Book Review – A Commentary on Exodus by Duane Garrett

I have worked my way through several of the Kregel Exegetical Library Commentaries in the past few months – this time I turn my attention to Duane Garrett’s commentary on Exodus. Garrett is a pretty well known scholar who teaches at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He specializes in OT interpretation and has written quite a bit on Hebrew grammar and historical background.

This commentary is aimed at pastors, though its not without its benefits for those who have a scholarly bent. He provides a verse by verse exegetical and theological study of this immensely significant book. As it is well known, Exodus serves as a major foundation for Old Testament (and New Testament) theology, perhaps it even serves a more significant role than even the call of Abraham or any other event in Genesis!

There are already several good commentaries on Exodus, so what makes this commentary stick out? First off, he spends a lot of time (though he calls it a short amount of time) giving the reader an introduction of Egyptian history, culture, language, and geography. Second he focuses on the state of scholarly arguments regarding historical questions. For instance, the dating of exodus, the genealogy of Moses, the location of the Red Sea, and the Location of Sinai. Third, he pays extra attention to the poetry found in Exodus. Fourth, he writes in such a way as to make this commentary useful for pastors and Bible teachers. This is especially evident in how he breaks up the commentary (Translation, Structure, Commentary, Theological Summary of Key Points). Finally, he writes this commentary from the position that Exodus is Christian literature. This might be controversial in some circles, but its part of our Christian canon, so it’s appropriate to read it that way.

I really appreciated the structure of the commentary section. The highlight for me was the Theological Summary of Key Points. As someone who preaches, I naturally gravitated towards these sections.

However this commentary is not without its drawbacks. He spends nearly 130 pages on historical background. Garrett concedes that most critical scholars tend to dismiss such historical issues as meaningless for the interpretation of Exodus. Now I don’t want to go that far, however I am a firm believer in the belief that our commentary should try to stick to the canonical form of the text and not get bogged down on issues behind the text. We should focus in on what God is saying through the words he has revealed to us, and not hang on the shifting sands of historical scholarship.

Despite, what I believe is an undue emphasis on behind the text issues, as opposed to textual issues, I found this commentary to be useful in helping me understand this significant biblical book. This book just confirmed for me that the Kregel Exegetical Library is a commentary set that is really worth collecting.

(Note: I received this commentary from the publisher in exchange for an impartial review.)
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