Authors: Alastair J. Roberts and Andrew Wilson
Publish Date: March 31, 2018
Pages: 176 pages (Paperback)
How do you explain what you are hearing when you experience a good piece of music? You could talk about the arrangement of notes and the interplay of the various instruments. You could talk about the emotions you feel when you hear it or the images it conjures in your mind. Or, you could find the tune and keep humming it all day long.
Authors Alistair Roberts and Andrew Wilson believe that reading Scripture is like taking in a symphony. Every note is important and contributes to the whole piece, and there is a common tune—the exodus—that recurs throughout the Scriptures for those who have ears to hear. In Echoes of Exodus, we are invited to hear the many and varied ways that God’s bringing of his people out of bondage in Egypt is echoed until it reaches a crescendo in Jesus Christ.
Echoes of Exodus seeks to show rather than tell. To continue the music metaphor, the book is more like listening to a jazz ensemble than reading sheet music. They hope to help readers catch the exodus tune and keep humming it all day long. Instead of presenting a grand theory of how all of Scripture holds together in the themes of the Exodus, Roberts and Wilson seek to show how this is the case by walking us through the Bible. The dominant metaphor is musical. The tune of exodus redemption is echoed, amplified, and riffed upon throughout the Bible. This is something that must be heard more than argued. Thus, Echoes of Exodus has an aesthetic quality to it, working predominantly on the imagination.
The book has four main sections (‘Movements’) that correspond to four different sections of the Bible. First, Roberts and Wilson retell the story of the book of Exodus all the way through the conquest of Joshua. They highlight how, even within the exodus story, there are multiple levels of resonance. For instance, Moses himself experiences three different exoduses: at birth, at age forty, and at age eighty. Also, the scarlet cord that was hung from Rahab’s house recalls the blood of the passover lambs on the doorposts (including the command for no one to leave the house).
Second, the authors look prior to the events of the exodus itself to see resonances with the exodus theme in the book of Genesis. Events in the lives of Noah, Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph already begin the tune that will gain strength in the exodus from Egypt. Abram and Sarai go to Egypt, and Egypt experiences a sort of plague. Lot is rescued from a plague in spite of himself, not because of any inherent virtue he possessed. Even before the exodus took place, God was guiding the history of his people to have an exodus shape.
Third, Roberts and Wilson show how the rest of the Old Testament is rife with exodus themes. The focus on the temple echoes the tabernacle as the house of God. The Davidic psalms are full of exodus allusions. David, Amnon, and Absalom all—like Achan—seize that which is forbidden, and there are consequences for the wider community. Yet, no matter how many times the tune amplifies and rebounds, the exodus never quite ends.
Lastly, The tune of exodus crescendos in the coming of Christ. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is imminently exodus-shaped. Even after his ascensions, the book of Acts continues to tune of exodus. Only at Christ’s return will the exodus song reach its joyous completion. Through repeated illustrations, Echoes of Exodus illuminates the recurring theme of exodus throughout the Bible
I would highly recommend this book to anyone in the church seeking to read the Bible more clearly and lovingly. While there are many books that seek to tell the whole story of the Bible and others that highlight recurring biblical themes, it is a true achievement to combine both in a book that is both brief and accessible. Each chapter is clear and short, usually less than ten pages. Each chapter also ends with a set of review questions as well as thought questions which makes the book well designed for group study in the church.
The principle strength of Echoes of Exodus is the ease of entry. It seeks to tune our hearts to hear the exodus story throughout the pages of Scripture. The book requires no technical knowledge of hermeneutics in order to grasp the force of its message. One only needs ears to hear the exodus tune. The more we hear, the more easily we recognize the melody.
Additionally, Roberts and Wilson succeed in opening the Scriptures to be seen with clarity. Even if every example is not completely convincing, the overall argument is compelling. The book brings clarity by helping to see how seemingly bizarre stories in Scripture resonate with the themes of exodus. Abram in Egypt pretending Sarai is his wife, the ark of covenant in the temple of Dagan, and the deaths of Ananias and Sephira are but a few of the stories connected to the exodus in ways that shed light on them without resolving every tension.
Lastly, Echoes of Exodus allows for both continuity and development within the Bible. Just as a musical performance may repeat tunes in different ways throughout the symphony, the same themes of exodus echoed throughout the Bible show incredible continuity in Scripture. It is one song. The same exodus tune is playing from Genesis to Revelation. Both Old and New Testaments—Jesus, Israel, the Church, New Creation, Atonement—all of them are play the same song to the glory of God. Yet, just as a symphony reaches a crescendo, so too does the biblical song. The recurring tune of exodus does not repeat in the same way each time it appears, but builds to its culmination in Jesus Christ. By highlighting both aspects, Roberts and Wilson are able to show both the constancy of God and his movement of history toward the fullness of redemption in Christ.
Alistair Roberts and Andrew Wilson masterfully play the notes of Scripture to help us hear the recurring exodus tune. Not only will the book help readers hear the Scriptures more clearly, but will hopefully plant the tune deep in their hearts so that they will sing the tune all day long.