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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Still fresh, but flawed, 11 July 2013
Gwilym Davies "kaiser_gwil" (London, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Exodus: Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching: 43 (Hardcover)
First, the positives. I've spent the last 12 months teaching the book of Exodus in a variety of forums, and I have little doubt that amongst the commentaries and study aids I've used, Fretheim is comfortably the most insightful. This is especially true with regard to what you might call his master insight: that Exodus is choc-full of creation theology. Fretheim's understanding is that the exodus out of Egypt (from the opening two chapters to the unfolding of the plagues and the unleashing of the forces of chaos at the Red Sea) is shot through with allusions to the opening chapters of Genesis. The same, he suggests is true of the Law - a kind of recreation. And the same is true of the Tabernacle. I'm completely persuaded that he is right. Indeed, I would want to push this insight even further than he does. And whilst more recent commentators have adopted much of this proposal, I still think he says it best.

Another strength is his willingness to skirt past critical issues and focus on the final form of the text. He indicates often enough that he accepts something like the documentary hypothesis, but he doesn't get bogged down allocating passages to one source or another. Indeed, most of his chapters begin with some sort of indication of where the critical problems lie, followed by a decision to move swiftly on and engage with the text itself. And this is good, because he is an able and sensitive reader - especially towards the beginning of this book. There were a number of occasions when I spotted things that Enns and Childs had not addressed, only to find them mentioned here. And of course, other things that I did not spot until this commentary pointed them out. It is fair to say that some of the best insights in later commentaries found their genesis here. So far, so good.

And so on to the negatives, of which there are two: first, Fretheim is basically an Open Theist ahead of time. Again and again, he uses Exodus to argue for an open view of God, a God who does not know the future and is dependent on human decision-making before he can advance with his plans. Theologically, I find this deeply troubling. But it is also exegetically crippling. Of course, we all have our theological frameworks, and one might object that if that is what the text says, Fretheim is right to let it speak. But on occasion it is patently not what the text says (how Fretheim manages to smuggle an open God into the plague narrative is beyond me). The result is that he is all too happy to leave the text behind and expound on this favored theological hobby-horse. This is most saddening when he arrives at Exodus 32-34. Here, at the climax of the whole book, Fretheim's theological agenda swallows up his exposition almost entirely. This is a great shame - especially because he is so insightful when he remembers not to leave Exodus behind.

The second negative is one that plagues almost all commentaries on Exodus, and is plagues this one too: the calibre of the exegesis deteriorates rapidly after Exodus 19, and terminally after Exodus 24. It is particularly ironic that this should be the case in Fretheim, given his insistence upon the importance of creation motifs in Exodus. Nowhere is creation theology stronger than in the instructions for the building and erection of the Tabernacle; nowhere is it more neglected. Exodus 35-40 gets 2 pages.

In summary, this is a thoroughly worthwhile addition to the library of anyone who is serious about studying Exodus, especially if read alongside a more conservative commentary like Enns or the very helpful little handbook on Exodus written by Andrew Sach and Richard Aldritt. But it should be handled with care, and you'll need to do your own work once you've ventured past Exodus 19.
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Exodus: Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching: 43
Exodus: Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching: 43 by Terence E. Fretheim (Hardcover - 1 Mar. 1991)
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