I am studying in 1st Corinthians chapter 10:1-2 and Paul voices an ambiguous statement which reads,

1 Corinthians 10:1-2 (NIV)

1 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.

When i study verse 2 of this scripture, i feel that Paul is using a double meaning and i find that the word cloud and sea is where the double meaning comes into play.My explanation is as follows.

When Paul says "in the cloud and in the sea," my understanding is they were all baptised into Moses in the cloud and in the sea which appears to say that the cloud and the Red Sea is where the baptism takes place.But when i look into this in more detail, all is not what it seems to be.

I will use the only allegory i can think of to explain my reasoning.Talking about my bank in a slightly derogatory manner i would say,

I was baptised into the Bank of Scotland in "the wallet and in the cheque book." Now any person reading this would understand that the wallet means money and the cheque book means money.It is what is in the wallet and in the cheque book, that is connected to my baptism.Namely money.It is not the wallet or the cheque book that is connected to baptism.

When Paul says in the cloud and in the sea,i think what he is actually saying is to "look" in the cloud and in the sea.So lets have a look.

In the cloud i find nothing connected to baptism but when i look in the sea i find "water" which is connected to baptism.The scripture would now read as follows.

They were all baptised into Moses in the Cloud and in the water.

We can now see what i think to be the double meaning with the change from sea to water. But what about the cloud.When i look in there i find nothing whatsoever to do with baptism.So how can a person be baptised into the cloud when it contains "nothing." I think the meaning of the cloud rests in this scripture,

Exodus 14:24 NIV

During the last watch of the night the Lord looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion.

This scripture appears to be saying that the cloud contains "fire" which would now introduce the second "double meaning" and the scripture would now read as follows,

They were all baptised into Moses in the fire and in the water.

This would appear to myself that Paul is speaking about this scripture recorded in "The gospel of Matthew," in the double meaning.

Matthew 3:11 NIV

I baptise you with water for repentance.But after me will come one who is more powerful than i,whose sandels i am not fit to carry.He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

My question is,does Paul use a double meaning in his statement?


There is one single meaning in both the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and New Testament: the cloud represents the Divine Presence. The Divine Presence corresponds to the Spirit, by whom the believer arrives to divine rest through the water. The 19th Century Bible scholar Hermann Olshausen (1825) made the following comment in this regard (with emphasis added):

As in John 3:5, baptism is represented as regeneration from water and spirit, so here the cloud (symbol of the Divine Presence) is to be understood as the type of the Spirit. Not that the apostle intended by any means to assert that the passage through the Red Sea under the conduct of the pillar of cloud exercised a similar power to that possessed by baptism; that event was simply an image of the latter. Yet this passage, as the actual means of release from their former rulers, was introductory to the future relation of Israel to Moses, the leader appointed to them by God; hence the additional phrase εἰς τὸν Μωϋσῆν, unto Moses, by which is signified the connexion of the people with the economy of the Old Testament, represented by Moses.

The people were "saved" through Moses. Moses was the hand of the outstretched arm from heaven. Actual entrance into the rest of the Promised Land did not occur until forty years later, when the cloud (Divine Presence) brought the people through the water of the Jordan River. It was through this river that John the Baptist announced the New Covenant, by which the forgiveness of sins would occur by the Lamb of God. Baptism through this Lamb (the Divine Presence) would lead into the rest of the Promised Land, or eternal life.

For example, the Peshitta (Syriac translation of the Bible) provides an excellent perspective; the verse at hand occurs as follows in the Syriac. Please click on the image to enlarge for better viewing.

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Please note how the Syriac uses the idiomatic expression ("hand of Moses") to relate how the people passed through the Red Sea. The Israelites passed through the Red Sea because of the mediatorial role of Moses, who was the hand of the outstretched arm from heaven. In other words, it was because of Moses that they passed through the Red Sea; it was not until AFTER they had passed through the Red Sea that the Israelites believed.

Exodus 14:31 (NASB)
31 When Israel saw the great power which the Lord had used against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in His servant Moses.

