Is Creation the ultimate type or pattern of scripture?
And could tracing this pattern across Scripture be the key to unlocking the Bible as an epic narrative?
In this article, we’ll explore some key reasons to think so.
Putting Clues Together
When I first wrote the post, What’s Dove Got to Do with Spirit?, I never expected the connection explored there to go any further than that.
I figured the connection between Noah’s Flood and the Creation events of Genesis 1 and 2 were something unique within the Old Testament.
After all, God restarted the entire world over again in the Flood and then promised to never do it again.
End of “God restarts the world” like he originally created it thread, right? But I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Recently, a handful of additional related connections from a Bible Project interview on The Tree of Life and another related connection in The Moody Handbook of Messianic Prophecy have caused me to completely revise my thinking here.
“Could Creation be the ultimate type or pattern of the Bible?” I began to wonder.
And as related: might all the major movements of the Biblical epic be themselves “new creation” events that call back to the original?
I am now convinced this is the case.
Allow me to summarize the evidence across key figures and events of the biblical narrative.
Noah & The Flood
Let’s begin with the Flood as our first example of God working to begin Creation over again.
In the Flood, God restarts the world by returning it to its original chaotic waters and no land state (first seen in Genesis 1). Here, God acts to return the world to this primordial state by directly reversing the steps he took during Creation – dividing the waters above and below on day 2 (Genesis 1:6–7) before causing dry land to appear on day 3 – only now releasing the waters from above and below to cause the Flood (Genesis 7:11–12) and return of the earth to its original uninhabitable state.
God also treats Noah here as a new Adam figure, by restarting the world with Noah as the new first man and father of all humanity to follow. And more explicitly by giving Noah and his family the same blessing and mandate that he’d originally given Adam and Eve in the garden (compare Gen. 1:28–29 to Gen. 9:1–3).
And if that wasn’t enough to see the Flood as God not only restarting the world, but doing so in a way that called back to the original Creation of Genesis 1 and 2, there’s even more.
For in the Flood, we also have the Dove as a figure of ritual purity (Lev. 1:14) floating above the chaotic waters of the new creation – paralleling how God’s Spirit had hovered above the creation waters originally (Gen. 1:2). Fittingly here, the Dove acts in contrast to the “unclean” raven (Lev. 11:13-19 provides the list of “unclean” bird), showing a clear preference on the Dove’s part for God’s order restored, until which point, it refuses to permanently leave Noah and the Ark (Genesis 8:6-12).
Overall, the evidence for the Flood as a “New Creation” event is increasingly clear.
But it grows even stronger when we consider how Noah and his family subsequently repeat the fall of Eden patterns (something I discuss in more detail in the “Noah” section of my related post here.)
One thing we’ll notice as we continue, is how each new cycle of efforts by God to restart life with a renewed righteous humanity will continually call back to the original creation but do so in distinct ways from one another that are nevertheless similarly clear and compelling.
Abraham & The Promise
Let’s next pick up the trail with Abraham, the first hero the Biblical epic focuses on after Noah.
We’ll explore how Abraham is clearly a new Adam figure which God also has “new creation” intentions for.
The first thing to keep in mind about the original Adam here is God’s desire to fruitfully multiply a righteous humanity (reflecting his likeness) through him (Genesis 1:26-30).
It might also be helpful to keep in mind the Genesis creation theme of “seed” producing “after its own kind” here (Genesis 1:11-12), which after the fall, we see in humanity working for good or ill – as the genealogies of Genesis repeatedly emphasize.
Here with Abraham, God seeks to begin a new set apart righteous group of humanity that is intended to reflect what humanity was originally intended to be. After his post Flood promise to never flood the whole earth again, God is now working to restart humanity and the creation order in a more local fashion.
Remember too that God blessed and commanded the still perfect Adam & Eve to be fruitful and multiple and fill the earth (Genesis 1:26-28 again) a blessing he gave again with the “righteous” Noah and family (Genesis 6:9), who also received this blessing before their “fall” event or seemingly while still “righteous”.
