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Old Testament: 2 Chronicles

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Summary

Jerusalem

Second Chronicles continues the story begun in 1 Chronicles. Chapters 1-9 complete the Chronicler's presentation of the reigns of David and Solomon as a united monarchy in which the construction of the temple is the sole focus. Chapters 10-28 retell the story of the divided monarchy following the rebellion of the northern tribes. The focus here is upon the southern kingdom of Judah, so that the northern kingdom is mentioned only when it intersects with the south. These southern kings are evaluated in terms of their adherence to the ideal of David and Solomon. Chapters 29-36 relate the story of the monarchy reunited by Hezekiah following the destruction of the northern kingdom in the Assyrian invasion of 722 B.C.E. His religious reforms, as well as those of Josiah, are recounted at great length. Second Chronicles closes with the collapse of Judah, the deportation of the people to Babylon, and the proclamation of Cyrus the Persian encouraging them to return to their homeland.

So What?

The Chronicler uses this history of the kings of Judah to invite his postexilic audience to see themselves as living in situations of "exile" or "restoration." Exilic situations result from unfaithfulness, serving other gods, or failing to seek the Lord. But even if literal exile does not occur, the loss of blessing or divine favor can be restored through repentance and claiming God's promise to Solomon (2 Chronicles 7:14). We, too, need to hear that a patient and merciful God awaits our response and listens to our prayers.

Where Do I Find It?

Second Chronicles is the fourteenth book in the Old Testament. It follows 1 Chronicles and comes before Ezra.

Who Wrote It?

Jewish tradition identifies Ezra as the author of 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah. Today, many scholars believe that 1 and 2 Chronicles come from a different hand than Ezra and Nehemiah and that various older traditions, including the books of Samuel and Kings, have been gathered together and edited by a nameless postexilic editor.

When Was It Written?

Chronicles is notoriously difficult to date, though it is clearly later than Israel's return from exile in Babylon. Since the list in 1 Chronicles 3:19-24 extends David's genealogy to the sixth generation after Zerubbabel, who is dated to 520 B.C.E. (Haggai 1:1), this sixth generation would be sometime after 400 B.C.E. Thus, many scholars date Chronicles to the first half of the fourth century (ca. 350 B.C.E.).

What's It About?

Second Chronicles begins with the story of Solomon told from a religious perspective that omits his personal shortcomings and emphasizes his construction of the temple. The rest of the book recounts the history of Judah to the Babylonian exile through an evaluation of Judah's kings according to their attitude toward worship as established in the reigns of David and Solomon. The northern kings of Israel are omitted from this discussion since they do not worship at the Jerusalem temple.

How Do I Read It?

Second Chronicles looks like the history of Judah, the southern kingdom, already related in 1 and 2 Kings. While important historical information is presented, some of it is at odds with the earlier presentation. Second Chronicles should be read as a theological, rather than a historical, rewriting of the earlier history, designed to demonstrate the continuity of David and Solomon's united monarchy with the struggling postexilic community to which the book was addressed.

AUTHOR: Mark Throntveit, Professor of Hebrew and Old Testament

I. The United Monarchy, Part Two: Solomon (2 Chronicles 1:1-9:31)
In Chronicles the reigns of David and Solomon are seen as a unity, though this is obscured by the artificial split of Chronicles into two books. The first part of 2 Chronicles tells the story of Solomon as the chosen builder of the temple without reference to his other exploits so familiar from 1 Kings. Part one of the united monarchy is found in 1 Chronicles 10-29.

A. Solomon's Wisdom and Wealth (2 Chronicles 1:1-17)
The reign of Solomon is introduced by lifting up his gift of wisdom and his vast wealth.

B. Initial Preparations for the Temple (2 Chronicles 2:1-18)
Solomon's preparations for the construction of the temple, as described in correspondence between Solomon and Huram, complete the extensive preparations initiated by his father, David, in 1 Chronicles 22.

