Word Biblical Commentary: Exodus
Prices for book: Word Biblical Commentary: Exodus
Book ISBN: 9780849902024
Author(s): John I. Durham
Document type: Trade Cloth
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This volume is certainly required reading for an in-depth study of Exodus, but it is far from the only reading one will have to do to gain an informed knowledge of the text (this is true of every commentary, but especially true of Durham). Durham has many excellent points and is very quotable, particularly in the "Form/Structure/Setting sections." He interacts with a wide range of scholarship, which is helpful when doing research and trying to track down sources. His rendering of the Hebrew is also very good, and often more can be gleaned from his translation notes than in the actual "Comment" section.
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.
D. Becker (Amazon.com)
After thoroughly enjoying Gordon Wenham's commentary on Genesis, also part of the Word Biblical Commentary series, I had great expectations of John Durham's commentary on Exodus. However, I was disappointed. Durham has almost no discussion of the historical background of the story and little on the literary structures within the text. He focuses almost entirely on his translation of the text and, frankly, as a Hebrew reader and speaker I find his translation extremely inelegant.
Still, the commentary provides some interesting insights and excellent bibliographic material.
Gil Student (Amazon.com)
Thorough Commentary on Exodus
John I. Durham is a professor of Hebrew and Old Testament at Southeastern Baptist Seminary in North Carolina and the author of many scholarly works on Old Testament studies, including this volume in the Word Biblical Commentary Series.
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.
Matthew Gunia (Amazon.com)
Word Biblical Commentary -- Exodus
John Durham has provided a commentary in keeping with the rich tradition of the Word Biblical Commentary series. This 516 page commentary of Exodus presupposes the divine nature and inspiration of the text. While Durham gives information about sources of the finished text (Source Criticism), he approaches the text of a "Canonical" method, dealing with the text as it has come to us in its current form. His emphasis is on extracting the theological meaning of the text as opposed to defending or debunking various theories about the historicity of the book or particular events within it. For example, Durham doesn't get caught up in the debate about where the Red Sea was, or if this was a real historical event. He focuses on the meaning of that event for Israel, and the latter Christian community that would also consider the event apart of their faith heritage. Durham uses his own translation which provides a hosts of insights about the original language uses in the canon. This book will be a valuable resource for scholars who are searching for a reliable example of Canonical Criticism of Exodus. It will also be helpful for the pastor or Bible teacher who seeks greater theological understanding of Israel and her dramatic beginnings.
Donald Y. Gordon (Amazon.com)
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