(This also seems fitting given how (a) blessing follows righteousness and curse follows sin in Genesis and (b) that its a righteous humanity God consistently seeks to fruitfully multiply.)
But also keep in mind how God’s command to both Adam &Noah also spoke of their having dominion over the earth and their subduing or ruling the land (Gen. 1:28; 9:1-3).
And finally, one last thing to keep in mind as we consider God’s “new creation” purposes for Abraham is how in Eden, Adam & Eve were placed in a lush garden with trees for food, meeting all their needs (also echoed in how after the Flood, Noah and his family planted a vineyard.)
At last in coming to Abraham, we God again choosing a man he identifies as “righteous” (Gen. 15:6) and promises to do with him what he commanded of Adam and Noah before. With the backdrop of God’s original command to Adam to fruitfully multiply and fill the earth, comes God’s promise to himself multiply Abraham so much so that even Abraham’s descendents are as countless as the stars in the sky or sand on the seashore (Gen. 15:3-6; 22:17).
“I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you.” (Genesis 17:6 ESV)
Regarding “dominion” and ruling the earth, God also promises Abraham that kings will come from him (Gen. 17:4-6) and that his ancestor’s will be given the land to subdue and rule over (Gen. 15:7-16). And where we’ll soon learn that this land is Eden-like in its plentifulness, flowing with milk and honey (Exodus 3:8; Numbers 14:8; Deuteronomy 31:20; Ezekiel 20:15).
“Moreover, I swore to them in the wilderness that I would not bring [the unrighteous Israelites] into the land that I had given them, a land flowing with milk and honey, the most glorious of all lands,” (Ezekiel 20:15 ESV)
The very things God blessed and commanded the first Adam and later Noah to do, He promises to do himself through Abraham. Abraham is chosen by God to be a third type of Adam figure, fruitfully multiplied into as the father of a set apart/righteous humanity.
And so again, per multiple indications, we see that God in Abraham is continuing to work to restart humanity and the creation order in a way that calls back to the original creation events.
Conclusion: Like in Noah and the Flood, God’s work with Abraham continues to reflect Creation as the ultimate type or pattern of redemptive history.
Israel & The Exodus
So what about when God’s promise to multiply Abraham is fulfilled?
Does the birth of Israel as a nation also echo the original Creation events?
Yes indeed! There are several ways that Israel’s birth – through the Exodus and its founding purposes in the law of Moses – reflects this reality.
First and foremost, when God births Israel as his “son” through the Exodus (Exodus 4:22-23), we have another clear call back to God’s original acts of creation (source: footnote #2).
For in parting the Red Sea, God through Moses causes “dry land” to appear for the people to cross (Exodus 14:16,21-22,29). The same phrase (“dry land”) previously appeared when God first caused land to emerge from the primordial waters on the third day of creation (Gen. 1:9). And how does it appear? Per God similarly dividing up the waters on the second day and moving the water below aside from the land on the third.
And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters… Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” (Gen. 1:6,9 ESV)
Compare that to:
“the Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided… But the people of Israel walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.” (Exodus 14:21, 29 ESV)
And should we be surprised? For is not God here again making a way for people to live and flourish in an Eden-like land where they live life his way as originally intended?
Speaking of life as God intended, God’s creating humanity in his likeness is also reflected in God’s birthing Israel as his “son”.
For not only in humanity did God uniquely create a species to produce after his “own kind”, in his likeness and as such, unique among species as his offspring or children…
But here, in Israel, he calls the nation to be set apart as a nation that lives in a way that (again) reflects his righteous nature, a humanity restored as his children and image bearers (Deut. 14:1-2; 32:5-6).
For what else can be said of God’s command to Israel through Moses…
“Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy” (Lev. 19:2 ESV)
…but that they are commanded to reflect God’s righteous nature and be God’s true image bearers, set apart as humanity restored to what it was originally meant to be?