C. Temple Construction (2 Chronicles 3:1-5:1)
The books of Chronicles have been building to this point. Now the central activity of Solomon's reign is related in a report of the temple's construction that emphasizes its splendor.

D. Temple Dedication (2 Chronicles 5:2-7:22)

Sharing a central position with the construction of the temple is the worship service in which the ark is finally placed in the temple, and the temple itself is dedicated.

E. Completion of the Temple (2 Chronicles 8:1-16)

Solomon's other building activities are briefly recounted and presented as blessings that accrued from the completion of the temple construction.

F. Solomon's Wisdom and Wealth (2 Chronicles 8:17-9:31)

The Chronicler's portrait of Solomon closes as it had begun with special emphasis upon Solomon's wisdom and wealth.

II. The Divided Monarchy (2 Chronicles 10:1-28:27)
Following Solomon's death, the ideal of a united Israel ruled by a Davidic king and worshiping in the Jerusalem temple was destroyed when the nation split into two kingdoms: Judah in the south, comprised of the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi, which had remained loyal to David's house; and Israel, the ten northern tribes that broke away.

A. Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 10:1-12:16)
After the death of his father, Rehoboam failed to win ratification from the ten northern tribes because of his arrogance and, according to 2 Kings but not Chronicles, Solomon's apostasy. These ten tribes broke away from the south and formed the northern kingdom of Israel with its capital in Samaria.

B. Abijah and Asa (2 Chronicles 13:1-16:14)

Two kings illustrate the necessity of reliance upon God for the Chronicler, whose favorable judgment on Abijah is at odds with that of Kings, where Abijah is known as Abijam. His famous speech (13:4-12) is often seen as the clearest exposition of the Chronicler's distinctive theology. Asa begins his reign trusting in the Lord and is successful. The closing portion of his reign, however, illustrates the dire consequences of Asa's lack of trust.

C. Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 17:1-21:1)
Jehoshaphat, as one of the Chronicler's favorite kings, embodies several of his desirable traits: piety, expressed in prayer and the removal of idols; establishment of the law; and concern for the Levites. His willingness to form alliances with the north, however, is problematic and depicted as such.

D. Jehoram (2 Chronicles 21:2-22:1)

The Chronicler deems Jehoram's alliance with Ahab in the north responsible for the series of disasters that accompany his reign: defeat in war, plague, and personal illness culminating in an early death.

E. Ahaziah (2 Chronicles 22:2-9)
Ahaziah is completely controlled by northern influences, more so than any other king. Chief among those northern influences is his mother, Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel, and granddaughter of Omri, the powerful king of Israel.

F. Athaliah (2 Chronicles 22:10-23:21)
After taking the throne by force, and during her six-year reign, Athaliah, Judah's only non-Davidic ruler, attempts to destroy the house of Judah. God thwarts her attempts through the courage of Jehoshebeath, the half-sister of Ahaziah and the wife of the priest Jehoiada.

G. Joash (2 Chronicles 24:1-27)
Joash, under the tutelage of Jehoiada the priest, starts off well and even carries out needed temple repairs. But following the death of his mentor, and contrary to the judgment of 2 Kings 12, he lapses into apostasy and is assassinated in his bed by his servants.

H. Amaziah (2 Chronicles 25:1-26:2)
Like his predecessor, Amaziah starts off as a pious king, but his reign ends in apostasy, again contrary to the report in 2 Kings 14.

I. Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:3-23)

Because this politically powerful king died as a leper, the Chronicler suggests that his pride in taking priestly duties for himself accounts for his ignominious demise.

J. Jotham (2 Chronicles 27:1-9)
The brief reign of Jotham essentially reports his building activities. He is, however, a refreshing model of obedience and blessing.

K. Ahaz (2 Chronicles 28:1-27)
In Chronicles, Judah sinks to its lowest point with the reign of Ahaz, not Manasseh, as in 2 Kings.

