Review: ‘A Commentary on Exodus’ by Duane A. Garrett

A review of Duane A. Garrett, A Commentary on Exodus, Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2014, 741 pages

This latest commentary to be released by Kregel comes from the veteran commentator Duane Garrett of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  Garrett is known for contributing solid works on Hosea and Joel, Amos, and several commentaries on Wisdom Books.  He is known for his balanced approach and careful exegesis.  This new work on the Book of Exodus helps to maintain his standards.

Kregel’s Exegetical Commentary series has already made a strong impact with works by Allen Ross on Psalms and Robert Chisholm on Judges/Ruth, and Garrett doesn’t let the side down.  His Exodus Commentary is a fine work of scholarship, being nicely “weighted” towards the first part of the Book (to ch. 24) for preachers.

The one hundred and thirty page Introduction runs through issues such as sources (the critical approach with which the author is unimpressed), the author’s own translation policy (which I found very helpful), historical background (including interesting cameos of Pharaohs), topography, and Book analysis.  Lengthy discussions of the date of the Exodus and the Yam Suph crossing are sandwiched in there.  After a detailed look at arguments for both an early 15th century movement and a late 13th century date, Garrett concludes that although the exodus certainly happened, it is better not to be dogmatic on a set date, or to repair to novel reinterpretations of Egyptian chronology to try to settle the matter.  This conclusion will not satisfy everybody (like this reviewer), but one cannot claim that the writer has not looked into the matter seriously.

Preachers will find that the coverage of the first chapters are full, the treatment of the miracles is ample, while the actual wilderness journey in chapters 15:22 to 19 is very well done.  Garrett keeps up the theme of movement through the section, as well as taking care to discuss different interpretations.  I found his comments on the Ten ‘Words’ good but a little slender.  Students wanting more reflective ethical evaluations will have to turn to Douma, Frame, or Rooker.  However, the coverage of the “Sinai Covenant’s” Book of the Covenant connects chapter 20 with chapters 21-24 in a way many will appreciate.

Another notable feature of this book are the several excursii on important places and themes. some of these are thought-provoking (e.g. whether the plagues ought to be interpreted as directed against the gods of Egypt).  Some of them a little disappointing (as when Garrett prefers not to believe the Nile was turned to blood), and some extremely good (like the lengthy discussion of the Hardening of Pharaoh’s heart).  There is also a (rather too compressed) appendix on ‘The Songs of Exodus” at the back.  Of note in the book is the author’s stress upon the theological contribution of Exodus to Israel’s identity.

One major complaint I have is the editorial decision to dispense with indices.  Who decided that? Further, the usefulness of the commentary would be greatly improved by an analytical Table of Contents. It is in these not unimportant areas that the publisher fails both author and reader.  Nevertheless, this is a commentary worth considering.  I would place it close to Douglas Stuart in the NAC series, and Walter Kaiser in the EBC, although for me Kaiser still takes the laurels.


6 thoughts on “Review: ‘A Commentary on Exodus’ by Duane A. Garrett”

  1. Paul, thanks for providing this brief review. I have been waiting for a solid examination of this commentary. Even with the minor complaints you have noted, I have been very pleased with Garrett’s previous works and I will likely obtain this commentary. I trust Kregel will continue this series with contributions from conservative and evangelical scholars.

  2. For you “Kaiser still takes the laurels.” That’s very interesting! Please explain why… over Stuart and Garrett.

    1. Well, as you can see, the choice is one of personal preference. I think it is based upon usability and familiarity. I find Kaiser’s way of writing well fitted to this Book. His endnotes are always illuminating without overloading the preacher.

      Stuart is a good writer and I like his commentary a lot. John Currid is also very good in my opinion.

      I think some of my preference comes from the measure of “safety” I feel when reading Kaiser (apart from his views of Gen. 1). This is not to say that I don’t read critical works. As a matter of fact I read them all the time; e.g. Brevard Childs should be high on any list on Exodus, but I want a commentary that is not going to quibble about the plagues etc.

      I have not studied Exodus like I have studied other OT Books (e.g. Genesis, Kings, Jeremiah, Daniel), so my familiarity with men like Enns and Mackay simply isn’t there. You may regard my closing remark as a purely throwawayl one. I liked Garrett but I like Kaiser more.

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