Old Testament “Typology”- 1 Corinthians 10:11
In this verse, Paul tells us that “These things happened to them as examples, and were written down as warnings for us”. This statement occurs as Paul is recalling some incidents which happened in the Old Testament which he uses here to warn people that the same thing my happen to them if they continue in their current way. The Greek word translated as “examples” here is typos, from which we derive the English word “type”. A Biblical “type”, then, is an Old Testament event which took place in history and acts as a foreshadowing of a spiritual reality which would be fulfilled by Christ in the New Testament. The study of these events and their meanings is known as Typology, and we will present a short example from the book of Joshua in order to demonstrate what a type is and how it is understood. In Joshua chapter three, Israel is about to cross the Jordan river and enter into the promised land. Moses has departed and Joshua has not been put in charge by God, he is the one who will lead Israel into the promised land. The typology here actually begins with the names themselves. The name Joshua is the Hebrew Yeshua, which literally means “God will save”, and, by no coincidence, is the name given to Jesus of Nazareth. The word Jordan means “one who descends”. The Jordan river began in the mountains and descended downward to the Dead Sea. The river itself serves as a type, as a picture of sin and its effects on mankind. The river begins in the mountains, in the presence of God (seen in Moses on Mount Sinai and Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration), and descends gradually and inevitably into death, represented here by the Dead Sea. It is also this river of “sin” which stands between Israel and the promised land, it is “sin” which Joshua must “overcome” in order for Israel to enter into the land. In Joshua 3:1-2, Israel has come to the Jordan and are told to cross on the “third day”, and the river is at “flood stage”, both foreshadowings of Messiah, who would defeat sin on the “third day” (when He arose and defeated death) and died at “just the right time” (Romans 5:8), when sin was at “flood stage”. Israel is given specific instructions on how they are to cross the river, and they are told that the priests who are carrying the Ark of the Covenant (the presence of God with them) are to enter the river first. When the priests set foot in the river, “the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap, at a town called Adam.” (verse 15-16). It is the priests bearing the very presence of God with them, which are again here a “type” of Jesus, which stops the flow of sin and allows Israel to enter safely into the land. It is only through the presence of a “priest” bearing the very presence of God that sin could be dealt with and allow God’s people to enter into the land, for Jesus is our “High priest” (Hebrews 4:14) whose work dealt with sin and allows entrance into the eternal promised land. It is also no coincidence that sin was stopped at a town called Adam, for the this also is a type, a type of the fact that Jesus would deal with sin once and for all, and this solution for be for all of mankind, that the flow of sin would be dealt with at the “source” and its solution would avail for all of Adam’s descendants (Romans 5:18). This priestly work then allowed all of Israel to cross over the Jordan on “dry ground” (verse 17), again a foreshadowing of the fullness of salvation received in Christ. One further type we will examine occurs in chapter 4. As Israel crosses the river Joshua commands the leader of each of the twelve tribes (here representing all of Israel) to “take a stone from the middle of the Jordan to carry over with you”. He also tells the tribal leaders to “take up a stone on his shoulder” before they enter the river. They are to take a stone from “Egypt” and carry into the dry riverbed and leave it there. They are also to remove a stone from the riverbed and carry it across to set up a memorial in the Promised Land. This all seems rather odd and kind of unnecessary in the story itself, but a look at its “typology” readily explains the reason for all of this rock carrying. The rocks carried from Egypt and left in the river represent here what the New Testament refers to as the “old man”, the person we were apart from Christ, the one who was a slave to sin (Romans 6:17), kept by sin from entering the “Promised Land”. This old man is deposited once and for all at the bottom of the river, a type of the death of this “old man”. The rocks taken from the river and carried into the Promised Land than are a type of the “new creation’ which we are in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17), rescued from the death which our sin produced and delivered into new life by the priestly work of our Yeshua. This also serves as a type of New Testament baptism, in which the “old man” is symbolically buried beneath the water, never to arise again, and in which the new creation rises up out of the water, free from his former bondage to sin to enter the Promised Land and live as a “memorial” to the work of his savior. As we can see, the study of typology can be rather involved sometimes, but, for those who endeavor to engage in it, it can be to be a very worthwhile use of time.