III. The Reunited Monarchy (2 Chronicles 29:1-36:23)

Following the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel to Assyria in 722 B.C.E., the divided monarchy came to a close. Hezekiah, as a new David and Solomon, unites the people once again around the Jerusalem temple.

A. Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 29:1-32:33)
Hezekiah purifies the temple, renews temple worship, invites the defeated northern Israelites to a renewed celebration of the Passover, and defends Jerusalem against Sennacherib's invading army.

B. Manasseh (2 Chronicles 33:1-20)
In 2 Kings, Manasseh is portrayed as Judah's worst king. In Chronicles, we hear of a startling repentance during his exile in Babylon, followed by extensive reforms.

C. Amon (2 Chronicles 33:21-25)

Amon undoes all the reforms of his repentant father, Manasseh.

D. Josiah (2 Chronicles 34:1-36:1)
Josiah is another of the Chronicler's model kings. Much more space is allotted to his faithfulness in seeking God, his extensive reforms, and his Passover celebration than in 2 Kings.

E. Exile and Restoration (2 Chronicles 36:2-23)

The demise of Judah is rapidly related through reports of the continued apostasy of their last four kings, culminating in the Babylonian invasion. Following the exile, Cyrus issues a proclamation encouraging the exiles to go home.

AUTHOR: Mark Throntveit, Professor of Hebrew and Old Testament

The earlier history in Samuel and Kings addressed the questions of those who had experienced the fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar II (587 B.C.E.), the destruction of the temple, the end of Davidic rule, and deportation to Babylon. Chronicles, however, speaks to the postexilic restoration community that had returned from Babylon to worship in the rebuilt Jerusalem temple as a result of the Persian defeat of the Babylonians in 539 B.C.E. Whereas Samuel and Kings tried to explain why the exile had taken place, Chronicles tried to explain what it means to be part of the restored community instituted by David and Solomon. This was especially necessary because the community now lived under the political auspices of the Persian Empire, not the united monarchy of David and Solomon.

AUTHOR: Mark Throntveit, Professor of Hebrew and Old Testament

Canonical setting. Chronicles is found in several different places depending upon its canonical setting. In English Bibles, the Septuagint, and the Vulgate, it appears after Kings and before Ezra-Nehemiah as one of the historical books. In the Hebrew Bible, however, Chronicles appears in the third section called the Writings. Usually it appears last, even though Ezra-Nehemiah, which continues the narrative of Chronicles, precedes it. Here it may point to a future restoration of Israel with Cyrus's closing admonition: "Whoever is among you of all his people, may the LORD his God be with him! Let him go up" (36:23b). When it appears at the beginning of the Writings, its emphasis on David's concern for temple worship and liturgy may serve as an introduction to the Psalter, which follows it.


Chronicles as history. Chronicles looks like history, but as one reads through it, it becomes obvious that it is a very different kind of history than we are accustomed to reading. Accounts drawn from Samuel and Kings are presented differently and often flatly contradicted. This difficult issue is somewhat eased by the recognition that no biblical book is written with the canons of what we would now call "history." Recent comparisons of the Greek versions of Samuel and the Dead Sea Scrolls have revealed that fairly often the Chronicler has preserved the "correct" reading of differing passages. It must be admitted, however, that the Chronicler's presentation often modifies his sources, usually to make a theological point, rather than to contradict a historical account. For example, contrary to 2 Samuel 5-6, the first thing David does after his coronation is to try to bring the ark to Jerusalem, thus demonstrating his devotion to proper worship, a key theme in Chronicles (1 Chronicles 13:1-14). Rather than disparage the Chronicler's failure to conform to our ideas of what history should be, we should try to determine his theological motivation in presenting these stories this way.


