EXODUS VOL 3 HB (Word Biblical Commentary) Hardcover – 1 Jan 2010
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Unfortunately, the eager reader will also find considerable weaknesses. Although he mentions many views on the various issues, he rarely interacts with them. When he does, it often takes the form of simply dismissing the relevance of source critics for his purposes, rather than stating whether such views are probable or improbable, and if so, why. Also, his actual "Comment" sections are often woefully brief. More often than not, he groups three to six verses together, mentioning only one or two very general things about them, and then moves on.
I have been helped by owning this commentary, particularly in finding ideas as to how to express what the text is saying. But if you want to really get a grasp on what is out there in Exodus, you will also need Enns, Sarna, and Childs (although the latter expresses a style that he has abandoned in recent years). Of course, even then you will still need a hefty amount of articles, etc, to really stay current (IVP's Dictionary of the Pentateuch is helpful). Durham's WBC by itself won't satisfy.
Of the Volumes in the Word Commentary that I've read or consulted, Durham's treatment of Exodus ranks among the best. One of Durham's greatest joys in preparing this commentary is the fact that he is required to make his own translation of the Hebrew text. His skill and enjoyment in this area certainly shine through as he jumps from wooden translations, to phrases that capture the spirit of the Hebrew (as opposed to the literal translation), with all his translation decisions explained in his translation notes. I learned more about Exodus than I expected from reading the translation and notes!
As for the commentary proper, I am pleased to find that John Durham is easily one of the most readable contributors in the Word Series--he seems to know when a point needs more explanation and when he's "beaten a dead horse." I was also pleased to find that Durham, a respected scholar in an academic setting, was able to briefly cover "Ivory Tower" theories about certain portions of text, but then have the wisdom to put such theories in their proper place. He often mentions an academic controversy or debate, but then does a great service to the reader by putting the debated portion of Scripture in its proper theological context.
This last point is perhaps the most valuable aspect of this commentary--the author never forgets the major theological themes and points in the book of Exodus. Whether the text is about Ten Plagues, Ten Commandments, Tabernacle Furniture, or rebellious Israelites, Durham always puts these portions of Scripture in context--theological and historical. He is one of a shrinking number of Old Testament authors that actually has respect for the textus receptus.
While this commentary has many strengths, it also has some disappointing weaknesses. The first among these is the absense of any New Testament applications. Durham begins by pointing out that Exodus is the third most quoted OT book in the New Testament (running behind Psalms and Isaiah), yet does not make the connections between the Testaments. Whether a portion of Scripture is quoted by Jesus, Paul, etc., or whether Messianic prophesies are apparent (Passover, the table in the Tabernacle, Moses' arms being supported in a crucifix position, etc.), Durham ignores it.
A second disappointed aspect of Durham's commentary is the amount of respect and credit (and space) he gives to source-criticism and "later editors" theories. At many points, it is very difficult to tell if Durham actually BELIEVES that some of the events recorded in Exodus actually happened. He clearly does not believe that Moses wrote the book, but he does believe that the Lord descended onto Mount Sinai, but he's not sure if the Tabernacle and furniture actually existed. It often seems as if Durham deliberately avoids taking a position on historical reliability and the like. If, in the Introduction, he stated that he is simply giving an overview of others' ideas (see Beasley-Murray's commentary on John), that would be one thing. However, Durham makes no such claim and the reader is left wondring where the author's religious convictions lie.
In all, this is a solid commentary on a difficult and diverse book of the Bible. While there are flaws, the book's merits far outweigh them. I recommend this book.
Someone with a working knowledge of Hebrew will benefit from his discussions of the Hebrew text and the meaning of various phrases. On the other hand, an understanding of Hebrew is not necessary for interacting with much of the material that Durham presents. He is quite thorough in his commentary on the specific passages of Exodus, while at the same time not getting bogged down in minutiae. His description of the construction of the tabernacle is both detailed and vivid and provides the reader with a good understanding of both the tabernacle structure and the symbolism of its various articles and furnishings. His discussion of the plagues and their significance is one of the best that I have come across.
A person possessing a working knowledge of Hebrew will benefit from his discussions of the Hebrew text and the meaning of various phrases. On the other hand, an understanding of Hebrew is not necessary for interacting with much of the material in the commentary. He is thorough in his commentary on the specific passages of Exodus, while at the same time not getting bogged down in minutiae. His description of the construction of the tabernacle is detailed and vivid and provides the reader with a good understanding of both the tabernacle structure and the symbolism of its various articles and furnishings. His discussion of the significance of the plagues is one of the best that I have come across.