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Bible Gem 401 - Deep Symbolism: Baptised in the Cloud; the Rock was Christ (1 Cor 10:2 + 4)

April 14, 2019


In the cloud and in the sea, all of them were baptized as followers of Moses. 

the spiritual rock that travelled with them, and that rock was Christ. (1 Cor 10:2, 4)


10:2 - "And were all baptized as followers of Moses”.  What on earth does that mean?  Are we supposed to understand it in the context of  the rite of baptism?  There is no evidence that the rite of baptism was known in the time of Moses. They were baptized "in the cloud" and "in the sea," cannot be understood as baptism administered by the hand of man. The word "baptism" has two meanings - one referring to the application of water as a religious rite and the other the sense of "dedicating, consecrating, initiating into," or "bringing under obligation to". It is evidently this latter sense that is meant here, as denoting that they were devoted to Moses as a leader, they were brought under his laws, they became bound to obey him, they were placed under his protection and guidance by the miraculous interposition of God. When they were passing through the sea, and while being led by the cloud, they were under the authority and direction of Moses as a leader;  it was a public recognition of their being his followers, and being bound to obey his laws. 


In the cloud - cannot mean that they were enveloped or "immersed" in the cloud, for there is no evidence that the cloud thus enveloped them. The Old Testament account leads us to suppose that the cloud either passed before them as a pillar, or that it had the same form in the rear of their camp, or that it was suspended over them, and was thus the symbol of the divine presence and protection. Some have proposed that the cloud "let down a plentiful rain upon them thus making them dipping wet. But it was not a natural cloud, it was a symbol of the divine presence and protection. It was not to give rain on the Israelites, or on the land, but it was to guide, and to be an symbol  of the presence of God. Their only task was to follow it. 


And in the sea - this expression determines the sense of the word "baptize." The sea referred to here is the Red Sea, and the event was the passage through that sea. The fact was that the Lord caused a strong east wind to blow all night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided (Exo_14:21), and the waters were piled up like a wall of water on the right and on the left.  (Exo_14:22). From this whole narrative it is evident that they passed through the sea without being "immersed" in it. It is perfectly clear that neither the cloud nor the waters touched them. "They went through the midst of the sea on dry ground." 


Yes it is also clear there is a resemblance between their passage through the Red Sea and baptism. The descent of the Israelites into the sea, when they seemed as buried in the waters, and their ascent out of it again on the opposite shore, has a significant similarity with baptism. But it is more a general use of the word baptism than a technical reference to the rite of Baptism. Like we might say baptised by fire.  When the children of Israel came out of it they rejoiced and sang at the realization of what had just happened. I am sure Paul is using this analogy to suggest the same to the Corinthians. Clearly Paul is playing with words making the meaning of what he is trying to convey deeper still. There are clearly multiple layers or meaning involved. Take time to ponder it.  


In Bible Gem 17 I dealt with one level of the typology that exists between Christ and Joseph. But it runs way deeper than that. I only gave you one example in that Gemz. There are many more. The same is now true of Moses and Christ. There is a degree to which Christ is all pervasive through the Old Testament. Typology makes a symbolic connection between two people or a person and an object or symbol. The Bible openly states that Melchizedek is a typological symbol of Christ. Encapsulated in Mechizedek is a pre-figuring of the Messiah who was to come, a picture, an example of him who was to come.


1Co 10:4  And did all drink the same spiritual drink - Why this is called "spiritual" has been a subject of great debate.  It cannot be because there was anything special in the nature of the water, for it was evidently real water, suited to quench their thirst. Some have suggested without reason that there is a reference in this to the drink used in the Lord’s Supper. The use of “spiritual” must mean that it was bestowed in a miraculous and supernatural manner or immediately given by God. Those direct interventions of God into our lives; those God moments. These events were certainly that. You have them don’t you? Those moments that stay with you for a lifetime because God was in it. God moments. Ordinary yet made spiritual because of God. But let’s not turn this into a rite. But that is what we humans are prone to do. 


The rock that followed them - This cannot mean that the rock itself literally followed them, any more than that they literally drank the rock.  When the text read they "drank of the rock," it must mean that they drank of the water that flowed from the rock; so when it is said that the "rock followed" or accompanied them, it must mean that the water that flowed from the rock accompanied them. This figure of speech is common everywhere. Or that the effect of God’s protection and provision followed them everywhere.  There is every possibility that the water from the rock kept flowing like a river and that they followed it to gain a supply of water. The need of water for so many people would not have been for just one point in time but an on-going need. (This I say not the Lord).


And that Rock was Christ - This cannot be intended to be understood literally. The gushing water is considered as a representation of the Messiah, and of the blessings which result from him. This miraculous provision is proof that Christ was with them. An illustration of their continued and constant dependence on him for the daily supply of their needs. Paul’s intention was show the Corinthians, who relied so much on their privileges, and felt so secure, that the Jews had the very same privileges. They had the highest form of divine blessing, by virtue of God’s continued presence and yet God was still not pleased with them. Inference being, maybe the same is true of you Corinthians. Don’t get complacent. I think it is significant too that the Jews say the Shekinah glory of God is called "the holy rock"; and Philo refers to this rock as the broken rock, "the wisdom of God". Clearly this is being interpreted by other Jewish writers and by Paul himself in Midrashic ways (see Bible Gemz 27, 68, 69 70, 87 and 321). It is meant to be deep and illusory. It marks the spot for me (and you) to do some deeper thinking.  


Factual Note: That same rock is in the valley of Rephidim to the present day. It bears the original marks of the water that flowed from it in the fissures that appear on its sides. It is one block of fine granite, about seven metres long and five wide.  I have written a Nugget about it on February 28th 2018. 



Sorry this Gem is a long one but I did warn you it was deep.



Don't let life discourage you; everyone who got where he is had to begin where he was.  Richard L. Evans


Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards. 



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