From Egypt to the Promise Land


Old Testament Types and Shadows




John Hoole – January 24, 2010





(Click on charts, maps and photos for larger version)



Because of political conditions in the Middle East today, crossing the Jordan River from the country of Jordan to Israel is not a “piece of cake.”  A few weeks ago, Dr. Braddy asked me to put together a rough draft of an itinerary for another trip to Israel, a trip that would allow for a couple days in Jordan.  But I had forgotten how long it takes to cross the border and didn’t allow enough time for the delays experienced there.


And, for very different reasons, it was no “piece of cake” when the Israelites crossed the Jordan River under the leadership of Joshua.  The river was at flood stage (Joshua 3:15) and there were no boats and no bridges.  Furthermore, they were entering enemy territory opposite Jericho, a major fortress city of the Canaanites.


But in spite of the problems, Israel crossed the Jordan River because God had promised them the Land.  With a mighty miracle, the waters of the Jordan River were cut off and the people of Israel crossed the Jordan without even getting their sandals wet.


Besides the obvious realization that our all-powerful God can do amazing miracles and accomplish His purpose on our behalf against all odds, there is more for us to learn from the record of Israel from Egypt to the Promise Land.


In the Old Testament, beginning in Genesis, God has set forth numerous word pictures to teach us about the person and work of Christ – past, present and future.  These types and shadows are nearly inexhaustible in its teaching concerning both Israel and Christians.  And you can see these types throughout their journey from Egypt to the Promise Land.  The events of the journey describe the aspects surrounding our eternal salvation, through the death and shed blood of an innocent lamb.


1 Corinthians 10:11 says that “all these things happened to them [the Israelites] as an example for us.”  “All these things” refers to all the events in the journey of the Israelites from Egypt to the Land that God had promised them.  Let’s read a few verses earlier in this chapter to identify some of “all these things.”


1 Corinthians 10:1-4 NIV


1       For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea.

2       They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.

3       They all ate the same spiritual food

4       and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 


Does this mean that the manna wasn’t real food and the water wasn’t real water?  Do these verses teach that Christ was following the Israelites in the wilderness in the form of a rock?  Or was the rock a Christophany?  No, these verses explain to us that these events in the journey from Egypt to the Promise Land are “examples” from which we can learn spiritual truths.  They all are part of a spiritual picture of the Christian life from salvation to maturity.  It is this spiritual picture that I want us to capture.


The word translated “example” is the Greek word “tupos,” from which we get the word “type.”  A biblical “type” is an Old Testament person, place, event or other item that illustrates New Testament truth.  So 1 Corinthians 10:11 teaches us that the entire journey of the people of Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land is a “type,” or picture, that illustrates New Testament truths.


It is an illustration of the Christian life – all the way from our salvation to our “possession of the land.”  By “possession of the land,” I am talking of the spiritual blessings that are ours in Christ.


The events in the journeys of the Israelites contain many lessons.  Besides general biblical principles such as “Trust the Lord!” and “Don’t complain!”  I think we can learn profound theological truths.


In a lesson two weeks ago, I made a statement that I want to make sure is clear.  I alluded to some of the songs we have sung in the church for a long time.  I am talking about songs where the message is centered in the Israelite wanderings.  Songs like:


         •  I am bound for the promised land


         •  Beulah Land


         •  Dwelling in Beulah Land


And then there are songs speaking of Jordan as a picture death:


         •  On Jordan’s stormy banks (part of “I am Bound for the Promise Land”)


         •  I won’t have to cross Jordan alone


These speak of the need to cross Jordan to get to Heaven. And we sometimes hear some refer to the Promised Land as a type of Heaven.  I am not sure that is an accurate view of the typology.


In addition to these we have song like, “Near the Cross,” where the last phrase of the chorus is, “Till my raptured soul shall find rest beyond the river.”  Again, crossing the river speaks here of going to Heaven, where we will have complete rest.


There are also songs like, “We’re Marching To Zion,” where that “march” ends in “The beautiful city of God.”  This is obviously speaking of the New Jerusalem.


