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Old Testament Survey:
Jesus Portrayed in the Old Testament

by Dr. Linda Smallwood, BBS, M.Min., D.Min.


In this Section:
Introduction | Old Testament in the New | The Relationship of Christ to the Old Testament
Jesus in the Old Testament | The Ram at Abraham's Altar | Passover Lamb | High Priest | Joshua: YHWH Saves
Judge & Deliverer | The Water of Cleansing | God Is One | Kinsman-Redeemer | Prophet, Priest, King
Reigning King & "Son of David" | Jesus in Other Books of the Bible


The 66 books which comprise the Bible are a progressive revelation of God's promise in which the end is anticipated from the beginning. It begins with a promise and ends with the fulfillment of that promise. And what is that "promise"? It is the promise of a Redeemer, one whom God would provide in order to reconcile sinful man to Himself. The Bible is a story of God's abounding love for humankind.

Many Christians mistakenly believe that the story of Jesus Christ, Israel's Messiah and Redeemer, begins in a manger in Bethlehem. The fact is, however, that Jesus is the central Person and theme throughout the entire Bible. The Hebrew Bible foretells the coming of Messiah in its prophecies, laws, rituals, and songs [psalms]. Jesus Himself told His disciples, "...everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." (Luke 24:44)

He also claimed to be the central theme of the Old Testament. "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." (Matthew 5:17)

"And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself." (Luke 24:27)

John 5:39—

"Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, 'Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, "Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book."'" (Hebrews 10:5-7)

Certainly, to read the Bible apart from acknowledging Jesus as the central theme is to deny the purpose God had in giving us His written Word! Theologian Norman Geisler writes: "The inseparable relationship of both Old and New Testaments centers in the person of Jesus Christ. He is the theme of both testaments, and as a result, the personality of Christ is the unity in the plurality of the whole Bible."1

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The Old Testament in the New
"Jesus said to them, 'Have you never read in the Scriptures...?'" (Matthew 21:42a)

Jesus used the phrase, "It is written..." 92 times; and He used the phrase, "...that it might be fulfilled" 33 times to support His Messianic claims and to emphasize the divine authority of His ministry.2

This is made quite evident in his response to John the Baptist's question about whether Jesus was "the one to come". "Jesus answered them, 'Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.'" (Matthew 11:2-5) Here, Jesus was quoting directly from the book of Isaiah.3

"Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert." (Isaiah 35:5-6)

Isaiah 61:1—

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The Relationship of Christ to the Old Testament
God's unique relationship with Israel was intended to point the way to the coming of Messiah. Throughout the Old Testament, God performed dramatic demonstrations of His power in order to strengthen Israel's faith. Through Israel's prophets, He also gave many predictions concerning the coming Messiah, so that He could be easily identified by comparing the prophecies with their fulfillments.

The relationship of Christ to the Old Testament is based on the belief that God prescribed certain ceremonies and worked in earthly events to point the way to a greater reality. For example, the earthly tabernacle, as splendid as it was, was only a copy of the Heavenly things. "They [the priests] serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, 'See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.'" (Hebrews 8:5)

Other examples of Old Testament events pointing to a greater reality include...

  • The Sacrifices
    "The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, 'Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!'" (John 1:29);

  • Christ's Priesthood
    14"For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.
    15This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek,
    16who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life.
    17For it is witnessed of him, 'You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.'
    18For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness
    19(for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.
    20And it was not without an oath. For those who formerly became priests were made such without an oath,
    21but this one was made a priest with an oath by the one who said to him: 'The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, "You are a priest forever."'
    22This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.
    23The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office,
    24but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever.
    25Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
    26For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.
    27He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.
    28For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever. (Hebrews 7:14-28)

  • The Exodus from Egypt and 40 Years in the Wilderness
    1"For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea.
    2They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.
    3They all ate the same spiritual food
    4and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.
    5Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert.
    6Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.
    7Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: 'The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry.'
    8We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did — and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died.
    9We should not test the Lord, as some of them did — and were killed by snakes.
    10And do not grumble, as some of them did — and were killed by the destroying angel.
    11These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come." (1 Corinthians 10:1-11)

  • Noah
    "...who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also — not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 3:20-21 NIV)

  • Jonah
    Matthew 12:39-40—

  • Melchizedek
    "For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything. He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace. He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever. (Hebrews 7:1-3)

  • Hagar and Sarah
    Galatians 4:22-26—

  • Elijah
    "From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John.And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come." (Matthew 11:12-14)

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Jesus in the Old Testament
In the Old Testament, Jesus is predicted; in the New Testament, He is predominant. Jesus is the focus of Biblical truth throughout the entire Bible. God's revelation converges in Him in the Old Testament and emerges from Him in the New Testament.4

The Ram at Abraham's Altar
The word "redeem" derives from the Middle English redemen and from the Anglo-French redemer, both modifications of the Latin redimere. It means "to recover by expenditure of effort or by a stipulated payment", "to purchase back or regain possession of by payment of a stipulated price".

