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The Abingdon Old Testament Commentaries provide compact, critical commentaries on the books of the Old Testament for the use of theological students and pastors. The commentaries are also useful for upper-level college or university students and for those responsible for teaching in congregational settings. In addition to providing basic information and insights into the Old Testament writings, these commentaries exemplify the tasks and procedures of careful interpretation, all to assist students of the Old ...
The Abingdon Old Testament Commentaries provide compact, critical commentaries on the books of the Old Testament for the use of theological students and pastors. The commentaries are also useful for upper-level college or university students and for those responsible for teaching in congregational settings. In addition to providing basic information and insights into the Old Testament writings, these commentaries exemplify the tasks and procedures of careful interpretation, all to assist students of the Old Testament in coming to an informed and critical engagement with the biblical texts themselves.
The present volume gives an up-to-date, readable commentary on the books of First and Second Chronicles. The commentary covers critical issues section by section while emphasizing the larger theological and literary issues in Chronicles and illustrating its relevance for modern readers.
Commentary: 1 Chronicles
All Israel United Under King David (1 Chronicles 1–9)
The first nine chapters of 1 Chronicles obviously constitute the book's first major section. These chapters are, in effect, one large genealogy—the most extensive genealogy in the Bible. As a whole, this genealogy is segmented rather than linear. That is, it traces the descendants of all the sons of Israel (Jacob) rather than following a single line through one individual of each generation.
Understandably, modern readers find ancient genealogies—especially one of this length and detail—difficult to appreciate and often skip over them. After all, we do not have any personal or family stake in them, so that the names, many of which seem unpronounceable, are meaningless. But a genealogy can be a powerful literary and theological tool, both in the "big picture" that it provides about the group of people who, as a whole, are its subject, and in the specific details.
An example from the New Testament may help to illustrate. The Gospels give two distinct genealogies for Jesus—one in Matt 1:1-17 and another in Luke 3:23-38. At least part of the reason for the differences between them is the fact that the function of the genealogy in Matthew is primarily theological. Matthew writes for a Jewish or Jewish-Christian audience. He thus begins the genealogy with Abraham, showing that Jesus, like his audience, was ethnically Jewish. Luke, in contrast, traces Jesus' roots all the way back to Adam, making the point that Jesus' ministry was aimed at all people. This is because Luke's audience was primarily Gentile. Matthew's genealogy draws on stories from the Old Testament, with which his audience would have been familiar. He emphasizes that Jesus was not only descended from Abraham, but also from David. In fact, Matthew's genealogy consists largely of the list of kings of Judah. This is crucial for Matthew, who wishes to show that Jesus was the "Messiah" or "anointed one" in the line of David. No Jew of Jesus' day could have had a more prestigious genealogy. Yet, when one examines stories about the history of Judah in the Old Testament, it becomes evident that this illustrious genealogy was full of sinful individuals. Perhaps part of Matthew's point in the genealogy, therefore, is to suggest not only that Jesus had the right pedigree to be the Messiah, but that his role was to redeem sinful humanity among whom he was born.
Like the genealogy in Matthew, 1 Chr 1–9 introduces the Chronicler's history. It provides a historical, theological, and literary background to the narrative that follows. It then provides a literary link between the list of Saul's heirs (9:35-44 // 8:29-38) and the narrative about his death in chapter 10. Chapter 9, especially, is transitional. If its mention of the exile (v. 1b) is original, it makes the point that the postexilic community is continuous with preexilic Israel. In any case, the genealogy of Saul prepares for the narrative about his removal and replacement by David in chapter 10.
Substituting for a narrative synopsis of Israel's history, the genealogy relates who Israel is and then what happened to it. The genealogy gives the reader the sense that God is guiding Israel toward its divinely ordained destiny. It depicts the continuity of Israel by showing how the current constituency of Israel beyond the exile derives from the past. This would have been particularly important for the Chronicler's principal audience—people in the postexilic, Persian period whose connection with their past had been interrupted by the exile. The specifics of the genealogy legitimize the make-up and institutions of the postexilic community and even the place of particular individuals within families or guilds.
