[K:JNWTS 28/2 (September 2013): 51]

Book Review

Victor P. Hamilton, Exodus. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2011. 752 pages. Cloth. ISBN: 978-0-8010-3180-0. $54.99.

Hamilton begins in promising and auspicious moment: he is aware of the exodus-eisodus paradigm. This, he alleges, establishes a “narrative” drama, as the title of his “Introduction” suggests (xxi). But the drama, in the commentary proper, ends up being flat and horizontal. There is no accounting for the self-disclosure of the supernatural God in Egypt, at the Reed Sea, in the Wilderness, at Sinai—no self-disclosure that is vertical or eschatological in nature. We are left with vapid abstractions about exegetical points (each chapter has exegetical notes before synthesis of the material) and very little possession of the glory-arena of the God who redeems. On the one hand, this is the horizon of most of Israel itself (hence, Hamilton cannot be totally at fault), but not all Israel is of Israel (even in Exodus). There is the eschatological drama of the supernatural plagues; the eschatological drama of the Passover night; the eschatological drama of the parting of the Sea; the eschatological drama of Moses suffused with the glory-cloud on the Mount; the eschatological drama of that same glory-cloud suffusing the tent of God dwelling with man.

Narrative theological advance (such as the “Introduction” [xxi-xxix] suggests) would have drawn us as readers into the inner sanctum of God’s heavenly sanctuary which Moses enters provisionally and the greater than Moses enters eschatologically (and consummately!). It is to this arena that the Lord God of the exodus-eisodus invites his elect sons and daughters. It is an invitation to a sojourn from bondage, to water-transition between the old and the new, to a wilderness itinerary in the land in between (where there is bread out of heaven, water out of the rock and cloud and fire for direction), to a mountain where God’s voice thunders his pure, holy, moral-ethical nature, to a tabernacle refuge where that same God of glory in-dwells the camp of his pilgrim people. Now that is a story which belongs to us as to the people of God of old. And it belongs to us because Christ lived it; Christ has made it his story; Christ has fulfilled it; Christ stands Son of his Father (Ex. 4:22; Hos. 11:1; Mt. 2:15) at the beginning and end of it pro nobis!

This will become the standard evangelical commentary on Exodus. It will not stimulate as B. S. Childs does. But it will not advance 768 pages of untheological, higher critical drivel as Dozeman does. But neither will it satisfy biblical theologians hungry for redemptive-historical, eschatological, horizontal and vertical narrative identification. For that, we must still wait.

— James T. Dennison, Jr.