Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Cross in the Old Testament

If you ask someone where to find the Crucifixion mentioned in the Old testament, they'll probably go to Zechariah 12:10:
“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of compassion and supplication, so that, when they look on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a first-born.
or maybe Psalm  22, which Jesus quotes from the cross, where it says:
For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.
or maybe Isaiah 53. But what about the cross itself? The cross has been the symbol of Christians for about as long as there have been Christians. Tertullian, in the second century, wrote "We Christians wear out our foreheads with the sign of the cross" - and the practice goes back to long before that.

Which got me wondering - is the sign of the cross in the Old Testament too? If so, it would be a cool foreshadowing of Jesus' Crucifixion - almost as if God knew what was going to happen and gave out hints...

In Genesis, God puts a sign on Cain to mark him as His own, to protect him from being killed.
And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength; you shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, thou hast driven me this day away from the ground; and from thy face I shall be hidden; and I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will slay me.” Then the Lord said to him, “Not so! If any one slays Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who came upon him should kill him. Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, east of Eden.
The Bible does not mention what that mark was, but it is speculated it might be the same mark that God puts on His people in Revelation and in Ezekiel. The word used for "mark," in the Old Testament is "Tav", the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and the letter corresponding to the Greek letter Tau "T" or Roman letter Tee "T". Tav in Hebrew today looks like this:
but of course alphabets evolve over time. At the time, a "Tav" would have looked like "X" or

Interesting, isn't it? Then we have, not a cross shape, but Abraham's son Isaac carrying the wood for the sacrifice up Mount Moriah, which just happens to be the same location where Jesus would carry the wood of the cross for His sacrifice.

In Exodus, we have the instruction to smear the blood of the lamb on both the wooden upright door posts and the wooden cross beam, or lintel - another cross reference (pun intended).

Later on in Exodus, Moses has to hold up his hands for Israel to defeat Amelek (who represents sin and death). We're not told exactly how he held his hands, but Aaron and Hur stand on either side of him to help him hold them up. This suggests his posture was one of hands held up to either side, like Jesus on the cross.

In Leviticus, we have the offering of First Fruits, which comes right after Passover, and includes the wave sheaf offering:
And the Lord said to Moses, “Say to the people of Israel, When you come into the land which I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest; and he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, that you may find acceptance; on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it. And on the day when you wave the sheaf, you shall offer a male lamb a year old without blemish as a burnt offering to the Lord. And the cereal offering with it shall be two tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, to be offered by fire to the Lord, a pleasing odor; and the drink offering with it shall be of wine, a fourth of a hin. And you shall eat neither bread nor grain parched or fresh until this same day, until you have brought the offering of your God: it is a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
This is an offering of a lamb, but also of bread and wine, and the sheaf of wheat is to be "waved." From other texts, it seems that this wave was up and down and side to side, so... you guessed it, the sign of the cross!

I'm sure there are other instances that I'm not aware of, but I thought it was pretty amazing to see the hints of the New Testament hidden in the Old Testament.


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