As a whole, the genealogy highlights the unity of Israel by including all of the tribes, thereby introducing the theme of "all Israel" that is one of the Chronicler's major theological emphases. The Chronicler's use of the term "Israel" in these genealogies is significant. Israel is in effect Judah. The Chronicler regards the northern kingdom as illegitimate and does not relate its history except where it overlaps with that of Judah. Hence, the fact that he includes the genealogies of the northern tribes in chapters 1–9 is remarkable and indicates that he still considers them a part of Israel, albeit one that is apostate. It is true that there are no genealogies for either Dan or Zebulun. But their absence is probably due to accidental omission or simply because the Chronicler had no real sources of information about the far northern tribes of Asher, Dan, Zebulun, and Naphtali. (See commentary on 7:12, 30-40.) Both Dan and Zebulun are included in the list of the sons of Israel in 2:1-2 and must be considered parts of "all Israel."
First Chronicles 1–9 is actually a collection of shorter, independent genealogies, many of which are borrowed from elsewhere in the Old Testament, especially Genesis 46 and Numbers 26. The mixture of forms (e.g., descending: "the sons of X: Y his son, Z his son, and so on" or "X begat Y, who begat Z"; ascending: "Z son of Y son X, and so on") indicates that this is a collection rather than a single genealogy. In some cases the Chronicler composed a genealogy drawing on the narrative material in Genesis. The genealogical collection consists of three main parts: chapter 1 begins with Adam and extends to Israel (Jacob); chapters 2–8 cover the tribes of Israel; then chapter 9 lists the residents of Jerusalem and the genealogy of Saul. The most extensive genealogies occur for the tribes of Judah, Levi, and Benjamin. As the three tribes that made up Judah, they were the most important and familiar to the Chronicler and his contemporaries. He built the genealogy in chapters 1–9 around these three tribes. Hence, the very make-up of the genealogy betrays two of the Chronicler's theological emphases, since Judah is the tribe of David and Levi is the tribe of the priests.
From Adam to Abraham (1 Chronicles 1:1-27)
The Chronicler begins at the beginning, with Adam. He thus paints the background for his focus on Abraham's descendants, especially the Israelites. These verses well illustrate the nature of the Chronicler's work as a "chronicle" (see the introduction) or epitome of biblical history, since they basically summarize in genealogical form all of Gen 1–11.
The first twenty-seven verses of 1 Chronicles move from Adam to Abraham and are closely based on Gen 1–11, especially chapters 5 and 10. Verses 14a, 24-27 are linear while the intervening verses are a segmented genealogy with anecdotes. The change in form suggests that verses 4b-23 are either an interpolation or come from a different source than verses 14a.
Verses 1-4 simply reproduce the names from Gen 5 without any narrative information about the characters. The genealogy is selective; there is no mention, for instance, of Cain. The reader must be familiar with Genesis in order to understand that this list is a linear genealogy and each name represents a succeeding generation. In verse 4 the form unexpectedly changes, since Shem, Ham, and Japheth are all Noah's sons rather than his son, grandson, and great grandson, respectively. But again, one must know the story in Genesis in order to recognize this. The LXX reads "sons of Noah" before the three names, a reading that was either accidentally lost from the MT or was added to the LXX (or its underlying Hebrew text) in order to smooth the abrupt change in form.
The change to a segmented genealogy (see introduction under genealogies) with the naming of Noah's sons in verse 4b may begin an addition that extends through verse 23. Not only do verses 4b-23 differ in form from the surrounding ones, but verses 24-27 seem to be the continuation of verses 14a. Just as verses 1-4a list ten generations from Adam to Noah, so verses 24-27 list ten generations following Noah up to Abraham. Also, verses 11-16, 17b-24 are lacking in the LXX. While verses 17b-24 may have been lost accidentally, a scribe's eye skipping from Arpachshad in verse 17 to the same name in verse 24, there is no apparent reason for the loss of verses 11-16. Still, the genealogy in verses 17-23 does not fit well with that in verses 24-27; the former does not extend beyond the sons of Joktan, while the latter does not mention Joktan. Therefore, verses 4b-23 were probably originally distinct from verses 1-4a, 24-27. Whether verses 4b 23 were incorporated by the Chronicler or were added later to his work is impossible to tell.