In Genesis 3, we see God's first promise of a Redeemer when He said to the serpent [Satan], "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel." (Genesis 3:15) He then shed the blood of an innocent animal to cover the man and woman's sin. This was the first of hundreds of thousands of animals that would be slain, not to redeem us back to God, but simply to cover mankind's sins so he could dare even to approach our holy God. "For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins." (Hebrews 10:4)

The first "type" [something or someone serving as a model for a subsequent person or event] of Christ that we see in the Scriptures is in Genesis 22:
9"When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.
10Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son.
11But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, 'Abraham, Abraham!' And he said, 'Here am I.'
12He said, 'Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.'

In this short narrative, there are actually two types of Christ:

  • The first is Isaac. Like Jesus, Isaac was the son of God's promise, both of them being conceived by miraculous means. Both Isaac and Jesus were offered as sacrifices to God, and each carried the wood for his own sacrifice. Isaac's submission to his father also mirrors Jesus' submission to His Heavenly Father.

  • The second type of Christ is the ram. Just as God provided the first sacrifice to cover our human parents' sin, He substituted a ram at Abraham's altar. This substitution foreshadows the day when God would sacrifice His own Son, Jesus Christ, in order to purchase us back to Himself.

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The Passover Lamb
In Exodus, we are introduced to the Passover, or Feast of Unleavened Bread. It is one of the most sacred memorials in the Jewish calendar. It commemorates the time when the angel of death passed over every home in Egypt that had lambs' blood on the doorframes. The purpose of the unleavened bread was so they could make a hasty departure [exodus] from Egypt.

This foreshadows Jesus, the Lamb of God, being sacrificed for the sins of the world. As John the Baptist cried out in prophecy: "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29b)

The Apostle Paul referred to Jesus as our "Passover Lamb" (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:7); and in Heaven, Jesus is presented to us as a slain lamb. "And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain..." (Revelation 5:6a)

And we are told He is the only One worthy of our full devotion. "...'Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!' And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, 'To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!' And the four living creatures said, 'Amen!' and the elders fell down and worshiped." (Revelation 5:12-14)

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High Priest
In the book of Leviticus, we see Jesus as the High Priest. In the Old Testament sacrificial system, blood sacrifices consisted of three components:

  • Submission by the High Priest
    Before he could do anything else, the priest had to submit himself to God's will. Failing this part of the service could bring God's judgment and death (cf. Leviticus 10:1).

  • Identifying with the Animal to be Sacrificed
    The priest had to lay his hands on the animal to be sacrificed. In so doing, he was identifying [being united] with the animal whose blood would cover his [the priest's] and the people's sins.

  • Put the Animal to Death
    The priest would then slay the animal and sprinkle its blood on and in front of the mercy seat (cf. Leviticus 16:14-15). This foreshadowed Christ's death and the shedding of His own blood to atone for our sins.

    After the priest removed the fat, kidneys and liver, the animal was burned outside the camp. Similarly, Jesus was crucified outside the city gate so that we might be made holy. "For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood." (Hebrews 13:11-12)

    In other words, the priest's actions enabled the people to draw near to their God; and Jesus' actions, as our High Priest and YHWH-M'Kaddesh5, make us holy so that we might draw near to and fellowship with God.

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The Water of Cleansing
In the middle of prescribing the sacrificial system, God gave His people a rather unique provision. He instructed Moses and Aaron to take a "red heifer [cow] without defect or blemish" (cf. Numbers 19:1) and kill it outside the camp. This animal was slaughtered, not sacrificed. The priest then sprinkled some of the animal's blood in the direction of the tabernacle, and they then burned the entire animal to ashes. During the burning, they threw cedar wood, hyssop, and scarlet [red] wool on the animal as it burned. As you can see, this was unlike any other ceremonies in the Old Testament.

