehoshaphat unequally yokes himself and forms a marriage alliance with Ahab. Ahab also entices Jehoshaphat into battle. Jehoshaphat knows enough to ask of the Lord before going into battle, even when 400 other prophets are saying Yahweh will give victory. Jehoshaphat rightly says “isn’t there a prophet of Yahweh to ask?” Ahab says that there is still 1 man, but he doesn’t like this prophet b/c he always prophesies against Ahab. Ultimately, Micaiah, the prophet of Yahweh, prophesies Ahab’s death in the battle. What is striking is that Jehoshaphat requests a Word from Yahweh, and he ignores it. Though Ahab dies in the battle, Jehoshaphat narrowly escapes. On the way home from the battle against Syria, Jehu the prophet confronts and rebukes Jehoshaphat, “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate Yahweh?… Wrath is upon you.” Jehoshaphat repents and sets up a justice system in Judah based on God’s Word.
In Chapter 20, Moab and Ammon come up against Judah, seeking to drive them out of the land. Jehoshaphat is afraid, but he seeks the Lord (unlike Asa his father) and proclaims a fast. All the cities come to “seek” the Lord for help. Azariah’s prophecy to Asa from chapter 15 is coming true. When Judah seeks Yahweh, He will be found by them. All the people from young to old stand in the temple, and Jehoshaphat prays to Yahweh. He addresses him as God of all the nations who has power no one can stand against. He is also the God of Israel who drove out Canaanites and gave them land as promised to Abraham. His people live there and built a sanctuary for Yahweh. If disaster comes, the people are to stand before Yahweh at the temple and cry out to him, and he will “hear and save.” Jehoshaphat turns the attention of his prayer to their enemies. He says that God told Israel not to touch these peoples when coming into the Land of Promise. Yet, these people want to throw Israel out of the land. Jehoshaphat’s imprecatory prayer is that God will judge these peoples and not hesitate. This prayer points back to Solomon’s dedicatory prayer of the temple. When God’s people are besieged by enemies, they will pray towards the temple, and God will deliver them (cf. Jonah 2). Again, we see Jehoshaphat’s relation to the Word of God. He is taking God at his Word.
A Prophet tells the people that the battle is God’s, and He will fight for Judah. They can just stand and see God’s salvation. The people with Jehoshaphat bow their faces to the ground and worship Yahweh. The next morning when the people start singing praises to Yahweh, he destroys their enemies. Judah gets to the place and all they see is dead bodies, so they plunder them for 3 days.
There is a mention in the Prophet Joel about the “Valley of Jehoshaphat.” Lots of ink is spilt from commentators’ pens discussing WHERE this valley is, as if it were a geographical issue. I believe that the Holy Spirit, through Joel, is pointing back to this event in the reign of Jehoshaphat, and He uses it to point to final judgment on those nations that oppose God! Joel writes in 3:12-13, “Let the nations be wakened, and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; For there I will sit to judge (the name Jehoshaphat literally means, “Ya judges”) all the surrounding nations. Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, go down; For the winepress is full, The vats overflow — For their wickedness is great.” The cry of God’s people, throughout history, is, “how long will you allow your enemies to prosper and your people to suffer?” God answers constantly that it will not be this way forever. The wicked shall not prosper forever. Jehoshaphat’s victory here over the Moabites and the Ammonites foreshadows that Day of the Lord. The people of Jehoshaphat’s day praise Yahweh for the victory, and He gives them rest. Again, the surrounding nations are afraid, b/c they see that Yahweh fights for His people.
Though Jehoshaphat was a good king overall, committed to God’s Word, he was not a perfect king. He unequally yoked himself with the Northern Kingdom. He did not fully obey the Word. His failures, with all of the other kings of Judah, foreshadow the need for a perfect Warrior-King. This King was the Word made flesh. This King sent out his disciples to teach God’s word, city-by-city. This King is seeing the nations being gathered in. Gentile pagans are bowing to this King. This King appeared in human history, and the nations did stand against him. As Luke tells us in Acts 2 and Acts 4, the kings of the earth and the rulers took their stand and were gathered together against Yahweh and his Messiah. Indeed Herod, Pilate, the Gentiles, and even Israel gathered together against Jesus. Gentile armies came to destroy the anointed of God, and the cry came again, “How long Oh Lord? How long will the enemies of God prevail?” The answer came back, “Three days!” As the nations gathered against the Messiah, their own plans to destroy him ended up being their own downfall! As Joel prophesied about that day of the Lord there were signs in the heavens, the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, the defeat of the enemies of God, and the exaltation of Israel over her enemies. When the dust settled, one man sat at the right hand of God with all his enemies being put under his feet. The cross, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus is a fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy concerning the Day of the Lord and the Valley of Jehoshaphat. King Jesus has destroyed his enemies and his followers are receiving the spoils. This King will one day appear in the Eastern sky at the sound of the trumpet, with all of His enemies assembled in the valley of Jehoshaphat. A sharp two-edged sword will come out of His mouth to “strike the nations.” He will rule over the nations with a rod of iron, and the nations will stream to the New Jerusalem, bringing Him their honor and glory, saying, “teach us to walk in the ways of the Lord!”
