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Tracing Jesus Throughout the Old Testament

John 5:39

Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.

The Old Testament, a fundamental part of the Holy Bible, is replete with prophecies, symbols, and metaphors that foreshadow the coming of Jesus Christ. Although Jesus' physical manifestation occurs in the New Testament, His spiritual presence is subtly woven into the fabric of the Old Testament. This essay aims to explore ten instances where Jesus is symbolised or prophesied in the Old Testament.

1. Genesis 3:21: After Adam and Eve's disobedience, God made garments of skin for them. This act of God providing a covering for man's sin foreshadows Jesus' ultimate sacrifice on the cross, where He provides the ultimate covering for humanity's sin through His blood.

2. Genesis 3:22: God further describes the tree of life, and should we eat of this we may live forever. This is a foreshadowing of Christ on the wooden cross giving his body as broken bread that we may consume it and have eternal life.


3. Genesis 3:15: This verse is one of the first Messianic prophecies in the Bible. God tells the serpent that the offspring of the woman "will crush your head, and you will strike his heel." This is seen as a prophecy of Jesus' victory over sin and death.


4. Genesis 14:18: Melchizedek, the king of Salem, brings out bread and wine and blesses Abram. This prefigures Jesus, the "King of Peace," who at the Last Supper, uses bread and wine as symbols of His body and blood, instituting the Eucharist.


5. Genesis 22:1-18: In this passage, Abraham is instructed to sacrifice his son, Isaac, as a test of his faith. However, God provides a ram as a substitute at the last moment. This story foreshadows Jesus' sacrifice on the cross, where He is offered as a substitute for humanity's sins.


6. Exodus 12: The Passover lamb, unblemished and sacrificed to save the Israelites, is a significant type of Christ. Jesus, the "Lamb of God," is without sin and was sacrificed at Passover, bringing salvation to those who believe in Him.


7. Exodus 14: In this passage, Moses is being pursued by the Egyptians and God commands the sea to move. God often shows His full control over the waters, from the flood of Noah to the parting of the seas, and this is a foreshadowing of Jesus coming and walking on water and stopping the storm.


8. Exodus 17:11-12: In this passage, Moses raises his hands during a battle, and if his hands are lifted, the Israelites prevail. When Moses' hands grow tired, they are held up by Aaron and Hur, ensuring victory for the Israelites. This event is often seen as a foreshadowing of Jesus' crucifixion. Just as Moses' raised hands brought salvation to the Israelites, Jesus' outstretched arms on the cross brought salvation to humanity.


9. Numbers 21:8: Here, God instructs Moses to make a bronze serpent and put it on a pole so that anyone bitten by a snake could look at the bronze serpent and live. This is a clear prefiguration of Jesus' crucifixion. Just as the Israelites looked upon the bronze serpent for healing, so too do Christians look to Jesus on the cross for spiritual healing and salvation.


10. 2 Kings 5:10: The prophet Elisha instructs Naaman to wash in the Jordan seven times to be healed of leprosy. This foreshadows Jesus' call to spiritual cleansing and rebirth through baptism.


11. Psalm 22: This psalm, attributed to King David, contains vivid descriptions of suffering and abandonment that parallel Jesus' crucifixion. The opening line, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" is echoed by Jesus on the cross, linking the suffering servant of the psalm to Jesus' sacrificial death.


12. Isaiah 7:14: This prophecy foretells a virgin will conceive and bear a son called Immanuel, meaning "God with us." This prophecy is fulfilled in the New Testament with the virgin birth of Jesus.


13. Micah 5:2: This verse prophesies that a ruler would come from Bethlehem, which is fulfilled in the New Testament account of Jesus' birth.


14. Isaiah 9:6: This prophecy anticipates the birth of a son who will be known as "Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Christians see this prophecy as a clear reference to the birth and divine nature of Jesus.


15. 2 Chronicles 30:20: The Lord often has pity on the afflicted and takes on a role as healer of the people who ask Him for help, this foreshadows Jesus miraculously healing many people he encounters.

16. Zechariah 9:9: This prophecy of a humble king coming to Jerusalem "righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey" is fulfilled in Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, as recorded in the New Testament.


17. Isaiah 53: This chapter, often called the "Suffering Servant" passage, prophesies a figure who would be "pierced for our transgressions" and "crushed for our iniquities." Christians interpret this figure as Jesus, whose suffering and death brought about salvation.


18. Daniel 3:25: In this passage, King Nebuchadnezzar throws Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into a fiery furnace for refusing to worship his golden statue. However, he sees four men walking in the fire, unharmed, and the fourth "looks like a son of the gods." Many Christian scholars believe this fourth figure to be a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus, demonstrating His protective power over those who remain faithful.


In conclusion, the Old Testament is not merely a precursor to the New Testament but is intricately intertwined with it. The presence of Jesus is subtly yet powerfully woven into the Old Testament narrative, providing a rich tapestry of prophecy and symbolism that points to His life, death, and resurrection. These examples serve to underline the continuity and coherence of the Christian Bible, affirming its central message of redemption through Jesus Christ.