Prefigurations are prophecies of the past projected into the future.
The Prefigurations are somewhat easier to identify, since it is a matter of applying past scriptures, usually from the Old Testament, to some character we already know. They almost always refer to Jesus.
Some of the most important:
In the figure of Isaac:
Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering, loaded it on Isaac, and carried in his own hands the fire and the knife. Then the two of them set out together.
Isaac spoke to his father Abraham. ‘Father?’ he said. ‘Yes, my son,’ he replied. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘here are the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?’
Abraham replied, ‘My son, God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering.’ And the two of them went on together.
When they arrived at the place which God had indicated to him, Abraham built an altar there, and arranged the wood. Then he bound his son and put him on the altar on top of the wood.
Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to kill his son.
But the angel of Yahweh called to him from heaven. ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ he said. ‘Here I am,’ he replied.
‘Do not raise your hand against the boy,’ the angel said. ‘Do not harm him, for now I know you fear God. You have not refused me your own beloved son.’
Then looking up, Abraham saw a ram caught by its horns in a bush. Abraham took the ram and offered it as a burnt offering in place of his son.
Isaac and Jesus.
- His birth, like Jesus’, was announced to his mother by an angel.
- Innocent, they were to be killed by their father.
- Both climb a hill, carrying the wood that will devour them on their backs (Mount Moriah and Calvary).
- Both let themselves be tied, nailed, voluntarily.
Afterwards, the foreshadowing passes to the ram that is sacrificed:
Ram and Jesus (Nature of man)
- The ram’s horns were caught by the thorns of a bush; the same image of Jesus crowned with thorns. Here the king’s crown also “hooks/traps” Jesus, albeit voluntarily, for He being the one to “please” God, the first for whom everything was made, was the only one who could save us. The crown “obligates” him, his freedom and love do everything willingly, like a big brother who, feeling responsible for the younger one, heroically sacrifices himself and saves him.
- The Ram (with horns) represents sin (beyond the animal). Jesus, when taking nature of man, takes the form of sin because man is not only sinful, but is the consequence (by degeneration of what we were) of our sin.
- Only after Abraham’s cession of Isaac and the acceptance of Isaac (Targum Neofiti, Aquedah) can the ram be offered to the Holy Spirit, to God. Nature of man can be received by the Holy Spirit.
Furthermore, the complete Holy Trinity figures in here; God the Father (person) is Abraham, who Sacrifices the Son Jesus (who is Isaac and the ram) and the sacrifice is made to God Spirit (God in the scripture) so that the sacrifice of the Son will make all men worthy of the same Holy Spirit. I think that this foreshadowing doesn’t speak of the relationship between the persons, but rather the purpose of Christ’s cross: to give us Life again, the Holy Spirit; and the immense Love God has for us, because He loves us with all His being. It’s true that Jesus is distinct from the Holy Spirit (anyone who blasphemes against It will not be forgiven), as we have seen in the section of the Holy Trinity. In this foreshadowing, aside from the differentiation between Isaac and the ram (both worthy for sacrifice -the ram a posteriori-), it distinguishes between Jesus the person or soul containing the essence of God (Isaac) and Jesus the man (body, ram). Jesus’ person, able to retain infinite God, doesn’t die, and by remaining in infinite love, keeps being God and thus saves us, validates us. The ram or the body of Jesus is sacrificed and dies. Consider that man (nature) is the fruit of sin, because we were not like this before. Jesus takes the form of “sin” to save us. What’s better than a ram with horns to symbolize sin? I think, this is the differentiation referred to in the Quran (Isaac/Jesus able to retain God-God- does not die, is still able to contain infinite God) as stated in the section “Islam 62” -but Muslims do not understand it this way-. Finally, it is the sacrifice of Jesus (faith of Abraham and Isaac) that makes the ram worthy as a sacrifice to God; which also symbolizes, with respect to Jesus, that he makes our bodies (rams) worthy of God, to be received by Him and to receive Him (the Holy Spirit). All men of all nations and/or religions! Thus, he says:
Genesis 22,18: All nations on earth will bless themselves by your descendants, because you have obeyed my command.
