Questions From Readers
At Hebrews 11:26, is Moses being spoken of as “the Christ,” or was he rather a type of Jesus Christ?
When discussing Moses’ faith, the apostle Paul wrote that Moses “esteemed the reproach of the Christ as riches greater than the treasures of Egypt; for he looked intently toward the payment of the reward.” (Hebrews 11:26) It seems that Paul was referring to Moses as “the Christ,” or anointed one, in some sense.
Admittedly, in various respects Moses set a pattern for the coming Messiah. Though Moses himself was a prophet, he foretold a coming greater prophet ‘like him.’ Many Jews sensed that Jesus was “The Prophet,” which his followers confirmed. (Deuteronomy 18:15-19; John 1:21; 5:46; 6:14; 7:40; Acts 3:22, 23; 7:37) Moses was also the mediator of the Law covenant, but Jesus received “a more excellent public service” as “the mediator of a correspondingly better covenant,” the glorious new covenant. (Hebrews 8:6; 9:15; 12:24; Galatians 3:19; 1 Timothy 2:5) So in some respects Moses could be said to have been a type of the coming Messiah.
That, however, does not appear to be the primary meaning of Hebrews 11:26. There is no indication that Moses was aware of details about the Messiah, consciously esteeming what he went through in Egypt as being in behalf of the Messiah or representative of Him.
Some have suggested that Paul’s words at Hebrews 11:26 had an import similar to his comment that Christians underwent “sufferings for the Christ.” (2 Corinthians 1:5) Anointed Christians knew that Jesus Christ had suffered and that if they ‘suffered together they would be glorified together’ in heaven. But Moses did not know what the coming Messiah would suffer, nor did Moses have a heavenly hope.—Romans 8:17; Colossians 1:24.
There is a simpler understanding of how Moses “esteemed the reproach of the Christ as riches.”
When Paul wrote “the Christ” at Hebrews 11:26, he used the Greek word Khri·stouʹ, which is the equivalent of the Hebrew Ma·shiʹach, or Messiah. Both “Messiah” and “Christ” mean “anointed one.” So Paul was writing of Moses’ ‘esteeming the reproach of the anointed one.’ Could Moses himself be called an “anointed one”?
Yes. In Bible times a person might be confirmed in a special office by having oil poured on his head. “Samuel then took the flask of oil and poured it out upon [Saul’s] head.” “Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed [David] in the midst of his brothers. And the spirit of Jehovah began to be operative upon David.” (1 Samuel 10:1; 16:13; compare Exodus 30:25, 30; Leviticus 8:12; 2 Samuel 22:51; Psalm 133:2.) Yet, some, such as the prophet Elisha and the Syrian king Hazael, are spoken of as being “anointed” even though there is no evidence that literal oil was poured on them. (1 Kings 19:15, 16; Psalm 105:14, 15; Isaiah 45:1) Hence, an individual could be an “anointed one” by having been selected or specially commissioned.
In this sense Moses himself was God’s anointed one, and some Bibles even give renderings such as “God’s Anointed” or “the Anointed One” at Hebrews 11:26. Moses was commissioned as Jehovah’s representative and the one to lead Israel out of Egypt. (Exodus 3:2-12, 15-17) Though Moses had been raised amid the wealth and glory of Egypt, he more highly treasured his commission, which he accepted and fulfilled. Accordingly, Paul could write that Moses “esteemed the reproach of the Christ as riches greater than the treasures of Egypt.”