Believers Church Bible Commentary
Waterloo, Ont./Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 2000. 496 pp.
Waldemar Janzen provides a refreshing and engaging tour through the book of Exodus, drawing connections, noting what other researchers have discovered, suggesting a thoughtful opinion when there are questions, and through it all always standing to the side, not wanting to get in the way. It is the kind of writing one expects from someone as experienced as Janzen (professor emeritus from Canadian Mennonite Bible College in Winnipeg and an ordained minister). From this deep well comes a rich resource that should help many different readers.
Janzen explains key questions from the text, places the themes in the context of the whole Bible, and suggests connections between this ancient text and issues facing the church today.
In addition, 14 essays are included at the end of the volume on topics such as Pharoah’s hardening of heart, the date and route of the exodus, and the covenant.
Janzen explores the text according to the final literary form we have in our Bible. He uses careful reasoning, clear writing style, and concern for practical application. In addition, his arguments that the exodus event involved a change in allegiance from pharaoh to God, that the “central” verse (177) is likely Exodus 14:14 with its claim that the Lord would fight on Israel’s behalf, and that “community shalom” (322) is the ultimate aim of individual laws-contribute to a much needed Anabaptist reading of the biblical book.
The greatest strength here is Janzen’s capable navigation of the many issues emerging in Exodus. He seriously considers his target audience (“Sunday school teachers, members of Bible study groups, students, pastors, and other seekers”), but he does not resort to a devotional summary. He interacts often – albeit briefly – with well-known scholars.
In spite of these strengths, many conservative readers may find his presuppositions troubling. Janzen clearly assumes significant editing of sources and a shaping of the historical story into what he calls “confessional praise” (182, 452). He makes no effort to decide the exact nature of the “historical Moses” or the “historical exodus,” but he should not be placed in a camp with those who view Exodus as a complete literary fabrication intended to support some later political or theological agenda. He clearly recognizes that God has been at work.
—Ken Esau is on faculty at Columbia Bible College in Abbotsford, B.C.