2 CHRONICLES 14-16: ASA
When reading a narrative a reader must look for clues, themes, etc that foreshadow what will happen at the end of the story. After reading the whole story, those clues and themes make greater sense, and are read in light of the rest of the story. When reading stories like Romeo and Juliet, The Odyssey, or The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, etc we do not dissect the earlier episodes without putting them in the context of the entire story. It would be like analyzing act two of Romeo and Juliet without seeing the clues and themes that foreshadow the tragic movement of the plot. The same must be done when reading the OT, because there are “clues” and themes that point forward to fulfillment in Christ. This is true in the life of King Asa
The story of Asa is found in 2 Chronicles 14-16. Asa begins as a righteous king who does “good and right in the eyes of the Lord (14:2).” The land is quiet and at rest under his kingship, and even when Zerah the Ethiopian marches against Asa with a million man army, he is defeated. Asa is granted a miraculous victory from God and rest because he trusts in the Lord and cries out to Him for deliverance (14:11-12). This is a fulfillment of Yahweh’s promises to David (2 Sam 7). David’s sons are to be warrior-kings who fight for His people, in dependence upon God. God promises to cut off David’s enemies and give rest to the people and the land. David’s Son will be a Son of God (i.e. Adam, ruling as God’s representative). There is conditionality. When David’s sons are disobedient, they will be chastened with the rod. When they are faithful, there will be blessings of power, peace, etc. Asa’s humble dependence upon Yahweh as a faithful son is already bringing those blessings.
A prophet, Azariah, comes to Asa and preaches to him. He tells Asa that “The Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.” The King is the representative head for the people. When the kings are faithful the nation is blessed. When the kings are unfaithful the nation is cursed (i.e. sins of Manasseh eventually responsible for the exile). The head-body relationship of King Jesus with his church is not something that just shows up in the NT. The King embodies the nation as its head. So, there is ALWAYS a need in Israel for a king who obeys God wholly (i.e. who seeks Yahweh and does not forsake Him) so as to bring victory and peace for the people. Asa applies Azariah’s preaching and brings religious reform to Judah and removes idolatry. He even removes the Queen Mother. Leithart writes, “Asa is a true disciple, who hates his mother to follow Yahweh (Lk 14:26; Leithart, 1 & 2 Kings, pg. 116).” His reform is bringing a reunification of Israel and Judah (e.g. Ezek. 37), because some from Ephraim, Manasseh, and Simeon see that “the Lord his God [is] with him (15:9).”
Yet, the story takes a bad turn, when Asa ends up relying on man, not God. King Baasha of Israel comes up against Judah (with a much smaller army than Zerah the Ethiopian). Asa makes a treaty with Syria, giving the treasures of the Temple to form an alliance with Ben-Hadad. Syria defeats Baasha and Israel. It is not stated why Asa relies on Syria rather than God. Two possibilities as I see it: 1) He thought he could handle a smaller army with his own ingenuity rather than God (pride) or 2) He was afraid.
Hanani, the seer, confronts and condemns Asa for his action. God’s judgment on Asa is that from now on war will characterize his kingdom rather than peace (i.e. cursing and chastening of 2 Sam 7). Asa relied on God against the Ethiopians, but in this matter he relied on the King of Syria. How could he do such a thing? “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars (16:9).” Asa is no longer a humble Son of God. He is depending upon man (the arm of the flesh). Asa does not receive the rebuke. He throws Hanani in prison.
Asa ends up getting a foot disease, and the Bible says that “even in his disease he did not seek the Lord, but the physicians (16:12).” A sick king symbolizes a sick nation. All the stability of his earlier reign is gone. Asa actually ends up having his own tomb constructed for himself, and he is buried there after his death in Jerusalem.
