Moses is another Old Testament figure who foreshadows Jesus Christ, like Joseph. In fact, the parallels are striking. While there are certainly major differences between the two—Jesus lived a sinless life; Moses killed a man; Moses establishes the moral and civil code of a nation; Jesus says his kingdom is not of this world—but in at least seven key ways, Moses’ life hints at the character and mission of the Messiah to come.
Out of Egypt
As babies, both Moses and Jesus were in danger from despots who were afraid of them. Pharaoh ordered all Hebrew males to be killed because he was worried the Hebrew population was getting strong enough to resist his reign; Herod ordered all males in Bethlehem under the age of two to be killed because he was afraid the “King of the Jews” the Magi had come to visit would mean his overthrow. Both babies, however, found refuge in Egypt. Moses was discovered floating down the Nile in his basket by Pharaoh’s daughter and was raised in the royal palace. Jesus’ parents fled to Egypt with him just ahead of the massacre of the innocents, having been warned in a dream what Herod was planning to do.
Out of the house of bondage
Around age 40, Moses’ concern for the plight of his enslaved people reaches a breaking point. Infuriated at the treatment of fellow Hebrews by cruel overseers, he lashes out and kills one. Later, he encounters Yahweh at the burning bush and is sent back to Egypt to confront Pharaoh and bring his people out of Egypt. When Moses hesitates, saying he isn’t eloquent enough, God says, “I will be with your mouth and teach you what you should speak.” (Exodus 4:12). In a similar way, Jesus’ mission is to bring his people out of bondage to sin. “If the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed,” he declares. (John 8:36). Jesus angered the religious establishment by saying he was only speaking what the Father told him to say. “What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.” (John 12:50)
Signs and wonders
No two ways about it, Moses and Jesus are the most spectacular miracle workers in the Bible. Moses turns his staff into a snake, the Nile to blood, day to night; he parts the Red Sea and brings enough water to quench more than a million people and animals from a rock. Jesus heals hundreds, if not thousands, of people, feeds five thousand men (not counting women) from five loaves and two fishes, turns water to wine, walks on water, raises the dead. Just amazing.
Institituted a meal
Both men institute a meal that takes on huge cultural and spiritual significance. Moses, acting on God’s instructions, tells the children of Israel to eat the Passover meal of lamb, unleavened bread and bitter herbs, as a memorial of God rescuing them out of slavery in Egypt. Jesus institutes the Lord’s Supper, a riff on the Passover meal that Christians practice in different ways, but is for everyone what we “do in remembrance of” Jesus. (Luke 22:19)
For all his incredible leadership, Moses is remembered as the humblest man who ever lived. Numbers 12:3 says, “Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth.” Perhaps it’s because he grew up an adopted outsider, or perhaps his forty years of shepherding in Midian exacerbated his inherent shyness. In any case, it’s an interesting facet of his character that creates a complexity when taken with the signs he performs and his powerful leadership. Jesus, likewise, says, “Take my yoke upon you… for I am meek and lowly of heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29)
And both men are shepherds, Moses both literally and figuratively, Jesus figuratively. Psalm 77:20 says, “You led your people like a flock, by the hand of Aaron and Moses.” Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd.” (John 10:11)
Stands in the breach
Yahweh gets so angry with the ungrateful, complaining, idolatrous children of Israel, that he threatens to destroy them and start a new nation from Moses. Protective of God’s reputation, Moses pleads for his people, and begs him to relent. Psalm 106:23 puts it beautifully: “Therefore he said he would destroy them—had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him, to turn away his wrath from destroying them.” Jesus does the same for all who put their faith in him. He always lives to intercede for us (Hebrews 7:25), he is our advocate in heaven (1 John 2:1).
Moses brought the Book of the Covenant to the people of Israel and read for them the terms of God’s relationship with his people. The deal was, follow the Law and be blessed, or don’t follow it and be cursed (Deuteronomy 28-29). To seal this agreement, Moses sprinkled the people with the “blood of the covenant” (Exodus 24:8). Does this ring a bell? At the Last Supper, Jesus tells his disciples, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” (Luke 22:20). The letter to the Hebrews explains in detail why the covenant Jesus mediated is superior to Moses’, but the gist of it is, under the Mosaic Law the sacrifices for sins had to be offered year after year, but Jesus’ death on the cross was the last sacrifice once for all.
During his lifetime Moses knew that he wasn’t the end of the story. In his final discourse to the people, he says, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from among your brothers—it is to him you shall listen” (Deuteronomy 18:15) By his meekness, his liberation, his intercession and his covenant-mediating all foreshadow this prophet. Let me end with this qutoe from Hebrews 3:5-6 that also makes the connection between them:
Now Moses was faithful in all God's house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God's house as a son.
For a lot of people, the Bible is either art or truth. For me, it's both, and I hope to persuade readers in both camps to see the other perspective.