Evaluative comments in the narrative. Readers are often struck by the directness of certain evaluative comments that frequently appear in the Chronicler's narrative. These usually function to direct the reader to the point of the narrative, at least as the Chronicler would have us see it. The most striking is found in 1 Chronicles 10:13-14, where the writer claims that the LORD put Saul to death and turned the kingdom over to David because Saul had been unfaithful. Other notable comments of this nature include:

  • David becoming king according to the word of the LORD (1 Chronicles 11:3)
  • David had the support of "all Israel" (11:10; 12:22, 23, 38-40)
  • The success of the Levites was due to God's help (15:26)
  • David died with riches and honor (29:28-30)
  • Solomon succeeded David because God was with him (2 Chronicles 1:1)


God speeches. The Chronicler offers us a rich collection of speeches and prayers in which he expresses his own views. These speeches and prayers are usually unparalleled in Samuel/Kings. As such they are a rich source for the Chronicler's distinctive theological position. It is striking, therefore, that there are no unique occurrences of speeches made by God. Every instance of divine speech, unmediated by prophets, is paralleled in his sources (usually Samuel or Kings). Although the Chronicler has felt free to "improve" these speeches found in his sources, he has not felt free to provide unique speeches attributed to God, possibly reflecting the more pious attitude of the postexilic community.


Huge numbers. Huge numbers are frequently encountered in these books. For example Asa is said to have repulsed an invasion of one million Ethiopians with an army of 580,000 (2 Chronicles 14:8). Frequently, the accuracy of these huge numbers is supported by the claim that the Hebrew word eleph, translated "thousand," refers to a military unit from a tribal subsection rather than a literal thousand, thereby reducing the total of Asa's forces to "580 military units." Plausible as this may seem, what does one do with David's amassing of 100,000 talents of gold ( 3,365 tons!) and one million talents of silver (33,000 tons!) for the Jerusalem temple (1 Chronicles 22:14) where no military units are in sight? It is best to see the exaggerated numbers as a rhetorical device to display the magnificence of the temple, much as we might say, "Thanks a million!"


An idealized Solomon? Because the Chronicler has omitted several of the unsavory depictions of Solomon familiar in the book of Kings, such as the repressive measures he took to consolidate his claim to the throne, including the murder of his own half brothers (1 Kings 1-2), or the idolatry and ultimate apostasy that characterized the end of his reign (1 Kings 11), the Chronicler has been accused of presenting us with a sanitized if not an idealized portrayal of Solomon. While there is much truth in this, it should be pointed out that the Chronicler's audience was well aware of the earlier history's depiction of David and Solomon. This means that the Chronicler's intent was to concentrate upon those aspects of these kings that accounted for their success and that might serve as examples to the restoration community.


Interpretive principles. A number of exegetical principles in Chronicles regarding the Torah have been discovered, including the following:

  • Chronicles distinguishes between a text and its interpretation.
  • The Torah is seen as a relatively closed system forming the basis of the legislation.
  • The Torah is also partially open, in that extension or reapplication is possible.
  • Torah often requires supplementary law in order to be effectual.
  • Tensions in the Torah tend to be solved by a principle of addition rather than by mediation or compromise.
  • The written Torah is more authoritative than written prophecy.
  • But written prophecy is more authoritative than narrative history.


Prophetic speeches. Among the Chronicler's rich collection of speeches and prayers (see "God speeches") are five prophetic speeches, taken from Samuel/Kings with modifications: (1 Chronicles 17:1-15; 21:9-12, 18; 2 Chronicles 11:2-4; 18:12-27; 34:22-28). In addition ten unparalleled speeches from otherwise generally unknown prophets appear: (2 Chronicles 12:5-8; 15:1-7; 16:7-9; 19:2-3; 20:37; 21:12-15; 24:20-22; 25:7-9; 25:15-16; 28:9-11). These ten unparalleled speeches all occur in the period of the divided monarchy and deliver the Chronicler's message of retributive justice.


