The modern practice of dismantling the Bible into a shambles of documents authored in response to disparate historical events rather than viewing it as a unified testimony inspired by God is a surefire way to miss what is actually going on in the text. This failure is compounded by an outright refusal to accept Genesis 1-3 as the foundation for the entire metanarrative.
In the third cycle of John’s first epistle, the apostle employs the themes of ascension – the firstfruits of the land and the womb, lawgiving at Sinai, and “Levitical” purity – in his exhortation to the New Covenant Israel. But these saints had assembled at a better mountain.
When the prophet Nathan told David of a rich man who had stolen and killed a poor man’s sheep (2 Samuel 12), David’s judgment that the man restore it fourfold was based on the stipulation in Exodus 22:1. But why does that law stipulate a fivefold restoration for the same crime concerning an ox?
The Fruit of Righteousness
“In this shedding of immaturity, in obedience to the Covenant, Man is to outdo both tree and serpent.”
When you come into the land, and have planted all kinds of trees for food, then you shall count their fruit as uncircumcised. Three years it shall be as uncircumcised to you. It shall not be eaten. But in the fourth year all its fruit shall be holy, a praise to the Lord. And in the fifth year you may eat its fruit, that it may yield to you its increase: I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:23-25 NKJV)
For many skeptics, a strange command like this exposes an invented, self-contradicting and capricious god. In reality, moderns are brute beasts when it comes to the true nature of Creation. It is sacrificial.
In Cycle 1, Christ is a glorified Adam (Genesis). In Cycle 2, Christ is a human Tabernacle (Exodus). We should not be surprised that Cycle 3 is “Levitical.” Indeed, not only is John a Levite, a “firstborn” whose death is borne by a substitute (Numbers 3:10-12), the focus of the Cycle is the High Priestly task of “keeping” the testimony of the lampstand.
Part 1 is here.
The Image of Man
This brings us to a substitutionary atonement which we do understand, the fulfilment of the cruciform Tabernacle in the cross of Christ. Although Jesus’ execution was Physical and Social, it was primarily Personal. Beginning in Galilee (World), working through Judah and Samaria (Land) and ending in Jerusalem (Garden), Christ alone ascended to rule all nations.
After the events in Daniel 6, Cyrus made his famous decree (Ezra 1) authorising the Jews to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple. Isaiah predicted Cyrus by name over 100 years before Cyrus’ birth. Daniel would have been familiar with the prophecy, and like the inhabitants of the province of Babylon, welcomed the end of Belshazzar’s rule. Following the patterns given to shepherds Moses (Priestly) and David (Kingly), the prophecy in Isaiah 44:24-28 presents the building of the Jew-Gentile (Prophetic) oikoumene Temple as a new microcosmic Creation:
TRANSCENDENCE – GENESIS
(Creation – Ark of the Testimony)
The Lord has already referred to the Forming of Israel a number of times in this chapter. The word has the idea of fashioning something from clay. It is “earthy,” referring to the creation of Adam (1 Corinthians 15:47-49). Israel was “shattered” like Egypt (Jeremiah 18) and would be remade, not from the broken pieces but from fresh earth.
The Cycle begins with a statement of Yahweh’s Transcendence. “From the womb” might have been Succession, but the Stanza only has four lines (“the Lord” cannot be placed at Hierarchy), so this seems to be only half a Stanza. Thus the womb is a reference to Israel as God’s firstborn, the Isaac, the Ascension Offering. The literary structure thus lifts Israel up from bondage (in this case Babylon, not Egypt) and places him on the Altar awaiting the holy fire as “breath” from heaven to bring him new life.
HIERARCHY – EXODUS
(Division – Veil – between heaven and earth)
This Stanza includes the word mayim, meaning waters, yet strangely the English translations I checked all seem to omit them. The literary structure requires their presence, referring to the division made on Day 2, but also to the command against idolatry in Exodus 20:4. You might notice that this Stanza begins with the Lord in heaven Above, moves the Land, and then to the waters “under” the Land. The final word is tricky, but “among” seems to be the most suitable meaning, since the new Israel will be a Land washed clean, rising from the waters of the other nations. Also, the heavens are placed at Ascension (Covenant Head) and the earth is placed at Maturity (Covenant Body).
ETHICS 1 – LEVITICUS
(Ascension – Altar and Table – Plenipotent Man)
Behold, I have taken the Levites from among the people of Israel instead of every firstborn who opens the womb among the people of Israel. The Levites shall be mine, for all the firstborn are mine. (Numbers 3:12-13)
Christ, as firstborn from the dead, ascended to the right hand of the Father and opened the mystery of God. This was prefigured in both Joseph and Daniel, who served their emperors as wise men, and ironically in Haman. That is the allusion here.
The word “annul” or “make void” in Line 1 is not the “void” of Genesis 1. This word has legal connotations instead. At Creation, it is a reference to Transcendent power, but that power is in the hand of a plenipotent mediator, such as Joseph or Daniel (see “Images of God” in Sweet Counsel for a full discussion).
The word “mad” at the center literally means “to shine.” It carries the idea of a false glory, of boasting, which ties it not only to the “shining one” in Eden, but in Arabic it also has the connotation of moonlight, an allusion to Day 4.
“Backward” means hind parts, and possibly refers to failing to enter into rest and rule with God. Thus the word “knowledge” in Line 7 is the word used in Genesis 2:9, referring to moral knowledge, sound judgment. Thus, when Christ ascended, He became the one who sent a strong delusion to confuse, confound and divide His Judaistic enemies, just as the Lord sent troubling and lying spirits in the Old Testament.
ETHICS 2 – NUMBERS
(Testing – Lampstand – the Word)
The Word is primary here. Notice the priestly “servant” at Hierarchy and the wise at Sanctions. “Messengers” is placed at Succession, which carries the idea of representation by faithful sons who image their Father. Carrying this forward, it refers to Christ’s obedience in fulfilling the Law.
ETHICS 3 – DEUTERONOMY
(Maturity – Incense Altar – Resurrection)
The theme at Maturity is resurrection, a new “bridal” Israel constructed after the death of the old Adamic body has been bloodied. The scepter of Judah at the center is the government of the Messianic King.
OATH/SANCTIONS – JOSHUA
(Conquest – High Priest and Sacrifices – Dominion)
(Glorification – Shekinah – Co-regents)
who says of Cyrus, (Initiation)
‘my shepherd,’ (Delegation)
and ‘all my purpose he shall perform’; (Law Given – Priest)
and to the temple, (Vindication)
‘Your foundation shall be laid.’” (Representation)
Just as the filling of the Tabernacle occurred at the end of the book of Exodus, so the foundation of the Temple is the beginning of a new era for Israel. The placement of Cyrus as the “he,” the Head, and Jerusalem as the “she,” the body, is striking. Outside of that, we have the shepherd at Passover/Delegation and the Temple at Atonement/Vindication. And of course there is the Ethical progression at the center which is a microcosm of the entire Cycle: Priest (Forming), King (Filling) and Prophet (Future).