A "type" is a picture or symbol of something else. God loves typology, because when He uses types in His Word, it is a form of prophecy. Typology is a fascinating look into the Mind of God. The Scriptures are rife with types that foreshadow our future. The seven plagues that God brought on Egypt foreshadow the seven plagues of the Great Tribulation. Paul says that Hagar's son, Ishmael, was a type of the Old Covenant (born of a slave) and Sarah's son Isaac was a type of the New Covenant (born of faith) Galatians 4:21-31.
Although there are many "types" in the Old Testament, the most rich, numerically and in scope, are those that typify the Messiah. One of my favorites is when Moses strikes the Rock with his rod. As you may recall, Moses had led the Israelites out slavery in Egypt and during one of their typical faithless diatribes, they complained to Moses about a lack of water. So Moses took the issue up with the Lord and in Exodus 17:5, the LORD answered Moses, “Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.”
But soon, they again ran out of water and the Israelites once again began to doubt God’s provision.
God’s response and Moses’ reaction are recorded in Numbers 20: “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water…" "…and Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also.
And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, ‘Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.”
So Moses pays the ultimate price: No Promise Land! Why? Because Moses made light of something that God took very seriously: typology of His Son.
God planned it so Moses would paint the perfect picture of the crucifixion: Rock = Jesus (I Cor 10:4) and Moses' rod = Cross. The rock was struck (Jesus was crucified) with the wooden rod (the Cross) and living water poured out (new life in Christ/Holy Spirit - John 7:37). From then on, all we have to do is speak to the rock (pray to Jesus) to receive the living water of new life!
So when Moses hit the rock twice, he spoiled that picture and God kept him out of the promise land for his misrepresentation. But God knew Moses would do this and even wove that into His tapestry of typology by having Joshua take Moses’ place and lead the people into the Promise Land. The picture? Moses represented the Law. Joshua in Hebrew is Yeshua. Jesus in Hebrew is Yeshua. So Moses (representing the Law) could point the way, but only Yeshua (Jesus) can actually take you into the Promise Land.
So typology is not only extremely interesting, it can be quite faith-building!
Another good example is the bronze serpent in the desert in Numbers 21:
"They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!”
Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.
The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived."
The types here are fairly obvious. Bronze (brass) is always used to symbolize judgment. Sin is represented by being bitten by the serpent (Satan). Jesus was lifted up on a pole (cross) and is represented as the serpent on that pole because II Cor 5:21 says, "God made him who had no sin to become sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." So the type or picture is: looking upon (faith) the bronze (judgment) serpent (Jesus) brings you salvation.
But these particular types are concerning singular events. Even more fascinating is if you study the entire life of Joseph (son of Jacob) and find link after link reflecting his history as a foreshadowing of Jesus.
His Father's Beloved Son Joseph: "Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons..."
Jesus: Mark 1:11, "Then a voice came from heaven, 'You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
Was a Shepherd Joseph: "Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers..."
Jesus: John 10:11,“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep."
Rejected by His Brethren Joseph: "His brothers said to him, 'Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?' And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said."
Jesus: Matt 27:22, "What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked. They all answered, 'Crucify him!"
Sent by His Father Joseph: "“As you know, your brothers are grazing the flocks near Shechem. Come, I am going to send you to them.”
Jesus: John 12:49, "For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken."
Sold for Money Joseph: "So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt."
Jesus: Matt 26:15, "What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver."
Resisted Temptation Joseph: "One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. She caught him by his cloak and said, 'Come to bed with me!' But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house."
Jesus: Matt 4:8, "Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 'All this I will give you,' he said, 'if you will bow down and worship me.' Jesus said to him, 'Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.' Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him"
Wrongfully Accused and Imprisoned Joseph: Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph: “He came in here to sleep with me, but I screamed. When he heard me scream for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house...Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined.”
Jesus: Mark 14:53, "The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree. Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him."
Gave God the Glory Joseph: “I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.”
Jesus: Matt 16:17, "Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven."
Was Considered Wise Joseph: "Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, 'Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you."
Jesus: Matt 13:54, "Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked."
Fed the Multitudes Joseph: "And all the world came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe everywhere."
Jesus: Matt 15:36, "Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people."
Brethren Eventually Honor Him Joseph: "Joseph said to his brothers, 'I am Joseph! Is my father still living?' But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence."
Jesus: Phil 2:10, "...that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth..."
Came to Save Those Who Rejected Him Joseph: "Do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you."
Jesus: Luke 23:34, "Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."
Became the Second in Command Joseph: Genesis 41:39 - 40, "Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, 'Inasmuch as God has shown you all this, there is no one as discerning and wise as you. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall be ruled according to your word; only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you."
Jesus: Hebrews 12:1-2, "Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnaresus, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
So we see God artfully painting a picture of the coming Messiah thousands of years before His physical manifestation in corporal form. Attesting to not only God's foreknowledge, but also the trustworthiness of His Word!