The Typology of the Exodus Pattern in the Book of Mormon

George S. Tate

George S. Tate, “The Typology of the Exodus Pattern in the Book of Mormon,” in Literature of Belief: Sacred Scripture and Religious Experience, ed. Neal E. Lambert (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1981), 245–62.

George S. Tate graduated from Brigham Young University, majoring in English, and then pursued graduate studies in comparative literature, receiving his PhD from Cornell University in medieval studies (English, Scandinavian, and German). Recipient of many academic honors, he numbers among them a Fulbright fellowship to Iceland in 1971–72 and a Marshall fellowship to Denmark in 1973. When this was published, he was an associate professor of comparative literature and graduate coordinator of the Department of Humanities, Classics, and Comparative Literature at Brigham Young University. He has published articles on Old English and Old Norse literature and has done other studies in Mormon literature, including an examination of Nobel Prize–winning writer Halldór Laxness who used the Mormons’ proselyting and emigration efforts as the basis for an ambitious novel, Paradise Reclaimed (“Halldór Laxness, The Mormons, and the Promised Land,” Dialogue 11 [Summer 1978]: 25–37; also in Icelandic translation as the cover article in the literary supplement of the newspaper Morgunbladid, 5 May 1979).

Professor Tate draws on his background in medieval and patristic studies to find the theme of Exodus typology as prominent and important—indeed, as central—to the Book of Mormon as other scholars have found it to be in Old and New Testament studies. Not only do the events of Lehi’s family recapitulate those of the Exodus, but as Professor Tate points out, Nephi himself, the narrator and recorder of those events, is conscious of the parallels and uses them in a powerful way to unify his people and to persuade their compliance to the Lord’s pattern.

Nor is Nephi alone, Professor Tate argues, in perceiving the echoes of the Exodus pattern. His brother Jacob alludes unmistakably to Exodus typology as does Alma the Younger. And just as the typological pattern in the Old Testament finds its fulfillment in the New, so does the Exodus type in the Book of Mormon find explicit and eloquent fulfillment in the visit of Christ to the Nephites, recorded in 3 Nephi.

This paper was originally delivered at the Association for Mormon Letters session of the conference of the Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association in October 1979.

Typology has received considerable attention in recent years; critical and historical studies have explored its implications for historiography and literature, both sacred and secular, ranging from early Christian through medieval to twentieth-century applications. [1] Although there are minor variations and refinements of definition in each instance, the basic features of typology are clear. Deriving from three New Testament uses of τ?πος (type)—Adam as the type of Christ, the crossing of the Red Sea as the type of baptism, and baptism as the ?ντ?τυπος (antitype or figural fulfillment) of the Flood—the term denotes a relationship between events of sacred history (see Rom. 5:14; l Cor . 10:6; 1 Pet. 3:21).

In his seminal essay “Figura,” Erich Auerbach concisely defines typological or figural understanding of history as the establishing of “a connection between two events or persons, the first of which signifies not only itself but also the second, while the second encompasses or fulfills the first. The two poles of the figure are separate in time, but both, being real events or figures, are within time, within the stream of historical life.” [2] For example, Moses’ raising of the brazen serpent on the pole, though indeed a self-sufficient historical event, points ahead to the crucifixion of Christ, which in turn looks back to and meaningfully encompasses the earlier event (see Num. 21:8–9; John 3:14–15). The brazen serpent is thus a type or figure or shadow (the three terms are synonymous) of the healing power of the crucifixion. Typology understood in this sense posits the belief that such correspondences are neither accidental nor arbitrary but that they constitute a significant system of intelligible coordinates in the gradual unfolding of God’s historical design. Typological interpretation thus establishes not a meaning of words but a meaning of events and their attendant details, and it does so principally by grounding meaning in the central moment of sacred history, the incarnation of Christ.