In this respect, they were therefore "baptized" into Moses, because they only passed through the Red Sea through the mediatorial role of Moses. Without Moses, they would not have passed through the cloud (Divine Presence) and Red Sea. As noted in the verse above, it was not until AFTER they passed through the Red Sea that they had believed in God and in Moses.

However, when later tested in the wilderness wanderings, their "faith" revealed their actual unbelief (Hebrews 3:19). Therefore, the readings in Hebrews 11:24-29 refer not the faith of the Israelites who escaped Egypt, but to the faith of Moses, by whom they escaped by the cloud and water of the Red Sea. Again, the contents of Hebrews 3:1-19 and Hebrews 4:1-10 reinforce the view that these Israelites did not reach the promised land because of unbelief. That is, their "faith," when tested, revealed that they were in fact idolaters.

Acts 7:41-43 (NASB)
41 At that time they made a calf and brought a sacrifice to the idol, and were rejoicing in the works of their hands. 42 But God turned away and delivered them up to serve the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, ‘It was not to Me that you offered victims and sacrifices forty years in the wilderness, was it, O house of Israel? 43 You also took along the tabernacle of Moloch and the star of the god Rompha, the images which you made to worship. I also will remove you beyond Babylon.’

The entirety of Psalm 106 is another summary of the unbelief of the generation of Israelites who had escaped from Egypt.


The Israelites escaped the bondage of slavery of Egypt because of Moses. Moses led the Israelites through the water of the Red sea because of the cloud (Divine Presence). This miracle enabled the Israelites to believe in God and in Moses.

However, these Israelites remained idolaters notwithstanding that God had saved them through Moses--that is, they had expressed faith in God and in Moses. Yet after test after test in the wilderness wanderings, their "faith" revealed their actual idolatrous tendencies: that is, the tests revealed their actual unbelief.

Therefore these Israelites did not cross the Jordan River, where the Divine Presence (without any mediatorial role provided by Joshua) had led the uncircumcised (!) second generation of Israelites into the rest of the Promised Land. The New Testament nuance here might well be that "the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Matt 7:14).

Kiraz, George A. (2003). Analytical Lexicon of the Syriac New Testament: based on the SEDRA 3 Database of George Anton Kiraz. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Olshausen, Hermann, Ebrard, J. H. A., & Wiesinger, A. (1857–1859). Biblical Commentary on the New Testament by Dr. Hermann Olshausen. (A. C. Kendrick & D. Fosdick Jr., Trans.) (Vol. 4). New York: Sheldon, Blakeman, & Co, 308.

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  • Does Exodus 15:8 express a relationship with water and spirit? blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/… The reason i ask is because most people think that there is a baptism that happens in the Red Sea i.e "water baptism" but i lean to the view that Paul is speaking of "spiritual baptism." – Bagpipes Feb 8 '15 at 12:18
  • @Bagpipes - The Israelites in Egypt were saved from their physical bondage (through Moses) but not through their spiritual bondage (through the Lord). The difference was not "baptism," but whether or not faith was operative in the heart. The seed that withered in the sun (Matt 13:20) is an excellent illustration: The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. – Joseph Feb 8 '15 at 14:38
  • Yes, i understand the points you make.But after the "baptism" many Israelites died because they "put out the Spirits fire" (1 Thess 5:19).I came across this miraclerosarymission.org/hs123.htm which i thought you would like to read. – Bagpipes Feb 8 '15 at 15:57
  • @Bagpipes - I read the informative article (thanks). The Day of Pentecost (Feast of Weeks) was the day when the Word of God came down from heaven and was written on stones (giving of Law at Sinai-Old Covenant). On the same date the same Spirit writes the laws on hearts of flesh (New Covenant-Pentecost). The Israelites who escaped Egypt did not believe the word of God (unbelief) notwithstanding that the Divine Presence led them out of the slavery of Egypt. In a like manner, when people "taste" the power of God (Heb 6:4-5), but do not ingest/drink the living water, they too stand to fall away. – Joseph Feb 8 '15 at 20:08

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