In the days of Joseph, a three day period played a pivotal role in getting Jacob and his progeny into Egypt. In the days of Moses, a three day period played a pivotal role in getting the progeny out of Egypt. God told Moses to ask Pharoah if Israel could leave Egypt and go on a three day journey into the wilderness, to worship God.
God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God, furthermore, said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations. Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I am indeed concerned about you and what has been done to you in Egypt. So I said, I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite, to a land flowing with milk and honey.”’ They will pay heed to what you say; and you with the elders of Israel will come to the king of Egypt and you will say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. So now, please, let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.’ But I know that the king of Egypt will not permit you to go, except under compulsion. So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My miracles which I shall do in the midst of it; and after that he will let you go. Exodus 3: 14 – 20
God told Moses to request Pharaoh’s permission to go on a three day journey, knowing full well that Pharaoh would not allow it except under compulsion. God compelled Pharaoh by smiting Egypt with ten plagues; and it just so happened that one of the plagues, the ninth, occurred over three days.
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even a darkness which may be felt.” So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt for three days. They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, but all the sons of Israel had light in their dwellings. Exodus 10: 21 – 23
The Scripture says that God not only caused darkness to fall upon Egypt, but that Israel had light in their dwellings. This is doubly insulting to Pharaoh, for not only was his god Ra (a sun god) unable to keep the Egyptians in light, Ra was unable to keep God’s people in darkness.
Moving ahead now, from the days of Moses to our own, we can take these two three day references in the account of the exodus and parallel them with New Testament themes; themes deriving from the death, burial and third day resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.
The first reference was the request for a three day journey into the wilderness, which God ultimately used as a means of complete deliverance for Israel from Egypt. This looks ahead to how Christ’s third day resurrection secured complete deliverance for His people from sin and from the wrath of God.
The second reference was the three days of darkness for Egypt, while Israel’s dwellings remained lit. This points ahead to the New Testament theme of Christ being the light for HIs people, while those who don’t believe in Jesus are in darkness.
This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God. John 3: 19 – 21
Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” John 8: 12
And I (Paul) said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.’ Acts 26: 15 – 18
We should not be surprised that Moses and the exodus can be counted among the third day types pointing to the resurrection of the Messiah. As important as Moses was, and as important as the exodus from Egypt was, it might have been more surprising to find that they did not point ahead to Jesus. For as we have already discussed, the pattern that emerges when studying the third day theme is major Old Testament figures involved in spectacular events, which at some point involve a three day period of time. Certainly Moses and the exodus fit the description.