Project Augustine

1 and 2 Chronicles

 

10/21/11

 

1 & 2 Chronicles

 

 Q: What are the main differences between the histories of 1 & 2 Kings compared with 1 & 2 Chronicles?

 

Overv iew 

  1. Preview of Chronicles
    1. Written around the time Ezra and Nehemiah were composed (c. 400 BCE), the Chronicles provide a selective interpretation of Israel’s history from that found in Samuel-Kings.
  2. Purpose
    1. The writer wanted to encourage the Babylonian Jews to return to the god of their ancestors.
    2. To interpret historical events from God’s perspective, i.e., from the omniscient observer, to re-establish a united kingdom of all Israel.
    3. The unknown Chronicler retold the story of Judah to give the present generation a sense of continuity with the past and focus on proper worship at the temple as the place where Israel’s continuity could be maintained.
    4. They are postexilic writings – written for a theological purpose.
      1. they have a higher purpose than to relate historical events.
      2. They also wish to interpret these events from God’s perspective for their audience.
      3. Since all historical events can only be understood when interpreted through the lens of the ‘omniscient observer,’
        1. Chronicles should not be read as straight history but as a theological account of historical events.
        2. Some Christians, when they read the Bible, have this very naïve way of reading since we believe that the Bible is the literal word of God and that God is narrating the events as they unfold.
        3. It’s written by a human mind and therefore not perfect – he’s going to miss things (intentionally or unintentionally). He’s going to re-arrange things and events to fit into the agenda he wants to communicate to his specific audience.
          1. He might even fabricate things and get some facts wrong along the way.
        4. How does this make you feel as you read the Bible now knowing this?
      4. The Chronicler assumes that his readers know the writings we call Samuel-Kings already.
      5. His objective is to interpret these facts to highlight theological truths.
        1. It’s a positive history of Judah’s kings – especially David and Solomon
          1. Nothing is mentioned about their transgressions
          2. Stark contrast with 1 & 2 Kings
  3. Context
    1. Geohistory – Historical background
      1. Judah had been conquered by Babylonia in 586 BC. But with the rise of King Cyrus, Babylon itself fell to Persia in 539 BC. Many Jews living in exile on Babylonia’s old territories returned home. Judah was now a province of Persia.
      2. According to Ezra, King Cyrus of Persia permitted the Babylonian Jews to return to their ‘homeland’ to rebuild the city of Jerusalem and Solomon’s temple.
    2. 2 Main emphases in Chronicles: the Temple and Correct Worship
      1. The rebuilding of the temple was repeatedly postponed after the foundations were laid. The people went back to their everyday work and left the temple project stagnant for 19 years.
        1. During this time, they experienced drought and crop failure.
        2. YHWH told them the two events are connected and urged them to complete the temple.
        3. In 520 BCE, the temple project continued and was completed in 515 BC under Zerubabbel’s governorship.
        4. The city walls of Jerusalem were finally completed in the middle of the 5th century BC under the supervision of Nehemiah and Ezra following the second return from exile in 458 BCE.
      2. He then zeros in on what is his true object – the nature and purity of worship.
        1. Chronicles is not about history per se. It is about correct worship. He wants to speak about the renewed presence of God in Israel, after their long and lonely exile.
      3. What was the return like? Was it just like the glorious “Second Exodus” as prophesized by Isaiah?
        1. Not at all.
        2. Only a handful of Jews had returned to the ‘Promised Land,’
        3. the second temple was not quite up to the grandeur of Solomon’s (Hag. 2:3, 6-9),
        4. Jerusalem itself was in general decay with few inhabitants (Neh. 1:11).
        5. To make matters worse, there was a great deal of intermarriage between the Israelites and non-Israelites (Ezra 9-10)
      4. So what does this say about the nature of prophecy in the Bible?
        1. Not every prophecy in the Bible comes to pass.
        2. the kingdom of David did not ‘last forever’ after the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem, so God’s promise had to be reinterpreted to take into account the outcome of human freedom of choice.