In The Anatomy of Criticism Northrop Frye writes: “We cannot trace the Bible back, even historically, to a time when its materials were not being shaped into a typological unity, and if the Bible is to be regarded as inspired in any sense, sacred or secular, its editorial and redacting processes must be regarded as inspired too.” [3] Like the Bible, the Book of Mormon is figural narrative, and its structure is perhaps most fruitfully approached through typological criticism. The technical terms, type and shadow, appear both singly and as a pair in the text, especially in Mosiah and Alma. This fact and other indicators have prompted three Mormon literary scholars—Richard Dilworth Rust, Bruce Jorgensen, and myself—to simultaneous investigations of the implications of typology for the interpretation of the Book of Mormon. Rust approaches the text from the perspective of Puritan typologizing, especially Samuel Mather’s The Figures or Types of the Old Testament (1683, 2nd ed. 1705). His principal contribution is in identifying scattered occurrences of various figures and classifying them according to Mather’s categories. [4] In the finest literary essay on the Book of Mormon to date, Jorgensen, another Americanist, uses typology as a means of understanding the richly suggestive dream of the Tree of Life and its implications for the unity of the whole narrative. In doing so, he, like Frye, commingles type and archetype. [5] I approach the text as a medievalist with some training in patristics. This paper will examine the typology of the Exodus pattern in the Book of Mormon, demonstrating ways in which it unifies the work structurally and thematically. [6]

We may do well to remind ourselves at the outset how important the Exodus is to the structure of the Bible. In The God of Exodus, James Plastaras writes: “It was the . . . exodus which shaped all of Israel’s understanding of history. It was only in light of the exodus that Israel was able to look back into the past and piece together her earlier history. It was also the exodus which provided the prophets with a key to the understanding of Israel’s future. In this sense, the exodus stands at the center of Israel’s history.” [7] And after examining recurrences of the pattern in the Old Testament following the original Exodus, David Daube comments that “by being fashioned on the exodus, later deliverances became manifestations of this eternal, certainty-giving relationship between God and his people.” [8] In fact, we will see how it is primarily through Exodus typology that the Old and New Testaments are drawn together into a figural unity. But at this point I simply call attention to the first two columns of the table listing some Old Testament details of the pattern with their corresponding New Testament fulfillments.

The Book of Mormon opens with an exodus. The narrator, Nephi, seems naturally and strikingly drawn to exegesis: he provides occasional etymologies (“Irreantum, which, being interpreted, is many waters,” 1 Ne. 17:5); he glosses passages from Isaiah in targumic manner (“out of the waters of Judah, or out of the waters of baptism,” 1 Ne. 20:1; italics added); with angelic guidance he provides a full spiritual explication of his father’s dream (see 1 Ne. 11–15); and he expounds scripture to his brothers who—grumblers though they be—are conditioned enough to interpretive method to inquire whether Isaiah’s prophecies are to be construed literally or spiritually: “What meaneth these things which ye have read? Behold, are they to be understood according to things which are spiritual, which shall come to pass according to the spirit and not the flesh?” (1 Ne. 22:1). Like his father, Lehi, who upon reading about his progenitors in the plates of Laban begins at once to prophesy about his own descendants, Nephi is keenly aware of his distinct moment in history. When this exegete-narrator says, as he does several times, “I did liken all scriptures unto us,” we can be quite sure he is not speaking of apothegms or proof texts (1 Ne. 19:23; see also 2 Ne. 11:2, 8; and Jacob’s similar statement in 2 Ne. 6:5). Nephi senses that he and his family are reenacting a sacred and symbolic pattern that looks back to Israel and forward to Christ—the pattern of Exodus.

Notice how many details of the early narrative conform to this pattern (see table, column 3). Nephi and his family depart out of Jerusalem into the wilderness, “delivered] . . . from destruction” (1 Ne. 17:14). In what might be called a paschal vision—referring fifty-six times to the Lamb (Lamb of God, blood of the Lamb, etc.)—Nephi’s interpretive revelation on his father’s dream recalls the passover lamb of Exodus as it figures Christ (chs. 11–15). While a pillar of light rested upon a rock, Lehi had been warned to flee; and the Lord now provides miraculous guidance in the form of a compass-ball, the Liahona, and assures them, “I will also be your light in the wilderness; and I will prepare the way before you” (1 Ne. 1:6; 16:10; 17:13). When the family begins to murmur from hunger as had the Israelites before receiving manna, Nephi obtains food miraculously at the Lord’s direction (see 1 Ne. 16:23, 31). He repeatedly receives instruction from the Lord on a mountain (see 1 Ne. 16:30; 17:7) and builds a ship not “after the manner of men; but . . . after the manner which the Lord had shown unto me” just as Moses had received the design for the tabernacle (see 1 Ne. 18:1–3; Exod. 26). (Both ship and tabernacle are types of the church in Christian typology.) Nephi and his family bear with them a sacred text, the plates of Laban, containing the law of Moses in the Pentateuch, and other prophets including Isaiah (see 1 Ne. 5:11, 13, 23). The Lord had promised them: “Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall be led towards the promised land; and ye shall know that it is by me that ye are led” (1 Ne. 17:13). And indeed the party crosses the ocean and reaches this land of promise, learning after their arrival that Jerusalem has been destroyed (see 2 Ne. 6:8).

