Book Review: L. Michael Morales, Exodus Old and New: A Biblical Theology of Redemption

Morales, L. Michael. Exodus Old and New: A Biblical Theology of Redemption. ESBT 2; Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2020. 207 pp. Pb; $22.  Link to IVP Academic

As Ben Gladd says in the introduction to the Essential Studies in Biblical Theology, this new series is dedicated to the essential broad themes of the grand story line of the Bible. Each volume spans the whole canon of Scripture and seeks to connect the theme to the person of Christ. In this new contribution to the series. In this new volume of the series, Morales surveys the historical Exodus out of Egypt (part 1) and the re-use of the Exodus in the prophetic books (part 2; primarily Isaiah). The final three chapters connect the New Exodus motif to the Gospel of John and the future resurrection. Morales previously published Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord? A Biblical Theology of the Book of Leviticus (NSBT 37; IVP Academic 2015; reviewed here).

Morales, Exodus Old and NewIn the first chapter of the book, Morales summarizes the first eleven chapters of Genesis as a “exile before Exodus.” He explains that the first rebellion in the Garden resulted in humanity’s alienation from God. This exile from Eden sets up the theme of redemption throughout the rest of scripture.  The call of Abraham anticipates the Exodus. God called Abraham out of his own land and brought into a land God promised to give to his descendants. The rest of Genesis explains how Abraham’s descendants came to live in Egypt.

Israel’s redemption in the historical Exodus from Egypt sets up a three-fold pattern: the (1) redemption of Israel led to the (2) the nation’s consecration by covenant Mount Sinai and then (3) to the consummation of the inheritance in the land of Canaan (107). Morales highlights several important themes in the original Exodus which conform to this tree-fold pattern. First, Morales describes the plagues and crossing of the Red Sea as the destruction of the “Sea Dragon,” the ultimate enemy of God’s people. Second, the tenth plague and the blood of the Passover lamb anticipates John’s description of Jesus as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” Third, Moses is the servant of the Lord and functions as an intermediary between Israel and their God. Moses frequently intercedes for Israel in both Exodus and Numbers. Even in the Pentateuch, there is an anticipation of a new Moses in the future, a role fulfilled by Jesus. Fourth, Morales focuses on the sacrificial system in order to describe atonement as the covering of sin in anticipation of what Christ will do on the cross. He argues that the sacrificial system has the same three-fold pattern found in the overall Exodus: moving from the purification by blood to consecration and ending with a fellowship meal in the Lord’s house.

The second section of the book examines the prophesied second Exodus, beginning with a brief chapter tracing the history between the Exodus and Solomon’s dedication of the Temple. This is a “third state of sacred history the same pattern of redemption, consecration and consummation (the Temple dedication). Morales argues the dedication of the Temple is a theological reversal of the Tower of Babel and undoes the nation’s exile, the scattering of God’s people after the Exodus. Since Israel fails to keep the covenant and goes once again into exile, the prophets expect a future second Exodus. This second exodus includes five elements: the nations recognizing the glory of the Lord’s name, the coming of a new David, a return of Elijah to prepare for the Lord’s advent, an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and resurrection. As is often observed, the historical return from Babylon did not exhaust the prophecies of a second exodus. Only a fraction of the Jews returned to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, a temple which was a shadow of Solomon’s temple. For Morales, these five elements of the second Exodus theme in the prophets are fulfilled by Isaiah’s suffering servant. He briefly summarizes each of the four servant songs and focuses attention on the suffering servant in Isaiah 53. He argues Isaiah 56-66 concerns the servants of the servant, the disciples of the Lord who take up the servant’s role as to be a light to the Gentiles. It is these disciples will draw the nations to Zion.

All of this second Exodus language anticipates the coming of Jesus and his role as the suffering servant to die on the cross. In part three of the book, Morales relates his new Exodus themes to Jesus as the Messiah. In chapters 12-13 he focuses on the Gospel of John because the fourth gospel vividly connects the crucifixion to the Passover. John presents as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29) and God’s lamb is sacrificed at Passover (John 19:31–37). Morales argues that Jesus’s resurrection is a reversal of the expulsion out of the garden of Eden. He briefly notices that John uses Eden motifs more explicitly in Revelation 22.

In the final chapter, Morales connects New Exodus to the future resurrection. Because he has connected Jesus’s resurrection to Isaiah’s new Exodus, he can examine several passages on the future resurrection in Paul’s writings and consider them “new exodus.” However, there is far more to say about a future aspect of the New Exodus motif by including Revelation in this book. Although the meaning of the images in Revelation 8-9 are controversial, it seems absolutely clear John is drawing on Exodus language to describe the wrath of God. The call to come “out of Babylon” evokes the original Exodus from Egypt. Morales includes a brief reference to Revelation 12 in his chapter on crossing the Red Sea. What God has done in the past, he will do again in the future. Unfortunately, Morales overlooks these second Exodus themes.

A major component of second exodus material from the profits is an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. For example, Isaiah 51:3 indicates the Spirit will be poured out on Zion, and the wilderness will become like in the desert will become like the garden of the Lord. Picking up on these threads from Isaiah, he argues that the gospel of John presents Jesus as the giver of the Holy Spirit. Finishing the old creation work with his death on the cross as the Passover lamb, Jesus finishes the work of new creation by delivering the Holy Spirit to his people (176). His last chapter focuses on the resurrection, and he lays out Paul’s view of the resurrection in some detail. Although Morales connects new Exodus and resurrection, I am not convinced Paul made the same typological connection.

Conclusion. Since one goal of the Essential Studies in Biblical Theology series is accessibility to beginning students and laypeople, it is not surprising Morales does not interact with the vast literature on use and re-use of the new Exodus motif in the New Testament. However, in a series which seeks to engage the whole canon of Scripture, it is odd that he does not engage Matthew (Dale Allison, Jr., The New Moses: A Matthean Typology), Mark (Rikki Watts, Isaiah’s New Exodus in Mark), or Acts (David Pao, Acts and the Isaianic New Exodus). These more advanced studies do not appear on the further reading page. By limiting his New Testament interaction to two chapters on John’s Gospel and a single chapter on resurrection, Morales overlooks important allusions to the historical Exodus and Isaiah’s New Exodus passages.

NB: Thanks to IVP Academic for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.

One thought on “Book Review: L. Michael Morales, Exodus Old and New: A Biblical Theology of Redemption

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.