I don’t want anyone to think I do not enjoy these songs.  And I really don’t want them removed from our hymnals.  But I do want us to understand the Old Testament typology and what we can learn from the examples of the Israelites that will help us.


There is a breakdown in some of the traditional typology that links the “Promised Land” with Heaven.  The Promised Land is more a type of the Church’s fulfillment of the great commission on earth.  After all, we don’t embark on a “conquest” of Heaven when we arrive there.  So, the Israelites’ crossing Jordan and taking territory from their enemies cannot be a type of Heaven, which is a place where battles will be over.


Imagine that God has painted the entire 40 year journey from Egypt to the Promised Land as a huge mural, which we may examine to learn valuable truth and lessons for our lives today.  We find the written material for this mural in the biblical books of Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy and Joshua.

Graphic of the multiple gods of Egypt 

In the first panel of the mural we see Egypt, a pagan polytheistic civilizationand we see the Israelites as slaves, under the domination of cruel taskmasters (Exodus 1:8-14).  The Bible often uses Egypt as a picture of the world that has rejected God.  As such Israel’s slavery in Egypt presents a spiritual picture of bondage in sin before Christ.


Drawing of applyign the blood on the doors

But the next scene in the mural shows us the Passover (Exodus 12), which pictures the means by which God rescued us from our slavery to sin!  The Israelites were delivered from Egypt after the blood of the Passover lamb was applied to the doors of their homes.  Likewise, we, today, have been redeemed, “not by silver and gold, but by the precious blood of the Lamb” (1 Peter 1:18-19).  “Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7).  And when the blood of our Passover Lamb is applied to our lives, we are redeemed from slavery of sin.


The next part of Mural is the Red Sea.

Israelites passing through the Red Sea 

I think it is very important to see there is a difference in typical meaning between the Red Sea and the Jordan River.  Both are commonly viewed as two sides of the one cross.  Both speak of death in a spiritual manner, as well as the resurrection.  As we continue, I want you to see the difference.


The Red Sea points to the substitutionary death and resurrection.  For the Christian, when we are baptized, we are publicly announcing our position in Christ.  In a symbolic way, we are buried in Christ and raised in newness of life.


Romans 6:4 NKJV


4       Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.


However, escape from slavery in Egypt and crossing through the Red Sea, was only the beginning of the Israelites’ journey.  Another broad panel of the “Egypt to Promised Land mural” shows the people of Israel wandering, mostly disobedient and disgruntled, in the Sinai wilderness.


But God hadn’t rescued His people from slavery to have them wander in the wilderness.  God had already promised the Land of Canaan to them.  He wanted them to pass through the wilderness, cross the Jordan River and enter and enjoy the blessings of the Promised Land, the Land of blessing that “flowed with milk and honey.”


The Wilderness Wanderings

Tribes of Israel in the Wilderness 

In the spiritual “Egypt to Promise Land mural” that God has given us in the Scriptures, the wilderness where the Israelites wandered represents the “land of discouragement, disobedience and defeat” in our Christian experience.  We wander, as they wander, because of unbelief in the promises and power of God.


Newness of life is always received in resurrection, which is typified when the Israelites rose from the Red Sea.  But while the Israelites were out of Egypt, in a real sense Egypt was not yet out of them.  In Numbers 11, we find the Israelites complaining to Moses, wanting to go back to the leeks and garlic of Egypt.  They constantly longed to go back to Egypt.  Egypt was still in their heart.


Not until they passed through the Jordan were they really out of Egypt.  Joshua 5:9 NKJV


9       Then the Lord said to Joshua, "This day I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you." Therefore the name of the place is called Gilgal to this day.


I will say more about crossing the Jordan and what it typifies in a moment.


Far too many Christians live in the wilderness.  And they miss so much of what God want his Children to experience.


Ark of the Covenant


The Ark of the Covenant is an important biblical principle that is strongly emphasized in the mural.  Remember the position of the Ark of the Covenant in all of the affairs of the nation of Israel.  The Ark of the Covenant represented the presence of God

and was the meeting place between God and His people.