Though the correspondences between the exodus of the Israelites and this exodus are compelling, Nephi’s conscious sense of reenacting the pattern is even more striking. Early in the narrative when faced with the assignment of getting the plates from Laban, he exhorts his brothers: “Let us be strong like unto Moses; for he truly spake unto the waters of the Red Sea and they divided hither and thither, and our fathers came through, out of captivity, on dry ground, and the armies of Pharaoh did follow and were drowned in the waters of the Red Sea” (1 Ne. 4:2). But at this point he cannot have known how apt the allusion really is. This is Nephi before he has the text in hand as a means of glossing his experience, before he realizes in what detail his own family will replicate the Exodus. As his awareness grows, he alludes with increasing frequency to the Exodus (see table, parenthetical references column 3). After the miraculous provision of food, he reminds his brothers that the Israelites “were fed with manna in the wilderness” (1 Ne. 17:28). When the Lord tells Nephi, “I will . . . be your light in the wilderness,” Nephi reminds his brothers that the God of the Israelites went before them, “leading them by day and giving light unto them by night” (1 Ne. 17:13, 30).

Laman and Lemuel prove as fickle in observance as the recalcitrant Israelites before them. They do not share Nephi’s sense of history; neither the reenactment of the pattern nor the shared text unites them in community, and they seek Nephi’s life in the promised land (see 2 Ne. 5:2). Nephi and those who choose his name flee again into the wilderness bearing the ball of guidance and the text whose “statutes” they observe (2 Ne. 5:12, 10; see table, column 4). The Lord causes “a sore cursing” to come upon their enemies, the Lamanites (2 Ne. 5:21). Where Moses had built a tabernacle, Nephi builds a temple (see 2 Ne. 5:16). And after describing the prosperity of the people in the new land, he ends his account by noting that forty years have passed since their departure from Jerusalem (see 2 Ne. 5:34). Typological thinking has long been observed in the prophets, especially in Isaiah, who several times prophesies of a new exodus. Of this Jean Daniélou writes:

The Prophets, in the very heart of the Old Testament, are the first who have dwelt on the significance of the Exodus, and their work is of primary importance, for it makes clear that the principles of typology were to be found already among these Prophets. . . . When the New Testament shows that the life of Christ is the truth and fulfillment of all that was outlined and typified in the Exodus it is only taking up and continuing the typology outlined by the Prophets. The basic difference does not lie in the typology, but in the fact that what is presented by the Prophets as something yet to come is shown by the New Testament writers as fulfilled in Jesus Christ. . . . Prophecy, which thus becomes the first degree in the evolution of typology, is seen as establishing a relationship between the New Testament and the Exodus. The organic relation between typology and prophecy, τ?πος and λ?γος is quite clear, for so far from being distinct categories, prophecy is the typological interpretation of history. [9]

It is worth noting that Nephi’s own typological reading of history proceeds not only from the Pentateuch but from his reading of Isaiah; and the chapters that he and his brother Jacob quote from contain such allusions to the new exodus as:

The Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people. . . . And the Lord shall utterly destroy the tongue of the Egyptian sea; and with his mighty wind he shall shake his hand over the river, and shall smite it in the seven streams, and make men go over dry shod . . . like as it was to Israel in the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt. The Lord will create . . . upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day and the shining of a flaming fire by night (2 Ne. 21:11, 15–16; 14:5; compare Isa. 11:11, 15–16; 4:5).

