An Old Testament biblical type is a foreshadowing of people and events yet to come in the New Testament. Sacred scripture is full of Old Testament biblical types of Christ. What most people don’t realize however, is just how many biblical types there are of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Old Testament. Let’s go on our Mary way through the Old Testament.
The Woman Who Will Crush the Head of the Serpent
In Genesis 3, we learn about the fall of mankind to the wiles of Satan. Satan wanted to be like God, and lost his place in heaven as a result (He used that same ploy with Adam and Eve, that is, he told them that they could also be like God if they ate the forbidden fruit). God basically said in Genesis 3:15 that the problem that was caused by Eve, the first immaculately created virgin, would be repaired by another woman, Mary, also an immaculately created virgin. This reparation would consist of the new Woman and her seed crushing the head of Satan and his seed.
God said in Genesis 3:15 that the Woman’s seed (Jesus and all the rest of us who profess that Jesus is the savior and who obey His Commandments, per Revelation 12:17) will be at enmity with the seed of the devil. Women do not have seeds; they have eggs, so this has to be one very special woman (the Virgin Birth!).
Jesus always referred to Mary as “Woman,” so as to highlight to us that she is that Woman from Genesis 3.
Hannah was a barren woman in the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel. She was married to Elkanah, but prayed to the Lord to give her a son. In turn, she promised to dedicate him to the service of God. Like Mary, Hannah says that the last shall be first, and the meek and the lowly shall be lifted up to the highest levels. What man thinks important (self-reliance, strength, money, and power) is the antithesis of what God thinks is important (obedience, humility, poverty, lowliness). Her canticle is as follows:
“My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in the Lord. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in thy salvation. “There is none holy like the Lord, there is none besides thee; there is no rock like our God. Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed. The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble gird on strength. Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger. The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn. The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low, he also exalts. He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and on them he has set the world. “He will guard the feet of his faithful ones; but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness; for not by might shall a man prevail. The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces; against them he will thunder in heaven. The Lord will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king, and exalt the power of his anointed.”
The Book of Judith in the Bible tells us the story of an extraordinarily beautiful Jewish woman named Judith. Her town of Bethulia was surrounded by the massive Assyrian army, led by the evil General Holofernes. The Assyrians had captured the spring outside of her town, thus giving her people a maximum of five days to live. She devised a plan to defeat the entire Assyrian army. After fasting and praying, she dressed up in her finest clothes and went outside of the city, pretending to be a traitor. When the Assyrians captured her, they took her to Holofernes, who was instantly smitten with her beauty. During a banquet the night before the attack, Judith managed to get him so drunk that he passed out. She used this opportunity to take his own sword and decapitate him. When she escaped with his head in a sack, she took it back to her people and told them to attack the Assyrians at dawn the next day, when the Assyrian officers would discover the headless body of Holofernes, and be scattered with confusion. This plan worked, and all Israel was saved.
Thus, Judith is a biblical type of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is to crush the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15) and save us from the devil.
Esther was another beautiful Jewish woman, who, along with her cousin Mordecai, were captives during the Persian exile, around the 5th century before Christ (BC). Mordecai, being older than Esther, also acted as a fatherly figure to her, since she was an orphan. The Persian prime minister to the King was Haman, who secretly hated the Jews. The Queen of Persia offended the King so much, he demoted her and issued a decree for the most beautiful woman in Persia to become his new Queen. After a search, Esther was chosen, although she kept her Jewish heritage a secret.
Mordecai uncovered a plot to kill the King, and told his cousin Queen Esther about it, who then relayed it to the King. The King summarily executed the cabal. Later in the story, Haman became offended when Mordecai refused to bow down to him as a god. So Haman convinced the King to issue a decree to exterminate all of the Jews in Persia, since they refused to assimilate into Persian culture. Haman had a gallows constructed in order to hang his enemy Mordecai. However, Queen Esther, unannounced, entered the King’s chamber to intercede on her people’s behalf. The King was touched by her sincerity, and spared the Jews. Then, after being told that Mordecai was the one who had originally revealed to Queen Esther the murderous plot to kill him, the King became very angry at Haman for his plan to hang Mordecai, and hanged him instead.
Thus, Esther is a Marian figure in Jewish history who represents the intercessory power of the Queen, which resulted in the lowly (the orphan Esther) being exalted, and the mighty (Haman) being deposed. (Bathsheeba is also an intercessory Queen figure in the Old Testament).
