Monday, February 2, 2015

Book Review: A Commentary on Exodus

Commentaries are not necessarily designed to be read as one would read a novel or a biography. They are reference books. But I agreed to review A Commentary on Exodus by Duane Garrett for Kregel, so I began to read it as one would read any book. I was surprised to discover the delight that I experienced as I read. Certainly, this commentary has value as a reference work, but it is a good read as well. This is a great addition to the growing Kregel Exegetical Library.

As one would imagine, the commentary begins with a lengthy (145 pages) introduction. In this are included discussions about textual, archaeological, historical, and geographical issues. Since the Documentary Hypothesis has been largely debunked, Garrett does not spend much time with it. He carefully examines the evidence for the dating of Exodus and shows that there is no conclusive evidence to nail down a date. In the end, however, he points out that the dating has no bearing on the message of the book.

After the introduction, the commentary consists of the author’s translation and translational notes provided in footnote form, an outline or “structure” of the passage, commentary, and a section titled “Theological Summary of Key Points.” A working knowledge of Hebrew is vital to understanding the textual and translational issues, but the non-Hebrew student will not be completely lost in this commentary.

One of the battle ground issues in the study of Exodus concerns the plagues visited upon Egypt. Some modern commentators view these as naturally occurring phenomena that were given mythical and supernatural status by the compilers of the Pentateuch. Garrett does not dismiss that some of these may have indeed been naturally occurring phenomena. Yet, in most cases, they occurred at the command of Moses, and dissipated likewise at his command. Note:

“…the Bible does not assert that the frogs, mosquitoes, flies and locusts that swarmed over Egypt were specifically created ex nihlo or that the hail fell from a blue sky… Furthermore, to assert that these events do fit within the facts of natural history is not to deny their miraculous nature. The intensity of the plagues, together with the fact that they begin and often end at Moses’ word is proof enough that they were a work of God” (p. 319).

Garrett is aware that the point of the Scripture is to testify of Jesus, and he is quick to run to the gospel in the commentary. Commenting on 32:9-35, he writes, “Moses intercession with God is also analogous to Christ’s heavenly intercession in that the people of Israel did not even know it was happening or that they needed it. So also, our survival depends on Christ’s intercession, even when we are wholly unaware of it” (p. 635).

Once again, Kregel has provided us a great addition to commentaries on the Old Testament canon. Garrett’s A Commentary on Exodus should be included in any library of this pivotal section of the Pentateuch.

 Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Kregel Publications as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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