After the burning, another man gathered the ashes and placed them in a ceremonially-clean place outside the camp. The ashes remained outside the camp and were periodically mixed with the "water of cleansing" used to purify people, tents, or furniture that had become "unclean" due to contact with a dead body.

In the New Testament, the writer of Hebrews compares Jesus' blood with the water and ashes to explain what He Himself would do for them. "...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." (Hebrews 9:12-14 emphasis added)

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God Is One
To this day, the Jews pray or sing the "Shema" from Deuteronomy 6:4-5 several times a day. "Shema" [also "Sh'ma"] means "Hear", as in "Sh'ma, Yisra'el! Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai echad [Hear, Isra'el! Adonai our God, Adonai is one]"(Deuteronomy 6:4 CJB)

According to the above passage, there is only one all-powerful, unbounded, and perfect God. As a result of Him revealing Himself to us, we can easily identify the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as the one true God.

However, Christianity teaches that the Bible reveals a mystery which is too infinite for our finite minds to totally understand. That mystery, of course, is that God is a tri-unity — that is, He expresses Himself in three separate, but united, Persons. He is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit; and He identifies Himself by the name ["YHWH" in English], usually transliterated as "Yahweh" or "Jehovah", and written as "LORD" or "LORD" in most English Bibles.

  The LORD



  Genesis 1:1


  John 1:3

  Isaiah 45:22


  John 4:42

  Joel 3:12


  John 5:27

  Exodus 3:14

  "I AM"

  John 8:58

  Isaiah 60:19-20


  John 8:12

  Psalm 23:1


  John 10:11

  Hosea 13:14


  Revelation 5:9

  Deuteronomy 32:4


  1 Corinthians 10:4

  Jeremiah 31:34

  Forgiver of Sins

  Mark 2:7-10

  Isaiah 45:23-24

  Lord Who Is to
  be Worshiped

  Philippians 2:10-11

Therefore, we can rightly say, "Jesus is LORD!" [Refer to "Trinity/Godhead" for a more in-depth discussion on the triune nature of our God.]

Joshua: YHWH Saves
In many ways, Joshua's life and leadership illustrate what Jesus would do for God's people. Joshua led God's people into the promised land and their long-awaited rest; and through Jesus' death and resurrection, He leads us to the rest we so desperately crave.

Even their names are the same! Moses changed Joshua's name from the original "Hoshea", meaning "salvation", to "Joshua" [or "Y'hoshua"], which means "YHWH [the LORD] saves". In Greek, the language used to write the New Testament, the name "Joshua" is the same as the name "Jesus", which also means "Savior". This is why the angel told Mary to name her son "Jesus" because "he will save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21)

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Judge & Deliverer
After Joshua's death, the Israelites turned away from God several times to serve the other nations' false gods. However, they soon learned each time that they needed God's protection from their enemies. In their most desperate moments, and following their repentance, God provided judges to deliver them and bring them back to Himself.

The book of Judges provides a striking contrast between human sin and divine, unrelenting and outrageous love. Jesus is our ultimate Judge and Deliverer! "The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son." (John 5:22)

2 Corinthians 5:10—

He is also our Deliverer! Compare and consider the following.

  Falls Away

  Punishes Them

  Delivers Them


























  10:7-9, 11-14





Compare the above deliverances God provided for Israel with the eternal, once-for-all-time deliverance we have in Christ Jesus. See Romans 11:26; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 1 Timothy 4:10; 2 Timothy 1:10; Titus 2:13, 3:4-6; 2 Peter 1:1, 3:18; 1 John 4:14; Jude 1:25.

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Kinsman Redeemer
As we have already discussed, a redeemer is one who buys back something previously owned. In the book of Ruth, we see, not only a beautiful story of love, respect and devotion in Ruth's relationship to her mother-in-law, but primarily an example of the role of kinsman-redeemer.

In ancient Israel, the kinsman-redeemer was an influential family member to whom relatives could turn in their time of need. In the event of the death of a married man, the kinsman-redeemer could buy back any property that had been sold and he was responsible to marry the widow to carry on the family name of the dead husband.

Just as Boaz willingly assumed the role of kinsman-redeemer for Ruth and Naomi, Jesus is our relative who became our kinsman-redeemer when He "ransomed" us or "purchased" us back to God. "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people." (Luke 1:68)

"Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us — for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree' — so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith." (Galatians 3:13-14)

Galatians 4:5—

Ephesians 1:7—

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Prophet, Priest, King
In 1 and 2 Samuel, we learn what it means to be the "LORD's anointed". "When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, 'Surely the LORD's anointed is before him.'" (1 Samuel 16:6)

"He said to his men, 'The LORD forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the LORD's anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the LORD's anointed.'" (1 Samuel 24:6)

Anointing someone as priest, prophet or king meant that God had chosen, blessed, approved, and consecrated that person for a special service.