The Jews await the «prophet who is to come», this is indicated in several places in the Old Testament. In some words they speak of a return of Elijah or Moses. But Jesus Christ is not just any prophet, one of the clearest prefigurations of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament is that of Moses. I have already indicated at various points in the essay why. I will expose the most direct one for me: Moses breaks the chains with which Pharaoh has tied Israel, giving them freedom. He opens a passage between the sea (which symbolizes death) and then closes it, leaving the Egyptian army in that death. Jesus Christ makes man’s nature fit (I’m not going to repeat the whole roll of why) and by doing so he frees us from the blackmail of the devil, who was asking, appealing to justice, the same fate of those who rose up because of love for Eve, not because of hate or greed. In doing so, he plunges the demons into death, because they no longer have that ‘righteous’ blackmail shield to protect them («if you condemn us fallen demon angels, you condemn Adam’s angels too, or are you not the righteous one?»).
There is a clear reading that tells us about the excellence of Moses, distinguishing him from the prophets:
Núm 12:6-8 And he said, «Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the LORD make myself known to him in a vision, I speak with him in a dream. (7) Not so with my servant Moses; he is entrusted with all my house. (8) With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in dark speech; and he beholds the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?»
He does not call him a prophet but a servant (besides). And it is even prophesied that Jesus Christ will come a second time at the end of time (let us remember that Moses is a prefiguration). It is also written that the Israelites will open their hearts to Jesus Christ before the end of the world; so there should not be too much lack of this either.
If we read these four readings:
Mal 3:22-24 Remember the Law of Moses, My servant, to whom I commanded in Horeb precepts and regulations for all Israel. (23) Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. (24) He shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land of the curse.
Mat 17:10-13 And the disciples asked him, «Then why do the scribes say that first Eli’jah must come?» (11) He replied, «Eli’jah does come, and he is to restore all things; (12) but I tell you that Eli’jah has already come, and they did not know him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of man will suffer at their hands.» (13) Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.
Mat 11:11-15 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (12) From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force. (13) For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John; (14) and if you are willing to accept it, he is Eli’jah who is to come. (15) He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
Mat 16:14-17 And they said, «Some say John the Baptist, others say Eli’jah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.» (15) He said to them, «But who do you say that I am?» (16) Simon Peter replied, «You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.» (17) And Jesus answered him, «Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.
In the figure of Joseph
Jesus is the “beloved Son” like Joseph. When Jesus proclaims himself the Messiah, his brothers, the Jews, are envious and malicious, like Joseph, who was sold by his brothers to foreigners as Jesus was by the Jews (his brothers) to the Romans. Joseph, who was arrested with two prisoners, announces to one his death, and to the other his glorious liberation. Jesus was crucified between two thieves; to one he promises heaven, and the other is left in his damnation.
Joseph fed the people with the wheat that had been stored and Jesus is the bread of life come down from heaven. The Pharaoh renamed Joseph and called him Savior of the world; Jesus is the Savior of mankind. Joseph forgives his brothers, and Jesus his executioners. Both are glorified, one by his nation and the other in every place and nation.
There are many more readings in the Torah that foreshadow Christ, you only have to open a search engine and put “foreshadowing of Christ in the Old Testament.”
If the Israelites, so studious of the Torah in their search for God, have not seen Christ in these scriptures, who will see God in them? Just some Adams? What about the deaf? Maybe God wants to clarify the muddling of Babel for us, the subject of this book, so that even they can save themselves because of their understanding. Anyway, God knows how He will use His infinite mercy, respecting our freedom.
We see that Jesus Christ, and Yahweh in general in the A.T., is preceded by someone who opens the way for Him. In the second reading (Mt 17), Jesus Christ confirms that Elijah must come before the end of the world and at the same time that he has already come in John the Baptist. This indicates that he opened the way for him as John the Baptist and will do so before his last arrival.
