Exodus & Revolution by Michael Walzer

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As school season begins, the required reading reviews will begin to appear.  This quarter should be thoroughly interesting, as I will be taking German 101 (independent study) , Christian Ethics and World Religions through Christian Perspective (name could be better there but with the books I already have I’m willing to accept a more loving approach.)

This book, Exodus & Revolution is about the relationship between the biblical story of the Exodus (including from the Book Exodus through the arrival into the Promised Land at the end of Deuteronomy) and similarities it holds with political revolution. Walzer sticks mostly to the Biblical story and the Israelite people–what it means to be “in bondage in Egypt”, what the covenant and the story of the idol calf in the wilderness and how they can apply to a modern revolution.

From a theological standpoint–I love this book.  Walzer makes just enough of a connection not to disturb anyone but yet makes a strong enough stance to point out how the exodus story relates to the world’s history of revolution.  He admits he will not be able to fully review all revolutions, but he provides enough examples, first and third world, good and bad.  For example, he looks at Lenin’s response in Russia and the similarities and the purging Moses preforms after the Golden Calf.  He also discusses that just because someone sets you free doesn’t mean you do not have responsibilities and moral law.

Arguably the best part of the book is Walzer’s discussion about covenant.  Only recently did I discover the importance of an Ancient Near Eastern treaty and its similarities to the covenant God makes with the people of Israel in the wilderness.  It is not the first (see Abraham & Noah) nor will it be the last (see David.) But God’s covenant with his people provides the support for even the idea of revolution–that commitment and faith in the Lord can set you free.

Another positive regarding this book is its length.  Honestly, in theology and social sciences, there are too many 500-1000 page books.  Most people, in fact most theologians do not need every details every time a book comes out.  This book is less than 200 pages (including glossary and notes) with informative yet simplistic vocabulary. I highly recommend this book for ministers, seminary students and even lay people!

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