Monday, October 18, 2010

How to Read Exodus

How to Read Exodus, by Tremper Longman III.

The author clarifies that this book is not a commentary on Exodus, but a guide to an interpretive strategy (p.8). It features literary, historical, and theological approaches to this book.

A literary approach reveals that the main theme of Exodus is the presence of God, out of which two sub-themes emerge: the covenant, and bondage (p.39). A historical approach reads Exodus against the background of ancient Near Eastern literature (the Sargon Birth Legend and the Code of Hammurabi). It also examines the historicity of the events recorded in Exodus. Yes, it does matter that the Red Sea did in fact part (Chp. 6). However, some efforts to prove the Exodus events are not helpful: “Purported discoveries of the wheels of Pharaoh’s chariots beside the Red Sea are misleading if not fraudulent” (p.69, cf. p.80).

Longman provides helpful comments on the Law. The Ten Commandments begin the Book of the Law. They are more general principles of which the ensuing case laws are specific applications (p.60). “Israel’s obligation to keep the law is not to form a relationship with God, but rather to show gratitude to and maintain the relationship that it already enjoys with him” (p.121).

On the revelation of Yahweh’s name when he says “I Am Who I Am,” Longman writes: “God claims that he is self-defining. He is unable to be narrowed down. He is the ground of existence.” (p.104)

Longman has a very interesting section on the gods of Egypt (pp.107-9). Do they truly exist? “The answer to that question is much more complex than one might think” (p.107). Of course, there is only one God, the Creator of all that is. But Longman reaches for an emended text of Deuteronomy 32.8, the supernatural feats of the Egyptian magicians, and the testimony throughout Scripture to claim that these Egyptian gods were real spiritual powers, although created and “assigned their place by God” (pp.107-8).

The best section of the book is Part 5: ”Reading Exodus as a Christian." This section features the theological/canonical approach. The theme of the Exodus event, the law, and the tabernacle are masterfully traced from the OT to their NT fulfillment in Christ.

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