Relationship to Ezra-Nehemiah. Theological differences between Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah have caused a revision of the view that Ezra-Nehemiah and the books of Chronicles share common authorship and comprise the so-called "Chronicler's History." These differences include Chronicles' inclusive attitude toward the people of the Northern Kingdom; emphasis upon the Davidic Monarchy; and concern with retributive justice, all essentially absent from Ezra-Nehemiah, as well as the differing understanding of "Israel" in the two works. In Chronicles, Israel is defined as all twelve tribes; Ezra-Nehemiah, however, limits Israel to Judah and Benjamin. Currently, most scholars suggest that Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah are separate literary entities.


Royal prayers. Among the Chronicler's rich collection of speeches and prayers are several royal prayers, including those of David (1 Chronicles 17:16-27 // 2 Samuel 7:18-29; 24:10-17); Solomon (2 Chronicles 6:12-42 // 1 Kings 8:22-53); Asa (2 Chronicles 14:11); Jehoshaphat (20:5-12); and Hezekiah (30:18-19). David and Solomon's major prayers (1 Chronicles 17; 2 Chronicles 6) are also found in the earlier history, but presented with significant changes illustrative of the Chronicler's theology. These too can have structural significance. For example, David's prayers form an inclusio around his preparations for the temple.


Royal speeches. The royal speeches (see also "God speeches") unique to Chronicles include those of David (1 Chronicles 13:2-3; 15:2, 12-13; 22:6-16; 22:17-19; 28:2-10; 28:20-21; 29:1-5, 20); Abijah (2 Chronicles 13:4-12); Asa (14:7); Jehoshaphat (19:6-7, 9-11; 20:20); Hezekiah (29:5-11, 31; 30:6-9; 32:7-8); and Josiah (35:3-6). Only kings judged positively by the Chronicler (or in the positive segment of the king's reign, if he is presented both positively and negatively) make these speeches. These speeches often have structural significance. For example, Abijah's speech in 2 Chronicles 13:4-12 and Hezekiah's speech in 2 Chronicles 30:6-9--both calls to the north to return--form an inclusio around the divided monarchy.


Sources in Chronicles. The canonical books of Samuel and Kings (though in different editions than we have) serve as the Chronicler's major source. In the past, as many as twenty-three other sources have been suggested for the Chronicler, who cites sources more than any other biblical author. These alleged sources, however, are regarded with some skepticism these days; as we have no access to them, the point is rendered moot.


Textual matters. In the past, scholars determined the theology of Chronicles by noting the many small changes from the Chronicler's source (usually Samuel/Kings) and assigning a theological motivation for the change. Thus, Chronicles omits David's adultery with Bathsheba because he wants to depict David as an ideal king. The problem with this approach, however, is that the text of Samuel/Kings that the Chronicler used was not the one we have now in our Bibles. This means that before differences between Chronicles and Samuel are ascribed to the Chronicler's theological interests, one needs to make sure that the Chronicler is not reading (and faithfully preserving) a different text of Samuel/Kings. Quite often the Hebrew text of Chronicles agrees with the Greek text of Samuel (especially the so-called Lucianic recension of the Septuagint) and the Qumran text of Samuel, over against the Hebrew text of Samuel. In these cases, the Chronicler did not alter his text for theological reasons or any other. This accounts for many of the differences between older and more recent commentaries on this material.


Use of traditional material. There appear to be many contradictions in the Chronicler's use of traditional material. Without denying that this is sometimes the case, it is important to recognize that the Chronicler's usual way of achieving a new portrayal of the past was by omitting or rearranging parallel material, a practice that may not have appeared as obtrusive to his audience as it does to us. It is probable, judging from other postexilic literature, that the Chronicler's relatively free use of the tradition was commensurate with the practice of his contemporaries.


What kind of book is Chronicles? Recent interpretation, rejecting modern designations such as "history," "theology," "midrash," or "exegesis," tends to see Chronicles as a "Rewritten Bible." This genre, found in the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran, can be described as a narrative that follows Scripture closely but includes additional material and interpretation. It is quite clear that Chronicles takes over other biblical texts, especially Samuel and Kings, to a greater degree than any other canonical book--and it has obviously augmented that material in a variety of ways.


