Typology and the Rise of David
We began to study Samuel 532 days ago- the July before last. And I know what you’re thinking. But look, it would have taken John Piper about two decades to work through 23 chapters, so I don’t want to hear it.
Anyway, I don’t know what it’s been like for you, but in my family we’ve celebrated 10 birthdays since we started this series. In other words, a lot has happened. Part of the difficulty with studying long books is that life happens in between the chapters, and you can easily lose your grip on a lot of the most important takeaways. Today, for instance, we’ve likely not even thought about the life of David for a month, and in between this point and that most of us have traveled and all of us have celebrated Christmas with our friends and families - itself often an overwhelming experience.
So I think it’s worth pausing for a moment today to take a breather. Let’s take a minute to stop, get out a roadmap, and evaluate our surroundings. And I think a good place to start is the shadows.
Shadows, Patterns, and the Messiah
We decided early on that this series would be called, “Tracing the Shadows of the King.” And that’s what we’ve tried to do. A lot of our time has been spent reflecting on aspects of the story of Samuel and the story of David, and then looking forward to see how the shape of these stories might remind us of the work of Christ, the true King of Israel, the better son of David.
Shades of Grey
Today I want to explore these connections a bit more intentionally, for two reasons.
- I don’t want you to miss the forest for the trees. The story is about to become complex in a way we haven’t yet experienced. Armies chasing armies through wilderness and villages, over mountains and through valleys. Witches and spirits and betrayal and treason and murder. Pagan alliances and foreign wars and lies and destruction and plunder. To this point the author has focused our attention on only a few moving pieces. Now the camera pans and we are introduced to the full scene. When that happens, I want you to be prepared for it. I want you to remember the most important moments vividly.
- We’re about to encounter more nuance than we’re often comfortable with. We like things to be squared away, black and white, good and evil. That’s why children’s stories are often simple. White Knight versus Red Dragon, the brave hero versus the wicked villain. These sort of categories are simple, clean, unambiguous. Reality is more messy than these stories. And the Scriptures reflect reality perfectly.
To this point we’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on David’s righteousness, his breathtaking zeal, his faithfulness and covenant loyalty. The author has made a point of setting David apart, distinct from the faithlessness of Saul, distinct from the faithlessness of Israel. Because David is like the Messiah. But David is not the Messiah. And the author wants us to see both of these things, clearly. Since we began reading, we’ve largely explored how David is like the Messiah. But not long from now we’ll begin to get glimpses of his sin, his failures, his shortsightedness. And eventually we’ll see how the sin of David will ruin the kingdom of Israel. Because the author is trying to teach us how David is not like the Messiah.
Threading that needle - understanding the degree to which a shadow is like the coming Christ, while keeping in mind the ways in which that shadow isn’t like the coming Christ - is a work of interpretation that we call Typology. To do it well, we need to understand it well.
That’s what today is all about. It’s time to stop, get out the roadmap, and evaluate our surroundings, because we absolutely cannot do the hard work of interpreting this book well without a firm grasp on Typology.
What is Typology?
Since we began reading the story of Samuel, we’ve used words like “shadow,” “pattern,” and “type.” All of these are terms that the Bible uses to refer to the same thing. Types are present in every book of the Bible; types are the threads that interweave all of the stories of the Bible; you cannot understand the Bible without understanding types. And the study of types is what we call “Typology.”
What is a “Type?”
So perhaps the best way to start is to define the word “Type.” Get your nerd glasses out, because we’re about to hit the books.
A “type” is a narrative feature that authors use on purpose to teach readers that historical events foreshadow the life and work of Jesus.
Let me repeat that, because I think it’s important.
A “type” is a narrative feature that authors use on purpose to teach readers that historical events foreshadow the life and work of Jesus.
Okay, so we’re going to leave that definition up on the screen, and I want to break it down into bits so that we’re fully on the same page here.
A “type” is a narrative pattern...
Read the first bit again. A “type” is a narrative feature. In other words, a “type” is a feature of a story that has a distinct shape, a pattern that emerges while reading, or a figure who is unique, or an place that’s noteworthy. More specifically, a “type” is a feature that emerges when reading the books of the Old Testament. To qualify as a type, the pattern that emerges must have a distinctive shape, with distinctive elements, that stands out from the rest of the story and prompt the reader to ask questions.
