• Author: Duane A. Garrett
• Publisher: Kregel Academic (2014)
• Format: hardback
• Page Count: 816
• ISBN#: 9780825425516
• List Price: $39.99
• Rating: Highly Recommended
A thorough exegetical and homiletical analysis of each passage of Exodus.
The true fountainhead of Old Testament theology, Exodus illuminates the significance of the name Yahweh and introduces the title I AM. It tells of Israel’s formative historical event, the exodus, as well as the making of the covenant at Sinai. It includes the first code of the Law in the Decalogue and Book of the Covenant. It details Israel’s besetting sin in the idolatry of the golden calf episode, but it also describes Moses’s intercession and the great revelation of God’s mercy. In its display of the Tent of Meeting, it presents the theology of the priesthood, the sacrifices, and the central sanctuary. A Commentary on Exodus explores all of these events with a view toward their significance both for the meaning of the Old Testament and for the message of the Christian church. Exegetically deep enough to satisfy the scholar and logically organized to meet the needs of the pastor, Garrett’s commentary promises to become standard reference material in Exodus studies.
– Every verse is given a fresh translation with copious explanatory notes, and particular attention is given to the poetry of Exodus, which the author demonstrates to be more abundant than previously believed.
– The commentary also helps to dispel much confusion about Exodus by introducing the reader to Egyptian history and by carefully analyzing questions about the date of the exodus and the location of Mount Sinai.
This is a technical commentary that provides both a detailed exegetical analysis of the Hebrew text and theological take-home points for applying the message of the text for today’s hearers.
Structure and Features:
Duane Garrett’s Commentary on Exodus is organized in consistent manner which makes it easy to peruse and use as a reference. After the lengthy introduction (145 pages), each section of the text is treated individually, grouped into 7 parts. Garrett’s own translation of the Hebrew, separated with one line per Hebrew clause begins each section. Included are a host of pertinent linguistic and translational footnotes that often included detailed discussions of difficult terms. For sections of poetry, he provides the Hebrew underneath the English and includes a treatment of how and why that section should be understood to be poetic. The the commentary proper follows and is further divided from the text. Following the commentary secion, is a section labeled: “Theological Summary of Key Points.” This is the take-home part of the commentary where Garrett draws out the points that a preacher will be able to hone in on, in a message on this text. The commentary doesn’t address homiletical strategies, but the big picture that can be drawn from the text at hand. Occasionally an excursus follows this section, and allows for an extended discussion of a particularly thorny aspect of the text, such as how Moses’ birth story compares with that of Sargon’s, or how Paul’s discussion of Moses’ veil in 2 Cor. 3 fits in with a proper understanding of Exodus. Throughout the commentary one will find footnotes and tables, but no maps or diagrams or drawings are to be found.
This excerpt is taken almost at random, it highlights the theological take-home punch that Garrett distills from the text. The section concerns Exodus 26:1-27:21.
4. Whatever the external two tent layers looked like, entering the Tent of Meeting itself would have been visually stunning. The priest, going into the holy place, would enter a chamber illuminated by the soft light of the seven lamps of the menorah. As his eyes adjusted, the fine linen inner tent with its colorful tapestry of cherubim would have suggested entry into heaven, where the angels in splendor were in attendance upon God. The tent frames of gold, reflecting the lamps, would have seemed to twinkle like stars and would have suggested a glorious hallway towards God’s throne room. The screen before the holy of holies, with its cherubim, would have suggested an angelic honor guard standing between the priest and YHWH. The priest thus would have a sense of being in the earthly representation of the outer chamber of God’s heavenly abode.
5. There was probably a cosmic dimension to this. That is, the outer chamber represented the lower heavens (what we would call the physical heavens) and the inner chamber, the holy of holies, would represent the upper heaven, God’s abode. The Tent of Meeting was a microcosm of the created universe and of the heavenly throne room that was above the created universe. That is, God’s glory fills all of creation, but there is yet a heavenly throne room that is above and beyond the physical universe. The Tent of Meeting is a smaller version of this cosmic reality. it is also the place where God who dwells in the highest heavens can be present or immanent in the world.
