Phillip Graham Ryken – Exodus Preaching Commentary – Q & A

exodus commentary rykenPhilip Graham Ryken (PhD, University of Oxford) is the 8th president of Wheaton College and, prior to that, served as senior minister at Philadelphia’s historic Tenth Presbyterian Church. He has written several books for Crossway, and has lectured and taught at universities and seminaries worldwide. Dr. Ryken and his wife, Lisa, live in Wheaton and have five children.

Dr. Ryken earned a master of divinity degree from Westminster Theological Seminary and a doctorate in historical theology from the University of Oxford. He preached at Philadelphia’s historic Tenth Presbyterian Church from 1995 until his appointment at Wheaton in 2010.

Dr. Ryken has published more than 50 books, including The Message of Salvation (InterVarsity, 2001), Art for God’s Sake (P&R, 2006), When Trouble Comes (Crossway, 2016), and expository commentaries on Exodus, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Jeremiah, Luke, Galatians, and other books of the Bible. See all of Dr. Ryken’s books on his Amazon author page.

Dr. Ryken serves as a board member for the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities, the Lausanne Movement, and the National Association of Evangelicals.

7 Questions on Exodus in the Preaching the Word Commentary Series

Recently, Dr. Ryken kindly agreed to answer my questions about his Exodus commentary. Readers will learn about how this commentary came to be, why it’s unique among other Exodus commentaries, and what personally affected Dr. Ryken as he wrote it.

Unless otherwise noted, the links provided lead to Amazon.com.

1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on Exodus?

My love for Exodus was first awakened by Bob Harvey, who was the pastor of Bethel Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Wheaton, Illinois during my growing up years. I loved his sermons on the book, so it was a natural to want to preach all the way through it when I had the chance.

2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?

Like all my expository commentaries, this book is mainly for preachers and for lay people who teach the Bible in various church settings. What I write is informed by biblical scholarship, but hopefully accessible for people who are not Bible scholars.

3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of Exodus?

Most of the best commentaries on Exodus are exegetical. This one is expository—that is to say, it comes from a preaching context. There aren’t too many commentaries on Exodus that provide Bible expositions for the whole book, providing a model for pastors who want to preach all the way through Exodus. I try to bridge the gap between scholarly commentaries and the local church, which is not a contribution to the study of Exodus, per se, but may be helpful for people who are teaching or preaching the book.

4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?

Where do I begin? Exodus has so many great passages that I would love to teach the book all over again. I loved teaching the plagues in their Egyptian context. Working carefully through the Ten Commandments brought as much spiritual change to people in our church—including unbelievers—as anything I have ever preached. Entering into the drama of the tabernacle (twice, because all of the instructions get repeated!) was a thrill: this was the first and only building with blueprints from heaven. Writing about Exodus also gave me an opportunity to deepen my understanding of God’s redemptive purposes for the world of art.

5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?

Several things stand out. One was recognizing how God is working out the drama of the exodus somewhere in the geography of my soul. Am I willing to leave the Egypt of my idolatry? Will I trust God when he has me wandering through the wilderness? Will I bow down before his awesome presence the way that Moses did on the mountain? I also saw Jesus in fresh ways through the furniture of the tabernacle: my Savior is the sacrifice on the altar for my sins, the basin for my cleansing, the bread on the table, the lampstand for the world. Then I was deeply moved by Exodus 38:8, where the women of Israel offered their mirrors for the basin of bronze, regarding the beauty of God as more precious than their own. Or how can I forget the moment when I realized that when God came down in glory at the end of Exodus, the very tabernacle that was built for the express purpose of meeting with his people was too holy for anyone to enter? Awesome!

6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Exodus?

As far as commentaries for preaching are concerned, I find [Brevard] Childs, [J.A.] Motyer, [John] Currid, [John] Mackay, and [Umberto Moshe David] Cassuto to be especially helpful. To capture the drama of the Exodus and its place in popular culture, I also benefited from reading Bruce Feiler’s Walking the Bible, Howard Blum’s The Gold of Exodus. On the historicity of Exodus, James Hoffmeier’s Israel in Egypt is a valuable resource.

7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?

Later this year I hope to finish the manuscript for a short book tentatively titled Promises to Keep: Seven Commitments that Every College Student Should Make. I’m also working my way through Book 5 of the Psalms, for an exposition I hope to publish in a few years as part of the Reformed Expository Commentary (P&R).

Watch Dr. Ryken speak on the Exodus

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