In my opinion, 2 Peter is Peter’s adaptation of Deuteronomy (because it is his deutero-episteon). I think Hebrews is Paul’s version of Deuteronomy as the Church stands on the brink of a massive change: the judgment of the old creation in the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 AD. The Church currently stands in the wilderness, waiting for Joshua (remember, Jesus and Joshua have the same name in Hebrew) to conquer the land and lead them into a Sabbath rest.
This was reified this morning in my mind when I saw the exodus language in Hebrews 2.
“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”
The images of slavery would obviously bring up the Exodus right away. The image of deliverance recalls the time when Yahweh came to Egypt as the Warrior-King and trampled over the gods of Egypt with the plagues, using nature as his arsenal. The Logos became the Angel of Death, striking down the firstborn of Egypt that the firstborn son Israel might escape into the Promised Land. In these ways, God came down to Israel to fight for her and deliver here, building a foundation to understand how the Warrior-King Jesus defeated death by coming among us.
In the wilderness, Israel suffered from the “fear of death” when they were hungry or were bored from God’s menu. They thought that they would die in the wilderness and cursed God because of it. Paul writes Hebrews to quell the fears of the Church, who, in the wilderness, are considering going back to the old Jewish system. Moses and the Lord warned Israel that returning to Egypt would be a return to death and slavery. Paul is making the same point: to return to the old sacrificial system is a return to a Pharaoh type, Satan, who controls the power of the fear of death. The only way forward is to follow the new High Priest, the one who became like us to free his brothers and sanctify them.
In all of this, we see a natural progression of a narrative underneath the theology. Using Psalm 8, a story about Adam and his sons, Paul shows that Jesus is a new Adam who was exalted above the creation he was given dominion over. Through his obedience, death, and resurrection, Jesus is exalted above the angels to sit at the right hand of God. Jesus’ exaltation was an exodus event that brought his brothers with him out of Egypt into the wilderness. They currently stand in the wilderness, waiting for the new Joshua to bring them into rest by conquering the whole world.
Following the story line of Hebrews helps us to follow the argument better and stop seeing the book as a conglomerate of different arguments haphazardly thrown together, allowing us to anticipate the moves of the book. Noting that we are in the wilderness after exodus, we eagerly await a mention of Moses. And when Jesus’ name is finally revealed in 2:9, we think, “wait, Jesus? The Messiah, the priest from the restoration, or the warrior from the conquest?” Paul will eventually answer, “all three”, but right now he is focusing on Joshua the High Priest. The next chapter will deal with Joshua the conquerer and heir to Moses.
Seeing the exodus language in 2:9 helps us understand our wilderness position better. This is why Paul uses so many quotes about the wanderings. Just having experienced an exodus, the Church is in danger of falling into the same trap. This is why they are to stop neglecting the message of salvation “today”, they are to not harden their hearts, and aren’t to turn back: this is what Israel did in the same position. The difference here is that Christ was made like us and made completely obedient, and unlike Moses, will not only enter the Promised Rest, but will go straight into the Holy of Holies once for all.