The overall message of this aspect of the tent complex is that God is holy. The barriers between the people and the interior of the tent, as well as the altar of burnt offering, all indicate that because of sin, people are kept apart from God. For the Christian, the barriers that separated the Israelites from the holy of holies remind us that in Christ the barrier is removed and that we have access to God (Matt. 27:51). Even so, we should not fail to take away an important message in the tent structure: that God is holy, that we should fear God, and that in worship, we should approach in reverent respect and also with constant brokenness of heart and repentance, knowing that we have no right of ourselves to approach God. (pg. 579-580)
I absolutely loved this commentary. The introduction should be required reading at any conservative evangelical study as it responds masterfully to the increasingly common tendency to treat the Exodus as pure myth. He also deals with the JEDP documentary hypothesis and lasting versions of that. This also covers many other questions and betrays a wealth of Egyptian background knowledge which adds color to any study of this important book. He gives detailed pros and cons for 4 major Biblical chronologies. While he may lean toward the late Exodus date, ultimately he concludes that there are supporting texts and archeological evidence for each major chronology view, and there are also archeological problems as well. He cautions against getting too hung up on defending any one chronological scheme since the text doesn’t refer to specific Pharaoh’s by name. “The minister or Bible teacher, therefore, should refrain from specifying that this or that exodus event took place in the reign of this or that pharaoh” (p. 101-102). In short, we haven’t been given enough information to make a definitive conclusion. But we do have confidence that there is ample evidence to bolster the belief that the Exodus story is historically factual.
Another discussion in the introduction centered on the route the Israelites took as they left Egypt and crossed the Yam Suph (traditionally translated “the Red Sea”). This also brings up the question of where on a map we can place the Biblical Mount Sinai. As one who has read several popular accounts which provide compelling reasons for disagreeing with the standard Exodus route that one finds in most study Bibles, I was delighted to find a detailed study into the Bible’s record and the archeological testimony to this route. Garrett finds it probable that Sinai was located in Northwest Arabia, across the Gulf of Aqaba, but the exact location of the crossing is likely lost forever. His detailed study is careful to avoid sensationalism, but doesn’t discount the insights of other scholars who may not hail from the scholarly guild of biblical studies. He largely agrees with the conclusions of Colin Humphreys (a physicist) with some reservations.
The translation and discussion of Hebrew terms is second to none. Garrett has a mastery of the language and the relevant literature and his translation deserves to be consulted. He also provides a helpful correction to the translation of 2 Cor. 3, a text that bears on the understanding of Exodus. His excursus on that topic is important and helpful.
Garrett finds several Hebrew poems placed strategically throughout Exodus, and in some cases this sheds new light on a passage. His treatment of Exodus 6:2-8 is an example. Rather than the text stating that previous generations did not know the name Yahweh, the text is a poetic affirmation to Moses that God will be with him. Garrett’s discussion of the Hebrew terms used in this passage are extremely helpful and here as in a few other places, my understanding of the meaning of the text has been adjusted for the better.
Almost all the puzzling questions that Exodus raises are covered. Garrett addresses the problem of Hebrew numbers briefly, and he grapples with the genealogy of Moses. He illuminates obscure customs (such as Zipporah’s circumcision of her son), and explains some of the ancient techniques referenced in the Tabernacle instructions.
Garrett is thoroughly evangelical in his treatment of Exodus, but he doesn’t shy away from following clues in the text where warranted. His explanation of the plagues allows for several of them to have natural causes (such as algae causing the Nile to look “red”), but guided in a supernatural way. Whereas I would have thought such an approach to belie a lack of faith, Garrett shows from the text and archeological history why this may very well be so. But he still holds to the miraculous character of the Exodus as a whole.
He covers many textual problems and doesn’t hesitate to show a Christian application or Christological takeaway from the text. As noted in his treatment of 2 Cor. 3 above, Garrett has a mind for how the later Scriptural authors interact with Exodus. This concern benefits pastors and teachers who necessarily approach the text from a canonical and wholistic framework. At times, however, I wish he would say more, or deal with additional questions, such as the NT book of Hebrews placing the incense altar in the holy of holies, or Acts mentioning Moses’ eloquence in seeming contrast to the Exodus account. But all in all, this text provides a thorough and up to date, treatment of the book of Exodus that is worthy of close study.
The book does suffer from a lack of charts, maps and diagrams, however. I guess a commentary cannot be expected to furnish these. But when studying Exodus, in particular, such amenities would prove useful. Still his discussion of the route of the Exodus and the design of the Tabernacle is able to be followed without the help of diagrams.
I highly recommend this commentary for pastors and teachers everywhere. It will prove to be a reliable guide and a catalyst for theologically rich, exegetically informed appreciation of the Biblical text.
About the Author:
Duane A. Garrett (PhD, Baylor University) is the John R. Sampey Professor of Old Testament Interpretation and Professor of Biblical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and has served as a pastor and missionary. He coauthored A Modern Grammar for Biblical Hebrew and coedited the NIV Archaeological Study Bible, as well as having written numerous Old Testament commentaries.
This book was provided by Kregel Academic. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.