Instead of reading this episode merely as an historical portrait of a Davidic King, we should read it as one episode in the big storyline of the Bible. This storyline is dominated with the theme (clues) of the Son of God/David/King of Israel/Messiah. Asa is a messiah, an anointed king. Israel is looking for and needs a faithful Son of David to rise up, who will be loyal to Yahweh, relying on Him only, who will defeat their enemies and bring peace. Yahweh will answer His Son in times of trouble, if the Son will only rely on Him. The problem is that David’s sons are loyal and humble and dependent only for a little while. They all fall short, and the people’s hopes for a warrior-king lie dead in Jerusalem tombs.
There is a promise that a man will come along who will crush this power of death (Gen 3:15). He will be a Son of David (2 Sam 7), who sits on an eternal throne. Yet, every single king in the OT ends up dead and rotting in their own tombs because the wages of sin is death. Asa starts off so well with victory and peace, relying on God. Yet, he ends up digging his own tomb, where he lies dead, embalmed with spices (16:14).
In the big storyline we see the familiar refrain of a Son of David buried in Jerusalem, and yet you come to the NT and there is a Son of David who does not need his own tomb. He borrows one for three days only. And when the ladies come to embalm him with spices on Sunday morning, as the Jews had done with every other King who died before, all they found were grave clothes because he was not there. Why? Because eyes of the Lord had run to and fro over the whole earth seeking to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart was loyal to Him, and those eyes rested on one man, Jesus Christ. He had every opportunity to rely on the arm of the flesh as Asa had (Wilderness, Garden of Gethsemane, Cross, etc.), but he relied on God. He did not forsake the Lord; he was found by the Lord. God lifted up his dependent child, out of the dust of death, and seated him on a throne where all of his enemies are being put under his feet. He is the warrior king defeating his enemies and bringing quiet to the land (Heb. 2). As this king’s great, great, great, great……….Grandfather had written, “Now I know that the LORD saves His Messiah (anointed); He will answer him from His holy heaven with the saving strength of His right hand. Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the LORD our God. They have bowed down and fallen; But we have risen and stand upright (Psa 20:6-8).”
Interpreting OT history is often a confusing task for the church. How do you apply Israelite history to the modern church? There have been two dominant attempts to resolve this tension: allegory and historical-grammatical method. Allegory arose mainly with people who deeply believed the OT was of value to the church and about Christ, so they struggled to read it as Christian scripture. Their difficulty over the literal sense of the text led to an allegorical, spiritual interpretation of the text that sought to raise the literal sense to a higher plane. Historical-grammatical method deeply values the literal sense of the text, employing a kind of scientific method to read the text and find out what it meant in its own time. Neither adequately accounts for the complete message of the Bible as a work about Christ. A Christocentric hermeneutic should be used instead of allegory or just historical-grammatical method.
Both the allegorical approach and the historical-grammatical method generate similar outcomes for the application of OT history. An allegorical approach basically de-historicizes the OT. On the other hand, the historical-grammatical approach can cancel out the OT as Christian scripture because its history meant something to Israel at the time, but it is difficult to see how it applies today. Those who subscribe to this kind of method usually only see application as learning from history so you do not repeat it (i.e. moralism).
Can the Old Testament be read in its literal sense and still be of value to a Christian audience? Allegory says, “No,” and historical-grammatical method does not know. The Bible answers this question with a “Yes,” and that yes is Jesus Christ. The entire OT is about Jesus (Luke 24:27), and all of history points to Jesus (Eph. 1:10). This means that OT history is about Christ and moving towards Christ. Christ is Abraham’s seed, so those in Christ are offspring of Abraham, heirs of the Israelite promises, and part of the vine of Israel (Gal. 3:29; Rm. 11). That means that Israelite historiographic literature is Christian historiographic literature. Jewish heritage is Christian heritage in Christ. Therefore, Christians cannot read Israelite history as if they are reading someone else’s mail. In order to read OT history as Christian scripture, the reader must read the narrative Christocentrically. All of the Old Testament is pointing to Christ, and if we are in Christ then it is pointing to us mediated through Christ (1 Tim. 2:5). The Old Testament does not first and foremost apply to the Christian; rather, it first applies to the Christ, and then it is mediated to the Christian. This means a typological, Christological reading of the Bible as a whole. The Bible is one book, and the Old Testament is the first part of that book. The little narratives should not be examined apart from the big narrative. Jesus and the apostles seemed to use this strategy. An analysis of the ark narrative of 1 Samuel 4-7 will demonstrate the deficiencies of allegory and historical-grammatical method, as well as the value of Christocentric reading.