        3. When we compare Samuel-Kings and Chronicles, we find that God did not make us as automatons with a fixed world line or history. The bad news is that we cannot escape the consequences of our decisions. The good news is that we are not determined or doomed but merely conditioned by our circumstances. We retain the freedom to change the way we think, decide and live our lives. Thus we are liberated to follow God but we are not autonomous (a law unto ourselves).
  1. Literature (Genre)
    1. In Hebrew, the title of Chronicles, means “the happenings of the years” or “events of the days.”
    2. In the Greek (LXX) OT, Chronicles is called, “the things omitted” suggesting that it added things omitted by Samuel and Kings.
    3. But Jerome’s Latin translated it as “a chronicle of the whole sacred history,” which is a much better description of Chronicles.
    4. What “Israel” means to the Chronicler
      1. Although the northern tribe was called Israel and the southern tribe Judah, the Chronicler refers to anyone who did not rebel against the royal line of David and the priestly line of Aaron as all Israel’ whether from the northern or southern tribe.
      2. While this means that Judah is more important than Israel because Solomon’s son ruled Judah, the Chronicler’s interest is in reestablishing a united kingdom of all Israel that comprises the true inheritance of God.
      3. The political division into the two tribes was irrelevant to him. For him, there is only one kingdom of all Israel!
      4. The kingdom of Israel was never meant to be one of genetic pedigree, but of religious fidelity.
        1. Anyone from either tribe who worships and obeys YHWH is part of all Israel and anyone who does not is not a part of all Israel.
  2. Exegesis: M2M – Messages Behind the Medium
    1. The Chronicler proclaims that Israel is to be a worshipping nation, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
    2. What does it mean that the Lord is in charge, but not in control?
      1. That God is in charge means that he sovereignly allows us freedom of will, but not in a strict deterministic way.
    3. Chronicles is an anonymous writing, although tradition claims that Ezra the prophet, a Levite who served as one of his disciples, or an individual called the “Chronicler” wrote Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah as a single work.
    4. If Ezra was indeed the primary author, it makes Chronicles a much later work (around 450 BC) than Kings, which was written in the 6th century BC.
      1. As for the location, it would have been at Jerusalem.
      2. The final form of the OT is believed to have taken shape around 400 BC.
      3. While the books of Kings addressed the question, “Why did this exile happen to us?” when they were exiled, the audience of the chronicler asks, “Are we still the people of God, or has God ended His covenant with Israel?”
        1. The chronicler wants to say, “God is still interested in us.”
        2. Thus Chronicles was written to maintain religious purity for the people, to teach them once again to worship God at the temple according to the Levitical laws, and to encourage the exiles to return to Judah.
        3. The returning exiles were reminded of their heritage to encourage them to prioritize their lives by first rebuilding the temple.
        4. This was a symbolic tool to teach them to put God first.
    5. Chronicles may be divided into 3 parts:
      1. 1 Chronicles 1 – 9:
        1. Genealogy from Adam to David (c. 1000 BC) and to the decrees of Cyrus of Persia (538 BC).
        2. Author wanted to show that the postexilic community had continuity with a divinely ordained past that goes back to the creation of the world.
        3. The genealogy is selective and deliberately identifies important Levites and temple musicians.
        4. The surviving tribes of Judah, Benjamin and Levi now represent the Davidic dynasty, Jerusalem, and proper worship in the temple.
          1. This is an example demonstrating how God would trim the physical footprint of what is meant by the ‘chosen’ people if they disobeyed because the final concern is not the chosen people in opposition to Gentiles but rather, as messengers to everyone else.
          2. Many Judeans believed that the Abramic and Davidic promises were limited to “pure Jews” and rejected “impure Jews” (like Samaritans).
            1. Jesus in John 4: 3 – 42 (when he talks to the Samaritan woman at the well) and Paul in Romans 9: 6 would correct this misunderstanding
        5. The Cyrian edict was seen as the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy that God would appoint the king to build a temple for Him. According to Ezra, Cyrus said as much.
