Echoes of Exodus: Tracing a Biblical Motif
Bryan D. Estelle
PO Box 1400
Downers Grove, IL 60515
ISBN: 978-0-8308-5168-3; $40.00; 2018
Most stories of all types have reverberations and insinuations from earlier tales. According to Bryan D. Estelle, professor of Old Testament at Westminster Seminary California, the Bible does as well. In his new 384 page softback, “Echoes of Exodus: Tracing a Biblical Motif,” the author works out the numerous ways the Exodus motif either explicitly surfaces, or softly whispers in the background, in both the Old and New Testaments. Though this volume is meticulous and scholarly, yet a thoughtful reader, with little to no seminary or technical education, can grasp the contents and profit from the time invested.
Estelle normally sticks to his goal between these covers. His aim is “to help readers grow in their “allusion competence,” especially in their ability to recognize scriptural allusions to the exodus motif” (2). From Genesis through Revelation the reader will gain loads of experience in having their “allusion competence” sharpened. A subtle, though not always obvious, aspect of his work is “to bridge a huge gulf that has been created between participationist and forensic descriptions of salvation” (7). Most of the time that “project” will be unnoticed or unnoticeable, though on rare occasions it will visibly come up for air.
In the first chapter, “Hermeneutical Foundations,” Estelle helpfully maps out the underlying approaches employed throughout the book, such as biblical intertextuality, evocation and influence, quotation, subtle citation, allusion, various forms of typology, symbols and allegory. This is a fairly technical chapter, and is beefed up by the closing chapter titled “Intertextuality”. It is likely some readers will find this material tedious, and may simply need to skip it and go straight for the meat-and-potatoes section. Those who stick around, though, will find the substance of the chapter beneficial.
The main course offered up in the book follows the Exodus pattern from Genesis to Revelation. Estelle dishes out plentiful helpings of Bible, explanation, and demonstration. The author shows the assorted ways the Exodus, whether openly or obliquely, shapes specific passages. He also carefully exhibits how the theme changes and grows: where the looking to the past turns the corner to looking to the future. Though chapters two through eleven, where all of this is cooked up, have little sparkle, nevertheless it’s a full and nutritious meal. In the end, the person who sticks with it will find themselves very satisfied.
If there was a bone in the banquet, it was the needless intrusion of the two kingdoms doctrine. It came out of nowhere and went nowhere. It added nothing to the manuscript, and its absence would have been utterly undetected. One morsel that could have been thickend and would have enhanced the savory flavor of the book would have been if the author had spent time unpacking Romans 8.18-23, “the continuity between the former-world and the world-to-come.” Estelle keeps mentioning “the world-to-come” but never runs out with what that means, or how beautifully it fits the Exodus motif. I’m specifically thinking of how this cosmos has been redeemed by the redeemer, and will – like the Redeemer’s people – be restored, renovated, refurbished, and renewed! But, instead, he dismisses the subject as “too broad a question to be entered on here” (283.).
“Echoes of Exodus” was a delicious feast. Not only does it lend itself to academic classes, but it is also ideal for personal enrichment. The author recommends “reading from beginning to end slowly and carefully in order to discern the flow of the argument” (16), and so do I. The money you use to snatch up a copy will be well worth it.
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).