The God of Typological Recapitulation
The Scriptures are full of typological recapitulations to help us better grasp the Person and work of Christ. The principle of theological recapitulation occurs by a series of creation-fall-redemption events. Many of these are set out in the first two books of the Bible to help lay the foundation for what would follow. It’s only as we begin to understand how these take shape within the pages of redemptive-history that we can make sense of their full significance.
1. Noah as Typological Second Adam.
Very early on in the flood narrative, it becomes evident that there is a recapitulation of the creation account with Noah and his descendants. Just as God divided the waters at creation and brought about life in a new and habitable world so when the waters of the flood abated, new life and a habitable world appeared once again. The language given to Adam at creation (i.e. “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it.”) resurfaces with Noah when he steps off of the Ark into a typical new creation (Gen. 8:17; 9:1, 7).
Additionally, there is recapitulation of the fall of Noah. Careful attention to detail uncovers a striking similarity between Adam’s sin and Noah’s sin:
The structural and literary correspondence between the story of Noah’s sin and the record of Adam’s Fall is striking. Noah’s transgression begins with a vineyard (Gen 9:20) while Adam’s sin is set in a garden (Gen 3:1). Noah drank of the fruit of the vine while Adam ate of the fruit of the tree (Gen 9:20; 3:2), both being acts of deliberate disobedience resulting in the sinner’s awareness of shameful nakedness (Gen 9:21; 3:7). While Noah’s nakedness was covered by his eldest sons (Gen 9:23), Adam’s nakedness was covered by God (Gen 3:23), and both the sin of Noah and the sin of Adam issued into a fearful curse and enduring division in their respective seed (Gen 9:25; 3:15). In both accounts the narrative moves from the sin of the father to the resulting blessing and cursing of the seed and finally to the genealogical development (Genesis 10 and 5). The authorial intention to relate the story of Noah’s sin to Adam’s Fall is literarily evident in the word-play in Genesis 9:20 (cf. אִישׁ הָאֲדָמָה with אָדָם in Gen 2:7) and the parallel of Genesis 9:24 (“Noah awoke,” i.e., by metonymy, his “eyes were opened,” cf. Gen 3:7a).1
There is also recapitulation with regard to the two seeds and the covenant curses and blessings pronounced on them. Meredith Kline has helpfully explained this when he wrote:
Noah’s oracle is actually a resumption of the primal oracle of the Lord, both in function and substance. Genesis 3:14, 15 is God’s curse on Satan and his followers among mankind, a declaration of conquest to be executed at last through the messianic champion of the seed of the woman. Genesis 9:24–27 is a renewal of that history-shaping curse with its correlative promise of the triumph of the redemptive community. Salvation as victory in the conflict with the dragon and his forces is the common theme of both oracles. Only as to their immediate position and particular perspective within that history of the coming of God’s kingdom do they differ. Genesis 3:14, 15 contains no intimations of the division of premessianic history into its prediluvian and postdiluvian phases. Its prophetic overview moves quickly to the climactic encounter of Christ and Satan. The focus shifts in Noah’s oracle. Delivered after the historical division marked by the Flood, it portrays the ongoing spiritual warfare in the lineaments of the upcoming Abrahamic Covenant, centering on the typological history of Israel, the distinctive form that was to be assumed by the redemptive program in the era leading to the messianic triumph of the kingdom.2
Ham, Noah’s son, is cursed–much in the same way that Cain was cursed. In turn, Cain and his descendants set out to build the City of Man. Ham’s descendants did exactly the same thing–only this time, they multiply to become the very nations that stood in opposition to God and His church throughout the Old Testament era. Ham’s descendant were the Caananites, the Ninevites, Egypt and the Philistines. By way of contrast, God raised up another one of Noah’s sons to be the typical seed of the woman–Shem, from whom the Israelites–and ultimately the Redeemer–would come. This is parallel with what God did with Gen. 3:15–and Seth. Instead of merely reiterating the promise of Genesis 3:15, however, this time God was indicating that the “Seed of the woman” (i.e. Christ) would save a people(Genesis 9:26-27) from “every tongue, tribe, nation and people.”
2. Israel as Typological Son of God. Israel, like Noah and his family, underwent a typical new creation. The language employed harkens back to the original creation. When God divides the waters of the Red Sea, we are meant to remember the separating of the waters at the creation. We are then told twice, “the children of Israel had walked on dry land in the midst of the sea” (Exodus 14:29; 15:19). The allusion to the “dry land” also draws our minds back to the creation account where the dry land appeared after the waters were divided.
In Exodus 4:22 the Lord says, “Israel is My son, My firstborn.” Scripture also tells us that Adam was also “the son of God” (Luke 3:30). Just as Adam fell and disobeyed, so Israel fell and disobeyed. Just as Adam had been tempted in the Garden, so Israel was tempted in the wilderness and in the Land. Israel’s fall was repeated time and time again. Interestingly, the Apostle Paul, as he explained the present condition of apostate Israel in his day, spoke of it as “their fall” (Rom. 11:11-12). When God entered into covenant with Israel, He set before them–as a collective typological Son of God–the promise of blessing and curse. This harkens back to the covenant curses and promise of blessing in Genesis 3. While Israel was not in a “Covenant of Works” as Adam had been, the nation was, nevertheless, a typological Son of God who by their fall showed that the requirements of the Covenant of Works (perfect and perpetual obedience) could not be met by them. The Covenant blessings would only come through covenantal obedience to the Law of God–just as it was the case with Adam. This is driving us to look for another Son of God who could obey and merit the covenant blessings for those he represented.
Jesus is said to have gone down into Egypt and came up from Egypt as an infant to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Hosea, “Out of Egypt I have called my Son.” Israel’s going down into Egypt and being brought out by the exodus was a type of the Son of God. Jesus recapitulates Israel’s history throughout the entirety of His life. He is THE Son of God who came to take the curses and merit the blessings for all those who would be united to Him by faith. Jesus is the son of Abraham who goes down into Egypt, comes up out of Egypt, goes through the water, into the wilderness, up on the mountain, comes down from the mountain, into the Promised Land, exercises his kingly rule, the prophetic era and then the priestly rule in his death on the cross. Like Israel before Him, Jesus is exiled on the cross. Then, in the resurrection, He is restored and the blessings of God are secured for the people of God. The Apostle Paul could say that “all the promises of God are ‘Yes!’ and ‘Amen’ in Him” (2 Cor. 1:20). All of the promises made to Israel are secured by Jesus, the true Israel, and are made spiritually ours by faith in Him (Ephesians 1:3). Jesus is the true Israel who recapitulates all of Old Covenant Israel’s experience in the work of redemption. For a fuller development of this, see this and this.
Interestingly, there is no consummation in the recapitulation of the Noah narrative or of Israel in the Old Covenant. This is precisely because the consummation would only come with Christ. Even though the prophets promise a time of restoration for Israel, theocratic Israel never experiences it. That’s precisely because it would only be realized in Christ. This has massive implications for our understanding how to read the Old Testament in a spiritually applicable way to ourselves today. The final Biblical picture is that of creation-fall-redemption-consummation. The Old Testament types lacked the final part of this structure to teach us to look for the coming Redeemer.
1. Gage, W. A. (2010). The Gospel of Genesis: Studies in Protology and Eschatology (Second Edition., pp. 17–18). Warren A. Gage
2. Kline, M. G. (2006). Kingdom Prologue: Genesis Foundations for a Covenantal Worldview (pp. 263–264). Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers.
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