In a 1996 guide to the best commentaries, Derek Thomas wrote, “There is a famine of really good commentaries on Exodus.” Dr. Thomas’ commentary guide has since been updated, but at that time, the best contemporary commentary one could recommend on the book of Exodus was by Brevard Childs, and it could not be recommended unconditionally because it reflected Childs’ critical stance. Thankfully, the situation has changed in the last couple of decades, and there are now a number of good commentaries on Exodus from which to choose.
1. T. Desmond Alexander — Exodus (Apollos Old Testament Commentary, 2017).
Desmond Alexander’s long-awaited commentary on Exodus was finally published in 2017. While I take issue with Alexander’s understanding of the authorship of Exodus, his commentary itself is filled with so many helpful insights that I have to place it at the top of this revised top 5 list. Alexander’s strength is biblical theology, so this commentary is particularly helpful for those who want to see how Exodus fits within the larger biblical context.
2. Douglas K. Stuart — Exodus (The New American Commentary, 2006).
I first discovered Douglas Stuart’s work when I read his Old Testament Exegesis textbook. Some years later, I read his commentary on Hosea–Jonah and was very impressed. I had high expectations, therefore, when I obtained a copy of his commentary on Exodus, and I was not disappointed. Stuart begins his work with a thirty-page introduction containing a very helpful emphasis on the theology of Exodus. He then moves directly into the text with a verse-by-verse examination of Exodus that extends approximately 750 pages. Stuart’s comments on the biblical text are clear and readable. The more technical issues are relegated to the footnotes.
3. J. Alec Motyer — The Message of Exodus (The Bible Speaks Today, 2005).
J. Alec Motyer has written a large number of books and commentaries over the course of his career. He is particularly well known for his extensive work on the book of Isaiah. Because of the space limitations in the BST series, my expectations for his commentary on Exodus were minimal, but I was pleasantly surprised. On almost every page, the reader finds helpful insights into the meaning of the second book of Moses. Very highly recommended.
4. John L. Mackay — Exodus (A Mentor Commentary, 2001).
John Mackay has written a number of commentaries on the Old Testament prophetic books. In this volume, he moves to the Pentateuch with great success. His work should be consulted by every serious student of Exodus.
5. Victor P. Hamilton — Exodus: An Exegetical Commentary (Baker Academic, 2011).
As is the case with his Genesis commentary, this one can be a dry read at times, but it is still worth consulting. For each section of the text, Hamilton provides his own translation, followed by grammatical and lexical notes, and the commentary proper. The grammatical and lexical notes on important words in each section are particularly helpful.
There are a number of other commentaries on the book of Exodus that have varying degrees of usefulness. Among them are those by Philip Graham Ryken, Brevard Childs, John Currid (Vol. 1, Vol. 2), R. Alan Cole, Umberto Cassuto, and Cornelius Houtman (Vol. 1, Vol. 2, Vol. 3, Vol. 4).
Helpful Related Works:
Exodus is a deeply rich book that continues the development of many of the themes introduced in Genesis and introduces more themes. Three such biblical-theological themes that are of central importance in the book of Exodus are law, redemption, and the tabernacle. On the law, Vern Poythress’s The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses is helpful. On the exodus/redemption theme, Alastair Roberts and Andrew Wilson’s Echoes of Exodus is a useful short introduction. Michael Morales’ Exodus Old and New: A Biblical Theology of Redemption is excellent. For those seeking more depth, Bryan D. Estelle’s book, Echoes of Exodus, provides a thorough treatment of this idea. Finally, Anthony Selvaggio’s From Bondage to Liberty: The Gospel According to Moses is very helpful. On the tabernacle theme, G. K. Beale’s The Temple of God and the Church’s Mission is an invaluable must-read. Ross Blackburn’s book The God Who Makes Himself Known is another helpful work on the biblical theology of Exodus.
This article is part of the Top 5 Commentaries collection.