The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

On Matthew 1-7: The Authority of Jesus and His Word is Established

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 2, 2020

Matthew 1-7 consists of two parts: A narrative (Mt 1:2-4:25) and a sermon (Mt 5:1-7:29). The narrative is foundational to the sermon and can help explain its contents and, likewise, the sermon can help explain the significance of the narrative. Here I examine Matthew’s typological presentation of Jesus in the narrative and suggest ways in which such presentations prepare for the sermon.

DEFINITIONS: Type: a sign, figure or foreshadowing of a greater reality. Antitype: means “in place of the type,’ designating the reality indicated by the sign, figure or foreshadowing.

DAVID – JESUS TYPOLOGY: That Matthew presents Jesus as “Son of David” and, therefore, a kingly figure, is obvious and need not detain us (cf. Mt 1:1-2:7; and Mt 4:17 with Ps 2:7). The emphasis on David helps establish Jesus as an authoritative person who can lay down the law of the Kingdom in the Sermon on the Mount. The sermon establishes the (righteous) character necessary for belonging to the Kingdom and the necessity of righteous deeds that flow from that character. In his teaching on righteousness our Lord shows himself to be the prophesied righteous (or just) Messiah, Son of David (Jer 23:5-8; 33:15-16; Isa 9:7; 32:1; 42:1-4 with Mt 12:18-21).

SOLOMON – JESUS TYPOLOGY: The typology is rooted in the title Son of David. Solomon asked God for wisdom and this pleased God who not only made him wise, but promised him riches and glory besides (1 Kings 3:5-14). Solomon reached the apex of his wisdom and glory with the visit of the Queen of Sheba who praised the God of Israel for establishing the wise Solomon to carry out righteousness and justice (1 Kings 10:1-9). Yet immediately following this we get details of his reign that are ominous. A comparison between the law of the king in Deut 17:14-20 with details of Solomon’s reign in 1 Kings 10:14-11:13 shows Solomon’s failures. Note that in this latter passage God is said to be the source of his wisdom, but not the source of his wealth, weapons, or wives. It seems that Solomon had ceased to be dependent on God for wealth and protection, hence his idolatry. This would result in the division of the kingdom and, eventually, the virtual disappearance of the ten northern tribes from history because of the Assyrian conquest.

As one like but greater than Solomon (Mt 12:42) Jesus is a sage king. Two of the most common features of wisdom teaching are beatitudes [the sermon begins with these] and two ways [or two roads] teachings [the sermon ends with this]. Other wisdom elements in the sermon are contrasts between good and bad deeds and the differing judgements they bring, almsgiving, curbing anger, avoiding rash judgements, etc.

Solomon was supposed to carry out justice and righteousness, major concerns in the sermon.

Solomon’s name is related to shalom [peace] but his sins inaugurated 200 years of internecine warfare between the brother tribes of Israel. Jesus, the true man of shalom, started his ministry in the tribal territories where the series of disasters begun by Solomon’s sins came to a head, signaling a reversal (Mt 4:12-17). He declares that peacemakers are blessed, and shall be called sons of God (Mt 5:9). He teaches the things that make for peace: avoiding anger and seeking reconciliation with adversaries (Mt 5:21-26); avoiding retaliation and loving enemies (Mt 5:38-48); avoiding false judgements (Mt 7:1-5) and observing the Golden Rule (Mt 7:12).

While Solomon ceased to be dependent on God for wealth Jesus counseled dependence on God (Mt 6:24-34) I see the reference to Solomon in this passage (29) as a subtle rebuke.

MOSES – JESUS TYPOLOGY: That Jesus is presented as the prophet like Moses is also well known. Compare the following:

Both faced state sponsored death of infants~ Ex 1:15-22 with Mt 2:16-18.

Both infants were saved by a family member~ Ex 2:1-9 with Mt 2:13-14.

Both lives were preserved by flight; the adult Moses fled out of Egypt, infant Jesus into Egypt~ Ex 2:11-22 with Mt 2:13-14.

Under God’s orders both returned to the land they fled from~ Ex 4:19 with Mt 2:19-20.

Both fasted forty days and nights in the desert~ Ex 24:18; 34:28 with Mt 4:2.

There are also a number of parallels between Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel and the figure of Moses in Jewish traditions. For example, Moses’ father, learning of his wife’s pregnancy was fearful and had a dream concerning his son and is told that “he will deliver the Hebrew nation” (Josephus, Antiquities, 2.210-216. see Mt 1:18-21).  Pharaoh persecuted the infants because he learned from his magicians that a deliverer of the Hebrews would be born (Targum Pseudo-Johnathan on Ex 1:15 see Mt 2:1-7). In a different version of this he learned it from royal scribes (Antiquities, 2.216, see Mt 2:4-6).

After presenting Jesus as like Moses he subtly present him as greater, especially in the so-called antithesis (Mt 5:21-48). Jesus taught with authority, unlike the scribes (Mt 7:29) who derived their authority from Moses (Mt 23:2). See Heb 3:1-6.

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