In the first (Mal 3) it says that Elijah will come before the great and terrible day of Yahweh. This can refer only to the last coming, the end of the world, or perhaps also to the first coming of Jesus Christ and his passion, the great day of Yahweh who condemned the fallen angels to death and established war between those who are capable of receiving the Holy Spirit (Adam) and those who are not (Evas). Before, of course, justice was exercised in the same way, but in different circumstances; thus one can receive a just judgment in times of peace, as well as in times of war.
In the figure of Jonah
The 3 days Jonah was in the whale foreshadows the death and resurrection of Jesus on the third day.
Even the one who precedes Jesus
Isa 11:1-10 There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. (2) And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. … (6) The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. (7) The cow and the bear shall feed; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. (8) The sucking child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. (9) They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. (10) In that day the root of Jesse shall stand as an ensign to the peoples; him shall the nations seek, and his dwellings shall be glorious.
In Isaiah 11:1… it also speaks of a branch coming up from the roots of the trunk of Jesse. In this reading the trunk of Jesse is God the Father, the stem, his son Jesus Christ, and the roots of Jesse also represent Jesus, but in the human nature (the root that goes into the darkness of the earth; ugly and twisted, for he takes the form of sin like us to save us); a branch will come out of this root, he refers to that ‘Elijah’ who reconciles parents with children (Adam with Eve, cows with bears, lions will eat straw…), before the end of the world. It comes from Jesus (it sprouts from the root) because humanity is now, after the passion, redeemed and capable of the Spirit. In other words, it will not be a blameless angel sent from heaven as Mary was to fulfill her mission, but a man who arrived in heaven because he had already passed the test. In (10) the root of Jesse again refers to Jesus Christ.
Well, in daily life we must all be prophets of our brothers (we must be the ones who bring them light). This prophet who is to come, however, I believe does not refer to Christ himself, but to the one who precedes him and announces him.
Other words that speak of Jesus hundreds of years before his arrival
Isaiah 9:5 For a son has been born for us, a son has been given to us, and dominion has been laid on his shoulders; and this is the name he has been given, ‘Wonder-Counsellor, Mighty-God, Eternal-Father, Prince-of-Peace’
Isaiah 53:3-6he was despised, the lowest of men, a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering, one from whom, as it were, we averted our gaze, despised, for whom we had no regard.
Yet ours were the sufferings he was bearing, ours the sorrows he was carrying, while we thought of him as someone being punished and struck with affliction by God; whereas he was being wounded for our rebellions, crushed because of our guilt; the punishment reconciling us fell on him, and we have been healed by his bruises.
We had all gone astray like sheep, each taking his own way, and Yahweh brought the acts of rebellion of all of us to bear on him.
Ill-treated and afflicted, he never opened his mouth, like a lamb led to the slaughter-house, like a sheep dumb before its shearers he never opened his mouth.
Isaiah 7:14 The Lord will give you a sign in any case: It is this: the young woman is with child and will give birth to a son whom she will call Immanuel.
Micah 5:1 But you (Bethlehem) Ephrathah, the least of the clans of Judah, from you will come for me a future ruler of Israel whose origins go back to the distant past, to the days of old.
Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice heart and soul, daughter of Zion! Shout for joy, daughter of Jerusalem! Look, your king is approaching, he is vindicated and victorious, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
Zechariah 12:10 But over the House of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem I shall pour out a spirit of grace and prayer, and they will look to me. They will mourn for the one whom they have pierced as though for an only child, and weep for him as people weep for a first-born child.
Psalms 22:16-18 A pack of dogs surrounds me, a gang of villains closing in on me as if to hack off my hands and my feet. I can count every one of my bones, while they look on and gloat; they divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.
There’s more foreshadowing of Jesus Christ in the Bible, probably more than the exegetes are aware of. Another in which you can see foreshadowing (perhaps not as clear as the snakes) is:
Exodus 17:10-12 Joshua did as Moses had told him and went out to engage Amalek, while Moses, Aaron and Hur went up to the top of the hill.
As long as Moses kept his arms raised, Israel had the advantage; when he let his arms fall, the advantage went to Amalek.