Verses 4b-23 are drawn from the "table of nations" in Genesis 10, which describes how the 70 peoples of the world descended from Noah and his three sons. A glance at a map shows that the "descendants" are all place names. Gomer, Tubal, and Meshech (v. 5) are in Anatolia (Turkey); Javan is Greece; Elishah is Cyprus; Kittim is Caphtor or Crete; and Rodanim is Rhodes (v. 6). Thus, the Japhethites inhabit Anatolia and the western Mediterranean. Cush is Nubia (Ethiopia), and Put is Libya; Egypt and Canaan are transparent (v. 8), so that the Hamites represent Egypt's political sphere. Elam is Persia; Asshur, and Arpachshad are in Mesopotamia; Aram is Syria (v. 17), indicating that the Shemites are those east and northeast of Palestine. These three regions are somewhat artificial, as the text does not follow them consistently. Thus, Kittim (Capthor) is a "descendant" of Japheth (v. 7) but Caphtorim is a descendant of Ham (v. 12), and Nimrod, which is transparently Nimrud in Mesopotamia (cf. Gen 10:8-14), is described as the son of Cush (1 Chr 1:10).
The author in Chronicles has retained the same basic structure and language of Gen 10 while also abbreviating it, as in the account of Nimrod. Even the misplaced reading "and Caphtorim" (v. 12; cf. the correction in the NRSV) and the play on the name Peleg ("divide," v. 19) are retained from Gen 10:14, 25 and are marks of how closely the author in Chronicles has followed Genesis. Differences between the two texts are minor and are typically matters of spelling or minor errors occurring in transmission. In verse 17, for instance, the Hebrew word "sons of" has evidently been lost (cf. Gen 10:22-23) with the result that the names following Aram appear as his brothers rather than his sons. The order of names of Noah's sons is reversed in comparison to verse 4, as is also the case in Gen 10, according to the common pattern of placing the most important last. Shem thus receives pride of place as the ancestor of the Hebrews (the gentilic of Eber) and of Abraham and Israel (vv. 17-23 // Gen 10:22-29).
The same themes that were described earlier as present in the genealogies of Matthew and Luke may be perceived in the Chronicler's opening genealogy. Like Matthew's genealogy 1 Chr 1:1-27 highlights national identity by tracing a line more or less directly from Adam to Abraham. This emphasis on being children of Abraham would have been especially meaningful for the members of the postexilic community, who struggled with the issue of national self-identity in the wake of the destruction of the kingdom of Judah and subsequent exile to Babylon. But as with Luke's genealogy, Abraham and his heirs are one component of humanity as a whole. Here, the Chronicler's message is even more powerful. The exile and its aftermath raised questions about Yahweh's supremacy and Israel's place in the world. By beginning with creation, the Chronicler affirms that Israel's God is the sovereign lord of the earth and all its peoples. Implicit in this doctrine is that of election. While Yahweh controls all nations and peoples, Israel is his unique people and the special focus of his love and attention. The message is one of reassurance. Yahweh has a will and a plan for the future of his people, one that cannot fail.
From Abraham to Israel (1 Chronicles 1:28-54)
The next genealogical segment moves from Abraham to his grandson, Jacob, who is always called Israel in Chronicles. Somewhat surprisingly, however, this segment is not at all focused on Isaac but contains a full account of other descendants of Abraham, especially Ishmaelites and Edomites.
These verses are basically a segmented genealogy (see introduction under genealogies) leading up to the extended genealogy of Israel beginning in chapter 2. As in the first half of the chapter, all of these materials come from Genesis with occasional adaptation. There are three smaller sections that may seem foreign to the main interest of this genealogy and have been considered secondary additions. These are the descendants of Keturah in verses 32-34, the descendants of Seir in verses 38-42, and especially the list of Edomite kings and chiefs in verses 43-54.
