“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.


HCSB Large Print Ultrathin Reference Bible in Brown Genuine Cowhide – a review

I received the HCSB large print ultrathin reference Bible in brown genuine cowhide from B&H Publishing in exchange for an honest review. I already own an edition of this particular Bible in black genuine cowhide (sometimes advertised as calfskin) and you can find a review of it here. The cover of the brown genuine cowhide edition is made from a very nice quality leather. It is much nicer than most genuine leather Bibles because it is actually made from cowhide, whereas most genuine leather Bibles are made from pigskin. The cowhide is supple and features a beautiful pebble grain that feels very pleasant in the hand. The leather is flexible, but not floppy or stiff. Some of this has to do with the material used to line the leather cover. The lining in this Bible is chocolate brown to match the cover. The color of the leather is a dark chocolate brown and is very attractive to the eye. The Bible feels and fits nicely in the hand. The dimensions of this Bible (9.50″ x 6.75″ x 1.25″) are similar to the Hendrickson line of Minister’s Bibles (9.8″ x 6.8″ x 1.2″). The spine features six raise hubs to give the Bible a classic look and feel. The cover also has a nice overlap of the pages, although not what one would call a semi-yap cover, but a nice overlap nonetheless. This edition of the HCSB large print ultrathin reference Bible features one chocolate brown ribbon marker.

The formatting of the Bible is well done. The font is large and easy to read. It is advertised as being a 10.5 point font. This edition features the words of Christ in red. Though this is not a wide margin Bible, it certainly has more room than most. On the outside of the page one finds 5/8 of an inch of space, while on the inside there is slightly less than ½ of an inch of space. It is enough room to write notes or cross references with a fine tip pen (ex. Pigma Micron 005).

The paper of this Bible is opaque, which makes it pleasant for reading. There is some bleed-through of text but its effect is minimized because of the line-matching of this edition. Line-matching refers to the lines of text being formatted so that text on the facing page is matched up text on the following page so there is not as much distraction from the bleed-through of text on subsequent pages. This Bible also features a smyth sewn binding, which adds significantly to the value, usability, and longevity of it.

This Bible features a concordance that is a condensed version of the one found in the HCSB Minister’s Bible. On each page one will find center column cross references. Personally, I still prefer the 95,000 cross references found in most NASB reference Bibles. The HCSB references are not as exhaustive but they are not sparse either. Each page features footnotes that discuss textual variations, alternate translations, historical and cultural details, and even cross references. A feature of most HCSB editions, including this one, is the bullet notes. The bullet notes lead one to a section in the back of the Bible which define different theological terms, names of individuals and places, and other significant biblical details.

I use the HCSB as my main Bible for preaching, study, and memorization. I have done so for over two years. I believe that it is accurate and readable translation. It is not enslaved to cultural trends or agendas. The HCSB has a translation oversight committee, which continually evaluates the accuracy and readability of the translation. I highly recommend the HCSB translation and also this high quality (but surprisingly affordable) edition of the HCSB.

Top of the List

If you were able to ask God for two things, what would they be? Proverbs says, “Two things I ask of You, don’t deny them to me before I die: Keep falsehood and deceitful words far from me. Give me neither poverty nor wealth; feed me with the food I need. Otherwise, I might have too much and deny you, saying, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or I might have nothing and steal, profaning the name of my God” (Prov. 30:7-9).1 He asked God to help him not to speak dishonestly and to moderate his financial state. It is very thought provoking that he asked God for these particular things.

Let’s unpack the author’s first request: divine enablement to speak truth. This is instructive for us. We know that honesty is addressed in command number nine, “Do not give false testimony against your neighbor” (Exod. 20:16). As the Lord was communicating the rules of His covenant relationship with Israel, He established the importance of honesty. The Lord wanted his people to be honest in how they did business (Lev. 19:35-36), how they testified in a judicial proceedings (Exod. 20:16; Deut. 19:15-18; Lev. 19:11b; Col. 3:9), and how they spoke (Prov. 12:22; 6:16-19; Eph. 4:25). Therefore, Agur (the author of Proverbs 30) asks the Lord to help him remain honest in his conduct and speech. The importance of honesty to God is clearly demonstrated throughout Scripture. Would it be in our list of requests to God? Do we value honesty and integrity in the same way the Lord does?