Mary’s intercessory power is first made known at the Wedding Feast of Cana, where Jesus performed His first public miracle at her behest.
One of Mary’s titles is “Seat of Wisdom”. In Hebrew, “Wisdom” is the feminine noun, “hokmah”. There are three main chapters in the bible that talk about the feminine Wisdom: Sirach 24, Proverbs 8, and Wisdom 7. Wisdom can refer to the Holy Spirit, of course, but the created Wisdom spoken of in these verses prefigure Mary, the spouse of the Holy Spirit. The main thrust in these verses is that Lady Wisdom was created by God, and is pure, and endures for all generations. All who embrace Lady Wisdom will prevail over evil. Some of the parallels between Lady Wisdom and Mary (the one whom ALL generations will call blessed) are as follows:
Sirach 24:1: Wisdom will praise herself, and will glory in the midst of her people. (Luke 1:46-55)
Sirach 24:4: I dwelt in high places, and my throne was in a pillar of cloud (the Holy Spirit). (Luke 1:35)
Sirach 24:33: I will again pour out teaching like prophecy, and leave it to all future generations. (Luke 1:46-55)
Proverbs 8:19: My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold, and my yield than choice silver. (Luke 1:42)
Wisdom 7: 24-25: For wisdom is more mobile than any motion; because of her pureness she pervades and penetrates all things. For she is a breath of the power of God, and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty; therefore nothing defiled gains entrance into her (the Virgin birth).
Wisdom 7:27-29: Though she is but one, she can do all things, and while remaining in herself, she renews all things; in every generation she passes into holy souls and makes them friends of God, and prophets; for God loves nothing so much as the man who lives with wisdom. For she is more beautiful than the sun, and excels every constellation of the stars. (Revelation 12:1)
In Genesis 29, Rachel was the wife of Jacob, who gave birth to Joseph and Benjamin. Rachel died of her birth pangs while birthing Benjamin, the “beloved” son of Jacob. Mary did not have any birth pangs when birthing Jesus, because she is sin-free, but she does have many birth pangs while giving birth to us sinners, the rest of her children. And just as Rachel weeps for the children of Israel being taken into exile and being slain by Herod, Mary also weeps for her children in the Church when we sin and suffer death as a result.
Interestingly, St. John is also referred to as a beloved disciple in his gospel, and was given Mary for his mother, by Jesus. Jesus is like another Joseph, who was also sold for silver pieces to gentiles, was exiled to Egypt, was unjustly accused, and who saved Israel by giving them bread (Jesus gives us the bread from heaven, the Eucharist, to save us from sin). So Jesus and John in the New Testament, the sons of Mary, mirror Joseph and Benjamin in the Old Testament, the sons of Rachel.
Mary as Daughter Zion
Daughter Zion is a phrase that can refer to Israel, but also to Mary. For example:
• Zechariah 2: 10: Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion; for lo, I come and I will dwell in the midst of you, says the Lord.
Here we see that Jesus will dwell in Mary’s womb.
• Zephaniah 3:14-15: Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! The LORD has taken away the judgments against you, he has cast out your enemies. The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you shall fear evil no more.
Daughter Zion (Mary) will rejoice, and have no judgments against her (she is sin-free). She has Jesus in her midst (inside her), and with her alongside of us, we have nothing to fear from evil (Satan).
• Lamentations 2:13: What can I say for you, to what compare you, O daughter of Jerusalem? What can I liken to you, that I may comfort you, O virgin Daughter of Zion? For vast as the sea is your ruin; who can restore you?
Here we get a foreshadowing of how Daughter Zion is a virgin, that Mary’s soul will be pierced with a sword, and her sorrows will be many. One translation of the name “Mary” is “bitter sea” and here we learn that her pain will be as large as the sea.
Psalm 45 Coronation of the Queen
Psalm 45 talks about a mighty heavenly King (Jesus) and his beautiful Queen, who is being crowned (Revelation 12:1), and who is at His right hand. Her name is to be celebrated throughout all generations, and she is to be praised forever and ever (Luke 1: 46-55).
There are many other types of Mary in the Old Testament, like the bride in the Song of Solomon, Old Testament Queen Mothers of Israel, the ark of the Covenant, the new Eve, as well as the intercessory power of “the handmaid” of the Lord. So don’t let anyone tell you that Mary isn’t mentioned much in the bible. Using biblical typology as a lens to look at scripture, she is all over the place!