After Jacob cites chapters 49–51 of Isaiah, Nephi says, “I will liken his [Isaiah’s] words unto my people. . . . All things which have been given of God from the beginning of the world, unto man, are the typifying of him,” and he refers to God’s “eternal plan of deliverance from death” (2 Ne. 6–8; 11:2, 4, 5). Then Nephi quotes an additional thirteen chapters, Isaiah 2–14 in 2 Nephi 12–24, and adds eloquently:

And as the Lord God liveth that brought Israel up out of the land of Egypt, and gave unto Moses power that he should heal the nations after they had been bitten by the poisonous serpents, if they would cast their eyes unto the serpent which he did raise up before them, and also gave him power that he should smite the rock and the water should come forth; yea, behold I say unto you, that as these things are true, and as the Lord God liveth, there is none other name given under heaven save it be this Jesus Christ, of which I have spoken, whereby man can be saved (2 Ne. 25:20).

Nephi’s own prophecy of the gentiles (or pilgrims) is cast in Exodus terms (see table, column 5). Led by the Spirit, they cross “many waters” and are delivered out of captivity as God’s wrath is kindled against their enemies; they bear with them a sacred text “like unto the . . . plates of brass” containing “the covenants of the Lord . . . [with] the house of Israel”; and they obtain a “land of promise . . . for their inheritance” (1 Ne. 13:12–15, 18–19, 23). This account is consonant with the Puritans’ own typological view of their history. As Ursula Brumm has noted: “The ever-present type for the New England Puritans’ view of their own destiny was the exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt into the wilderness and then to the promised land. . . . This basic idea is found in many variations in all the New England writers, and it also dominates Cotton Mather’s Magnalia.” [10] She then cites many instances, including such unfortunate details as their identifying Indians with the serpents of the wilderness.

Whatever conclusions one may draw about this correspondence, it is clear that Nephi is conscious of replicating Exodus and that he reads texts and visions figurally. His doing so informs the remainder of the Book of Mormon as the Exodus pattern recurs several times before the coming of Christ in 3 Nephi. In Mosiah, for example, Alma and his followers depart into the “borders of the land” (Mosiah 18:31; see table, column 6). Here the crossing of the Red Sea is replaced by a communal baptism—the fulfillment of the type; [11] they flee into the wilderness, and their enemy, King Noah, is slain along with many of his followers (see Mosiah 18:14–17, 34; 19:10, 20). Alma, like Moses who had appointed captains over every thousand, hundred, fifty, and ten, establishes governance by ordaining one priest to preside over every fifty people (see Mosiah 18:18). In the subsequent lawgiving, Alma, inspired by God, gives commandments to his people in seven verses, each beginning with the authoritative formula: “he commanded them saying” (18:19–24, 27).

Other instances of the pattern are equally evocative. Alma’s people are divinely delivered from the Lamanites (see Mosiah 24); so are the people of Limhi (see Mosiah 22); even earlier, the Jaredites depart across “many waters”; the Lord stands in a cloud, speaks on a mountain, and provides light as they pass through the sea towards the “promised land” after “many years” in the wilderness (Eth. 2:4–6, 14; 3:1; 6:2–3, 5; 3:3).

The recurrence of this pattern through the Book of Mormon, with each instance pointing back to the original Exodus and adumbrating the fulfillment of each type in Christ, has implications beyond the meaningful patterning of community in history. As Christian commentators from the Fathers to the present have consistently pointed out, each individual conversion reenacts the Exodus: under spiritual prompting, the person abandons worldliness (Egypt), experiences a rebirth involving the death of the “old man” (baptism), and wanders patiently while tried in the wilderness until proven worthy to enter the promised land. [12] In the Old Testament itself, one notes that the hundreds of times the verb “to deliver” (especially the Hebrew natsal and malat) appears after the Israelite exodus refer not only to community (e.g., “delivered us from the hand of the enemy,” Ezra 8:31) but also, especially in the Psalms, to the individual (“he hath delivered me out of all trouble,” “thou hast delivered my soul from death,” “he delivered me from my strong enemy,” Ps. 54:7; 56:13; 18:17). The verb constantly evokes Exodus.

