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No. 86: Jesus and Amalek

BIBLICAL Horizons, No. 86
June, 1996
Copyright 1996 Biblical Horizons

This essay goes with our previous study of the Amalek pattern back in Biblical Horizons No. 2. Since many do not have this essay, entitled "The Battle of Gog and Magog," let me cite the relevant paragraphs:

I wish to point out how Jesus fulfills this theme in Matthew, which is the "Mosaic" gospel.

We are initially alerted to the Egypt and Exodus themes in 2:13 & 19. A "famine in the land" – a threat of death – sent Israel into Egypt. Here a threat of death at the hands of Herod sends Jesus into Egypt.

Then we come to John’s baptism and Jesus’ move into the wilderness. In order to understand this, we need to see the land of Israel as another Egypt. This had been foreshadowed when David had to flee from Saul into the wilderness. Jesus’ baptism is parallel to Israel’s baptism through the Red Sea (Ps. 77:17; 1 Cor. 10:2). In fact, the meaning of John’s baptism in the wilderness is just this: The faithful needed symbolically to leave behind the Egypt of Judaism and come into the wilderness with Elijah-John.

Jesus’ baptism is accompanied by God’s declaration that He is His Son (Mt. 3:17), and we are to recall that the whole point of the exodus from Egypt was God’s claim of Israel as His son (Ex. 4:22). The death of the Egyptians at Passover and at the baptismal Red Sea was God’s proof that Israel was His son (Ex. 4:23).

What follows is the attack of Amalek in the wilderness, and this is fulfilled by the attack of Satan on Jesus in the wilderness. Israel prevailed as Moses’ hands were raised up to God, supported by Aaron and Hur; so that the prophet was central, with the priest and king (Judah) on either side. (Compare the Jachin-priest and Boaz-king pillar in front of the Temple, holding it up.) Jesus is tempted in the priestly area (stones to bread), the prophetic area (miraculous demonstration and confirmation), and the kingly area (all the nations of the world). (Mt. 4:1-11.)

When we see this, we can see a contrast. To see it, we have to look at Luke. Luke assumes we have read Matthew and Mark, and so he can add to them. Luke is the "Prophetic" gospel. What he adds is this contrast: Immediately after God defeated Amalek, the family of Moses met Israel and blessed them; whereas immediately after Jesus defeated Satan, Jesus preached in Nazareth and was rejected; in fact, they tried to kill Him (Luke 4:1-30).

We can now go back to Matthew, and see that in Matthew what follows the defeat of Amalek is the giving of the Law: the Sermon on the Mount, which is the equivalent and fulfillment of the Mount Sinai law-revelation.

With this parallel sequence established, we can make more out of the greatest fulfillment of the pattern: the crucifixion. Jesus’ uplifted hands parallel Moses’, and on either side of him are two other men also with uplifted hands, the sinful equivalents of Aaron and Hur: humanity, God’s priest-kings. It is again Luke who fills out the meaning for us, by pointing out that Jesus was first tried by the Sanhedrin (priestly), then by Herod (prophetic; for Herod wanted a miracle, and the Herods are the false-prophet/land-beast" of Revelation), and then by Pilate (kingly).

Jesus’ upraised hands, when He prayed for the salvation of humanity, are the defeat of Amalek, and also the defeat of false church and false world. Focussing on Amalek, we need only remember that the Herods were Idumeans, which is the Greek form of Edomites, and that the Amalekites were Edomites.

I should now like to conclude with a few observations on the pattern in Acts. Notice in Acts 1 that the disciples removed themselves to the upper room, where they "were staying" (Acts 1:13). This is equivalent, I suggest, to the homes of the Israelites on Passover night. They did not leave the upper room, definitively anyway, until there was a sign from heaven to make this exodus into the streets of Jerusalem.

The death of Judas, which seems to be a mere parenthetical insertion in Acts 1:18-19, can now be seen as a fulfillment of the death of the Egyptian firstborn. This is followed by the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which is the equivalent of the Red Sea crossing. The conversion of Jerusalem sinners stands in contrast to the destruction of Pharaoh’s army at the Red Sea, but both are defeats for Satan.

Acts, of course, does not directly parallel the exodus, because the early chapters are primarily a recasting of Joshua 1-11. But when we come to the murder of James by Herod, we see the attack of Amalek. Peter was cast into prison, but the Church, Moses-like, was continually in earnest prayer for him (Acts 12:5). The result was that Peter was released, and Amalek destroyed when Herod died soon thereafter.