Colossians 2:16-17 records Paul referring to the customs of the old law as shadows of Christ, and Hebrews 8:4-5 refers to the Levitical priesthood as a shadow of things to come. Likewise, Hebrews 10:1 calls the old law a shadow of good things to come. We’ve examined how the Sabbath days and years are shadows as are the implements of the temple. Even individuals serve as shadows of Christ, and, in Hebrews 3, Moses is one of these individuals.
Parallels Between Moses and Jesus
The first six verses of Hebrews 3 draw parallels between Jesus and Moses. In this, there are some immediate facts that come to mind.
- Exodus 2:3-10 records Moses’ fate as a baby. He is preserved in infancy while other male children are condemned, and a parallel to this can be found in Matthew 2:13-15 when Herod orders the murder of males two and under.
- Both are raised by a step-parent, so to speak. Moses is raised in Pharaoh’s household in Exodus 2:10, and, in Luke 3:23, Jesus is described as the supposed son of Joseph. He is not the birth son of this man.
- We have little recorded of either childhood. With Jesus, we have his studies in the temple at twelve and then his adult ministry. Moses we see as a baby and then as an adult.
- Both Jesus and Moses are described as “apostles,” or sent-out ones in Exodus 3:10-12 and Hebrews 3:1.
- Both denounce offered riches. Hebrews 11:24 records Moses’ faithful revocation of the privileges afforded one in his position for the sake of God. In II Corinthians 8:9, Paul speaks of Christ inflicting Himself with poverty for the sake of others.
- In Exodus 34:27-28, Moses fasts for 40 days and nights, and Jesus does likewise after His baptism in Matthew 4.
- Exodus 14:21 records Moses controlling sea and wind, and Jesus does this before the apostles in Matthew 8:26.
- Moses feeds the people with bread and meat as does Jesus (fish and loaves) in Matthew 6.
- Numbers 11:16 has Moses gathering 70 men to help his work, and Luke 10:1 records Jesus recruiting seventy men.
- Moses is a law-giver according to Exodus 35:1, and John 12:49-50 as well as Matthew 28:18-20 put Jesus in a position of authority as a law-giver.
- Both speak God’s word from a mount. Moses, Mt. Sinai; Jesus, the sermon on the mount.
- Moses establishes the tabernacle in Exodus 35-40, and Jesus serves the purpose of the tabernacle in John 1:14.
- Exodus 34:35 records Moses’ face shining from the presence of the Lord, and, in Matthew 17:2, Jesus’ face shines as the sun.
- Both establish memorials – the Passover and the Lord’s Supper, both involving blood of the lamb.
- Both are rejected by their own people, Moses by the freed Israelite slaves in Exodus 2:14, and many disciples forsook Jesus in John 6:66 as do people from His own hometown in John 7:12-13.
- Numbers 12:1-2 and Luke 7:5: Both are rejected by their own families.
- Both endure murmuring. Exodus 15:24 is but one example of the Israelites complaining against Moses, and Luke 15:2 (among other passages) shows the scribes and Pharisees murmuring about Jesus’ association with sinners.
- Both are humble: Numbers 12:3 and Matthew 11:29.
- Both are punished for their brethren. In Deuteronomy 1:37, 3:26, and 4:21, Moses tells the people God was angry at him for their sakes. Isaiah 53, I John 3:16, and Romans 5:6-8 explain Jesus’ sacrifice based on our sins.
- Mysterious circumstances surround the death of each. Deuteronomy 34:5-7 shows Moses being buried anonymously by God at a fit 129. Jesus death features an empty tomb and the confusion surrounding that fact.
- Both are deliverers from bondage. Moses, in Exodus 3:10, is to bring the people out of slavery, and John 8:32-36 speaks of Christ’s truth setting us free. Romans 6:5-6 describes our former life in sin as a bondage that Jesus breaks.
Parallels such as these are not coincidental or accidental. The Jewish culture surrounding Jesus would have seen many of these parallels in His life. Deuteronomy 18:15-18 records Moses saying that God will rise up another prophet like himself, and Acts 3:19-26 has Peter stating that Jesus is the fulfillment of this promise, pointing to the entirety of the prophetic canon as leading up to Christ.
Moses is the prototypical deliverer and law-giver, and Jesus fills that shadow. Today, we must give heed to everything Jesus says and recognize Him as our deliverer from the bondage of sin.
lesson by Tim Smelser