“A Commentary on Exodus” by Duane A. Garrett [A Review]

I received A Commentary on Exodus by Duane A. Garrett from Kregel Publishers in exchange for an honest review. First of all I have to say that I really like this series of exegetical commentaries. I previously reviewed A Commentary on Judges and Ruth by Robert B. Chisolm and found that to be extremely well done also. In the near future I plan to purchased the three volume Psalms commentary by Allen Ross. Garrett’s Exodus commentary begins with an extensive introduction which addresses documentary hypothesis (JDEP – which he dismisses), date of authorship, Egyptian history, Canaanite history, and other “debated” subjects (the Red Sea, plagues, etc…).

In the chapters that follow, Garrett digs into the biblical text section-by-section and verse-by-verse. He begins each section of verses with a brief introduction, followed by his own English translation of the Hebrew text, commentary, and concluded with a “Theological Summary of Key Points.” There are also plenty of original language, exegetical footnotes found on the pages of this commentary. Throughout the chapters, in pertinent sections, Garrett provides tables to highlight events occurring in the text; ex. the twelves miracles of Exodus (pp. 271, 293).

The commentary also delves into the nature of the “twelve miracles” as Garrett refers to them (traditionally known as the “twelve plagues”). The historical, cultural background shared on these pages (along with the dispelling of some unlikely theories) is worth the entire commentary. Garrett highlights the fact that there is not always a clear connection between the miracles and a defeat of specific Egyptian deities (p. 301). We know that YHWH demonstrated Himself sovereign over the Egyptian gods through the miracles and the exodus. Garrett demonstrates that point here, “When a nation is defeated, its gods are defeated” (p. 301).

Garrett discusses dating the exodus and the location of the sea crossing. Anyone familiar with the variety of scholarly views on these topics (and the whole book for that matter) will know that there are early and late date proposals. In regard to the location and identity of the Sea of reeds, we know there are varying opinions. Garrett posits that the pillar of cloud/fire was not as awe inspiring as ordinarily thought because the Israelites did not look to it as providing safety from Pharaoh’s army, nor did Pharaoh’s army seem terrified by it (pp. 386-388). Some is this is conjecture on the author’s part. Clearly the nation of Israel as a whole were not confident that the presence of the pillar of cloud/fire would ensure their deliverance, but there is no indication that the Egyptians were relatively unimpressed by it. It appears to be an argument from silence since there is no clear textual indication either way about the appearance. It is interesting to consider Garrett’s hypothesis as he suggest contemporary application, “Perhaps we, too, can have a great work of God in our midst and not recognize it” (p. 388). I cannot dogmatically suggest Garrett is wrong since there is no textual evidence either way, other than the pillar kept the army at bay.

The formatting of the book is very well done and is easy to follow. The author’s arguments and commentary are presented very well and are clearly thought out. Any pastor, student, or teacher/professor will find this particular commentary on Exodus to be a very well done and useful resource. The volumes of this commentary series that have been released thus far are of scholarly depth but would not be over the head of those teaching Sunday School or a small group in a local church setting. I highly recommend this present volume of the Kregel Exegetical Library.

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