Review: Exodus (AOTC)

35160440T. Desmond Alexander is Senior Lecturer in Biblical Studies and Director of Postgraduate Studies at Union Theological College in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Alexander received a Ph.D. from The Queen’s University of Belfast and is author or coauthor of numerous books, including From Paradise to the Promised Land: An Introduction to the Pentateuch, From Eden to the New Jerusalem: An Introduction to Biblical Theology, and Exodus: Teach the Text. Alexander is also general editor of the widely used New Dictionary of Biblical Theology: Exploring the Unity and Diversity of Scripture and Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch. In his most recent work, Alexander has brought together decades of disciplined scholarship and devotion on Exodus to a growing and increasingly useful commentary series on the Old Testament.

Exodus: Apollos Old Testament Commentary begins with a 32-page introduction. Alexander has covered much of the necessary introductory matters with care and rigor, including the story and literary context of Exodus, its relationship to the Old Testament and New, structure, authorship, date, the placement of Exodus in history, and more. It is evident that Alexander is familiar with scholarship on Exodus both New and Old, and he does a tremendous service by surveying the issues while remaining conclusively agnostic where the evidence demands no commitment (e.g. Authorship and Date). Alexander is unashamed and open about his Christian commitments and how such inevitably makes its way onto the pages of the book. Alexander notes, “I write from the position of believing that the book of Exodus carries an authority that is of divine origin, being more than simply the product of a human author” (p. xi). Despite some lacking material that readers may expect, overall, most will appreciate the care that Alexander takes in handling the introductory matters.

The commentary proper is impressive. Alexander follows the organization of the series well and provides several excurses along the way. Alexander offers readers an original translation of the Hebrew text, including ample notes on various aspects of the text and translation. He also offers comments around the form and structure of the larger units of text, verse-by-verse commentary, and an explanation of the text within the broader framework of biblical theology. The translation that Alexander provides is readable and the annotations offer the reader a goldmine of textual information. Truthfully, the translation and notes are easily worth the price of the commentary, which says volumes because Alexander is strongest in the explanation section. The comments on the individual verses offer a balance of depth and understanding, but Alexander’s ability to pull everything together under the umbrella of biblical theology is simply unparalleled in relation to other commentaries. Alexander can extract various themes with detail and depth, and still never lose sight of the peripheral narrative of the Old and New Testament.

There isn’t much not to appreciate about Alexander’s work here. The introduction is somewhat small considering the size of the commentary, and while Alexander provides sufficient contact with the needed information, some readers will lament the omission of a formal outline after his survey of the structure of the book, among other things. For perspective, the bibliography alone is roughly 50% larger than the entire introduction. Thus, those looking for detailed interaction with introductory matters should consult an introduction to the Old Testament or From Paradise to the Promised Land (p. 187-223). Where readers will find Alexander’s work helpful, both the introduction and beyond, is his constant engagement with critical theories from a conservative perspective—especially the Documentary Hypothesis. Alexander is always generous and charitable, and regardless of conviction, readers of all backgrounds and theological persuasions should find useful interaction therein.

Exodus: Apollos Old Testament Commentary by T. Desmond Alexander is a comprehensive, up-to-date examination that leaves readers with little left to want from a commentary. Alexander is a seasoned scholar and an established biblical-theological voice. The organization and structure of the commentary allows Alexander to display his strengths, and the reader will benefit over and over again. I had several preferred commentaries on Exodus before Alexander, including Enns, Stuart, and Durham. After reading Alexander, I can say with confidence that it will be the first to leave my shelf, and possibly the only. If you’re looking for a commentary on the book of Exodus that offers a comprehensive balance between depth and devotion, then Exodus by T. Desmond Alexander is the recommendation for the foreseeable future. I couldn’t recommend it more strongly.

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