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A review of Exodus. By Douglas Stuart.

Sep 3, 2006

Broadman & Holman, 2006.

Exodus is a pivotal book, a key volume not only in the Pentateuch but in the whole of the Hebrew bible. And Douglas Stuart is a first rate evangelical Old Testament scholar (who has already penned commentaries on Ezekiel and some of the Minor Prophets). Put the two together and you have an important and powerful combination.

There have been a number of good commentaries on the book of Exodus. Many consider the 1974 volume by Brevard Childs (Old Testament Library) to be the best written, albeit by a non-evangelical. Good volumes of a somewhat more conservative and evangelical variety have been penned by Enns (NIV Application Commentary, 2000) and Durham (Word Biblical Commentary, 1987). But this is the newest and perhaps best treatment of the book. Part of the New American Commentary series, this just released volume will long serve as the first port of call for evangelical assessments of this important Old Testament book.

Good commentaries offer a balance of two things: the technical, grammatical, cultural and other background material, along with sound theological analysis. Both exegesis and exposition are required. This volume fulfils both requirements nicely.

Stuart has clearly done his homework. (He says he consulted over 1700 items, not all of which are featured in the bibliography.) He is up on all the relevant literature, and is aware of the current debates. He also writes well, and is able to provide the theological sense of the book, and individual passages throughout.

While acknowledging that extra-biblical evidence for Exodus is thin, he is more optimistic than writers like Durham about the book’s historicity. He also ascribes Mosaic authorship to the book.

His thematic approach to this book is to highlight the servant theme: Israel’s’ exodus from Egyptian servitude is replaced by servitude to Yahweh. The transition from being servants of a bad king to being servants of a good king is the overriding motif of the book, although Stuart lists eight other key themes, including the necessity of law, the promised land, and covenant relationship.

Given the constraints of the series, his introductory remarks do not occupy much space (only 50 pages out of an 800 page work). But more detailed discussions of important points are scattered throughout the commentary. Thus a number of excurses into various disputed issues, difficult topics, or theological hot potatoes are interspersed in these pages. Surprisingly however one such item, the Divine name YHWH as revealed in Exodus 3:14, receives no separate excursus, but just a half page discussion (along with a half page footnote, leading the reader to further study).

Another area that may have received more attention is that of the ten words (commandments). Stuart devotes only 30 pages to this important topic, but even within this limitation, he does a more than capable job of clearly setting out their meaning and significance.

Other key areas, such as the call of Moses, or deliverance from Pharaoh, are expertly covered. And the numerous laws as detailed in the second half of Exodus are discussed with clarity and thoroughness.

Overall, the commentary itself is a nice blend of giving the sense of the text along with the various technical considerations that need to be addressed. More scholarly discussion is reserved for the footnotes, which are plenteous and lengthy. Thus the main body of the text can be easily followed, but the numerous excurses and footnotes take the reader to more advanced levels, when deeper considerations are called for.

All in all this is a very fine commentary indeed, which should serve both student and scholar for many years to come.

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