...that authors use on purpose…
Okay, move on to the next bit. A “type” is a narrative feature that authors use on purpose. In other words, you aren’t reading a new meaning into the story. This isn’t a “mystical sense” of the passage unfamiliar to author or audience. No, a “type” is a feature of the story that’s put there on purpose. The author means for you to see it, and the author means for you to look forward and reflect on what this means about the Messiah.
Let me clarify something here. What I’ve just said implies that the authors of the Scriptures knew about the coming Christ, and were writing in part to teach people about the coming Christ.
Here’s what I mean. The scriptures were written by authors who were inspired by the Holy Spirit. Now, all of the authors of Scripture looked forward to the coming Kingdom of God, and all of the authors of Scripture looked forward to a coming King who would rescue the people of God. But they did not have all the details about that King, like who he was, or when he would arrive, or how he would rescue God’s people. We know that because Peter says, “the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.” But the Holy Spirit knew all of the details about the life and work of Jesus. And the Father, sovereign over all, was carefully working in history to orchestrate the events that the authors were writing about so that they’d foreshadow the coming life and work of Jesus. So we can safely say, without hesitation, that the authors of Scripture, human and divine, shape their narratives on purpose, pointing forward to the coming Christ.
...to teach readers…
Okay, on to the next bit. A “type” is a narrative feature that authors use on purpose to teach readers. In other words, you’re meant to see it, you’re meant to reflect on it, and you’re meant to make the connection from that historical event, or figure, or place, to the life and work of Jesus. I want to say this explicitly and I don’t want you to miss this. You are not reading the books of the Old Testament correctly if you don’t follow the “type” to the “antetype.”
A lot of people - including a lot of evangelical academics - have drawn a category distinction here that I think is super unhelpful. All the linguistic and grammatical and literary work done in the passage- in other words, the work of reading- they’ve placed all of that work in the category of “exegesis.” But the discipline of following the “type,” the work of recognizing the patterns that emerge and following those patterns to the life and work of Jesus, they’ve placed that in the category of “biblical theology.”
The problem with this approach is the implication that you can read a passage thoroughly and understand it completely without recognizing and understanding the patterns. But if the author placed those patterns there on purpose, and if the author means for you to see them, to reflect on them, and to look forward to the life and work of Jesus with them, then you haven’t thoroughly read and haven’t fully understood the passage if you don’t do those things.
...that historical events foreshadow the life and work of Jesus.
Okay, the last bit. A “type” is a narrative feature that author’s use on purpose to teach readers that historical events foreshadow the life and work of Jesus. All “types” are grounded in historical events, or historical people, or historical places, or historical institutions. These things actually happened, and they actually have meaning in their own context. The story of Samuel, for instance, was written to the people of Israel for a number of reasons. One of those reasons, yes, was to point them forward to the coming King. But it was also written to teach the people the reason for their exile. It was also written to illustrate the consequences of breaking covenant with the one true God. It was also written to teach them about the futility of idolatry. And so it isn’t enough to say merely that Samuel is about Jesus, and it isn’t enough to believe that the life of David is about Jesus.
And yet we can say with confidence that the Father, who is sovereign over all, orchestrated these historical events to foreshadow the life and work of Christ; and we can say with the confidence that the Holy Spirit inspired the authors of the Scriptures to see those patterns, recognize them, and understand them; and we can say with confidence that Jesus fulfilled those patterns in the redemption of his people, and then to equip his people with the Spirit to see and understand those patterns.
Our goal as readers is to understand the passage on its own terms, in its own historical context. And then our job is to understand the shapes and patterns within that passage, and follow those shapes and patterns to the life and work of Jesus.
So. That’s a very long answer to the very short question, “What is a type?”
And the discipline of typology is to recognize and understand types. Now, the trouble with typology is that almost anything can seem like a type if you try hard and believe in yourself. So the hard work of typology is to test the patterns themselves to identify which are indeed “types” that the Spirit intended for his church to see and understand, and which are merely patterns or places or people with no intended meaning in the narrative.