THE BATTLE (4:1-18)
Israel goes to battle with the Philistines at Ebenezer and is defeated. In Deut. 28 there is a warning of cursing for disobedience. Israel’s routing at the hands of the Philistines is described in terms of a covenant curse. How had Israel broken the covenant? In the context of 1 Samuel, the gluttony and sexual immorality of Hophni and Phinehas and Eli’s failure to restrain them was one cause for the defeat (3:12-13). Another reason was idolatry (cf. 7:3, Psa. 78:58ff.).
The Israelites propose to bring the Ark of the Covenant, the presence of Yahweh, into the battle in order to be saved. The ark was there for the victory at Jericho (Joshua 6), so the people try to use it here as a good luck charm. The ark does not help. The Philistines win, take the ark of Yahweh and kill Hophni and Phinehas. Yahweh is being led away captive by a foreign army, and his priests lie slain on the battlefield. When Eli hears about the capture of the ark he falls over backwards and breaks his neck because he is so fat and old. God’s judgment has fallen on Eli for his sins.
Eli’s daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, is pregnant. When she hears the report she goes into premature labor and gives birth. She dies as a result of the birth, but before she does she names the boy “Ichabod” because the “glory has departed from Israel.” The ark, the presence of God, has gone into exile (galah). This word for “departure” is a word used often for the exile of Israel and Judah (2 Kg. 17:6, Isa. 5:13, Jer. 1:3, Ezek. 12:3, etc.). Yahweh is in exile.
The Philistines place the ark in Dagon’s temple before Dagon, as if to say Yahweh is bowing in defeat to worship Dagon. The next day the Philistines enter the temple to see their god lying prostrate before the ark of Yahweh. Dagon is worshipping Yahweh. The Philistines have to pick their god up (cf. Psa. 115; Isa 46:1-4). When the Philistines enter the temple early the third morning they see Dagon has fallen to pieces. His head and hands are cut off, and he lies on the ground defeated before Yahweh.
Within the larger narrative of the Bible the ark narrative is clearly a foreshadowing of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The warning of the covenant is exile for disobedience (Dt. 28:41-64). The people of Samuel’s time deserve captivity and exile. But what happens is surprising. The people are not taken into captivity, but Yahweh himself goes into captivity to “serve other gods, which neither you nor your fathers have known — wood and stone.” Yahweh takes the curses of the covenant on Himself. This is a pattern recognizable within the larger narrative. He has been defeated and is forced to serve a foreign god as a captive in exile (i.e. Samson, Manasseh, Israel in Babylon, etc.). Yet, the gospel truth of the New Testament is seen here because Yahweh is a God who brings victory out of defeat and life out of death by substituting Himself for His people.
The gospel promise of Genesis 3 is being carried out in a foreign temple. God promised in Genesis 3:15 that the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent while at the same time bruising his own heel. From that point forward God started crushing heads, and this points to God’s salvation through the seed of the Woman and His victory over the serpent. In 1 Samuel, the Philistines wake up on the third morning to the crushed head of Dagon, and in the context of Samuel this anticipates another Philistine head crushing. The seed of the woman, the Messiah, is prefigured in a little shepherd boy who puts his hand in a bag and slings a stone that crushes the forehead of the Philistine champion Goliath (1 Sam. 17:49-51). The humiliated shepherd boy defeats the exalted giant just as the humiliated Yahweh defeats the seemingly victorious Dagon.
This is the gospel of Jesus Christ. God takes on himself the covenant curses and judgments. He substitutes himself for his people. Jesus is taken captive by a foreign army. Jesus is humiliated by the Gentiles. Yet, what seems to be a defeat for Jesus ends up being his victory. He dies on one day. He lies in the tomb on the next. And early in the morning on the third day he is raised from the dead and crushes the head of the serpent. Humiliation leads to victory, which leads to exaltation. If one reads the Bible holistically, centered on its fulfillment in Christ, then the ark narrative clearly foreshadows the gospel event. In isolation, this passage may look like an historical event that simply shows Yahweh’s superiority to the gods of the nations, but in the grand storyline of the Bible this event is much more than a demonstration of Yahweh’s superiority. This victory of Yahweh over a god of the nations points forward to THE victory of Christ over the gods of this age at his crucifixion and resurrection. And it is no coincidence that Yahweh gains his victory on the morning of the third day. After the defeat of Dagon, Yahweh attacks the Philistine cities with plagues, tumors. This is a recapitulation of the Exodus. Captivity in a foreign country brings plagues upon the enemies and their gods. The Philistines devise a plan to send the ark away.
