Review: Exodus Old and New

Exodus Old and New (Essential Studies in Biblical Theology), L. Michael Morales. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2020.

Summary: A study of the Exodus theme from its anticipation with Abraham, to the exodus from Egypt, the prophesied second exodus and the new exodus of Jesus the Messiah.

The story of the exodus of Israel from Egypt has been an inspiration for three millenia. L. Michael Morales also shows how the exodus is one of the most significant themes running through scripture. Allusions to the exodus may be found from Genesis to Revelation. In fact the themes of both exile and exodus are evident in Genesis, in the life of Abraham who comes up out of Egypt, and Jacob and his family going down into exile in Egypt.

In Part 1, he develops the exodus theme in Israel’s deliverance from Egypt. The hardening of Pharoah’s heart lead to the glorification of God above all. The great serpent is defeated, first in the signs, and then the passage through the Red Sea. The Passover leads to the deliverance of the first born sons of Israel from a plague that otherwise would strike then down. Moses serves as the pattern of the servant who leads God’s people out of exile. He also traces the cultic pattern of expiation, consecration, and fellowship in the offerings at the tabernacle. His discussion of angels and the day of Atonement was illuminating: the entry into the Holy of Holy between the two angels on the atonement cover, dealing with the sin of Eden, the exile from which involved passage between two angels guarding Eden. Likewise he notes the two angels at the empty tomb of Jesus.

Redemption from Egypt, consecration at Sinai, and the consummation of the fellowship between God and Israel on Mount Zion with the building of the temple is followed by apostasy, and eventually exile. The prophets who spoke during this period spoke of a second exodus leading to a renewed consecration and a renewed relationship with God. The return from Babylon fulfills this in part. But there is the mysterious character of the servant, sometimes identified as Israel, sometimes as Israel personified in a person, one who would suffer, and redeem.

Part Three explores the identity and work of the Servant, who is revealed to be Jesus. He is the Passover lamb. He passes through the water of baptism to forty days in the wilderness. His death is referred to as an “exodus.” In his resurrection, he leads his new people, formed by his Spirit into a new holy temple, into the new creation.

Morales does a wonderful service of showing the coherence of scripture as a single, unfolding story. The diagrams in the book crystallize the patterns to which he calls attention. One marvels that Israel’s exodus points to ours and Moses the servant points to Jesus our servant, and that the lamb slain on Passover points to the final Passover Lamb. Morales builds up these patterns throughout the book until we see how all of them answer in Christ.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Review: Echoes of Exodus

echoes of exodus

Echoes of ExodusBryan D. Estelle. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2018.

Summary: Traces the exodus motif from creation, through the paradigmatic event, to its later usage, culminating in the pilgrimage of the church as the people of God and the realization of the exodus promises in the new Jerusalem.

The exodus story is a compelling narrative that has shaped the Jewish people, Christians, and particularly peoples in slavery and oppression. It is a story of God raising up a deliverer, demonstrating his power in plagues, leading them out of the land following Passover and the death of Egyptian firstborn, the passage through the Red Sea, where God wars against the Egyptians, the wilderness wanderings, Sinai, testings, and finally after one generation dies, the entry into the land of promise and eventual worship on the mountain of Jerusalem. This story echoes through the pages of scripture, alluded to and transformed as the saving purpose of God works through the periods of judges, kings, exile and return, and the coming of Christ, his death and resurrection, the birth of the church as a new people of God, on pilgrimage, awaiting the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem.

Many of us, as we’ve read through scripture notice the ways the story of exodus recurs. What Bryan D. Estelle does is trace the exodus motif throughout scripture and how it is appropriated and developed by later biblical writers–the psalmists, Isaiah, the exilic and post-exilic writers, and the New Testament writers of the gospels and Acts, Paul, Peter, and the Revelation. Estelle describes his purpose in this study as follows:

The biblical writers’ use of the exodus event is no mere repetition, no base recapitulation. Rather, it is taken up, transformed, “eschatologized,” and ultimately repackaged into a tapestry that mesmerizes readers and draws them into the drama of salvation. No biblical reader can walk away from the performance unchanged. To trace the allusions throughout this corpus of biblical literature is not only an exercise in curiosity and aesthetic entertainment. Consider the following questions: Why would Paul refer to the exodus event as “under the cloud”? Why would Peter address his church in language evocative of Israelite identity? Why would the prophets invoke the ancient creation combat motif to express theology if they were committed monotheists? What is the purpose of the “way of the Lord” language in Isaiah 40:1-11, arguably one of the most influential passages at Qumran and elsewhere in the Second Temple period? Why would Jesus himself, at the transfiguration, discourse with Elijah and Moses about his own exodon? What, we may ask, is the purpose of these allusions? Are they poetic influence, metaphor, citation, or something altogether different? My goal throughout this book is to help readers grow in their “allusion competence,” especially in their ability to recognize scriptural allusions to the exodus motif. (p.2)

Perhaps one of the major strengths of this work is the first chapter, on “Hermeneutical Foundations,” in which he engages in an extended discussion of intertextuality (further amplified in an appendix), and the various forms of allusion and the hermeneutics of a forward-looking typology. He notes that the biblical authors use direct quote, subtle citation, allusion, and echo or reminiscence (which may or may not be conscious). He also begins this work not with exodus, but with creation, showing how this is prologue, and how exodus arises out of the Genesis events. Throughout the work, he offers in depth discussions of texts that echo Exodus, none perhaps more illuminating than his extended treatment of Isaiah 40–55, and the Isaianic New Exodus to which Mark recurs.