Jesus re-iterates this understanding of this very same command when he taught:
“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48 ESV)
God’s commands to Israel even include there reflecting in their lives of work and rest God’s own acts in the original creation:
“Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God… For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day.” (Exodus 20:9-11 ESV)
And to make the point even clearer, Moses himself tells the Israelites that when they fail to live righteously, it’s at that point when they are no longer God’s “children” in this special way (Deut. 32:5-6).
Additionally, God promises that a faithful Israel in the promised land will experience all things God created – humans, animals and crops – fruitfully multiplying just as it was blessed to originally at Creation:
“And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God… Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock.” (Deuteronomy 28:2,4 ESV)
One last creation callback worth noting in this regard is the related theme of producing “seed” after ones own kind and how God, as above, is doing this himself with humanity (Genesis 1:26-27).
Here when God births Israel by putting it into the promise land, He acts to sow a righteous “seed” in the land. He’s about to fulfill his promise to bring Abraham’s “seed” into that land. And in the song of Moses at the Exodus, we see God’s establishing Israel described as God “planting them on [his] own mountain” (Ex. 15:17). Is He not, in Israel, seeking to produce seed after his own kind again, a righteous people set apart in an Eden-like land to reflect his likeness?
Conclusion: As seen before, here we see again – God’s act of creating Israel reflects His original Creation as the ultimate type or pattern of redemptive history.
King David & Abraham’s Promise
So far, we’ve considered the “seed” theme of scripture as a Creation theme (ie. God producing “seed” after his own kind) and discussed Israel as God’s Son, a “seed” He planted in the Eden-like land. But the promised seed theme of scripture, of a righteous humanity to come, also has focus on a particular individual in scripture, starting as early as Genesis 3:15 and becoming more focused in a royal direction by the end of Genesis and thereafter.
So here – as we continue to trace Creation as the ultimate type or pattern of Scripture across key figures and events – we’ll now turn to King David and his royal line.
While God’s blessing of the still sinless Adam & Eve to fruitfully multiply is later fulfilled through Abraham’s “seed” in the birth of Israel as nation, the theme of dominion in God’s blessing of Adam & Eve and the related promise of kings coming from Abraham (and later Jacob and than his son Judah) only comes to fruition in King David and his line.
And it’s interesting to consider the ways that the “new creation” birth of Israel as God’s son/children pluralistically is paralleled at a more individual level in King David and the Davidic heir (and ultimately, the messiah).
Obviously the Adam “dominion” theme of ruling over the rich Eden-like land is particularly present in the King individually even more so than the people of Israel as a whole. And this reflects Adam’s likeness to God at Creation, as God himself rules.
King David is also called to be God’s image bearer in nature or character: to live righteously and meditate on God’s law daily (Deut. 17:14-20), the righteous way of living that all Israel is commanded to live, meditating on God’s law day and night (Joshua 1:8). The King is intended be a model for all the people here.
As God chose “righteous” Adam figures before and in Israel called the people to reflect God’s nature as his children by “being holy as the Lord their God is holy”, so David is chosen as an Adam-figure to have dominion as King precisely for being “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22).
“he [God] raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, “I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.” (Acts 13:22 ESV)
As Israel is collectively called God’s children/sons if indeed they live righteously (Deut. 14:1-2; 32:5-6), so David himself is identified as God’s “son” not just as a “true son of Israel” (John 1:47) in general but in a special way as King (see Psalm 2:7 in context), the one with “dominion”, a new Adam figure, made to reflect the divine-image and called rule, just as at Creation.
“I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.” (Psalm 2:7)
Israel & David as “Seed of Promise”
If Israel, is God’s “son” and “seed” of promise corporately, then King David and his line is God’s “son” and “seed” of promise individually.
In fact, the king of Israel is an individual microcosm of his people Israel in other clear and meaningful ways.
