New SBJT examines OT book of Exodus

Communications Staff — November 17, 2008

The Old Testament book of Exodus is a crucial piece in the big picture of God’s redeeming love for His people.

Essayists in the latest edition of The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology examine various aspects of the second book of the Bible, with Southern professors Peter J. Gentry, T.J. Betts and Russell D. Moore contributing articles.

SBJT editor Stephen J. Wellum points out that Exodus is a pivotal book in the Bible’s overall storyline.

“It goes without saying that the book of Exodus is an important book in the Bible’s overall storyline,” Wellum writes. “In many ways it is a hinge book that not only introduces us to the nation of Israel, but it does so by placing them within the stream of God’s glorious work of creation, the disastrous effects of the Fall, and God’s gracious purposes of redemption for this world centered in the promises given to Abraham of a great name, seed, and land (Gen 12:1-3).”

Gentry, professor of Old Testament interpretation and director of the Hexapla Institute at Southern Seminary, examines the covenant that God made with Moses at Sinai. This covenant includes the Ten Commandments and is central to the entire Pentateuch, Gentry argues.

Gentry provides a brief exposition of Exodus 19-24, detailing the section’s larger literary structure, the cultural, historical and linguistic setting and its place in the broader narrative of Scripture. Central to the covenant at Sinai is the Ten Commandments or “Ten Words” of Exodus 20, Gentry points out.

“The Ten Words form the heart of the covenant between God and Israel at Sinai,” he writes. “The Book of the Covenant…consists of the Ten Words and the Judgments. The former constitute the basic and fundamental requirements of the covenant, the latter are detailed stipulations based on the Ten Words which apply them in practical ways to specific social situations, and draw out and nuance their meaning in various contingencies and circumstances.”

T.J. Betts, assistant professor of Old Testament interpretation at Southern, provides an overview of the two prevailing views on the dating of the exodus of God’s people out of Egypt. Some scholars argue that the exodus happened around 1267 B.C. and others assert 1447/46 B.C.

Betts argues that the mid-15th century seems to be the more plausible date given the available evidence.

“So why is it important for evangelicals to concern themselves with what seems to be insignificant compared to other matters concerning Scriptures? It is important because a great many people are abandoning the notion that the Exodus never really happened,” he writes.

“No doubt, the message of the text is preeminent over any chronological issues, but chronological issues naturally arise if we acknowledge the historicity of the text. While evangelicals have no need for extra-biblical evidence to uphold conviction pertaining to the message, inspiration and authority of Scripture, we should be committed to upholding the truth before a skeptical and unbelieving world…Our chronological understanding of events before the Exodus and after the Exodus until Israel’s monarchy is largely dependent upon our understanding of the date of the Exodus.”

The journal also includes a sermon from Exodus 32:1-35 by Russell D. Moore entitled, “You Cannot Serve Both God and Mummy: Pharaoh Hunger and the Draw of a Golden-Calf Spirituality.” Moore, who serves as dean of the School of Theology and senior vice president for academic administration at Southern, warns believers that they, like the Israelites, are daily facing the sinful magnetism of idol worship.

“I wonder how many of us today are just like these Israelites: ungrateful, fearful, prayerless,” Moore writes.

“I wonder how many of us are slinking toward our own golden calf, that object of our own hedonistic idolatry. I wonder how many of us have turned our hearts back to that Pharaoh-behind-the-Pharaoh—the prince of the power of this air—from whom we were delivered.

“The Israelites seemed to be safe. Pharaoh was no longer chasing them. His troops were drowned. And yet, the Pharaoh in their own hearts, their own imaginations, was indeed still chasing them…That’s the danger for you and for me. There’s always that pull to the flesh, to the appetites. We can always make ourselves think our golden calf is noble, even divine.”

The journal includes additional essays by Stephen G. Dempster, Graham A. Cole and D. Jeffrey Mooney, along with a number of book reviews. To subscribe to the journal, please e-mail or call 502-897-4413.

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