The second request relates to financial livelihood. Agur asked God to bless him with a “median” income. He saw the potential within (indwelling sin) to become self-sufficient and self-centered if he became wealthy. He knew that if he had too much materially he might deny the Lord. Agur also requested that God not allow him to be impoverished. He saw the potential in himself that if he was in poverty he might turn to stealing the property of others. Agur equated stealing with profaning the name of God. Therefore, he prays that the Lord will provide him with what he needs (v. 8b). He doesn’t want wealth or poverty because those might lead to sinful attitudes and actions. Agur asks the Lord to keep him from those temptations.

Each one of us face temptations to sin. The Scriptures say, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation he will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13). So, the temptations we face are not unique to us. But, the Lord promises us that he will provide us a way to escape the temptation, so that we don’t have to commit sin. The Lord desires that we be holy in our conduct, “For it is written, be holy, because I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:16). God works in our lives to enable us to do what he wants, “For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out his good purpose” (Phil. 2:13). What an amazing thought! Our God is actively working in the lives of his people to accomplish his purposes. This is powerful encouragement for every follower of Christ!

E.M. Bounds wrote, It is not great talents nor great learning nor great preachers that God needs, but people great in holiness, great in faith, great in love, great in fidelity, great for God—men always speaking holy words, living holy lives. These can mold a generation for God… Their lives and profoundest convictions were born in their [private time] with God… Every Christian who does not make prayer a mighty factor in his own life and ministry is weak as a factor in God’s work and is powerless to project God’s cause in this world.”2 Agur sought the Lord in prayer, so he might live in a way pleasing to him. How are we seeking the Lord in prayer, so we might live in a way pleasing to him?

1Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used The Holy Bible: Holman Christian Standard Version. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009).

2 Edward M. Bounds, Power through Prayer (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1999).

Review of the HCSB large print personal size reference Bible in genuine cowhide

I received the HCSB large print personal size reference Bible in brown genuine leather as a review copy from Broadman and Holman publishers. This edition features the same high quality characteristics that we have come to expect from Holman Bibles. There is a smyth sewn binding and decent quality Bible paper. The font is attractive and very readable. This particular edition is genuine leather, which is a high quality leather. It is a soft and supple leather that feels very nice in your hand. In my opinion you will not find a higher quality leather Bible for a better price than the ones that Broadman and Holman produces.

I also own the HCSB reference Bible and the HCSB large print reference Bible. The paper and they large print personal size reference edition is thinner and less opaque than the aforementioned mentioned reference editions. Also, the font in the personal size edition is different than the one found in the other HCSB reference editions. In my opinion the font in the personal size edition is no better or worse than the others, simply different. In regard to formatting, the personal size edition places the book, chapter, and verse marker in the header as opposed to the regular reference and large print reference editions, which place them in the footer. The personal size edition does not have line matching, so you are able to see “ghosting” from subsequent pages. Ultimately, the bleed through has more to do with the Bible paper than with line matching. The HCSB reference and large print reference editions were formatted by 2Krogh AS in Hojbjerg, Denmark. 2Krogh AS utilized a unique but highly readable font, along with line matching.

In regards to formatting, the personal size edition places the book, chapter, and verse marker in the header as opposed to the reference and the large print reference editions, which place them in the footer. The personal size edition does not have line-matching, so you are able to see “ghosting” from subsequent pages. The cross-references are found at the end of the verse, rather than in the center column. Personally, I prefer center column references but it is not a huge negative for me. I know that some strongly preferred having no cross-references at all. As in every HCSB edition you will find textual notes in the footer. In relation to the paper, it appears to be off-white Bible paper. It does not have a bright white look that reflects light, which I find to be a positive to this edition.

The personal size edition features only the marker, which is brown (matching the brown leather cover). The usual color maps that are found in most Holman Bibles are used here as well. The Bible contains the bullet note definitions, a sort of mini counselors index (“where to turn when…”), and a topical concordance. The cover is a genuine cowhide and is certainly a higher quality at this price point than you will find elsewhere. It is a chocolate brown and has a nice grain to it. On the spine you will find six raised house, which give it an elegant traditional look.

I consider this to be a beautiful Bible and worthy of consideration. I received the HCSB large print personal size reference Bible from B&H Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review.

Building Relationships for Christ

As human beings you have been created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27) and if you know Christ as Savior you are a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). As a Christian you are a child of God (Eph. 1:5) and an ambassador for Christ (2 Cor. 5:18-20). You are a part of God’s plan to reconcile mankind to Himself. You take part in this plan as you reflect Christ’s Lordship and grace in your life, and as you share the gospel of Jesus Christ with unbelievers (2 Cor. 2:14-17; 1 Cor. 1:21). These are all wonderful things! We rejoice in the Lord for how He has blessed us!