The relationship between community redemption and individual redemption is dramatically suggested in the account of the conversion of Alma the Younger, who like Paul had persecuted the church. Notice the oblique allusions to Exodus: An angel appears “as it were in a cloud,” his voice causing the earth to tremble (Mosiah 27:11; italics added). He commands Alma to “go, and remember the captivity of thy fathers . . . and remember how great things [the Lord] has done for them; for they were in bondage, and he has delivered them” (Mosiah 27:16). Struck dumb, Alma lies in a trance for “three days and . . . three nights,” then sees a marvelous “light,” arises (note the imagery of baptism and resurrection), and says, “Behold I am born of the Spirit” (Alma 36:16, 20; Mosiah 27:24). He speaks of “wandering through much tribulation” while in the trance and says that his soul has been “redeemed from the . . . bonds of iniquity” (Mosiah 27:28–29; italics added). Alma then sets about physically repeating the wandering of his trance, “traveling round about through the land . . . preaching the word of God in much tribulation, . . . exhorting [the people] with longsuffering and much travail to keep the commandments of God” (Mosiah 27:32–33; italics added). He refers in the course of his teaching to previous communal deliverances, to the Lamb of God, to the law as a “type of [Christ’s] coming,” to the Liahona as a “type” of the words of Christ which guide us to a “far better promised land,” and to the brazen serpent: “Behold [Christ] was spoken of by Moses; yea, and behold a type was raised up in the wilderness that whosoever would look upon it might live” (Alma 7:14; 25:15; 37:45; 33:19). And toward the end of his life, Alma summarizes the whole direction—individual and communal—of the Old Testament portion of the book:

God has delivered me from prison, and from bonds, and from death; yea, and I do put my trust in him, and he will still deliver me. . . . For he has brought our fathers out of Egypt, and he has swallowed up the Egyptians in the Red Sea; and he led them by his power into the promised land; yea, and he has delivered them out of bondage and captivity from time to time. Yea, and he has also brought our fathers out of the land of Jerusalem; and he has also, by his everlasting power, delivered them out of bondage and captivity, from time to time even down to the present day; and I have always retained in remembrance their captivity; yea, and ye also ought to retain in remembrance, as I have done, their captivity (Alma 36:27–29).

One need only consult the George Reynolds’s Complete Concordance to the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: George Reynolds, 1900) under the headwords deliver, deliverance, and bondage to appreciate that it is not only Alma whose memory is alive with recollection of the Exodus.

No less impressive is the fulfillment of the Exodus types in the New Testament portion of the book where the appearance of the resurrected Christ to the Nephites is recounted in 3 Nephi. Each of the synoptic Gospels, in its own way, is concerned with demonstrating a relationship between Christ and Exodus. [13] John the Baptist is the herald who announces the new exodus Isaiah had prophesied (see Matt. 3:3; Isa. 40:3; compare John 1:23). After Jesus is baptized (remember the significance of the Red Sea), he is “led up of the Spirit into the wilderness” where he sojourns for forty days (Matt. 4:1). His temptations correspond to specific failures of the first Exodus, to which he alludes in his responses to the devil. For example, Moses had said to the Israelites: “God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee. . . . And he . . . suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, . . . that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord” (Deut. 8:2). To the temptation to change stones to bread after having fasted for forty days, Christ responds with these same words (see Matt. 5:4). Christ is both the new exodus and the new Moses of whom the first was a type. The Sermon on the Mount is the lawgiving of the new covenant. As Daniélou observes, the number of apostles, twelve, “demonstrates that the community founded by Jesus is the true Israel,” and “the parallel between Moses and Christ terminates in the Transfiguration, with its numerous references to the Exodus: Moses himself, the cloud, the Divine voice, the tabernacles.” [14] These and other details show Jesus fulfilling the types by reenacting Exodus.

But it is in the Gospel of John that we encounter the most concentrated Exodus typology. Indeed, Plastaras has written, “There is hardly a page of this Gospel which does not contain at least one allusion to the exodus story.” [15] The evangelist writes that the Word became flesh and “pitched his tent among us” (Greek, John 1:14); he has John the Baptist proclaim Jesus to be the “Lamb of God” (1:29); he describes the crucifixion in terms of Moses’ outstretched arms supported by Aaron and Hur (see John 19:18; Exod. 17:12); and like the paschal lamb, Christ’s legs are not broken (see John 19:33; Exod. 12:46). But the feature that most distinguishes John from the other Gospels is the overt, spoken comparisons Christ makes between himself and details of the Exodus: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up”; “I am the light of the world”; “I am the bread which came down from heaven” (John 3:14; 8:12; 12:46; 6:41).

