Discovering Exodus: Content, Interpretation, Reception, by Ralph Hawkins. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 2021. xiii, 308 pp.
Ralph Hawkins is the program director in religion and professor of biblical and archaeological studies at Averett University, Danville, VA. Ralph Hawkins’ book Discovering Exodus: Content, Interpretation, Reception is part of the Discovering Biblical Texts series published by Eerdmans Publishing. The approach of this series is a comprehensive, up-to-date, and student-friendly introduction to books of the Bible. The book discusses the scripture’s structure, content, theological concerns, and hermeneutics based on critical interpretations, debates, and historical reception. This book contains thirteen chapters, a 30-page bibliography, 12 pages of biblical references, and an eight-page index of subjects. Each chapter begins with an overview of the discussion topic and ends with some conclusions.
As expected, the first three chapters discuss background material associated with a general understanding of Exodus. This background material dealt with a general Introduction, Reading Exodus as literature, and the realia of Exodus. In the Introduction, a significant discussion focuses on the idea that God was creating a nation with the very presence of God dwelling within their midst. To accomplish this, Israel would need to become a nation of priests able to disseminate the knowledge of God to all other nations. In Chapter 2, Hawkins discusses the history of Exodus analysis, noting how the study has gone through various forms of research over time and currently focuses on literary criticism, hoping to understand what the original authors attempted to proclaim. Chapter three focuses on the realia of Exodus. This topic has generated much discussion over the years. Hawkins concludes that Israeli traditions may be the driving realia for Exodus but also the driving force underpinning the existence of Israel as a nation of priests. The remaining ten chapters focus on specific topics that are examined briefly.
Chapter 4 deals with the topic of “Beginnings” with particular loci on the early life of Moses, the revelation of the divine name, Passover, and Israel as a nation. Chapter 5 deals with Moses as a leader, showing how Moses matches up with the criteria for being a prophet, a Pharoh, and how his uniqueness justified the title given to Moses, “Servant of the Lord.” Chapter 6, the longest chapter, deals with the power of God in Exodus, where the inadequacy of Moses demonstrates that only through the power of God would the liberation of the Israelites be accomplished. Chapter 7 deals with the law of God in Exodus, which provided the legal foundation for the Israelites created to be a priesthood to all nations, through which, ultimately, all the families of the earth would be blessed. Chapter 8 covers the presence of God as revealed in Exodus. It is in the Tabernacle that God desired to reside within the company of His tribe of priests. From the beginning, God has wanted to reside with His people. In Chapter 9, the concept of Exodus containing “Good News” is analyzed and demonstrated through the God-revelation in Exodus 34:6-7 that God is a forgiving God for those that repent of their sin. In Chapter 10, Hawkins focuses on secondary characters, such as the Hebrew Midwives, Miriam, Aaron, etc. This group of individuals provides supporting roles in the Exodus story, specifically support for the goals that the writer of Exodus was conveying to the Israelites.
Chapters 11 & 12 deal with the use of Exodus scripture in the Old and New Testament scriptures. In these chapters, God’s ultimate purpose is to have a people that would adequately worship God and His First Born Son, Jesus. It was fascinating to see the final chapter dealt with Exodus’ impact on Western culture, covering sub-topics of Art, Architecture, Cinema, Music, and even Politics. As Western culture continues to develop, the effect of Exodus on culture will also continue. Therefore, biblical scholars should be interested in understanding how cultural events reflect an understanding of Exodus.
Segregating these topics into distinct discussion chapters makes developing teaching plans extremely easy. I am looking forward to using this text during my next class on Exodus, but in the meantime, I will be using the text for my research efforts.
Donald C. McNeeley
Virginia Beach, VA