In life we interact with people on a continual basis. Some people we see over and over again. Others we see in passing once in awhile. We interact with people in the checkout at Wal Mart, at a grocery store, at a gas station, or at a coffee shop. How do we view these opportunities? How are we praying for them? Each day we should be praying that the Lord will give us opportunities to share with others about God’s incomparable love, grace, and mercy. Such a heart attitude is demonstrating humble submission and yieldedness to the Lord. God desires every believer to have such an attitude toward Him. The question for each of us is, “Is my heart completely yielded to the Lord?” Only you and the Lord know the answer to this question.

As we interact with people are we praying for wisdom and the words to speak to them? God desires to use us to speak the riches of His incomparable grace to lost people. Paul said, “This grace was given to me – the least of all the saints – to proclaim to the Gentiles the incalculable riches of the Messiah” (Eph. 3:8).1 Do we view sharing the gospel in this way? Sharing the good news about what Jesus Christ has done for humanity is an indescribable privilege! Can you imagine if each one of us shared the gospel with one person once per week? Let’s say that means forty different people hear the gospel each week! Wow, that sounds incredible, doesn’t it?! This is what God desires to use us to do. He has called us to share the message of the gospel.

Do we view sharing the message of Christ as a burden or a blessing? When our hearts and minds are right we view it as a blessing. My prayer is that we will be rejoicing in the truth of the gospel and joyfully sharing its message with those we interact with each day. As we do this our hearts will be more in tune with the Lord and we will experience His joy in our lives. Furthermore, God may open people’s eyes to the gospel and save their souls! This is what we pray for – unbelievers to be saved.

I am encouraging each of us to be praying for the salvation of unbelievers. I am encouraging each of us to be praying for opportunities to share the gospel with at least one person this coming week. I will be praying for you and I ask you to pray for me as well. I am looking forward to hearing what God will do in us and through us this coming week.

1Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, HCSB®, and Holman CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers. The Holy Bible: Holman Christian Standard Version. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009).

Renewed Focus

Last week I touched on the subject of the U.S. not being a major player in the end times and how it appears to be in decline currently. Scripture is always our guide in every area of life and our response to this decline is to make disciples. This week I am going to dive into what it means biblically to make disciples.

The word “disciple” is from the Greek word μαθντης which means, “learner, pupil” (BDAG). So, how do we as Christians make disciples of Jesus Christ? We have to start with the gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-4; Rom. 3:21-26). Unbelievers need to hear the gospel from believers (2 Cor. 5:16-21). When God opens the eyes of an unbeliever to the truth of the gospel and he/she believes in Jesus Christ, then begins the process of teaching the new believer the truths of God’s Word. Christ mentioned in Matthew 28 that a part of making disciples is, “teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you” (v. 20). This teaching begins as soon as someone repents and believes in Christ and it continues until the believer stands before Christ in heaven.

One thing that opposes this is an aversion to ongoing learning and study. People are busy and do not feel as though they have the time to be learning and studying. The danger in this thinking is that a lack of knowing and understanding God’s Word makes a believer susceptible to false teaching and sin. When believers lack knowledge of God’s Word or misunderstand it, what they teach others will be passing on a distortion of the truth. It is so important that we read, study, and learn God’s Word so that we have an accurate understanding of who God is and what He expects from us. Otherwise, it is like we are walking in the dark.

Every Christian is called to make disciples (Matt. 28:19-20). All Christians are ambassadors of Christ (2 Cor. 5:16-21). It is so important to make sure that we share an accurate gospel and that we teach biblical truths accurately. Paul urged Timothy to watch his life and his teaching because ungodly living and false teaching negatively affect the teacher and the learners (1 Tim. 4:16). Therefore, every believer needs to consistently attend church, be serving, and be learning. Every believer needs to be consistently spending time communing with the Lord in prayer and by reading God’s Word (i.e. devotions). If Christians allow these crucial aspects of the Christian life to be crowded out by other things, we will be worse for it spiritually and so will the church now and in the future.

So, where are you in this conversation? Are you uncertain of where you stand with God? Are you a newer Christian who wants to learn and grow in your relationship with Christ? Maybe you have been a Christian for a while and you think this stuff is not for you – reading, learning, being trained, and studying God’s Word? Maybe none of these descriptions fit you. God has given pastors to teach you and help equip you to serve Christ and make disciples for Him. This takes time, self-discipline, and commitment. It requires prioritizing one’s relationship with the Lord, His church, and ministry for Him. My prayer is that none of us would coast spiritually but that we will put Christ first in our lives and that His priorities would be our priorities.

