Recapitulating Israel

Recapitulating Israel August 10, 2015

The early life of Moses anticipates the later history of Israel. Moses is rescued from water, flees from an attack by Pharaoh, finds water in the wilderness, meets Yahweh on the mountain of God, moves to a new land. The life of Moses also looks backward, recapitulating the life-history of Jacob. Moses is a new Jacob as well as the head of a redeemed Israel.

Here are a few of the parallels:

1) Jacob struggles in the womb with his brother. Moses is in danger from Pharaoh from his birth.

2) Jacob flees from the land of his birth because his brother is trying to kill him. Moses flees from the land of Egypt because Pharaoh is trying to kill him.

3) Jacob meets his future wife Rachel at a well in a foreign land. Moses meets Zipporah at a well in a foreign land.

4) Jacob lives with and serves Laban. Moses lives with and keeps the flocks of Jethro.

5) Jacob has many children while in exile from his homeland. Moses has a son, Gershom, born in Midian and whose name means “sojourner.”

6) Yahweh appears to Jacob and tells him to leave Laban’s house (Genesis 31:11-13). Yahweh meets Moses and tells him to return to Egypt.

7) A contrast: Laban resists letting Jacob go, since he knows that Jacob has brought blessing to his house. Though Moses brings blessing to his house, Jethro sends Moses off in peace (Exodus 4:18)_

8) Before Jacob re-enters the land, the Lord wrestles with him. Before Moses re-enters Egypt, the Lord tries to kill his son Gershom.

9) Esau, Jacob’s brother, meets him as he enters the land. Aaron, Moses’ brother meets him as he enters Egypt.

From there the stories diverge, since Moses returns to Egypt not to resettle there but to bring Israel out. At that point, the history of Moses, which is the history of Jacob, becomes the history of the whole people of Israel. In any case, the parallels between Moses and Jaocb are numerous, detailed, and in sequence. Moses is a new Jacob, Israel-in-person, the founding father of a new Israel.

This isn’t the last time Israel is re-founded by a new Jacob. I showed in detail in A Son To Me that David’s life too runs closely parallel to the life of Jacob. David is a new Moses and a new-new Jacob, refounding Israel not as a collection of tribes but as a kingdom. And we can press further: Elijah’s life recapitulates the life of Moses, and if Moses is a new Jacob, then Elijah is a new-new-new Jacob. 

By the time we get to Jesus, the Jacob story has been thickly layered with Mosaic, Davidic, and prophetic overlays.

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