After seven months, they decide to send the ark back. The priests warn them not to send it back “empty.” This echoes the language of Yahweh’s promise to Moses concerning the Exodus, “And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and it shall be, when you go, that you shall not go empty-handed (Ex 3:21).” They decide to send it back with five golden tumors and five golden rats because the Philistines have five major cities. They send the ark back, and it comes to Beth Shemesh.
Yahweh strikes the men of Beth Shemesh because they look “in the ark of Yahweh.” They get rid of it, and the ark ends up staying in Kirjath Jearim for almost a hundred years before David brings it up to Jerusalem, after defeating the Philistines (2 Sam. 6:2). The ark stays in Kirjath Jearim for twenty years until Samuel issues a challenge and the people actually turn back to Yahweh. They do battle with the Philistines and win because Yahweh fights for them.
A typological, Christological hermeneutic is necessary to read the scriptures. God indeed works in patterns in history. These types find their fulfillment in the anti-type, Jesus Christ. The Bible says that all of God’s promises find their “yes” in Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 1:20). One huge pattern of the scriptures is the exodus motif. Israel is in bondage as captives in Egypt. In their humiliation, God hears their cries. Israel is born as a nation through the plagues, the Passover and their release. They loot the Egyptians as they leave. In the wilderness, they sin against God, and many die under judgment. The following generation, those twenty years and younger, conquer the land of Promise and drive out their enemies. This exodus motif is found in the ark narrative. God’s presence is taken away captive to a foreign land. He is forced to serve another god. He defeats the god of that nation. He sends plagues on the land. He plunders them as he leaves. He punishes Beth-Shemesh for their sin (i.e. faithless wanderers in the wilderness). The ark rests comfortably in Kirjath-Jearim for twenty years, and then there is a new conquest of the Promised Land, in which Yahweh fights for His people. The nation is reborn. This cycle will occur again. Sometimes it happens on an individual scale (i.e. Manasseh’s exile and return in 2 Chronicles 33:1-20). This motif will occur again on a national scale in the fall of Samaria and the exile of Judah in Babylon. The dead bones of Israel are captive in a foreign land, but there is promise of resurrection, rebirth, and the re-establishment of the kingdom. This fulfillment is seen partially in the return from exile. Finally, the exodus motif reaches its climax in Jesus of Nazareth. Israel continues to be under the rule of a foreign power. They are in exile in their own land. He is arrested by that foreign power, tried, found guilty, and executed. Jesus takes on Himself the covenant curses (Ezek.20:34-37). Then, three days later the dead bones of Israel are raised from the dead. The serpent’s head is crushed. The power of death is now overturned. Humanity is released from bondage to death and sin. Jesus (Joshua) leads the exodus from bondage to the curse. He plunders the enemy, and uses those gifts to establish His kingdom (Eph. 4:8-12). The exodus motif will find its fulfillment when the deliverer, Jesus, returns. Even now Christians are exiles in a strange land that is ruled by principalities, powers, and the “Prince of the Power of the Air.” Plagues will fall on this present world order (cf. Rev). Jesus will return for His people and lead a new exodus and conquest into a new land of Promise, the new earth. Only a typological reading sees the significant pattern that finds its culmination in Christ Jesus.
There has always been a struggle in applying OT history to the church. Allegory cancels out history in favor of spiritual reading of the text. Historical-grammatical method analyzes what the text meant, but ends up with moralism as the only way to apply the text, which puts the scripture on same level as Aesop’s fables. None of these methods adequately accounts for Jesus’ claims that the OT was about him (John 5:39). If one accepts that God works in types in history, and those patterns are fulfilled ultimately in Christ, and then are mediated to those in Him, then one can seek to identify those patterns today and apply the living word of Israelite history to the modern church. Sadly, many (if not most) evangelical interpreters are held captive to Enlightenment reductionism that would elevate modern hermeneutical methods above the methods of Jesus and the Apostles.
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