God dwells in the midst of his people Israel (Exodus 29:45-46), particularly with God’s presence in a special way in the holy of holies of the tabernacle (Exodus 25:8), later the temple (1 Kings 6), at the center of their community (the place of the king). And this works hand in hand with Israel collectively being set apart or anointed for God’s holy purposes and way of life.
But God’s presence or Spirit also resides upon King David specifically and individually (1 Samuel 16) and also like Israel as a nation, the King is anointed and set apart for God’s holy purposes and presence individually.
God resides at the center of both His anointed people collectively and His special anointed one individually. Fittingly, the temple, which replaces the tabernacle as a special place for God’s presence, is also in the capital of Jerusalem near where the Davidic King reigns from his throne.
So if Israel’s Exodus and sowing into the Eden-like land as God’s “son”, where it can live the way God intended and be sanctified for God’s holy presence in their midst, is itself a “new creation” event…
Then what of King David’s re-birth as God’s “son”, to rule Israel as a man after God’s own heart, sanctified for God’s holy presence or Spirit to dwell upon him? And his role of having righteous dominion over the Eden-like land as Adam was originally intended to?
Could both the promised “seed” of Israel plurally and the promised “seed” of the Davidic King individually be central to God’s “new creation” work across scripture?
It seems clear from Scripture that God’s promises to bless the “seed” or offspring of Abraham and through it, bless the whole world (Gen 12 and 22) applies to both Israel as the “seed” of promise (Abraham’s offspring multiplied) and also The Davidic King specifically, whose own “seed” or line is blessed and whose ideal righteous reign is envisioned in Psalm 72 where that righteousness is the basis for people being blessed in the king, fulfilling Abraham’s promise.
God to Abraham:
“I will bless those who bless you… and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen. 12:3)
David’s Vision for Solomon:
“May people be blessed in him,
all nations call him blessed!” (Ps. 72:17b)
By this I conclude that David’s re-birth as God’s son at his anointing can be seen as a “new creation” event. And that this is typological for Davidic heirs and especially the unfailingly righteous heir (the Messiah) yet to come. And even later, a model for the “new creation” rebirth of believers in the New Testament in general.
Soloman & The Need for a Righteous Seed
Fittingly then, its to the need for an unfailing “seed” of promise, reflecting God’s likeness without fail, that we’ll turn to next.
A need that is seen in every new Adam of the Old Testament including David and also his immediate heir Solomon.
And a need emphasized by the “new creation” events across the Old Testament also including “new fall” events or failures.
We see one such failure in David’s immediate heir Solomon, whom he’d seemingly hoped to be the unfailing righteous one to come (Psalm 72).
But alas, Solomon turns out to be a new Adam figure in his failure in a striking way.
For where Adam followed Eve’s lead in seeing the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge as “desirable for gaining wisdom” (Genesis 3:6), So Solomon who loved wisdom (1 Kings 3:5-15) was tempted into following after his foreign wives in pursuit of the knowledge of other gods (1 Kings 11).
As we’ll soon see, the repeating cycles of “new creation” and “new fall” cry out for an ultimate “new creation” event or rebirth of humanity in righteousness that will not fail.
Post-Exile Hopes: The Messiah & The New Covenant
After Solomon’s failings, Israel splits into two kingdoms.
And both of those kingdoms, like Adam and Eve before them, are exiled from the blessed land for failing to live life righteously on God’s terms.
Later throughout the prophets, including in the book of Isaiah, the hope of a new Exodus repeats over and over. It is a hope that God’s people will again be liberated from foreign rule in foreign lands and allowed to return to their blessed promised place.
But since the original Exodus itself and the promise land, like so many facets of Israel’s identity and history, are “new creation” events and types, so too is the hoped for reality of a “new exodus”.
It is the hope for a “new creation” rebirth of Israel as God’s children, true image bearers, returned to their blessed Eden-like land.
But the prophets also tell us that it was both Israel’s failing as a people and the unrighteousness of her kings that lead to the exile from their Eden-like land.
So what should keep this failure from happening again? How can Israel, collectively and individually live up to the unfailing “seed” of promise it was always meant to be?
