The more I’ve read the Bible, the more I’ve come to realize and appreciate its artistry. I mean the writers are beautifully creative and carried along by the Spirit of God so it’s hardly surprising. Yet, I’m often gleefully surprised by the depth of God’s Word. The Book of Exodus has no shortage of artistic depth and in this post, we’ll be looking at an important allusion early on in the book that tells us a lot about who Moses is and what he will do.
The first time we read of Moses, it’s not looking too good. Pharaoh has just decreed that all the Hebrew baby boys should be killed by tossing them into the Nile (Ex. 1:22). Moses is a boy…a baby boy…a Hebrew baby boy. Not good. His mom hides him for three months and when she can no longer hide him, she quickly devises a plan and trusts in God. This is when the literary artistry really picks up.
“But when she could hide him no longer, she got him a wicker basket and covered it over with tar and pitch. Then she put the child into it and set it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile.” Exodus 2:3
First, notice the irony. She actually obeys Pharaoh’s evil decree and puts her Hebrew baby boy in the Nile. What faith! And guess what, God is able to defeat Pharaoh at his own game using Pharaoh’s own evil plan. God brings good out of evil.
This particular blog is about the allusion to Noah in the passage we just read. You might be scratching your head, but stick with me. First, let’s recall the big picture of the story: Moses is saved by floating in an object on the water. That certainly sounds familiar. But what is Moses in? This is where the connections become more obvious. He’s in an ark! The translation in most English Bibles is “basket” which the Hebrew word “tevah” can mean (it probably was some sort of basket/chest thing). However, “tevah” is used 28 times in the Bible and 26 of those times it refers to Noah’s ark. The other two usages are in this passage. So, the author of Exodus is describing this object that Moses is floating in as an “ark”. (A side note reminder: in the Hebrew Scriptures Genesis and Exodus are part of the same book: the Torah.) What is Moses’ ark covered in? Tar and pitch. Sound familiar? Noah’s ark was similarly covered (see Gen. 6:14). So, Moses is floating along on the water in a pitch covered ark in which he will ultimately be saved. The author of the Torah is shouting out, “This baby Moses is a New Noah!”
So, what does this mean? Why is the author making this connection between Moses and Noah? Well, let’s think about who Noah was and what he did. Noah was set apart by God to bring judgment on evil and salvation to God’s people. This salvation was not for kicks and giggles. Noah was set apart to lead the beginning of a New Creation–a new people, living in a new land, through whom God would spread His salvation. Likewise, Moses will function as a leader who is set apart by God to bring judgment on evil and salvation to God’s people. This salvation isn’t for kicks and giggles either. Moses is to lead the beginning of a New Creation–a new people (Israel), on their way to a new land (they too will pass through water to get there), through whom God will spread His salvation. God’s Word is pretty awesome. The author of Exodus uses allusion to tell us about who Moses is and what he will do before he even does it. Moses is a New Noah.
4 thoughts on “Exodus: Moses a.k.a the New Noah”
incredible, did you notice all that alone ? do you know commentators who also saw this intertextuality?
Bro, thanks for reading and your encouragement! Yes I noticed as I studied through the Pentateuch over my last break from school. There are several commentators I’ve read that notice “tevah” and discuss that connection briefly but few get into why the author would make that connection (the more important question in my mind!).
ok good job for expliciting the link. I’ve just read Desmond Alexander’s commentary, he notices the link but rejects intertextuality and typology for being too extrapolating. He says that Cassuto accept it.
Ya I like Alexander’s commentary a lot! But I’m surprised he rejects the link. Seems pretty sound when it’s all put together!