Each year the blood of the atoning sacrifice had to be placed on the mercy seat, which covered the Ark of the Covenant, as atonement for the sins of the people (Leviticus 16).  The Ark of the Covenant is a wonderful picture of the Lord Jesus Christ, the God the Son, who is the only Mediator between God and man through the shedding of His atoning blood.  Trusting in Jesus Christ as our Savior and recognizing Him as Lord of our lives are essential steps for crossing the Jordan.


When the Israelites were camped, the Ark was in the midst of the encampment in the Holy of Holies of the tabernacle.  When they traveled, the Ark was always in the center of God’s people.  The presence of the Ark was with them wherever they went.  God the Holy Spirit lives within us, and we must acknowledge the presence of God and follow His leading in our lives.


In addition, when we fully trust in the reassuring promise of our “Ark,” the Lord Jesus Christ, to be with us at all times (Matthew 28:20 and Hebrews 13:5), we can move forward with confidence to cross the Jordan.


In Joshua 3 we read that the Ark led the people into the Promised Land.


Psalms 132:7-8 NKJV


7       Let us go into His tabernacle; Let us worship at His footstool.

8       Arise, O Lord, to Your resting place, You and the ark of Your strength.


We need to leave the old life of “wandering in the wilderness” behind, and follow our “Ark” across the Jordan and into the Land.  Doing so will move us to Christian maturity where we now enjoy our spiritual blessings and fight our spiritual battles more effectively.  It is God’s purpose that we stay in the wilderness as short as possible and cross the Jordan as soon as possible.


The spiritual picture is quite clear.  We must identify with Christ in both His death and His resurrection.  According to Romans 6, when Christ died for our sins, we died to sin.  When Christ was raised in resurrection, we were raised to “walk in newness of life.”  This is our righteous status or position before God.  Crossing the Jordan involves recognizing and living out this truth.  We must identify with the position of the Ark – that is, with the presence of Christ.


We are told to “Consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:11).


“Since you then are risen with Christ, set your heart on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-3).


The Passage says Christ is sitting on the right hand of the Father.  Let me add to that fact.  In the wilderness Tabernacle and the later Temples, there were no places for the priests to sit.  That is because their job was never finished.  The only seat in the Tabernacle was the Mercy Seat atop the Ark of the Covenant.  And only the High Priest saw it, and only once each year.


But Christ, our great High Priest, is said to now be sitting at the Father’s right hand.  That is because He offered Himself as the Passover Lamb, and said, “It is finished!”


We need to cross over the Jordan and experience all that Christ provided through His death.  Christians who fail to identify fully with Christ’s death and resurrection will never move on to fully enjoy the blessings of the Promised Land and will never be fully successful in spiritual warfare.

Map of Canaan at time of Joshua's conquest 

When the Israelites crossed the Jordan River, most were the second generation of those who left Egypt.  And before they crossed Jordan, they had already defeated Sihon, king of Heshbon, as well as Og, king of Bashan.  You can read about those battles in Deuteronomy 1 & 2, and Numbers 21.  Their defeats are also mentioned in Psalm 136 & 137.


These battles took place on the east side of the Jordan.  This was very fertile land.  The Bible speaks about the “cows of Bashan,” as being healthy and well-fed.


In Numbers 32:1 and Deuteronomy 3:19, we are told that the tribes of Reuben, Gad and ½ of Manasseh possessed a large number of livestock.  So they approached Moses and the other leaders with a request.


Numbers 32:5 NKJV


5       Therefore they said, "If we have found favor in your sight, let this land be given to your servants as a possession. Do not take us over the Jordan."


In this request, we can see their sinful rejection of their covenant obligations.  They were rejecting God’s plan to go over the Jordan.  They were placing their own interests and that of their cattle over the interests of all the tribes.  They were making their decisions not on faith, but on selfish interests.  They were refusing to cross Jordan, to die to their self and selfish wants.  Jesus once warned his followers, “The pagan run after such things” (Matthew 6:32).