Why are there two books of Chronicles? Originally the books of Chronicles were a single work. The modern division into two books obscures the Chronicler's presentation of the reigns of David and Solomon as a unity, emphasizing the complementary nature of each reign in which David prepares for the building of the temple and Solomon actually carries out its construction. Chronicles was divided into two books when it was translated into Greek.

AUTHOR: Mark Throntveit, Professor of Hebrew and Old Testament

All Israel. Because Chronicles omits the history of the northern kingdom (Israel) except where it overlaps with that of Judah, previous scholarship considered Chronicles to be narrowly focused upon the two southern tribes, Judah and Benjamin. While there are occasional references to this (as in 2 Chronicles 11:3; 12:1), current scholarship rightly maintains that those references where "all Israel" refers to the north (2 Chronicles 10:16; 11:13) or to the north and south together (2 Chronicles 9:30) suggest an inclusive understanding of Israel that goes back to the ancient ideal of twelve tribes. In 1 Chronicles this is most evident in the enthusiastic participation of "all Israel" at every major section in the narrative:

  • the inclusion of the northern tribes in the genealogies of chapters 1-9
  • David's gathering of "all Israel" at Hebron (11:1)
  • the capture of Jerusalem (11:4)
  • the transfer of the ark (13:2-3)
  • the enthronements of David (11:1-3) and Solomon (28:1-10)


The ark. In Chronicles the ark is the sign of God's presence within the temple, the divine throne (1 Chronicles 13:6), or the Lord's footstool (1 Chronicles 28:2). In Exodus, the ark is where people call upon the name of the Lord and God would speak (Exodus 25:22). Later the place of invocation is moved to the temple itself (2 Chronicles 6:33). In the New Testament the ark is said to have contained three items: the ten commandments, Aaron's rod, and a pot of manna (Hebrews 9:4).


Continuity with the past. The Chronicler is intensely interested in displaying the continuity between his own postexilic community and preexilic Israel. This is most clearly seen in the nine chapters of genealogies with which 1 Chronicles begins. Here, geographical, spiritual, and historical continuity is presented. The central position occupied by the temple in the Chronicler's presentation, along with the restoration of proper worship led by the Levites, as instituted by David, also links the people with the traditions of the past.


The cult. The connection between the Chronicler's two main emphases, the king and the temple, lies in the cult. Abijah's address in 2 Chronicles 13:4-12 clearly makes this link. In the past, scholarly consensus opted for a dependence by the Chronicler upon the Priestly traditions due, in part, to the Chronicler's ordering of the Levites. Later, the Chronicler's affinity for the prescriptions of Deuteronomy shifted the scholarly consensus in that direction. Obviously, both traditions have been formative for the Chronicler's presentation.


David and Solomon. The reigns of these two kings are seen as a unity in Chronicles. This unity is based upon the fact that both are "chosen" by God (David: 1 Chronicles 28:4; Solomon: 1 Chronicles 28:5, 6, 10; 29:1); it is significant that the Chronicler has omitted the reference to the choice of Saul as king from his source (1 Samuel 10:24). In addition, God makes two promises: to David concerning the monarchy (1 Chronicles 17:3-14) and to Solomon concerning the temple (2 Chronicles 7:11-22). These two promises form the theological backbone of the books of Chronicles. David is the successful king who establishes the kingdom and provides for the temple, while Solomon rules over a peaceful kingdom that builds the temple. The Chronicler achieves this somewhat idealized presentation by concentrating on their public lives and avoiding descriptions of their often troubling private lives.


