Friday, December 22, 2017
"Exodus" by T. Desmond Alexander. A Review
Exodus (Apollos Old Testament Commentary Series)
T. Desmond Alexander
PO Box 1400
Downers Grove, IL 60515-1426
ISBN: 978-0-8308-2502-8; $45.00; July 2017
Exodus can be a rather daunting biblical book. From the harshness and inhumanity of the beginning chapters, to the scourges, through the evacuation, up to the heights of Sinai, and climaxing in the splendor of the kavod of YHWH (the glory of the LORD) filling the tent; the reader is taken from a veritable grave through a resurrection of sorts, and on to an ascension. How in the world can a preacher or Bible teacher keep it all together if they are taking their congregation through Exodus? T. Desmond Alexander, senior lecturer in biblical studies and director of postgraduate studies at Union Theological College in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and author, has done painstaking work in his new 708 page hardcover commentary, “Exodus”. This volume is another installment in the Apollos Commentary Series. It is ideal for preachers, teachers and Bible scholars.
The work begins with all of the customary niceties of a worthy commentary; some 33 pages of preliminary material covering the literary setting, canonical context, structure, authorship, and so forth. Alexander makes clear that throughout the tome he will take note of source-analysis proposals on the various pericopes in Exodus, not because he agrees with them, “but rather to caution readers against the exaggerated claims of critics who rely overly on these to exegete the text” (13), which he accomplishes consistently from beginning to end. Further, he affirms a double layer of authorship to Exodus, the original material composer and the later editor “responsible for shaping the MT of Exodus as we now know it” (14). By the time the reader finishes the entry-level material, it is clear that Alexander has shown all of the cards in his hand, and no presuppositional surprises are lurking around the corner.
After the prefatory remarks, “Exodus” runs along through all forty of the biblical chapters sequentially, breaking segments down into subdivisions. The format dependably walks through an orderly pattern. Alexander will introduce the larger picture of each subdivision with an overview. Then as he delves into a given passage he first presents his own translation. Once the translation is accomplished he points out various anomalies or lexical issues or translational distinctions in the text. Next he looks over the form and structure, noting the ways that source-analysis proposals have handled it, and their weaknesses. Afterward there are the explanations and observations that walk through a given episode step by step. Finally, the author explains the import and value of the passage and occasionally gives homiletical or didactic help. Two supplemental, beneficial and in-depth excurses surface in these pages and they cover the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, and the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread. I read these hundreds of pages with the eye of a preacher and pastor. By the time I finished reading I felt that if I was about to do a Bible class or a sermon series on Exodus, this voluminous exposition would necessarily be part of my “grunt-work” for preparation. It lends itself to scholarly discussions, homiletical deliberations, and personal developments.
“Exodus” by Alexander is a huge tool that will give any worker in the Lord’s vineyard a big help. My only real beef with the material was the way the Sabbath was dealt with, since the author leans more to the side of D.A. Carson than my traditional Reformed position. Beyond that, this opus would make a fabulous gift for your favorite seminarian, pastor or Bible teacher. Seminary and University libraries should snatch up a copy as well. And it would be invaluable for the reader who is simply desiring to grow deeper in their comprehension of Exodus. I highly recommend this book.
Thanks to IVP Academic for providing, upon my request, the free copy of the book used for this review. The assessments are mine given without restrictions or requirements (as per Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255).
A copy of the book may be purchased here: "Exodus"