      2. 1 Chronicles 10 – 2 Chronicles 9:
        1. The united monarchy under David and Solomon.
          1. The focus here is the temple and correct worship, featuring David’s preparation and Solomon’s construction and dedication of the temple.
          2. The author repeats the phrase ‘All Israel’ many times throughout.
            1. For instance, he writes, ‘All Israel’ came together to make David, king (1 Chr. 11:1-2).
            2. This was to remind the Judeans that in the past, both Israel and Judah was one kingdom (all Israel) under a single monarch.
          3. 2 Chronicles begins with the positive aspects of Solomon with reference to his faithfulness in building the temple.
      3. 2 Chronicles 10 – 36:
        1. The story of Judah during the divided monarchy of the kings who succeeded Solomon.
        2. 2 Chronicles 11 tells us that the divided kingdom was God’s doing.
          1. The kingship of David was to his descendants forever and worship occurs only in Jerusalem.
        3. The Chronicler states that success in battle and material prosperity are directly linked to obedience to YHWH, while failure is due to lack of trust.
  1. Hermeneutics: M2M- Interpretation for Application
    1. Some Christians think that if the Bible is not literally accurate, it cannot be God’s word. The ‘synoptic problem’ of the OT asks why the history of Israel is told in two different ways by 1 Samuel through 2 Kings and 1-2 Chronicles in a manner that cannot be reconciled by a literalistic approach. The reason is they were told for two different reasons.
      1. Case study: DAVID AND SOLOMON.
        1. Kings report the failings of David and Solomon but Chronicles does not.
        2. The Chronicler wrote a second history of Israel to portray David and Solomon as models of the nations present restoration in the postexilic period.
          1. In 1 Kings 1-2, we see messy politics and strife: an aging, bed-ridden David, who is faced by internal political struggles.
          2. In Chronicles 28-29, we see a peaceful transition of power from David to Solomon, who receives the support of all the people, including David’s other sons and even the officers.
          3. The two accounts are incompatible as literally accurate.
          4. The Chronicler presents an ideal David and Solomon to cast a vision for the future. Reshaping the past to speak to the present is precisely what this author was inspired to do.
      2. Material Prosperity and the Bible:
        1. Does your faith in God have a direct effect whether or not God blesses you materially? Why or why not?
        2. In Chronicles, as elsewhere in the OT, the biblical writers point to military success and material prosperity as the result of obedience to YHWH while failure is due to lack of trust in YHWH. This poses a challenge to Christian hermeneutics.
        3. We are not to take the view that we obey God in order to derive material blessings (even though far too often, that is precisely what we have come to believe) or blame lack of trust in God as the reason for failures.
        4. Clearly, with both material successes and failures visited upon both believers and skeptics with no apparent pattern, such a claim is preposterous. It also runs the risk of ignoring the reality that many who do not trust the Lord enjoy material success and many who do trust the Lord live lives of misery.
        5. We cannot take license with our explanations of divine action. What the writers wrote was primarily for their own audience almost as proverbial (and therefore hyperbolic) instructions rather than spiritual formulae for success.
      3. Science, Canon, and Scripture
        1. Any hermeneutics of Chronicles has to wrestle with the advances made by scientific knowledge expressed in archaeological, historical and literary and findings.
        2. Israel returned from exile not as a nation, but as a religious community.
          1. The focus shifted from political kingdom based on a religious foundation to a religious community based on a political base.
          2. The temple was replaced by religious texts.
            1. These writings were not yet considered sacred scripture.
            2. Even by the time of Jesus, there was no closed canon of the Hebrew Bible. Some scholars consider the closing of the Hebrew canon a post-second century AD achievement and some others say the Jewish canon continued into the sixth century AD.
            3. The Jewish return from Babylonian exile transformed the Teachings into law, the Prophets to predictions and Writings to history.

 

 

 

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