Krister Stendahl has recently called attention to the Johannine quality of the account of Christ’s visit to the Nephites. [16] In this section of 3 Nephi one again encounters overt statements in the Johannine manner: “I am the law”; “I am the light” (3 Ne. 15:9; 9:18). But since this event occurs after the Resurrection, 3 Nephi does not narrate the details of Christ’s earthly actions which the evangelists had seen as replicating Exodus. Rather it addresses the typology more indirectly through structuring the narrative of Christ’s ministry and teachings to the Nephites in such a way as to approximate the pattern (see table, column 7).

The account opens with the apocalyptic destruction of the wicked cities accompanying the crucifixion of the Lamb of God (see 3 Ne. 8–9). Christ, the paschal offering, appears and shows the multitude the marks of the crucifixion and immediately instructs them in baptism, a detail that has always struck me as abrupt (see 3 Ne. 11:14, 21). But I would suggest that this seeming abruptness is conditioned by the sequence of the Exodus to fit the approximate position of the crossing of the Red Sea, which prefigures baptism. As in the New Testament, Christ then calls twelve disciples, corresponding to the twelve tribes and pointing, as Daniélou notes, to the true Israel (see 3 Ne. 11:18–22). Christ then gives the Sermon on the Mount, announcing that he is “come . . . to fulfill” the law, and more directly, “I am the law” (3 Ne. 12:17; 15:9). Whereas Moses had raised the brazen serpent in the wilderness for the healing of all who would look upon it, Christ says, “Look unto me, and endure to the end” (3 Ne. 15:9); shortly thereafter, he heals the sick (see 3 Ne. 17:9). The ministration of angels that accompanies this act of compassion may well evoke the angels of the ark of the covenant that flank the mercy seat (see 3 Ne. 17:24; Exod. 36:8). He then instructs the people in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, and the bread and wine—like manna—are miraculously provided on the second day (see 3 Ne. 18:1–7, 20:6). As he gives the twelve power to bestow the Holy Ghost “there came a cloud [a type of the Holy Ghost [17]] and overshadowed the multitude” (3 Ne. 18:38). Earlier we observed that Nephi and Jacob derive some of their figural thinking from Isaiah’s prophecies of the new exodus. Christ here twice quotes Isaiah 52:12, one of the key passages concerning the glorious new exodus: “For ye shall not go out with haste nor go by flight; for the Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel shall be your rearward” (3 Ne. 20:42; 21:29). And finally as the outer frame of his teachings to the Nephites, Christ gives the people “this land, for your inheritance,” speaks of the New Jerusalem, and names the Church whose heavenly counterpart the promised land of Exodus adumbrates (3 Ne. 20:14, 22; 27:8).

To summarize, in the Old Testament portion of the Book of Mormon, the Exodus pattern recurs in greater concentration than in the Bible, and its typology is more conscious because the narrators are understood to possess the Christological key to the fulfillment of the types from Nephi’s vision forward, a fulfillment underscored by the patterning of 3 Nephi around the Exodus. The Exodus reverberates through the book, not only as theme but as pattern; and the overall design of the book generalizes the patterning of community in history while at the same time concentrating the Exodus in individual conversion. Exodus is the pattern and message of the text.