Moses was angered by their request.  He asked, “Will your brothers go to war while you sit here?” [Numbers 32:6].  And a few verses later (Verse 14), Moses calls them a “Brood of sinners.”


These 2 1/2 tribes of Israel who wanted to live close to, but not in, the Promised Land.  Like the 2 1/2 tribes, some Christians seem to be content to be “borderland Christians.”  Numbers 32 tells us that these tribes wanted the comfortable material prosperity for themselves and their families that they saw on the “wilderness side” of the Jordan River.  They didn’t want to make the commitment to live permanently across the Jordan.  They begged Moses, “Do not make us cross the Jordan!” (Numbers 32:5).  Unfortunately, Christians who follow this half-hearted lifestyle choice will find that they (and their families) end up falling short of the spiritual blessings and victories that God intended for them to experience in this life.


Crossing Jordan

Israelites crossing the Jordan River 

Eventually, we come to the Jordan.  Earlier, I mentioned the crossing the Red Sea is seen as our baptism and newness of life after the blood of the sacrifice had cleansed you from our sins – from Egypt.  Crossing Jordan is also a type of death – but again, not of physical death, but the putting to death of our old nature.  It is a decision to quit wandering in the wilderness.

To “cross the Jordan” in our lives as believers means to make a conscious decision to wholeheartedly follow Jesus Christ in a life of dedication to Him.  It means to be joyfully appropriating our spiritual blessings in Christ and courageously engaging in spiritual warfare against God’s enemies.


Even though all the Promised Land was given to Israel, they still had to take action to possess it by crossing the Jordan River (Joshua 1:3).  Just so, all the guaranteed blessings of our “promised land” are ours for the taking.  But we must take them!


If we’re not appreciating or enjoying our spiritual blessings in Christ, such as assurance of salvation and a joyful, meaningful purpose in life, perhaps we’ve never crossed the Jordan.  We must take action to “complete the spiritual mural!”  We must claim our spiritual blessings by “crossing the Jordan” and live in the full enjoyment of our spiritual position in Christ.


In reference to our spiritual battles, we see from Ephesians 6 that we are guaranteed victory if we “put on the whole armor of God” (Ephesians 6:10-18).  This guarantee of victory in every spiritual battle is pictured in God’s promise to Joshua and the Israelites when they crossed the Jordan River.  As long as they were strong and courageous in the Land, and obeyed the Word of the Lord, they were guaranteed success and the presence of the Lord in their midst as they crossed the Jordan and fought the enemy in the Land (Joshua 1:5-9).


In Joshua 5 we see yet another principle of crossing the Jordan.  It is the principle of cutting off the old life.  The new generation of Israelites had not been circumcised during the 40 years of wilderness wanderings.


This was a distinctive sign of the Abrahamic Covenant that was commanded by God as a sign of the relationship between Him and His people (Genesis 17:9-14).  And obedience was necessary before God’s people could move on to occupy the Land.  The sign of the covenant of God with Abraham was circumcision.  And so this new generation of Israelites was circumcised.


In the spiritual picture, physical circumcision portrays the necessity of “spiritual circumcision.”  Spiritual circumcision involves a decisive “cutting off of the flesh,” or cutting ties with our old way of life so that we may properly reflect our covenant relationship with God.


Colossians 2:11 assures us that we have been spiritually circumcised as to our position in Christ.  Realizing the truth that our old sinful life is dead and buried is very important, but Colossians 3:5 makes it clear that we must vigorously put this truth into practice.


We must take drastic measures to “cut off” the activities of our sinful nature, because leaving behind our sinful behaviors and selfish life-patterns doesn’t happen automatically.


“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature…you used to live in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things… (Colossians 3:5-8).  We must be willing to die to the flesh in order for God to raise us up to claim the inheritance He has for us while we are still on this earth.


