Sunday, February 4, 2024

The Greater Moses

In Matthew, the life and the deeds of Jesus echo key events in the history of Israel; not that he reenacts them, but rather that he brings the things that God began in the past to their intended fulfillment. He is the Greater Lawgiver foreshadowed in the story of Israel’s Exodus from Egypt. By presenting parallels between Moses and Jesus, Matthew sets the stage for the teachings of the “Coming One,” especially as represented in his ‘Sermon on the Mount’.

Moses delivered the Law to Israel at Mount Sinai. Likewise, on the “Mount,” Jesus pronounced his definitive interpretations of the “Law and the Prophets” since he came to fill the Scriptures up to the brim, not to destroy the Law.

Redrock Canyon - Photo by joel protasio on Unsplash
[Photo by joel protasio on Unsplash]

After the “
wise men” told King Herod of their intent to find the one “born king of the Jews,” he asked them to inform him when they found the child so he, also, could pay homage to him. But the “wise men” were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, for he intended to kill the child – (Matthew 2:1-12).

Similarly, at the time Moses was born, the “King of Egypt” ordered the “Hebrew midwives” to kill all male infants when they were born. But they “feared God and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them” - (Exodus 1:17).

In Matthew, an angel warned Joseph to take the infant to Egypt, “for Herod will seek to destroy the child,” which is exactly what the king did when he ordered the slaughter of all males under the age of two in Bethlehem.

Joseph remained in Egypt until Herod died in fulfillment of the prophecy in the Book of Hosea, originally, a passage applied to Israel that referred to the nation’s deliverance from Egypt - “Out of Egypt, I called my son” - (Hosea 11:1, Matthew 2:13-16).

Likewise, Moses fled Egypt because Pharaoh sought to slay him, and he remained in Midian until Pharaoh died. Only then did Yahweh “hear the groanings of the children of Israel and remember his covenant with Abraham” and send Moses back to Egypt to deliver Israel - (Exodus 2:15-25, 3:14).

After his baptism, the “Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tested by the Devil.” The temptation as recorded in Matthew echoes the tests that Israel faced in the wilderness, only she failed each test whereas he overcame them all - (Matthew 4:1-11).


In the wilderness, the Israelites complained. They missed the “fleshpots of Egypt.” God responded by sending them “manna” to eat, though many came to despise it. Years later, Moses reminded the nation how God “fed you with manna…that he might make you know that man does not live by bread only, but by EVERYTHING THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF YAHWEH,” the very passage Jesus quoted to Satan during the Temptation - (Exodus 16:3, Deuteronomy 8:3).

At Massah, the Israelites grumbled about the lack of water. In so doing, they “tempted Yahweh.” Before entering Canaan, Moses reminded them of the incident when he warned Israel, “Do not tempt Yahweh your God as you tempted him in Massah.”

In Judea, Jesus cited the same passage when Satan challenged him to throw himself down from the “pinnacle of the Temple” - (Exodus 17:1-7, Deuteronomy 6:16). When the Devil offered him political power, he responded by again citing the words of Moses to Israel - “Beware lest you forget Yahweh who brought you forth out of the land of Egypt. You shall fear Yahweh your God, and you shall serve him” - (Deuteronomy 6:12-13).

After his temptation, Jesus returned to Galilee where he began to proclaim the Gospel. Consequently, “great multitudes from Galilee, Decapolis, Jerusalem and Judea” started to follow him - (Matthew 4:18-25).

The geographic names indicate the crowds were composed of Gentiles and Jews. In the same passage, Galilee is called “Galilee of the nations.” Matthew’s description of the “multitudes” parallels the “mixed multitude” that “came up with the children of Israel” when God brought them out of Egypt “with signs and wonders.”

Likewise, many members of the “multitude” in Galilee followed Jesus because they were attracted by his miraculous healings and exorcisms rather than his teachings and summons to discipleship – (Exodus 12:38, Deuteronomy 26:8).

The background from Exodus and Deuteronomy prepares the reader of Matthew for the first major block of Christ’s teachings. After “seeing the multitudes,” he led his disciples “up onto the mountain” where he sat down and began to teach.

The Greek text uses the definite article or “the” with “mountain.” It was “THE mountain.” However, the text does not provide any information about its identity. Instead, it includes a verbal allusion to the story of Moses when he “ascended onto the mount” at Sinai.

Matthew wants us to hear these parallels. While Israel was encamped on the plain, Moses “went up to Yahweh” and received the “ten words” inscribed on the stone tablets. In the Greek Septuagint version of Exodus, Moses “ascended onto the mount” (anebé eis to oros). The same clause is found in the Greek text of Matthew describing how Jesus “ascended onto the mount” (anebé eis to oros). This is not coincidental.

Desert wilderness - Photo by Avi Waxman on Unsplash
[Photo by Avi Waxman on Unsplash]

When Moses entered the presence of Yahweh to receive His commandments, only Aaron accompanied him. Not even the sanctified priests were allowed on the mountain – “L
et not the priests and the people break through to ascend up unto Yahweh, lest he break forth upon them.” - (Exodus 12:12-25).

Likewise, having ascended the “mount” as Moses did, Jesus taught the words of God to his closest disciples. However, unlike Moses, he gave the definitive interpretation of the Law and the will of his Father which is summarized in the contents of his ‘Sermon on the Mount’.

  • Who is this Man? - (No one recognized who Jesus was except the demons that he exorcised. Only in his death on a Roman cross was his identity understood)
  • The Son of Man - (The one like a Son of Man in Daniel is the source of Christ’s self-designation as the Son of Man and his authority)