The Davidic covenant. Chapter 17 is the crucial passage of 1 Chronicles. God's promise of a dynasty to David in this chapter (vv. 1-15) results in the Chronicler's equation of Judah, the Davidic dynasty, with the kingdom of God (1 Chronicles 10:14; 28:5; 29:23). The northern kingdom, Israel, is regarded as illegitimate because of its non-Davidic kings (2 Chronicles 13:8). Even the genealogical introduction has been constructed to emphasize the royal tribes of Judah and Benjamin, and, within the genealogy, the family of David is highlighted (1 Chronicles 2:3-4:23; especially 3:1-24). By omitting the clause concerning the divine punishment of the king's son (Solomon) when he commits iniquity (2 Samuel 7:14), the Chronicler precludes a conditional reading of the covenant.


Eschatology. The prominence of God's promise to David (1 Chronicles 17) throughout the work has led to a broad range of views concerning the topic of eschatology. Different understandings of "messianic" (messianic hope deriving from the Psalms and prophets, ancient Near Eastern royal ideology, and theological doctrine of the last things) complicate the discussion. Four options regularly appear in the literature: a hope for Davidic restoration; no eschatological/messianic hope; a Davidic restoration without a messianic component; and a messianic/eschatological hope without a Davidic restoration. There is no consensus at this time.


God's activity in history. God is regularly portrayed as working through the history of Israel, though not in a predetermined way. Rather God responds to the activity of the human actors in the drama:

  • The Davidic dynasty was founded as a result of God's response to Saul's "unfaithfulness": Saul was slain and God turned the kingdom over to David (1 Chronicles 10:14).
  • David was acclaimed king at Hebron as God's chosen leader (11:1-2).
  • Throughout the account God is seen as responsible for the rise and fall of kings, but always in response to the king's faithfulness.
  • In the end, God brought the Chaldeans against Judah for their unfaithfulness (2 Chronicles 36:17).
  • stirred up Cyrus the Persian to announce their return from Babylon and the restoration of the temple (36:22-23).


Hopeful conclusion. Both the Deuteronomistic History and Chronicles end with the deportation of Israel into exile. But Chronicles adds a two-verse postscript to this dismal conclusion in the form of Cyrus's decree that encourages the exiles to return to Judah from Babylon (2 Chronicles 36:22-23). This hope-filled ending and the Chronicler's continual affirmation of the power of repentance gives the history a decidedly more optimistic character than Samuel and Kings.


Individual responsibility. Ezekiel 18:1-20 had already argued against the traditional view that punishment for parental sin would be visited upon the children and grandchildren (for example, Exodus 20:5) by insisting that individuals bear responsibility for their own sin. The Chronicler illustrates this in the lives of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah; as in Ezekiel 18, they represent a pious father, a sinful son, and a pious grandson. There is no accumulation of sins, as in Kings; each is responsible for his own actions, and each starts his reign with a "clean slate." The postexilic community needed to be assured that they were no longer living under God's judgment and that their faithful obedience would lead to blessing.


Liturgical music. Liturgical music is pervasive in Chronicles, leading many to suppose that the author was a "church" musician wishing to promote his own profession. While this is deemed unlikely these days, the scope of unparalleled references to liturgical music is impressive:

  • 1 Chronicles 6:31-48; 9:14-16, 33; 15:1-24, 27-28; 23:2-5, 25-32; 25:1-31
  • 2 Chronicles 5:11-14; 7:1-6; 8:12-15; 20:18-30; 23:12-13, 18; 29:25-30; 30:21-22; 31:2; 34:12-13; 35:15


Prophecy. Chronicles has a special interest in the nature and function of prophecy. The most important aspects are:

  • Trust in the Lord is associated with trust in God's messengers.
  • Obedience to their message will ensure national security and success (for example, 2 Chronicles 20:20-23).
  • Disobedience to their message leads to disaster (for example, 2 Chronicles 24:17-26).
  • The Davidic monarchy was established (1 Chronicles 11:3) and confirmed (1 Chronicles 17:3-14) by prophecy.
  • The rejection of prophecy led to the destruction and exile of the kingdom (2 Chronicles 36:15-16).