ExodusChristian Fulfillment1 NephiNephi’s Minor Exodus (2 Nephi)Nephi’s Prophecy of Gentiles (1 Nephi)Alma from Noah (Mosiah 18–19)Christ’s Appearance (3 Nephi)
Passover lambChrist, crucifixion John 1: 29, 36; Rev., esp. chs. 5, 6, 7, 14, 21.(N’s paschal vision 11–14, Lamb of God, blood of the Lamb, gospel of the Lamb, etc. [56 refs.])(N refers to Lamb of God 31:4–6)  Christ appears, shows people marks of crucifixion 11:14
flee bondage into wildernessworld/sinflee Jerusalem into wilderness (N refers to Israel’s exodus 4:2; 17:26)flees Lamanites into wilderness 5:5, 7gone out of captivity, delivered 13:19people flee to borders of land 18:31, into wilderness 18:34 
guidance light/cloudChrist John 8:12 (Cloud/Holy Spirit)Lehi sees pillar of fire on rock, 1:6. Lord as light 17:13 Liahona 16:10 (N refers to Exodus light 17:30)bears Liahona 5:12led by Spirit 13:12 “I am the light” 9:18; 15:9; 18:24; “I am God of Israel” 11:14; cloud settles on people 18:38
waterbaptism 1 Cor. 10:1–2Cross ocean (N refers to Red Sea 17:26)(N speaks of baptism of Lamb of God 31:4–6)Cross ocean 13:12–13Baptism 18:14–17Instructs in baptism 11
enemies destroyedliberation from sinJerusalem destroyed 2 Ne. 6:8 (N refers to destruction of Egyptian host 17:27)Lamanites cursed 5:21God’s wrath against their enemies 13:14, 18Noah slain 19:20, his people slain or captured 19:10apocalyptic destruction of wicked cities 8–9
mannaChrist, eucharist John 6:41, 1 Cor. miraculously provided 16:23, 31 (N refers to manna 17:28, in vision: fruit of tree of life 11:8)   instructs in sacrament 18, bread and wine miraculously provided 20:6
water from rockChrist John 7:37–40; 19:34; 1 Cor. 10:4(N refers to water from rock, 17:29)(N refers to water from rock 25:20) “fountain of pure water” 18:5 
mountain/lawSermon on Mount Law (grace) John 1:17Nephi instructed on mountain 16:30; 17:7; 18:3Nephites observe “statutes” 5:10 lawgiving 18:19–24, 27 “he commanded them” repeated seven timesSermon on Mount 12–14, come to fulfill law 12:17; “I am the law” 15:9
text (ark)New Testamentplates (Pentateuch and Isaiah) 5:11plates 5:12, N makes additional plates 5:31, (law a type of Christ 11:4)a book of covenants 12:20, 23 ministration of angels 17:24; see angels of ark and mercy seat Exod. 36:8 (Christ refers to Moses, 20:23; quotes Isaiah in 20:36 ff [new exodus text, Isa. 52:12 twice])
tabernaclechurchbuilds ship according to Lord’s instruction 17:8; 18:2N builds temple 5:16 ordains priests, 1 per 50, 18:18calls 12, 12:1
order/governance12 apostles(in vision: 12 apostles 12:9)    
brazen serpentChrist, crucifixion John 3:14–15 (N refers to brazen serpent 25:20 prophesies healing 26:9)  “Look unto me and endure to the end” 15:9; heals people 17:9
promised land(heaven, grace)led to promised land 5:5 (N refers to crossing Jordan 17:32)Nephites prosper in land (N notes that 40 years have passed since they fled Jerusalem 5:34)promised land 13:15; compare U. Brumm, P. Miller, Bercovitch, Mather on Puritan typology Father commanded me to give you this land 20:14; New Jerusalem 20:22; I will be in your midst 21:25; names church 27:8


[1] See, for example, such essay collections as Earl R. Miner, ed., Literary Uses of Typology: From the Late Middle Ages to the Present (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977); Sacvan Bercovitch, ed., Typology and Early American Literature (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1972); and Hugh T. Kennan, ed., Typology and Medieval Literature, a special issue of Studies in the Literary Imagination 8 (Spring 1975).

[2] “Figura,” trans. Ralph Manheim, in Scenes from the Drama of European Literature, Six Essays (New York: Meridian Books, 1959), 53; additional general studies of typology are Jean Daniélou, From Shadows to Reality: Studies in the Biblical Typology of the Fathers, trans. Dom Wulstan Hibberd (Westminster, MD: Newman Press, 1960); and A. C. Charity, Events and Their Afterlife: The Dialectics of Christian Typology in the Bible and Dante (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1966).

[3] Anatomy of Criticism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1957), 315.

[4] “‘All Things Which Have Been Given of God . . . Are the Typifying of Him’: Typology in the Book of Mormon,” in Proceedings of the Symposia of the Association for Mormon Letters, 1978–79, 113–29; reprinted in this volume.

[5] “The Dark Way to the Tree: Typological Unity in the Book of Mormon,” Encyclia 54, pt. 2 (1977): 16–24; reprinted in this volume. Frye describes the Bible as a “typological unity,” but also as “a definitive myth, a single archetypal structure” (p. 315).

[6] The recurrence of a deliverance pattern in the Book of Mormon has been noted by Hugh Nibley (An Approach to the Book of Mormon [Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1957], 113–42) and Richard L. Bushman (“The Book of Mormon and the American Revolution,” Brigham Young University Studies 17 [Autumn 1976]: 7–10, 17). Neither approaches the Exodus from the standpoint of typology.