Current Events

Have you ever been taught that the United States is not a major player in the end times?  It is true, there is no clear evidence that the United States is a major player in the end times.  I remember the first time I heard this teaching and it was hard to fathom!  How is it possible that the U.S. does not have a major role in the end times?  The U.S. is the world’s sole super power, how can it not be mentioned?  Well, times are changing.  The United States has incurred a national debt once thought to be unimaginable (over 17 trillion dollars and rising everyday)!  Our nation’s debt is growing by $1.79 billion per day!  Some estimate that by 2018 our national debt will be over $20 trillion!  It is obvious that no one can continue to spend more that one’s income indefinitely.  Beyond the financial issues is the reality that the U.S. military is being downsized to a pre-World War II level and is said to, by some, to be incapable of responding to known threats in the world.  So, even as I write this the United States is becoming less influential in the world.

    How do we respond as Christians living in a nation which is changing morally, spiritually, and governmentally?  We could stick our heads in the sand and pretend it isn’t happening.  Or we could throw our hands up in the air and despair.  We could try to change things through political means.  What does Scripture say the mission of the church is?  Jesus gave us the mission of the church prior to His ascension.
    Matthew 28:18-20
Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of
    the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (HCSB)
    So, what does the mission of the church and Matthew 28:18-20 have to do with each other?  The answer is disciplemaking is the mission of the church.  The church is to respond to the chaos in the world by making disciples of Jesus Christ.  Why do we do that?  Isn’t there something else?  Well, we need to be praying people who are utterly dependant upon the Lord.  But, yes, the church is to continue to make disciples and never to lose sight its mission to do so.  If the church does a multitude of other things but does not seek to make disciples according to God’s Word, it has abandoned its mission.
    Next week I am going to expand upon this subject.  I am going to address what Scripture says about disciplemaking in my next article.

A Commentary on Judges and Ruth by Robert Chisolm, Jr. a review

Kregel Publishers has released a new series of commentaries entitled the Kregel Exegetical Library. One of those volumes is a commentary on Judges and Ruth by longtime Dallas Theological Seminary professor Dr. Robert Chisolm, Jr. In my seminary studies I used Chisholm’s book, A Workbook for Intermediate Hebrew, which was a very useful tool for Hebrew studies. Chisholm uses a method he terms a, “literary-theological” method (p. 14). He employs a three-step process to analyze the biblical text: (1) he studies the text to discover the exegetical main idea of each major literary unit; (2) he moves outside of the literary unit to discover the theological main idea being expressed; and (3) he seeks to discover the homiletical main idea which would be preached to the contemporary listener (p. 14). The author acknowledges that his present work does not interact with the most recent scholarly discussion of Judges and Ruth because his research was complete in 2010, and submitted to the publisher (p. 15).

The commentary itself is laid out very well. Chisholm begins each book with a lengthy introduction. The Judge’s introduction is 88 pages long! In his introduction he discusses authorship, dating of the books and events, structure of the books, and a list of useful commentaries and resources. The author also gives in-depth background on the main characters of each book, which is helpful in understanding the text. Before the author concludes the introduction shares the findings of his three-step interpretive process. Chisholm shares the exegetical idea, theological idea, and homiletical idea for each literary unit in the book of Judges and Ruth. He refers to this as: “(1) thematic analysis; (2) theological analysis; and (3) contemporary application” (p. 86). I appreciate Chisholm’s thorough exegetical and theological work that results in contemporary application. Such an approach keeps the sermon grounded in biblical text.

When moving to the biblical commentary of each book one finds Chisholm’s own slightly revised translation from the N.E.T. Bible (p. 109 footnote)from. The biblical commentary is broken into “chapters” which are the literary units or sermon messages in Judges and Ruth. The author takes the books section by section and exposits the text. He does not delve into text critical issues but rather assumes that the text should be read in a straightforward manner. This means when one reads this commentary he’ll find a commentator who approaches the text with care and respect. Chisholm has provided thorough footnotes with extensive information and related resources.

This commentary is a well-done example of conservative evangelical scholarship. Chisholm has provided a useful resource for pastors and teachers alike. It will be a resource I use repeatedly. I received this book from Kregel Publishers in exchange for an honest review (CBD, Amazon).