In my church’s midweek Bible study groups last night, we were going through Luke 9:10-50. It struck me that there are a number of interesting potential Exodus themes in there. Here are a few that jumped out at me. If you can think of any others, I would love to hear about them in the comments.
1. In verses 10-11, Jesus leaves the city and goes into the wilderness, where he is followed by the multitudes. Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt.
2. There is a food crisis, followed by miraculous provision of bread in the wilderness. In John 6 (the feeding of the five thousand is one of the only events in Jesus’ ministry recorded in all four of the gospels) this leads to explicit mention of manna and the bread from heaven discourse, but it is implicit here.
3. The numbering of the people is interesting. People are typically numbered for battle. The fact that it is only the males who are numbered is worth noting in this respect as it seems odd that numbering for the sake of eating would focus on the males only. Israel was numbered in such a manner after they left Egypt.
4. They are set down in groups of fifty. Israel left Egypt and entered into the Promise Land in companies of fifty (Exodus 13:18; Joshua 1:14).
5. Jesus delegates his rule over the 5,000, divided into groups of fifty, to his disciples. This is akin to the way that Moses delegated his judging of Israel to ‘rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens’ (Exodus 18:21). In Mark 6:40, the people are said to sit down in ranks, in fifties and hundreds.
6. That twelve baskets of leftovers were gathered up is highlighted in all of the accounts of the event (Matthew 14:20; Mark 6:43; Luke 9:17; John 6:13) and Jesus later calls his disciples to reflect upon the significance of this fact (Matthew 16:9-10). I would suggest that the connection should be drawn between this number and the number of tribes of Israel.
The connection of the feeding of the five thousand with the feeding of the four thousand in the gospels of Matthew and Mark is noteworthy. Jesus’ ministry has moved to the Gentile or more Gentile realms of Tyre and Sidon and Decapolis. The key event that precedes the feeding of the four thousand, the encounter with the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30), speaks of Gentiles as those who eat the crumbs of the children’s bread that falls from the table. The feeding of the four thousand (the number four is symbolic of the whole extent of the earth—four corners of the earth, four winds of heaven, etc.) which follows occurs in a semi-Gentile area and involves seven loaves and seven baskets of leftovers. I would suggest that the seven is associated with the seventy nations of the world (Genesis 10—in having seventy elders, Israel was a microcosm of the whole of humanity). Jesus will not merely feed Israel, but will feed the whole world.
Five loaves for the Israelite 5,000 and seven loaves for the (semi-)Gentile 4,000 make twelve loaves, reminiscent of the twelve loaves of the showbread, which represented Israel before God (Leviticus 24:5-9). Jesus is forming a new Israel in which Jews and Gentiles will be brought together as one.
7. In verse 28, Jesus ascends the mountain with his disciples about eight days (the eighth day is the day of new creation) after the events recorded earlier. I would suggest that there is a possible connection between this and the chronology of Moses’ ascent up Mount Sinai.
8. Jesus takes Peter, John, and James with him (v.28). In Exodus 24, Moses takes Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu and seventy elders with him up Mount Sinai. At various points in the gospels and Acts, we see Peter being typologically presented as a high priest figure (James Jordan has some helpful remarks on this). Peter is as Aaron and James and John are related to Nadab and Abihu (perhaps there is something to the fact that both pairs are associated with the fire of divine judgment—Leviticus 10:1-7; Luke 9:54).
9. They see a divine theophany on the mountain (Exodus 24:10-11; Luke 9:29). The transfigured appearance of Christ also relates to Moses’ transfigured appearance in Exodus 34:29-35.
10. Moses and Elijah speak with Christ of the departure—or, literally, ‘exodus’—that he is about to accomplish in Jerusalem.
11. Peter speaks of constructing three tabernacles in Luke 9:33: the plans for the tabernacle were given on Mount Sinai. Of course, Peter, James, and John would be instrumental in the building of the Church (cf. Matthew 16:18), but this was not yet the time for temple building.
12. A cloud comes and overshadows them in verse 34. The cloud is clearly the theophanic cloud of God’s presence (cf. Exodus 24:15), associated with Sinai, and, as expected, God speaks from the midst of it (v.35; Exodus 19:9; 33:9).
13. After descending from the mountain, there is an encounter with a multitude (v.37), much as Moses encountered the multitude of Israel when he descended Sinai in Exodus 32.
14. Both Jesus and Moses encounter their representatives who have proved faithless in their task. Here the disciples are like Aaron and the people of Israel are like the demon-possessed child. Aaron couldn’t restrain the Israelites and the disciples couldn’t restrain the demon. The behaviour of the Israelites in Exodus 32:25 is described in a manner similar to that of demon possession. The impression is given in both accounts of a rebellion expressed in an extreme physical manner.
15. The demon throws the boy down (v.42) and ‘shatters’ him (v.39). The same verb is used in the LXX to describe the shattering of the tablets when Moses casts them to the ground at the foot of Sinai (Exodus 32:19).
16. Jesus’ response is surprisingly accusatory: ‘O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you and bear with you?’ Our ears would have to be fairly dull not to hear echoes of the statements of YHWH and Moses concerning the children of Israel in the wilderness (cf. Exodus 16:28; Numbers 14:11, 27). In particular, one is reminded of Deuteronomy 32:20, where Israel is described as a ‘perverse generation, children in whom is no faith.’
All of these points suggest to me that Luke and the other gospel writers are fairly self-consciously operating within an Exodus framework at this point.