- A hoped for unfailingly righteous Adam or David, an unfailingly righteous king (with dominion), the Messiah is needed.
- And also an unfailingly righteous Israel where via the also hoped for new covenant, all are righteously reborn and anointed with God’s spirit, reflecting his nature as his “children” or image bearers.
A righteous people under a righteous king who will not again be exiled from the blessed Eden-like land and who will be used to fulfill Israel’s ultimate purpose: the whole world receiving the blessings of righteousness through the promised “seed”.
Jesus & The Baptism
Jesus baptism, as a prototype for all Christian baptism, symbolically represents (and foreshadows) his death and resurrection (Romans 6:3-11).
And that, as the New Testament portrays it, is the ultimate biblical “new creation” event that all others foreshadowed (2 Corinthians 5:17).
It is the pinnacle of God’s “new creation” efforts to rebirth humanity in righteousness across scripture and the climax of the biblical epic.
Further, I think we can show that the New Testament reflects these the key events of the Old Testament as “new creation” events by specifically associating Jesus’ baptism (death and resurrection) with these events.
Jesus and the New Testament authors relate baptism to:
- The original creation starting with water & spirit (Gen. 1:2; John 3:5)
- Noah and the Flood (1 Peter 3:20-21 & the Spirit as a Dove at Jesus’ baptism, see the Gospels)
- The Exodus birth of Israel through the waters of the Red Sea (1 Corinthians 10:1-2 refers to this as a “baptism”)
- God’s words to David at his re-birth/anointing as his Son (1 Samuel 16:13; Psalm 2:7; Isaiah 42:1; Mark 1:11)
John even presents Jesus entire life and ministry in the context of his (the Word’s) involvement in the original creation event (Genesis 1:1, 3; John 1:1-5).
How does that intro contextualize the life of Christ? Well, does not his work complete in the reality that all can be “new creations” in him? (2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 6:3-11)
That “new creation” reality, established by Jesus’ death & resurrection, directly includes Jesus overcoming his own garden testing in Gethsemene. Only Jesus test in the garden is to obey God’s will in it by facing humanity’s consequences (certain death) for failing to do so previously.
He succeeds in his garden test, breaking the “fall cycle” and proceeds with facing the cross to bring about the ultimate “new creation” event for humanity.
And like with the original creation, where we’re told on the seventh day that “God finished his work” of creation, Jesus just before dying on the cross the day before sabbath says, “It is finished” (Genesis 2:2; John 19:28-30) (source: footnote #3).
There are many other typological connections fulfilled by Jesus including additional connections reflecting his role as the last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45), the new Moses, a new Passover lamb, the Son of Man, his divinity and miracles and much more. All these things can understood as cohesively united in relationship to God’s work of “new creation” across scripture and culminating in Jesus, once the original events are understood for their own relationship to Creation and the “new creation” events of the Old Testament itself.
(Side-Note: I also discuss how the biblical epic concludes in the book of Revelation with images of Eden restored – and a couple other related connections in my related post here.)
The original Creation is the ultimate type or pattern of the Bible.
It’s reflected in God’s redemptive efforts across scripture – where repeating “new creation” cycles shine through its key figures and events. And where this pattern helps unify the entire scriptural narrative (more than perhaps any other.)
Further, its coupling of “new creation” cycles with inevitable “new fall” events cry out for an unfailing new Adam and David to bring a final “new creation” that rebirths humanity in righteousness, including an ultimate “new creation” rebirth of Israel, once and for all.
The New Testament envisions this hope culminating in the coming of Jesus where his death and resurrection are portrayed as the ultimate “new creation” event of redemptive history.
- (1) Remnant Radio Interview with Tim Mackie of The Bible Project – https://youtu.be/JMh05mYBD_A
- (2) The Moody Handbook of Messianic Prophecy, 1 Samuel 17: David: A Messianic Prototype (p.376)
- (3) Messiah in the Feasts of Israel, Sabbath (p. 11-12)