In order for a narrative pattern to qualify as a “type,” it must meet at least three criteria. I’m going to give you the official name for each criteria, and then I’m going to give you my name for them, which I think are an awful lot more approachable.
The first criterium, and the most basic, is “Correspondence.” Or, as I like to call it, “this thing seems like this other thing.” To qualify as a type, a pattern that emerges in the Old Testament must correspond with a pattern in the life of Christ on a profound level. It isn’t enough that Jonah woke up, ate breakfast, went to work, came home, and went to sleep. Even if Jesus woke up at precisely the same time and preferred precisely the same meals. This is ordinary correspondence, and that’s not what we’re talking about. It’s extraordinary correspondence that we’re after. Jonah surrendered to death, spent three days in the depths, rose again at impossible odds, and rescued a people. Jesus surrendered to death, spent three days in the grave, rose again, and rescued his people. That’s extraordinary correspondence, and that’s what we’re talking about.
The second criterium is referred to as “Escalation.” Or, as I like to refer to it, “this thing seems like that thing, but so much bigger and better.” To qualify as a type, a pattern that emerges in the Old Testament must not only correspond with a pattern in the life and work of Christ, but it must do so in miniature. For example, it isn’t enough that the priests sacrifice and intercede for the people. Jesus indeed also sacrifices and intercedes for the people, but that correspondence isn’t enough to qualify as a type. Once a year, the High Priest enters the most holy place of the tabernacle carrying the blood of an innocent animal to atone for the sins of himself and the people. And then he gets back to work, because the people remain in sin. But Jesus, the Great High Priest, enters the Most Holy Place before the throne of God Himself, carrying his own innocent blood to atone for the sins of the people, once for all. And then he sits down at the right hand of God, because the work of redemption is finished. See? Christ’s work is like work of the High Priest, but it’s bigger and better. Correspondence and escalation.
The final criterium is referred to as “Biblical Warrant.” In other words, we don’t call something a type unless an author of Scripture has prompted us to do so. What I’m not saying, and I want to be very clear here because there’s been a lot of confusion in this area, what I’m not saying is that we cannot call something a type unless an author of the New Testament has explicitly referenced that same passage or that same pattern, and then said the words, “This is a type.”. That’s too restrictive. The scope and direction of the New Testament recommend to us typological reading that extends beyond the few texts that the authors of the New Testament reference directly as types. However, we can’t just call anything a type as long as we feel that it corresponds and escalates. It’s important to take heed of the broad directions of the apostles. For instance, we’re told explicitly about the sacrificial system as a type, the tabernacle as a type, Adam, Melchizedek, David and Solomon as types. It’s important to recognize which types are made explicit, which types are noted implicitly, and the framework with which the authors are approaching these patterns before we confidently assert that something is or is not a type.
Examples from Scripture
Okay. So we’ve defined “type,” and we’ve discussed how to identify them. A type is a narrative feature that authors use on purpose to teach readers that historical events foreshadow the life and work of Jesus. And we recognize types according to Correspondence, Escalation, and Biblical Warrant.
Tracking? Okay. Before we move on to the Rise of David, I want to show you a few examples of typological interpretation taken directly from the New Testament, because I want you to be confident not only that this is a tool that the authors of the New Testament used regularly to understand the Scriptures, but a tool that they meant for us to use as well. And also because our interpretation of the type of David ought to mirror this type of reading pretty directly.
I’m going to read from two passages. You don’t have to turn there because they’ll be on the screen. The first one is coming from Romans 5.
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass,much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Okay? Let’s do one more.
The priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.
But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.
For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer,sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.
Okay, so we’ve just read two passages, both of which direct our attention to patterns in the Old Testament stories that foreshadow the life and work of Jesus. And in both cases the author points out that this pattern CORRESPONDS with the work of Christ, and in both cases the author points out that this pattern is ESCALATED in the work of Christ. Correspondence and escalation. And just by virtue of these biblical authors highlighting the patterns themselves, we have BIBLICAL WARRANT to explore them. Correspondence, escalation, biblical warrant. That’s our criteria, and that’s what we’re looking for in the story of David.
