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Moses, Reproach, and Suffering for Christ

2016-09-07-moses_and_pharaoh_5608036782What does it mean that Moses “considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt” (Heb 11:26)? Did Moses understand who Christ was and thus knowledgeably suffer His reproach? Or does “the reproach of Christ” mean something else? Consider three options below suggested by others.

First, and dodging these questions altogether, some see this passage as being translated to refer not Christ but to Israel as God’s “anointed.” This translation and interpretation is similar to how the psalmist refers to Israel as “your anointed” in Ps 89:51. Thus, Moses takes the reproach of the nation upon himself as God uses him to rescue Israel from Egypt. Christ is not in view in this translation or interpretation.

Second, following the standard translation (Christ, not Israel as the “anointed” people), some see Moses as being cognizant of Christ and knowledgeably suffering His reproach in Egypt. Since Christ was the rock in the wilderness (1 Cor 10:4), Moses would have known of Him then and chose to take on His reproach instead of enjoying what Egypt could offer. This choice would be similar to how Paul thought of his gain as something to be “counted as loss for the sake of Christ” (Phil 3:7).

Third, some see Moses as being described in terms of the readers for the sake of encouraging the readers to persevere by faith like Moses. In this sense, just as the readers suffered reproach for Christ, so also Moses suffered a similar kind of reproach. How much Moses understood about Christ is not directly in view. Because the author of Hebrews speaks of reproach in this way elsewhere (cf. Heb 10:32–33; 13:13), this interpretation is most likely.

To clarify, Moses did know quite a bit about Christ. For example, Moses’ writings indicate he knew the Seed of the woman would crush the serpent’s head (Gen 3:15) and that He would come from Israel (Num 24:17) and specifically from Judah’s tribe (Gen 49:10). His coming was future (Num 24:17), and He would be the greater Prophet to come (Deut 18:15–18).

What is not likely is that he understood Christ as well as the NT authors (cf. 1 Pet 1:10–12). It could at least be said that many things recorded by Moses certainly provide the background for understanding Christ better today: 1) the blessings of Abraham are through Christ (Gen 12:1–3, 7; 22:18; Gal 3:1); 2) Christ is a priest like Melchizedek (Gen 14; Heb 7); 3) Jesus is God the Son who was also the I AM who spoke to Moses (Exod 3:15; John 8:58); 4) Jesus is our Passover (Exod 12; 1 Cor 5:7); 5) Jesus is our great High Priest who atoned for our sins (Lev 17; Heb 8–10).

About David Huffstutler

David pastors First Baptist Church in Rockford, IL, serves as a chaplain for his local police department, and teaches as adjunct faculty at Bob Jones University. David holds a Ph. D. in Applied Theology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. His concentration in Christian Leadership focuses his contributions to pastoral and practical theology.