A review on Jordan Peterson's 'Exodus' series

Courtesy of The Daily Wire
Courtesy of The Daily Wire

The biggest surprise I got at the end of my seminary days was discovering that, out of everything I was taught, the courses on the Old Testament turned out to be my favorite.

Like most Christians, I always gave the expected, respectful nod to the first 39 books of the Bible, but that was mostly it. Maybe like you, the idea impressed on me (either implicitly or explicitly) was that the New Testament is what really matters.

After all, isn’t the Church a New Testament concept and isn’t that where we find Jesus? That being the case, I felt I shouldn’t waste much time studying the Old Testament with its seemingly endless genealogies and the like.

How wrong I was.

My classes on the Old Testament blew open doors and gave me more insight into God and Christ than I ever thought possible. That experience taught me how the New Testament Church is, in many ways, crippled without a good understanding of what preceded it and sadly isn’t getting that education.

On that topic, Old Testament scholar Dr. Walt Kaiser, says

“There remains a distressing absence of the Old Testament in the church. It is possible to attend some churches for months without ever hearing a sermon from the older testament, which represents well over three-fourths of what our Lord had to say to us. This vacuum is unconscionable for those who claim that the whole Bible is the authoritative Word of God to mankind.”

With the Church needing more Old Testament instruction, I was excited to see Dr. Jordan Peterson’s new series on Exodus, which is being produced by The Daily Wire. Peterson, who did a lecture series in 2017 on the book of Genesis, is planning a new set of discourses on Exodus in 2023 and is using the work being done in The Daily Wire project to feed that initiative.

I received an invitation to preview the first two episodes of Dr. Peterson's "Exodus" production, which were about four hours in total. Once you dive in, you’ll be surprised at how fast time flies by.   

Exegetical goodness

The series consists of Peterson moderating a discussion with a number of theological scholars, historians, and literary experts, including Dennis PragerLarry ArrnDr. James OrrDr. Os GuinnessDr. Stephen BlackwoodGregg HurwitzDr. Douglas Hedley, and Jonathan Pageau. The format is exegetical in nature, with Peterson reading through Exodus verse-by-verse and then leading a conversation on each section.

I loved this approach. Unfortunately, the Old Testament is missing in action today within the church walls as well as exegetical preaching. With Peterson going verse-by-verse through Exodus, he ensures no part of God’s Word is excluded, which is commendable.

One thing he tackles up front is the foundational question of why discuss the book of Exodus. What relevance does it have for us today? Peterson and the panel provide compelling reasons including the fact we as a people seem to have lost ourselves and that the (whole) Bible is the backbone of our culture, with Exodus, in particular, being the inspiration for both the English and American revolutions.

The bedrock of our ethics is also found in the second book of the Bible, with the roundtable discussing the fact that morality is given and discovered and not invented or constructed as many today would have you believe. Moreover, with so much of the culture decrying the abuse of power seen in many walks of life, Exodus demonstrates how God aligns Himself against tyranny, the mistreatment of the oppressed, and champions freedom. Today, these are principles everyone should appreciate.

Uncomfortable truths

Peterson and the panel’s walk through Exodus 1-3 in the first two episodes delivers intriguing and sometimes uncomfortable truths they ask us to consider. For example, they point out the well-known verse in Exodus stating, “Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph” (1:8) and comment on how it perfectly summarizes our current human condition of ingratitude. In the same way, Egypt’s new Pharaoh had forgotten what Joseph did for them, we have forgotten what past generations of Americans did for us.

In covering the famous verse of Exodus 3:14 where God declares His name to Moses to be, “I AM that I AM,” which speaks to His self-existence, the roundtable highlighted how they see humanity rejecting God as the provider and sustainer of existence and are seeking to displace Him through defining their own identity, gender, morality, etc.  In essence, many today are angrily declaring to God, “I am that I am!” The group noted that in doing these things, negative consequences are inevitable because no one remains unscathed from reality bending.

One discussion I found interesting focused on the fact that the heroes of Exodus 1-3 turn out to be foreign women and not Jewish men: the midwives who likely were Egyptian that saved babies along with Pharaoh’s daughter who rescued Moses. With all the race-baiting and such occurring in our culture, it was good to hear Peterson’s panel emphasize that morality cuts across all races, showing that God is ethics-centered and not ethnics-centered.

Concluding thoughts

The time I spent reviewing Peterson’s first two episodes on Exodus was enriching. I definitely profited from the exchange of viewpoints that were presented with clarity and sincerity, which brings me to an important point.

Will you agree with each and every comment made by Peterson and the members of his forum? Of course not, and that’s a good thing.

In an age where cancel culture runs rampant and different points of view are removed by those in power and labeled “misinformation” or “hate speech,” how refreshing it was to see Christians, Jews, mystics, and those skilled in different disciplines present their opinions and respond to disparate beliefs with kindness and respect.

Only by hearing convictions that disagree with ours can we better understand those different from us and respond, speaking “truth with love” (Eph. 4:15).

When it comes to the Old Testament, we should remember Jesus said in John 10:35, “the Scripture cannot be broken.” He also said in John 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” In Matthew 5:18, Christ said, “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” In 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul wrote, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” Both men were speaking about the Old Testament at the time.

Jordan Peterson’s series on Exodus underscores something many Bible scholars agree on, which is that the overall theme of the Bible is exile and homecoming. His treatment and analysis of the Bible’s second book provide a good learning experience for those wishing to discover what I did years ago at seminary — the Old Testament is highly relevant for us today and worthy of our attention. 

Robin Schumacher is an accomplished software executive and Christian apologist who has written many articles, authored and contributed to several Christian books, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at apologetic events. He holds a BS in Business, Master's in Christian apologetics and a Ph.D. in New Testament. His latest book is, A Confident Faith: Winning people to Christ with the apologetics of the Apostle Paul.

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