[7] The God of Exodus: The Theology of the Exodus Narratives (Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing, 1966), 7.

[8] The Exodus Pattern in the Bible, All Souls Studies monograph series, 2 (London: Faber and Faber, 1963), 14.

[9] From Shadows to Reality, 156–57. See also Gerhard von Rad, “Typological Interpretation of the Old Testament,” trans. John Bright, 17–39, and Walter Eichrodt, “Is Typological Exegesis an Appropriate Method?” trans. James Barr, 224–45 (esp. 234–35), in Claus Westermann, ed., Essays on Old Testament Hermeneutics (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1963).

[10] American Thought and Religious Typology, trans. John Hoaglund (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1970), 46–47; see also Bercovitch, Typology and Early American Literature. Another correspondence is the fact that the somewhat unusual pairing of the technical terms “type and shadow” in the Book of Mormon (Mosiah 3:15; 13:10) is also found in the basic Puritan handbook of typology, Samuel Mather’s The Figures and Types of the Old Testament, 2nd ed. (London, 1705; reprint ed., New York: Johnson Reprint Company, 1969), which speaks of “Types and Shadows of the Old Testament,” “Types and Shadows of the Law,” “[Legal Types and Shadows,” etc. (xi, 10, 14). Since these technical terms, which occur both individually and as a pair only in the Old Testament portion of the Book of Mormon, have no basis in Hebrew, and since type is extrabiblical if one is limited to the King James Version (which uses figure) without reference to the Greek as Joseph Smith was (see Stendahl, note 16 below, 142), I suspect that Joseph Smith became acquainted with the terms through the weakened continuation of the typological sermon tradition of the Puritans into the nineteenth century. As such, they constitute translator anachronisms of the sort discussed by Hugh Nibley (e.g., “church,” “synagogue,” “Christians”) in Since Cumorah: The Book of Mormon in the Modern World (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1967), 187–91.

[11] Daniélou’s discussion of a Jewish baptismal rite is of interest in the context of this pre-Incarnation baptism: “Furthermore, the relationship of the Crossing of the Red Sea and of Baptism as brought out by St. Paul [1 Cor. 10:1–2] seems to be according to a line of interpretation belonging to the Judaism of his time. For we know that at the beginning of the Christian era, the initiation of proselytes into the Jewish community included, besides circumcision, a baptism. This baptism, as G. Foote-Moore writes [Judaism, I, 334], was ‘a purification that was neither real nor symbolic, but essentially a rite of initiation.’ And the purpose of this initiation was to cause the proselyte to go through the sacrament received by the people at the time of the crossing of the Red Sea. The baptism of the proselytes was, then, a kind of imitation of the Exodus. This is important in showing us that the link between Baptism and the crossing of the Red Sea existed already in Judaism and that therefore it gives us the true symbolism of Baptism, as being not primarily a purification, but a deliverance and a creation,” The Bible and the Liturgy (Notre Dame, IN.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1956), 88–89.

[12] An excellent introduction to this pervasive interpretation of Exodus is Charles S. Singleton’s “In Exitu Israel de Aegypto,” 78th Annual Report of the Dante Society of America (1960), rpt. in John Freccero, ed., Dante: A Collection of Critical Essays (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1965), 102–21. As a point of departure, Singleton uses Dante’s letter to Can Grande, in which the poet explains that the departure of Israel from Egypt is “in the moral sense, ‘the conversion of the soul from the grief and misery of sin to the state of grace.’” See Robert S. Haller, ed. and trans., Literary Criticism of Dante Alighieri (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1973), 99.

[13] For full discussions of this aspect of the gospels and the New Testament generally, see Plastaras, ch. 14, Daniélou, From Shadows to Reality, Bk. IV, and The Bible and the Liturgy, especially chs. 5, 9, 10, and 19.

[14] From Shadows to Reality, 160.

[15] The God of Exodus, 325.

[16] See “The Sermon on the Mount and Third Nephi,” in Truman G. Madsen, ed., Reflections on Mormonism: Judaeo-Christian Parallels (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1978), 150.

[17] See Daniélou, The Bible and the Liturgy, 91, on this tradition.