Weekly Miscellany II: November 11-17, 2013
Key scriptures under contemplation
These chapters detail the humiliation of Pharaoh at the Red (or Reed) Sea. Again, I am familiar enough with the literal-historical aspects of the story that I am mostly interested in a typological examination. Some aspects of the story have obvious parallels: Moses leads Israel through the waters, by faith, Hebrews 11 states, as though on dry land. Water and the sea often stand for death or Hades in Scriptures and in Hebrew culture. Even so, Christ has opened a way for his people through death. Yet I find interesting as well what comes immediately after the Red Sea hymn, even in the same chapter: the cleansing of the waters of Marah. The thirsty Israelites groaned when the spring they found spewed forth undrinkable bitter water; Moses took a branch from a tree and, throwing it into the spring, made the waters sweet. Moses then preaches a God, so recently shown to be a destroyer of the wicked, who is healer of the righteous.
There is an astonishing parallel to this whole sequence of events in 2 Kings 1-2. The first chapter details how divinely-inspired Elijah rebukes the idolatrous king of Samaria by calling fire down on his armies, which have been sent to fetch the prophet. Two of the evil monarch’s captains perish with their soldiers before the angel of YHWH tells Elijah to spare the third captain, who has bowed down to him in reverent fear, and to go to the king. Elijah goes and informs the king, who is wounded and sick, that he is soon to die in his bed, and he does. Shortly thereafter, in chapter 2, Elijah is taken into Heaven by chariots of fire; divine fire, which a chapter before consumed one hundred men, has become Elijah’s gateway to paradise.
But the parallels are far more explicit in the events that follow, which employ water-imagery heavily. Elijah has been carried into Heaven by the chariots of the Almighty; Elisha, using Elijah’s mantle, parts the waters of the Jordan in a manner reminiscent of the Red Sea miracle. I was startled Tuesday when I noticed for the first time that the next thing Elisha does is cleanse the cursed waters of Jericho. The pattern of events in Exodus is followed exactly, despite the different circumstances. While the “sons of the prophets” at Jericho send out men to search for the raptured Elijah, Elisha demonstrates his true prophetic power by rescinding an ancient curse on Jericho (see Joshua 6:26 and 1 Kings 16:34). He does not use a branch, but he fills a new jar with salt and casts the salt into the waters. This cleanses the waters forever and makes the land fertile.