Romans 8:8-9 NKJV


8       …Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

9       But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.


Part of crossing our spiritual Jordan is the practice of the “death to self” principle as a way of life.  That’s what Galatians 2:20 is all about:  “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”


Spiritual circumcision means cutting out from our lives that which is not pleasing to God.  It means bringing our lives into obedience to the Word of God.  It means conscientious discipline of our thoughts, actions and speech.  It means monitoring how we spend our time, how we spend our money, and what we read or watch.  It means being loving and thoughtful in our relationships with our families and others, so that our covenant relationship with God can clearly be observed in the way we live our daily lives.


The final scene in the “Egypt to Promise Land mural” is described in Joshua 21:43-45.


“So the Lord gave Israel all the land He had sworn to give their forefathers, and they took possession of it and settled there. The Lord gave them rest on every side…Not one of their enemies withstood them; the Lord handed all their enemies over to them. Not one of all the Lord’s promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.”


What a wonderful spiritual picture of the Christian life God has given to us in His Word.  We’ve only touched down in this panoramic mural in a few places!  There are many more lessons and truths to be learned from this spiritual mural.




Each of us is on our own spiritual journey.  In this life on earth, people are usually in one of four places.


1.      In Egypt – still in slavery to sin.


                   These people need to be saved.


2.      In the Wilderness – redeemed by Christ, but going nowhere other than in circles.


         They may have been Christians for years, but still not digging into their Bible.  Still not really praying much.  Still not making commitments to be faithful and to serve.  Not much closer to God than the day they were saved.  Nearly an entire generation of Israelites lived a life of complaints and murmuring against the covenant of God.  The result was, they died in the wilderness, never enjoying the full promises of God.  They did not enter into their full inheritance during this life.


3.      In The Promised Land


         Excited, growing, having the full joy of the Lord.  They are no longer wilderness wanderers – but giant conquerors.  There are battles, but because they in the Word and in Prayer, they enjoy the victories in Christ.


The fact that Israel was defeated at Ai (Joshua 7) and deceived at Gibeon (Joshua 9) was not God’s fault.  God did not fail to keep His promises.  Israel failed to trust the Lord and obey His Word.  In the same way, if we as believers fail to follow the biblical, we will suffer defeat in spiritual battle and lose out on enjoying the spiritual “blessings in the Land.”


4.      An East-sider


                   They are still living on the dead side of Jordan.


The east-siders are saved, but still very much in the world.  They are too often still living for the flesh, for what they think is right.  Occasionally they eat some of the milk and honey from the Lord.  Their cattle are fed – they probably have some money.  But Satan is having a heyday stealing their inheritance.


Hebrews 4:1-2 (NKJV) reminds me of these people.


1       Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it.

2       For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.


But Eastsiders settle for less than God’s best.  They may have marched the football all the way down the field, but they allow the devil’s goal line stand to keep them out.  With the promised land in sight, they give up and shut down – just inches away from victory.


It is easy for Christians to get into a “comfort zone,” and never reach the “end zone.”  They are better off than they were in Egypt or the wilderness, and that’s good enough for them.  God’s best for their life is just a step away.  But they are unwilling to cross the Jordan.


The Lord wanted all His Old Testament people to cross the Jordan and possess the Land He had promised to them.  But God wanted that for them some 40 years earlier.  He wants His present-day people to “cross the Jordan” and possess and occupy the Land of blessing He has promised to give us.  He does not want us barely out of Egypt, or wandering in the wilderness, or living on the fringes of the Land.  And He doesn’t want us moving in and out, or straddling the Jordan River, with one foot in the Promised Land and one foot in the world, where we remain reluctant to fully cross over.


God wants to see all His children enjoying the “abundant life” (John 10:10)


He wants us to find “rest of soul” (Matthew 11:28).


He wants us to “walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16).


And He wants to see us “fighting the good fight” (1 Timothy 6:12), and “standing firm” in spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:14).


These blessings and promises are all part of dwelling in the promised land, but they can only be enjoyed and experienced by Christians who are willing to cross the Jordan.