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Kings & Chronicles

07.29.2010

One small aspect of yesterday’s reading that I didn’t cover was the brief snippet from both Kings and Chronicles noting that King Hezekiah had died and that his son, Manasseh, inherited the throne.

But as an introductory note on both Kings and Chronicles (which, like Isaiah, we’re goung to leave behind soon after we say hello), here are a few interesting background details:

– Jewish tradition attributes the writing of Kings to Jeremiah, which sounds cool.  In fact, it sounds almost too cool to be true.  I have no reason to doubt Jewish tradition (you’d think they’d know best who wrote their books), but it seems like big names get assigned authorship for many more things than they actually wrote.  Either way, the books of Kings were written during the early exile period of the Jews by an elite priest or scholar with access to royal records and stories. 

Similarly, tradition credits Ezra with having written Chronicles.  This is a little more believable as Ezra was a scribe and the books of Ezra and Nehemiah share much in common with Chronicles, which was written later than Kings and likely later than Ezra and Nehemiah.

– The purpose of Kings was to explain to the Jews how they got where they were, and how the fall of the Kingdom of Israel did not invalidate the promises of God but rather fulfilled them.  Additionally, the strong emphasis on idolatry in the book served as a reminder to the Jews in exile that they were still God’s people even though they were entering a new land with many idols and false gods.

– Chronicles’ purpose is similar but slightly different.  The Hebrew name of the book (Divrei Hayyamim) roughly translates to “the stuff that got left out.”  Accordingly, it’s an attempt by Jewish historians to fill in the gaps left by the narrative of the books of Samuel and Kings.  Additionally, the emphasis here is on the promises God made to David, emphasizing the fulfillment to come in an heir and messiah in the line of David.

– Incidentally, I tend to think of the six books of Israelite royal history based on their main subject.  I consider 1 Samuel to really be the book of Saul, 2 Samuel to be the book of David, 1 Kings to be the book of Solomon, and 2 Kings to be the book of Everyone Else.  The Chronicles books serve as kind of a recap (sometimes almost a literal reprinting).  This is not perfect in terms of actual division of focus, but it helps sort in my mind what each book is about.

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From → [canon], [overview]

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