Types in the Rise of David
If we’re searching for types in the rise of David, the simplest way to begin, I think, is to find Biblical Warrant to validate that pattern in the first place. Luckily, that’s going to be super easy, because Jesus himself, all of the gospel writers, and several of the writings look back on the life of David as a shadow of the life and work of Christ. Matthew, the first book of the New Testament, refers to Jesus as the “son of David” ten times. Mark does it three times. Luke does it four times. Jesus himself points back to patterns in the life of David to justify his own actions, and suggests that David’s prophecies about the coming Messiah were about him. Luke initiates his gospel account by suggesting that all of the prophecies about a coming son of David were pointing forward to Jesus. When Peter proclaims the gospel in public for the first time, he claimed that David was looking forward to the coming Jesus in prophecy. Paul proclaims in his messages to synagogues dispersed throughout the Roman Empire that Jesus is the promised messiah in the line of David. Romans begins his great letter to the Romans by proclaiming Jesus to be the Christ, who was “descended from David according to the flesh.” And he encourages Timothy in his final letter to “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David.” And John, full of the Spirit, speaking the very words of the risen Christ, refers to Jesus as the one who “has the key of David.”
In other words, there is perhaps no more concrete and established shadow in the Old Testament than the life and work and writings of David. We’ve got lots and lots of Biblical Warrant to explore the rise of David and search for patterns, so let’s get to it.
The Miracle Birth of a Prophet
The story of David is called “Samuel” because the story begins with the miraculous birth of the prophet, Samuel. Samuel’s mother, Hannah, in many ways represented the situation of the people of Israel. She was barren, and she was mocked by her peers, and she was desperate. So Hannah cried out to the Lord for a child, and what follows bears an uncanny resemblance to the birth of the prophet John, the baptist.
A barren woman yearns for a child. An appeal is made before God. God moves in power and a child is born miraculously. God promises that this child will play a special role in the rescue of his people. The expected child is set apart for the work of God. The child grows up in the service of God, speaking prophetically over the people of Israel. The prophet anoints the coming king of Israel.
This pattern is true of both Samuel, who precedes David, and John the Baptist, who precedes Jesus. Correspondence.
Now let’s look for escalation.
In the type, a barren woman who yearns for a child. But in the antetype, the pleas for mercy aren’t blessed by a priest of God, they are coming from a priest of God. In the type, God grants the request as a part of his plan to rescue his people. But in the antetype, he sends an angel as a messenger to preach the good news of the final rescue of the people of God. In the type, the expected child will be set apart for the work of God. But in the antetype, the expected child will be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb! In the type, the miracle child will make way for a king. In the antetype, the miracle child will make way for the King of Kings. Correspondence and Escalation. The birth and life of Samuel is a shadow of what’s to come.
Shepherd King: The Unexpected and Rejected Messiah
Let’s keep moving. Do you remember when David was anointed as king? Samuel had been sent by God to the house of Jesse. And although Jesse is asked to parade all of his sons before Samuel, so that in the Spirit he might recognize the coming king, David wasn’t even invited. His family didn’t consider it even a possibility that he might be the future king of Israel. Later, after he’s anointed, David’s brother mocks him and berates him before the armies of Israel.
Jesus, also, was rejected by his family. They thought he was out of his mind. And later, his brothers mock him about going to Jerusalem, because they didn’t believe in him. Correspondence.
In the type, the human king of Israel was forgotten by his family. In the antetype, the god-man King of Kings was rejected by his family and dismissed as a madman. In the type, the young prince of Israel was mocked by his brothers before defeating the flesh and blood enemies of Israel. In the antetype, the eternal prince of Israel was mocked by his brothers before defeating death and the forces of darkness. Escalation.
Casting away unclean Spirits
After Saul was rejected by God, a tormenting spirit was sent his way. He was miserable, and sent his closest advisors to seek someone who might relieve his suffering. David was called upon to play the lyre. Miraculously, every time David played, the tormenting spirit would depart.