Estelle looks beyond articulating the biblical theology of exodus. He writes, “My own project attempts to bridge a huge gulf that has been created between participationist and forensic descriptions of salvation.” Throughout the book he shows how exodus is both-and rather than either-or. He engages N.T. Wright’s proposal that the idea of Israel being in continued exile shaped the thought of the time as well as the ministry of Jesus. He argues instead that the idea of the new Exodus was dominant, one delivering from the bondage of sin and Satan, and forming a New Israel.

This is an important work that moves beyond typical cross-referencing, or prophecy and fulfillment discussions to a more nuanced study of how later writers and readers of scripture engage with the exodus material, and how this theme is basic to an understanding of the ways of God with his people. It is not simply a “mash-up” of exodus ideas, but takes seriously the understanding of exodus at each stage of the development of the biblical canon and the unfolding purposes of God. More than modelling careful, intertextual hermeneutics, Estelle gives us an exegetically, theologically, and devotionally rich study of this important biblical theme.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Review: The God Who Makes Himself Known

The God Who Makes Himself Known

The God Who Makes Himself Known (New Studies in Biblical Theology), W. Ross Blackburn. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2012.

Summary: A study of the theology of the book of Exodus contending that it reflects God’s missionary purpose to make himself known to the nations through Israel.

The God Who Makes Himself Known typifies the purpose of the New Studies in Biblical Theology of which it is a part. It both articulates the theological themes arising from the book of Exodus, and connects that to the theology of the Bible as a whole. In this case, Ross Blackburn explores how God’s concern to make himself known to the nations, which Blackburn describes as “missionary” is reflected in God’s dealings with Moses and the people of Israel in this book.

The organization of the book follows the biblical text of Exodus. I will highlight the key idea Blackburn elucidates in each portion:

Exodus 1:1-15:21. In the first part of Exodus, centering around 6:3, the focus is on the declaration, “I am the LORD” and what this means in the light of the deliverance from Egypt showing both the supremacy and redeeming character of God to the nations.

Exodus 15:22-18:27. This section focuses on the training of Israel in the wilderness, that they would “learn obedience” by which they reflect God’s supremacy in daily life, and their dependence upon the redeeming God to sustain them.

Exodus 19-24. These passages are concerned with the giving of the law. Blackburn reflects upon how Gospel precedes Law and how the Law is given to flesh out Israel’s calling to make known the name of the Lord to the nations in how they live, and what this reveals of the greatness and goodness of God.

Exodus 25-31. Blackburn looks at the instructions for the Tabernacle, showing the progression in the quality of the materials as one approaches the Holy of Holies, the parallel between Eden and Tabernacle that reveals God’s redemptive purpose, and God’s intention to dwell in the midst of his people.

Exodus 32-34. I found this section the highlight of Blackburn’s discussion as he explores the idolatry of the people, even while God is in the midst of giving instructions for his dwelling place in their midst. He highlights how Moses intercession is heard on the basis not of his attempt to substitute for the people’s sin but on the basis of God’s name and purpose, and how this will be jeopardized should God’s presence depart from them.

Exodus 35-40. Blackburn explores why we have this second description of the Tabernacle, downplayed by many commentators. He argues that the canonical order of this text after Israel’s sin shows how the Lord responds to sin, and how God restores a repentant people and so reveals his glory, greatness, and redeeming character to the nations as he indwells the Tabernacle.

The biggest question that may be raised is whether Blackburn is reading New Testament perspectives into Exodus. Certainly, he is reading Exodus in a New Testament light, but his argument of concerning the missionary heart of God revealed through Israel’s deliverance and wilderness encounters with God is one rooted in both the data of the text and a discussion of the canonical structure of Exodus. What Blackburn does is make an argument for the coherence of Exodus as a whole, as well as for its place within the canon.

This work strikes me as a helpful adjunct to exegetical study of Exodus, offering a larger framework useful for teaching or preaching the book as Christian scripture. While interacting with scholars discussing the meaning of texts like Exodus 34:6-7 and how God both forgives and punishes sin, Blackburn also offers insights into the lavish greatness and goodness of God that leads us into worship, and the life of faithful obedience against God’s gospel purposes for the nations. Like other monographs in this series, Blackburn exemplifies how scholarly rigor and devotional warmth may walk hand in hand.