I think that it is all too easy for Christians to read through the Old Testament and feel a certain disconnect between the time period, the application, and the stories. Most Christians are not Jewish, therefore, much of the history of the Jewish people seems to be good stories about how God did some cool stuff.
I also think that it is all too easy to over analyze every verse to extract a New Testament insight that is not there. Many comb through the Old Testament like it is a treasure map, examining the pages this way and that, hoping to stumble upon a goldmine of insight that illuminates an entirely new facet that changes the way people perceive the teachings of Jesus.
While I confess I am capable of the latter more often than not, I have been really pushing to put myself in the shoes of a Jew who was receiving all of this information for the first time. I have been trying really hard to look at the Old Testament with new eyes while trying to understand the meaning it had to it’s original audience. It has been a refreshing experience thus far.
With that said, there are passages that appear to directly refer to the life of Jesus–this passage in Deuteronomy, for example–without mentioning Jesus. It is such an obvious aside that clearly parallels Jesus’ death on the cross but does not mention him explicitly.
God states that any man who is hung on a tree is cursed. Simple as that.
The primary means of execution was stoning –and death by sword if you were in combat. The practice of hanging –at least to my knowledge– was not a common practice in the Israelite culture. The time in which it became most popular was during the reign of the Roman Empire in which crucifixions were a commonplace throughout all regions.
There is no way this is coincidence.
Jesus was crucified on a wooden cross. Jesus was cursed by God. He became the embodiment of sin itself on that moment on the cross.
But the beauty is so much deeper than just that. Not only was the Man cursed, but what the Man stood for was cursed. Sin was condemned that day on Golgotha never to have any power over any person any more. What the Man symbolized hung on that tree and was cursed for eternity.
Paul echoes this passage in connection with Jesus’ crucifixion when he writes to the church in Galatia:
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.” - Galatians 3:13-14
Just another piece of evidence that God has a larger, redemptive story at work that He has orchestrated even from the beginning.