Academic journal article Journal of Biblical Literature

The Function of the Chronicler's Temple Despoliation Notices in Light of Imperial Realities in Yehud

Academic journal article Journal of Biblical Literature

The Function of the Chronicler's Temple Despoliation Notices in Light of Imperial Realities in Yehud

Article excerpt

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The importance of Jerusalem for the Chronicler1 (hereafter, Chr) has been highlighted by many previous studies.2 Of course, the Deuteronomistic History (hereafter, DH) was also concerned with the Jerusalem temple and its importance, yet the centrality of the temple for the DH is on a different level from that of Chronicles. Despite all the attention paid to the centrality of temple in the book of Chronicles, surprisingly little attention has been given to Chr's treatment of the temple despoliation notices found in his Vorlage. Both the Deuteronomist3 (hereafter, Dtr) and Chr show a consistent interest in the history of the temple treasuries in their work.4 A study by Gary N. Knoppers has focused on how Chr's presentation of both palace and temple treasuries diverges from that of Dtr, noting that Chr integrates royal actions toward these treasuries more closely into his presentation of the reigns of these kings than Dtr.5 Knoppers suggests that through his divergences Chr effectively presented an alternative picture to Dtr's story of decline.6 However, the fact that Chr mitigates Dtr's history of decline through his many divergences in this regard still leaves unexplained some aspects of Chr's reworking of the despoliation notices in his Vorlage.

This article will suggest that Chr's change in despoliation notices evinces an attempt to impose limitations on royal privileges regarding the temple. Contrary to David Noel Freedman's suggestions long ago that Chr purposed to give a basis for the authority of the house of David over the temple and its cult,7 Chr actually limits even the Davidides' temple privileges compared to Dtr in his reworking of the Davidic despoliation notices of the book of Kings. Through a study of the accounts of Judahite monarchs who appropriated temple treasures in times of military duress in both the book of Kings and the book of Chronicles, it will be apparent that Dtr does not view such actions negatively, while Chr is at pains to characterize such actions as errant. Chr's explicit statements condemning such temple despoliation, his negative characterization of the offending monarch (contrary to the king's characterization in the DH), and his omissions of temple despoliation notices all reveal the negative disposition of the book of Chronicles in this regard and the author's desire to limit royal control over temple treasuries. I will conclude by exploring possible reasons for these differing attitudes toward the sanctity of the temple.

I. Davidic Temple Plunderers in Biblical Historiography

A. In the Book of Kings

E. Theodore Mullen has examined instances in the DH where kings seek to survive a military threat through the offering of temple and palace treasuries.8 Noting how all of these kings (besides Hezekiah, who Mullen thinks is an exception to the rule) fail to remove the high places, Mullen concludes that the account of the despoliation of the treasuries functioned to show that the king was being punished for not removing the high places.9 However, his view is difficult to accept since kings who despoiled the treasuries are evaluated in varying ways by the narrator, with most judged to have done right in Yahweh's eyes (e.g., Asa, Joash, Hezekiah).

Nadav Na'aman has criticized Mullen's study, concluding that it is doubtful that the despoliation notices consistently indicate the punishment of the king for failing to remove the high places.10 Na'aman has examined these narratives, emphasizing the different circumstances of each king and distinguishing between those who voluntarily hand over treasure (Asa and Ahaz) and others who meet demands in an attempt to avert a threat to Jerusalem (Joash and Hezekiah). Similarly, Mordechai Cogan and Hayim Tadmor have argued that the term "bribe" (dx#) employed in the description of Ahaz's despoliation of temple treasuries "bears negative connotations" and is used to criticize the king. …

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