One of the central, recurring themes of Exodus typologies is Baptism. The foreshadowing of the waters of Baptism, in a sense, flows through Exodus. The centrality of water in their desert wanderings highlights the importance of Baptism to our salvation.
Naturally, a typology of Baptism comes directly at the beginning of the Israelites’ Exodus journey. At the Red Sea, the Israelites pass through the water as on dry ground, while pharaoh’s army and chariots are washed away and drowned as the waters rush back in on them. The Israelites come out the other side free of pharaoh and his army, a new nation journeying to the Promised Land. In the Sacrament of Baptism, sin is washed away as water is poured over us. We reemerge new creations in Christ. St. Paul knew this well: “our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (1 Corinthians 10:1-2). Moses and the Israelites passing through the Red Sea is a type of Baptism. The Lord, in the column of cloud, is guiding the Israelites through the waters. The column of cloud overshadows them as they pass through the Red Sea, as the Holy Spirit overshadows us in our Baptisms making us new creations.
Soon after, God continues to demonstrate the importance of Baptism. The next typology occurs at the bitter waters of Elim. The Israelites are thirsty because they have run out of water. There is a well at Elim but the water is “bitter” and undrinkable. The Lord, however, shows Moses a tree, “and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet” (Exodus 15:25). The tree makes the water sweet, as the Cross of Christ makes the water of Baptism efficacious, or “sweet” with salvation. The historian Josephus even comments that Moses forms the tree into the shape of a Cross: “he took the top of a stick that lay down at his feet, divided it in the middle, and made the section lengthways. He then let it down into the well.”
At their next stop, Moses and the Israelites encamp at the oasis at Elim, where there are “twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees” (Exodus 15:27). The 12 springs of water are the 12 Apostles preaching the Gospel to the 70 nations of the world. St. Augustine confirms this, “The twelve fountains watering the seventy palm trees are a figure of apostolic grace watering the nations.”
Finally, another miraculous occurrence happens with water coming from the rock. The miraculous in Exodus becomes the supernatural grace of Christ in the Gospel. God is telegraphing the New Covenant. Moses strikes the rock and water flows through the desert quenching the thirst of the Israelites. Christ is struck on the Cross “and at once there came out blood and water” (John 19:34). These are the waters of Baptism and the blood of the Eucharist come forth from Jesus’ pierced heart. The fountain opens up in Christ’s side is again the water of Baptism and the precious blood of Christ in the Eucharist. St. Paul writes of the Israelites, “all drank the supernatural drink” (1 Corinthians 10:4). Also notable, this fulfills the typology of the split rock at Horeb where the water flows out. Immediately upon Christ’s death, we read “and the rocks were split” (Matthew 27:51). The sacraments and the Holy Spirit flow from Christ’s side creating and sustaining his bride, the Church, as the water from the rock sustained the Israelites.
Follow along as Brian Kranick shows how the miraculous in Exodus becomes the supernatural & sacramental in the New Covenant and the Catholic Church:
- Part I: From Exodus to Easter – Old Testament Typologies Reveal New Testament Realities
- Part II: From Exodus to Easter – Jesus, The New Moses
- Part III: From Exodus to Easter – The New Joshua
- Part IV: From Exodus to Easter – The Passover Lamb
Brian Kranick is the author of Burning Bush, Burning Hearts: Exodus as Paradigm of the Gospel. He has a master’s degree in Systematic Theology from Christendom College and writes about theological issues at sacramentallife.com. He resides with his family in the Pacific Northwest.
Image Source: AB/Frans Vandewalle on Flickr.