Verse 27 is transitional. It closes the previous unit; Abraham, the father of the chosen people, is the goal. At the same time, with Abraham the author begins to focus in on the people of Israel, who are the real objective in chapters 1–11. The gloss on Abram's name draws upon Gen 17, and the genealogies in verses 28-54 are also taken from Genesis, as indicated below. The brief genealogy for Abraham (v. 28) is composed on the basis of the Genesis narratives. Isaac is mentioned first in this verse, but the genealogy for him follows the one for Ishmael. Both are signs of the author's primary interest in Isaac. Ishmael's genealogy in verses 29-31 borrows from Gen 25:12-16. The line of Keturah (vv. 32-33) is from Gen 25:1-4. Verse 32 conflates two introductions to Keturah's line—one that follows the pattern in this chapter of Chronicles ("the sons of Keturah") and the other perhaps drawn from Genesis ("[Keturah] bore"), although the form of the verb differs. The reference to Keturah as Abraham's concubine is understandable in the light of Gen 25:6, which refers to Abraham's concubines.
The genealogy for Isaac in verse 34, like the one for Abraham in verse 28, is based on the Genesis stories, and this time the order of the sons, Esau and Israel, follows that of Genesis. The genealogy of Esau in verses 35-37 abridges Gen 36:1-13, revising it to the extent that Timna is referred to as Eliphaz's son rather than his concubine. The line of Seir (vv. 38-42) summarizes Gen 36:20-28. The absence of a genealogical link between Esau and Seir is striking, but it is again a result of the author in Chronicles following Genesis. The list of Edomite kings and chiefs in verses 43-54 adapts Gen 36:31-43. The heading in verse 43 indicates that the author envisions the cessation of Edomite kingship with the beginning of the Israelite monarchy. Hence, the chiefs in verses 51b-54 (NRSV translates "clans") are apparently seen as replacing the kings.
Chapter 1, in effect, summarizes the book of Genesis. The non-Israelite genealogies and lists in this half of the chapter have often been seen as the work of an interpolator who evidently wanted to fill out the text with other materials from Genesis, and so they may be. However, they can be seen as quite appropriate to the Chronicler's theological concerns. This second half of the chapter continues to set Israel in the context of the peoples of the earth and hence to recognize Yahweh's universal control as creator. The detailed acknowledgment of the other heirs of Abraham enhances Abraham's importance and suggests that Yahweh may be concerned with peoples outside of Israel. At the same time, the net effect of the genealogy in chapter 1 is also to focus the reader's attention on Israel as the primary object of Yahweh's interest.
Judah (1 Chronicles 2:1–4:23)
With chapter 2 the Chronicler begins his detailed genealogies of the individual tribes of Israel. Judah's preeminence in the Chronicler's outlook is indicated by its primacy of place in the genealogies, a point made explicit in 1 Chr 5:2.
The list of the twelve sons or tribes of Israel in 2:1-2 is transitional. It provides the goal and hence the conclusion of the genealogies in chapter 1. Its placement accords with the pattern in chapter 1 of placing the genealogy of the favored individual or group last, since Israel's genealogy follows Esau's. At the same time, it serves as a heading of sorts for the extended genealogies in chapters 2–9.
Following the list in 2:1-2, the Chronicler launches into detailed genealogies of the individual tribes, beginning with Judah, in 2:3–4:23. The unique order of tribes in chapters 2–8 has occasioned a good deal of discussion among scholars, but it remains unexplained. The one thing that seems clear is that three tribes—Judah, Levi, and Benjamin—provide the framework around which the other tribes are listed. These three tribes claim the most extensive genealogies in chapters 1–9. As constituents of postexilic Judah, they were the three tribes that remained loyal to the temple and the Davidic king, at least in the Chronicler's view. The primary listing of Judah for ideological reasons is a reversal of the practice in chapter 1 where the favored individual or group was treated last.
Sandwiched between two genealogies for Judah in 2:3-55 and 4:1-23 is the genealogy of David, specifically, the royal line of Judah. This simple scheme belies a more complex structure to this material that helps to explain its repetitive and disjointed nature. Williamson (1979b) has discerned here the following chiastic arrangement.
Excerpted from Abingdon Old Testament Commentaries: 1â"2 Chronicles by Steven L. McKenzie. Copyright © 2004 Abingdon Press. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
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