The three offices of prophet, priest, and king come together beautifully in Jesus Christ.

  • As Prophet
    "And the crowds said, 'This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.'" (Matthew 21:11 emphasis added)

    Mark 6:4—

  • As Priest
    "Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin." (Hebrews 4:14-15 emphasis added)

    Hebrews 6:20—

  • As King
    "And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, 'This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.'" (Matthew 27:37 emphasis added)

    1 Timothy 6:15—

    "On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords." (Revelation 19:16 emphasis added)

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Reigning King and "Son of David"
The books of Kings and Chronicles set the stage for the rest of the Old Testament, as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea and Amos all prophesied during this period. They faithfully carried out the office to which God had called them in their prophetic warnings of the tragedies to come on both kingdoms. At the same time, however, they also prophesied of the coming Messiah.

The books of 1 and 2 Chronicles focus on David's lineage. David is considered by most to be Israel's greatest king, and God promised that the Messiah would be a descendant of David as the "son of David" (cf. Matthew 1:1, 9:27, 15:22, 21:9; Mark 10:47-48; Luke 3:31).

Jesus in Other Books of the Old Testament
Jesus can be found in every book of the Old Testament. Study the following designations and write a summary or the Bible verse(s) where Jesus is pictured.

In Ezra, Jesus is our Faithful Scribe.

In Nehemiah, Jesus is the Rebuilder of All that is Broken..

In Esther, Jesus is the Mordecai Sitting Faithful at the Gate.

In Job, He is our Redeemer that Ever Liveth.

In the Psalms, Jesus is My Shepherd, I Shall Not Want.

In Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, He is Our Wisdom.

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In the Song of Solomon, He is the Beautiful Bridegroom.

In Isaiah, Jesus is the Suffering Servant.

In Jeremiah and Lamentations, He is the Weeping Prophet.

In Ezekiel, He is the wonderful Four-Faced Man.

In Daniel, Jesus is the Fourth Man in the Midst of the Fiery Furnace.

In Hosea, He is the One Who Is Ever Faithful and Forgiving.

In Joel, He is Hope of Israel and the One Who Baptizes with the Holy Spirit.

In Amos, He is our Burden Bearer and the Restorer of Israel.

In Obadiah, Jesus is the Faithful Deliverer.

In Jonah, Jesus is the Resurrected One.

In Micah, Jesus is the Shepherd of Bethlehem.

In Nahum, He is the Messenger with Beautiful Feet and our Refuge in Times of Trouble.

In Habakkuk, Jesus is the Object of Our Faith.

In Zephaniah, He is the LORD Mighty to Save.

In Haggai, He is Desired of All Nations.

In Zechariah, He is the Coming Victorious Messiah.

In Malachi, Jesus is the Sun of Righteousness with Healing in His Wings.

Dr. Linda SmallwoodQuestions/Comments?
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1 Norman Geisler, Toward an Old Testament Theology. Zondervan Corp., 1978.

2 Dr. Edward Hindson, D. Phil., The Knowing Jesus Study Bible. Zondervan Corp., 1999.

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid.

5 YHWH-M'Kaddesh n. — The word "m'kaddesh" derives from the Hebrew word q‚dash or kadosh and is translated in English as "sanctify", "holy", "dedicate", "consecrate", "sanctuary", or "hallow". Primarily, it is translated "holy", as in "the Holy [m'kaddesh] One". "Sanctify" means "to set apart an object or person to the dedication of the holy".

The first truth Israel learned about God is that He is completely holy. As Himself the Holy One, YHWH is separate from and exalted above all else in the universe (cf. Deuteronomy 4:35; 1 Samuel 2:2; Isaiah 44:6; Isaiah 45:21b). Knowing that we can never do anything to make ourselves holy, He reaches out in mercy and in love to make us holy.
"You shall be holy [m'kaddesh]; for I Yahweh your God am holy [m'kaddesh] (Leviticus 19:2 WEB)
"I am Yahweh who sanctifies [m'kaddesh] you" (Exodus 31:13; Leviticus 20:8 WEB).

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