Chronicles: The Neglected Books of the Bible

Article excerpt

The Talmud (Bava Batra 15a) tells us that the Books of I and II Kings were written by the prophet Jeremiah (640-588 BCE), and the Books of I and II Chronicles were written by Ezra (495 BCE) and Nehemiah (397 BCE). Yet, many readers of the Bible tend to pay little attention to the Books of Chronicles, because they feel that much of them merely repeats historical material that is in other biblical books. (1) However, as will be seen, the Chronicler drew upon his historical source materials to add information not included in other books, including I and II Samuel and I and II Kings, and even Genesis. Where the Chronicler's history includes stories not told in earlier historical books, or differs from them in some points, the additions and differences should not be interpreted as a product of the Chronicler's imagination.

For example, Genesis 22 gives the story of the Akeda, wherein God tells Abraham to bring his son to the land of Moriah, and present him there as a sacrifice on a mountain which God will show him. There is a long-held tradition that the site of the Akeda was on Temple Mount, but this association of Moriah with Temple Mount rests entirely on II Chronicles 3:1:

   Then Solomon began to build the House of the Lord in Jerusalem
   on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to his father
   David at the place which David had designated at the
   threshing floor of Ornan, the Jebusite.

There are also items of royal history not included in the Books of Kings. In II Chronicles 17, King Jehoshaphat of Judah is described not only as a king who engaged in many building projects, and defeated the Philistines and other non-Israelites in the area from whom he received much tribute, but also as a king who had his kohanim [priests] and Levites go around the country teaching Torah (17:9). In II Chronicles 20, we find Jehoshaphat conducting a religious service with his troops, stressing their faith and loyalty to God so that God will be with them in their forthcoming successful battle against invaders from Ammon, Moab, and Seir. This is followed by an account of the King and his troops returning to Jerusalem with joy and gratitude to God.

In II Chronicles 21, we find the story of how Jehoshaphat's son King Jehoram committed mass fratricide, murdering all of his brothers. This was such a heinous crime that even the prophet Elijah, (2) who lived in the Northern Kingdom of Israel and usually upbraided only its own kings, writes a letter to this King of Judah condemning him for his crime, and predicting that because of it he, his family, and his people will suffer from plagues and invaders will plunder his possessions.

Farther on (II Kg. 14), we read that Amaziah, King of Judah, initiated a war against Joash, King of Israel, in which Amaziah was defeated. The account in II Kings does not tell why Amaziah wanted this war, but material in II Chronicles 25 may give a clue. Amaziah--described as one of the righteous kings--had scored a victory over the Edomites, that made him bold enough to suppose he could also be victorious over Joash of Israel.

When comparing what we read about King Hezekiah of Judah in II Kings and in II Chronicles, we find a more extensive record of his reign in the latter account. It includes many verses on the various reforms and observances Hezekiah initiated in the Temple. In addition, we learn here that he reinstituted the national observance of the holy day of Passover, which apparently had not been observed at all for a long time, or was not observed properly (Ch. 29-30).

Both I Samuel 31:8-13 and I Chronicles 10:9-10 record the death of Saul at the Battle of Gilboa, and how the Philistines beheaded his remains. They hung the body from the walls of Beth-shean, and the men of Jabesh--gilead remembering how Saul had once saved them--recovered it and gave it honorable burial. But the Philistines displayed his head among their towns and finally deposited it in the temple of their deity Dagon. …