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Exodus on a cosmic scale

In Exodus, Pharaoh is more than Pharaoh. That is to say, he is more than the ruler of Egypt, an intermediary between the gods and the people or the oppressor of Israel. If we’re seeing Exodus from the perspective of Genesis, he is the one opposing the creation purposes of God  (to bless man by giving him fullness of life and love all anchored in rich fellowship with Him). In light of this, the exodus story takes on cosmic significance and Pharaoh is more than Pharaoh. (Even though there are two pharaohs in Exodus, they represent a single unity. As Fretheim (who I’m leaning on heavily in this post) points out, this is seen in the fact that the first pharaoh’s attempt to kill Moses through drowning provides the fate for the second pharaoh—14:28).

Pharaoh is mentioned 107 times in Exodus. Fretheim tells us, “the focus is placed on him, not simply as a historical figure, but as a symbol for the anticreation forces of death which take on the God of life . . . This is no minor subversion, having only local effects; it is a threat to undo God’s creation.” Pharaoh wants to curse what God has blessed and by doing so return the world to the chaos that existed before God set everything in order (Genesis 1:2).

For all of Pharaoh’s posturing and fear-mongering, he’s no match for Yahweh. This is seen in the way that God thwarts Pharaoh’s plans. In the preliminary part of the story, the first pharaoh is dispatched by five women and a baby. The second pharaoh goes head-to-head with Moses. He is overcome by ten plagues that usher in a new world for Israel in a manner similar to the way the creative “let” spoken ten times in Genesis 1 brought the world into being.

That we're to see the coming Christ in Moses (mentioned 273 x’s in the book) is easy to see by those of us who look backward. The birth story of Moses and Pharaoh mirrors the birth story of Jesus and Herod and is presented by Matthew in that way—right down to Him being called out of Egypt (Matthew 2:15). Moses rescued Israel from their bondage in slavery as Christ rescues us from our bondage to sin. They were baptized into Moses (1 Corinthians 10:2); we’re baptized into Christ (Galatians 3:26-27). And while some of this would have been true for Israel (see Deuteronomy 18:15ff), Moses would probably have been more quickly linked with Noah.

The word for the basket Moses is placed in is the same word that is used for the ark Noah built. His mother sees that he is a “fine” child (2:2). This is the same word translated as "good" in Genesis 1 where it is repeatedly used by God in reference to His creation (Fretheim). God has created someone good in Moses who will bring Israel (and the world) out of the chaos imposed by Pharaoh and into a new existence aligned with His creation purposes. This is what Noah did (Genesis 9:1,7). By the way, there's water everywhere in Exodus and the God who separated the water from the water at creation (Genesis 1:6) has no problem saving Moses by separating him from the water and later separating the waters so Israel might pass through (McGuiggan). 

All of this encourages us to think about Exodus on a larger scale than a Jewish story of reversal (which it is). It is the perfect complement to Genesis because we see the major themes of that book taken up and applied to Israel in the exodus and later in the wilderness.

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