King Solomon: A Study

 Philip Ryken’s King Solomon: The Temptations of Money, Sex, and Power is a recent publication that basically contains Ryken’s sermons on the life of king Solomon.  In this book, Ryken retells, explains, and applies the biblical story of Solomon’s rise to the throne, his rule, and his failures (which is found mostly in 1 Kings).

I appreciated Ryken’s general christological approach to king Solomon based on Luke 11:31: one greater than Solomon is here.  Over and over in these chapters, Ryken shows how Jesus is the true king of wisdom, peace, righteousness, and justice.  He does a good job pointing the reader to Christ and the gospel of grace.

One more strength of this book was Ryken’s explanation of the biblical stories.  In his retelling of the stories, he brought out some helpful nuances of them that one might usually miss.  For example, he shows David’s wisdom in putting Solomon on the throne before his (David’s) death.  There are other such examples which make this book a helpful Bible study tool.

The major weakness of the book has to do with application.  I was disappointed with Ryken’s application methods.  Quite often I thought his application (from Solomon’s day to ours) was weak or forced.  For example, when Adonijah didn’t get to be king he demanded to have a certain woman as his wife (1 Ki 2.13-17).  Ryken’s application was that we’re like that sometimes.  When we don’t get something we want, we demand something from God or just go and take it for ourselves (p.31-2).  Another questionable application section was where Ryken explained that Solomon spent more time building his house than God’s temple.  His application was that we should not be like that, but have our priorities straight and spend more time on God’s kingdom than our own.  One application question summarizes most of them: “Are you able to learn from Solomon’s mistake and apply the lesson to your own life?” (p. 184).  There are quite a few more examples like that. To be honest, most of his application sections completely missed the mark for me.  In my opinion, the book would have been much better without them.

In summary, this book is a good one to have if you want a readable study on the biblical narrative of king Solomon.  It is around 200 pages; most Christians should be able to follow it with ease.  There is even a helpful study guide in the back of the book, along with a Scripture index.  King Solomon will he a helpful tool for studying Solomon’s life and legacy and how it brings us to Jesus, the true King.  Even though I don’t think the application sections are helpful, I do recommend it.

shane lems

shane lems

3 Replies to “King Solomon: A Study”

  1. Hi Shane,

    Just wondering in what way do you think that the applications miss the mark? I can’t see much wrong with them. How would you have applied them?


    1. Thanks for the comment, Richard. I actually wreslted with this. I read the first half of the book and quickly became frustrated with the application. I questioned my own frustration (thinking I was missing something). Then later I read the last half of the book, and was frustrated again with the application. I wasn’t going to mention it in the short review here, but over and over in the book I honestly kept thinking: boy, this application doesn’t flow – I can’t make the jump. Another way to say it is “right application, wrong text.”

      I thought about doing another post on application; maybe I will in the future. To keep it brief here, I hesitate (for example) to make the Queen of Sheba a point of application that we should give of our gifts to King Jesus (Ryken noted that application). Why couldn’t the application be instead that we *shouldn’t* be like the Queen of Sheba and *not* give our gifts to people, but instead to God? It’s sort of relative/subjective I guess. I’d rather have the application flow concretely from a text (i.e. use Romans 12.1-2 instead of the Queen of Sheba to discuss serving/giving to God).

      I hope this makes some sense. I’m certainly open for discussion on this. The gist of it is this: what guides us in how far we can/should use OT stories for application? Is the song “Dare to be a Daniel” a fitting application of the life of Daniel? Why or why not? It’s a great discussion to have, by the way.



  2. Hi Shane, thanks for that. I like the redemptive-historical preaching and I have found Chapell’s Christ-Centred Preaching and the Handbooks for Old Testament Exegesis invaluable. I agree, the question is how far we should use OT stories for application. Personally I have found Ryken’s and Duguid’s sermons helpful models which is why I was surprised you said Ryken’s didn’t work for you. I think both the Queen of Sheba applications you mention work, I am not sure how one could say either is illegitimate. Application is a great discussion, I am not convinced that the stories of Daniel say shouldn’t be applied in the ‘be a Daniel’ way…it could be done well or poorly (1 Cor. 10:6).


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