I greatly enjoyed studying and teaching through the Book of Exodus recently, and I hope that I’ll get to do it again soon. If interested, I wrote a series of blog posts on Exodus that are available on this site. I’ve compiled a list of five commentaries that most helped me study and teach the book. Also, don’t miss Waltke’s Old Testament Theology, it is very helpful, but not a commentary on Exodus so I left it off the list. I hope and pray that these resources will help you study and teach others about the God who brings Exodus to His people.
Echoes of Exodus by Alastair J. Roberts and Andrew Wilson
Before I get to the list of commentaries, there is one book that you should not be without when studying Exodus: Echoes of Exodus. It’s a short and easy read that will be well worth your time and money. I am certain that it will not only illuminate your study of Exodus, but it will also inform your understanding of Scripture as a whole. Really, it’s one of the best Biblical theology books I’ve read. Read and be built up!
1. Exodus by T. Desmond Alexander (Apollos Commentary)
T. Desmond Alexander is a favorite Biblical scholar of mine so it’s no surprise I have his new commentary on Exodus at the top of the list (see other blog and book reviews). This is a large technical commentary, but the helpful format also makes devotional reading an option. Every section has (1) a translation by Alexander, (2) notes on the transliterated Hebrew text (I do wish the Hebrew was not transliterated), (3) a substantial discussion about the ‘format and structure’ (discusses literary structure, source criticism, and ANE parallels), (4) detailed commentary on verses, and (5) explanation. If one wanted to read the commentary devotionally or for quick study then you can just skip to the ‘explanation’ section. Sections 1-4 is where the technical discussions reside. Alexander’s strength lies in Biblical theology, which includes Old Testament connections and some valuable insights about connections to the New Testament and Christ. He is also very good at bringing out key theological themes. I do wish he spent less time on discussing source criticism (JEDP and the like) and more time on literary structure and devices. It is ironic to me that there is such technical discussion on source criticism, yet the notes on the Hebrew text are transliterated (I even find it harder to understand transliterated Hebrew, but that’s a personal preference). These minor critiques aside, Alexander’s commentary is the all-around best commentary available for preaching/teaching Exodus and would be valuable for academic work as well.
2. Exodus by Terrence Fretheim (Interpretation)
An outstanding theological commentary on Exodus that is intimately tied to the text. This is the commentary that I learned the most from. I would have this commentary as ‘number 1’ on the list if it was longer (only 350 pages) and had a little more discussion of the Hebrew text, but it’s still a must for studying Exodus. Fretheim really develops ‘creation theology’ throughout the book: the cosmic scope of Exodus, re-creation, de-creation, chaos, etc. This theological thread really opened up the book for me. I disagree with Fretheim’s view of God’s changeability that he brings up throughout the commentary and I would caution laymen to understand that his view is not the major view of scholars or Christians throughout church history. This caution understood, all in all, this is a great commentary. Just be sure not to rely on this commentary alone. I am confident that you will grow in your understanding of the book and your love for God by using this commentary. Highly recommended for all!
3. Exodus by Douglas Stuart (NAC)
A solid evangelical commentary on Exodus. The exegesis in Stuart’s commentary is a mixture of some technical discussion combined with less-technical exposition. Stuart sees Exodus 6:6-8 as the verses that sum up the theological message of the book. Scattered throughout the commentary are several ‘excursuses’ that are outstanding discussions of some tough issues in Exodus: the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, slavery and slave laws, the plagues, lex talionis, etc. Additionally, Stuart has a great section on the ‘theology of Exodus’ in the intro to the commentary which covers several themes: salvation, knowledge of God, covenant people, promised land, presence of God, the Law, and more. If you’re looking for an inexpensive commentary with consistent exegesis and good theological reflection then this one is for you. I recommend this commentary especially for laymen, small group study, and preachers/teachers.
4. Exodus by Peter Enns (NIVAC)
Probably one of the stronger commentaries in the NIVAC series and probably the most versatile on the list (scholars to laymen can benefit from it). The format of the commentary is simple and easy to use. Each block of text is discussed in three sections: Original Meaning, Bridging Contexts, and Contemporary Significance. Being an “Application Commentary”, Enns certainly moves to the application of the Biblical text more than others on this list. Thus, it would be a great commentary for devotional study or for preachers and teachers having trouble drawing application from the text. Although the application section of the commentary is good, Enns is at his strongest in the actual exegesis and interpretation of the book. In the commentary, these sections are the ‘Original Meaning’ and ‘Bridging the Contexts’. I found these sections much better than the last section ‘Contemporary Significance’. Enns follows Fretheim’s interpretation of Exodus in a lot of ways, especially the “creation” themes. I think scholars, students, preachers/teachers, and laymen would all benefit from this commentary.
5. Exodus by John Durham (WBC)
This is the most technical commentary on the list. Each section has its own translation, notes on the text (word studies, grammar, syntax, and textual criticism), form/structure discussion, commentary, and explanation of the text. The notes on the text are particularly helpful for those who are studying the Hebrew text. The form/structure section can sometimes be helpful when Durham focuses on the narrative flow of the story, but when he gets into the discussion of source criticism it seems that Durham is too confident in what is mostly conjecture. Durham is strong on two fronts: (1) in seeing and explaining narrative connections and (2) reflecting on the theology of the text. If you were cut for time, then reading the commentary and explanation sections would suffice for deep study. One could even just read the explanation section for an overview of each pericope. Being more technical than other commentaries on the list, I recommend this commentary to seminary students and the more academic-minded pastor/teacher.