Prophets. Beyond seeing their function as mediators between God and the people--mediators who announce the word of God, rebuke, warn, intercede, preach repentance, and encourage--the Chronicler displays a unique approach to the prophets. Various members of the community don the prophetic mantle: priests (2 Chronicles 24:20), Levites (20:14-17), David (1 Chronicles 28:2, 6-7, 19), Solomon ( 2 Chronicles 1:7-12; 7:12-22), the founders of the temple music (Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthan, 1 Chronicles 25:1-5), prophets known from 1 Kings (Micaiah, 2 Chronicles 18:7-27; Elijah, though only in a letter, 21:12), and a whole host of prophets otherwise unknown. In addition, only in Chronicles are prophetic works cited as historical sources.


Retributive justice. The connection between obedience and blessing, and disobedience and judgment, has been seen as the doctrinal center of Chronicles due to the frequency of such pronouncements as, "If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will abandon you forever" (1 Chronicles 28:9b). Five changes to his source in Samuel/Kings have been observed:

  • If there is unpunished sin, an appropriate punishment is added.
  • If there is unrewarded piety, an appropriate reward is added.
  • If there is unexplained punishment (illness, death, etc.), a sin is added.
  • If there is unexplained reward (children, wealth, etc.), an act of piety is added.
  • If a possible sin and an apparent punishment appear independently, they will be connected.


Typically, the rewards in Chronicles are these: rest, victory in war, children, wealth, health, building projects, and a great name. While the Chronicler does employ the idea of retributive justice, it is not as mechanically applied as it might seem. In several instances (1 Chronicles 21:15-19; 2 Chronicles 12:5-7; 15:2-7; 30:6-9; 36:15) a prophet will issue a warning between the sin and its punishment, and God responds graciously to those who repent.


Ritual. The Chronicler's obvious fondness for the temple and its cult has led many readers to consider him a strict ritualist. Several observations lead to a moderation of this conclusion:

  • The Chronicler has introduced a note of "great joy" into all the major religious celebrations (for example, 1 Chronicles 29:22; 2 Chronicles 30:26).
  • The prophetic speeches often point to the efficacy of faith rather than ritual.
  • Noncultic religion was at least possible for the Chronicler (2 Chronicles 6:34-35; 7:14).


Temple. The temple is the central motif in Chronicles because of its relationship to worship. Virtually every section of 1 Chronicles contributes to this central motif. In 2 Chronicles the temple motif is most clearly seen in:

  • the seven chapters allotted to its construction (2 Chronicles 1-7).
  • the apostasy of the north, ascribed to their abandonment of the temple (13:8-12).
  • the evaluation of the remaining kings, positively or negatively, primarily on the basis of their faithfulness regarding the temple and proper worship.


Typology. The Chronicler seems to have a penchant for describing major characters and even events in ways that recall previous characters and events. For example:

  • David's transfer of authority to Solomon (1 Chronicles 22) is strongly colored by Moses' transfer of authority to Joshua (Deuteronomy 31; Joshua 1).
  • Solomon is also portrayed as a second David in several regards.
  • Solomon's artisan Huram-abi constructs the temple (2 Chronicles 2:7-14) in ways that recall Bezalel and Oholiab's construction of the tabernacle (Exodus 31:1-11; 35:30-36:7).
  • Hezekiah is modeled upon the unified reigns of David and Solomon.


View of the Exile. Second Kings had portrayed the exile as God's judgment upon Judah for their breach of the covenant. While this is also true for Chronicles (2 Chronicles 36:14), the exile is also seen as a time of giving the land a Sabbath rest of seventy years (36:21). This suggests that the Chronicler is thinking of 7 x 70, or 490 years of neglect (Leviticus 26:34-39), possibly the time between the destruction of the first temple and the dedication of the second (587-516 B.C.E.). Second Kings claims that some of the poorest people of the land were left to care for the vines and till the soil (25:11-12), but in 2 Chronicles the land is completely empty so that the land may have its Sabbaths (36:21).

AUTHOR: Mark Throntveit, Professor of Hebrew and Old Testament