Jesus, also, cast away harmful spirits. When the people of Israel were suffering, they would go to Jesus, just as Saul sent for David, and he would cast away tormenting spirits and bring peace to the broken, just as Saul was comforted by David. Correspondence.
In the type, the coming king of Israel had authority to drive away one tormenting spirit. In the antetype, the coming King of Kings had authority to drive away all tormenting spirits, and all illness, and even to drive away the curse of Death. In the type, the coming king of Israel gave relief to one sufferer. In the antetype, the coming King of Kings gave relief to all who were sick and hurting. In the type, the coming king of Israel brought relief from spiritual suffering temporarily. In the antetype, the coming King of Kings brings relief to spiritual suffering that lasts forever. Escalation.
Surrounded by the Least of These
When David is fleeing the rage of Saul, he hides in a cave in the pagan wilderness. And while he’s there, the most curious thing happens. All of the broken and bitter flee to him. All of the social rejects, all of the men and women overwhelmed with debts. David becomes surrounded by the least of these, who will become his company.
Jesus, also, after he wandered the wilderness, surrounded himself with disreputable associates. Fishermen, tax collectors, political revolutionaries. Though his company was sought by the social elite, he was despised for allowing the worst types of people to surround him, to care for him, to weep over his feet. Correspondence.
In the type, the king of Israel flees for his life, and wanders the wilderness as a last resort. In the antetype, the King of Kings steadily paces toward his death, and wanders the wilderness voluntarily to seek the lost sheep of Israel. In the type, the king of Israel is sought out by the least of these, and he accepts them passively. In the antetype, the King of Kings actively seeks out the least of these and says, “Follow me.” And the wise and powerful will be shamed because Jesus sought and saved the foolish. In the type, the poor and humble become the mighty men of Israel. In the antetype, the poor and humble will become the sons of God, co-heirs with Christ. Escalation.
Homeless, Wanderer King
When Saul begins to suspect that David is the true King of Israel, he seeks his life with armies. David is forced to become homeless, to wander the countryside with a ragtag group of revolutionaries. In a moment of true irony, the pretender king sits upon the throne of Israel while the true King of Israel flees for his life.
Jesus, also, was rejected by the established authorities in Israel. The Pharisees hated him and sought to ruin him, and when they failed they sought his life. He was rejected by men, asked to leave cities, and forced to homeless wandering. The ruling religious sects of Israel, who pretended to serve God, actively undermined the work and words of Jesus, the son of God. Correspondence.
In the type, the son of Jesse finds refuge in a cave. In the antetype, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to stay.” In the the type, David’s life is sought by the ruler of Israel. In the antetype, the son of David’s life is sought by the ruler of this world, who will be cast out. In the type, the false king sought the life of the true king. In the antetype, the false faithful sought the life of the only one who has ever been faithful. The false righteous sought the life of the only one who has ever been righteous. Escalation.
And these are just a few of the many shadows in the rise of David. These patterns were written into the story of Samuel to teach us the nature and character of the work of Jesus. When we open this book to learn about David, we’re really doing it to learn about Christ. And the real work of discipline will be to identify where the patterns lie, and when those patterns are but a frail and grim shadow compared to the reality that we see in Jesus.
So I have a challenge for you this week. We’ve just the better part of an hour exploring Typology, and then doing the work of Typology on a few patterns we saw in David’s life. You’ve got the tools now. It’s time to get to work on the text.
Next week, we’re going to read and explore 1 Samuel 23. Here’s the challenge.
- Read the passage several times. Take notes, highlight, whatever works for you.
- Look for patterns. Maybe even step back and see if this passage is one part of a larger pattern in the book of Samuel. Try to identify themes that might be developing, Identify the shape of the narrative.
- Recall the life and work of Jesus. Think about who he was, and the sort of things he said and did. Remember the gospels, and reflect on them in light of the patterns you’ve found.
- Try to make connections. Try to identify types.
Look, you may do all this and decide, “There really aren’t any notable shadows in 1 Samuel 23.” But I want you to try, because you can’t do the work of interpreting this text without asking these sort of questions, and I want to continue to sharpen that skill together.
Got it? Good. Let’s pray.