Lectionary Calendar
Monday, May 20th, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
Attention!
StudyLight.org has pledged to help build churches in Uganda. Help us with that pledge and support pastors in the heart of Africa.
Click here to join the effort!

Bible Commentaries
2 Chronicles

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary

- 2 Chronicles

by Multiple Authors

Author and Time of Writing

The two books of Chronicles are the very last books of the Hebrew Old Testament. Originally they formed one single book as the books of Samuel and Kings. The division of the books originates from the translation of the Septuagint, which is the Greek version of the OT. From then on the division was taken over into the translations of the Holy Scriptures until finally it was taken over into the Hebrew Bible (firstly by Daniel Bomberg in 1517 AC).

1 Chronicles 3:19 ff; 1 Chronicles 9:1-2 and 2 Chronicles 36:22-23 make it clear that the two books were only written or completed after the Babylonian captivity. As the last verses of 2 Chronicles and the first few verses of the book of Ezra are nearly identical and as the book of Ezra is the historical sequence of Chronicles the Jewish scholars who wrote the Talmud named Ezra as author of the Chronicles. The detailed genealogies at the beginning (chap. 1-9) would also endorse Ezra’s authorship. The genealogies were of great importance for the Jews after the exile (compare Ezra 2:62).

As in most of the OT writings the name of the author is however not mentioned. The priestly character of these books goes well with Ezra who was a priest as well (Ezra 7:1-5; Ezra 7:11). The time of writing would have been around 450 to 400 BC.

Throughout the books a number of historical accounts is mentioned upon which the writer could base his writings (1 Chronicles 5:17; 1 Chronicles 9:1; 1 Chronicles 23:27; 1 Chronicles 27:24; 1 Chronicles 29:29; 2 Chronicles 9:29; 2 Chronicles 12:15; 2 Chronicles 13:22; 2 Chronicles 24:27; 2 Chronicles 26:22; 2 Chronicles 27:7; 2 Chronicles 33:19; 2 Chronicles 35:25). For the reader acknowledging the Bible as God’s inspired Word these circumstances, however, are not that important. More important is the fact that God Himself had the books written in order to admonish us (1 Corinthians 10:6; 1 Corinthians 10:11).

Purpose of Writing

The books of Chronicles are not a repetition of the books of Kings. God pursued a special purpose with the writings of the Chronicles. We may see this already in the long genealogies of Israel and especially of the house of David, which commences with Adam, the first man. The books of Chronicles give a divine retrospect over Israel’s history and the history of mankind as well as God’s ways with men. One would think of comparing the Chronicles with Deuteronomy, which is no repetition of the preceding books either.

The Chronicles describe especially the kingdom of Judah. The books of Kings describe mostly the northern kingdom of the ten tribes (Israel). The Chronicles only mention Israel when it comes into contact with Judah.

The kingdoms of David and Solomon as well as their successors are the main subject of the Chronicles. Both David and Solomon form a joint picture of Christ as rejected, suffering, glorified and reigning king. Therefore David and Solomon’s trespasses (David’s adultery with Bathsheba and his murdering Uriah and Solomon’s idolatry) are not mentioned. The books of Kings give more moral teachings and stress the human responsibility. The Chronicles however contain more typical teachings in connection with the grace of God.

A further main subject is the erection of the temple. The building of the temple takes up much more space in the Chronicles than in the first book of Kings. In 1 Chron. we see David’s interest for the temple (God’s dwelling-place amidst His people) in chap. 21-29 , and in 2 Chronicles 2; 2 Chronicles 3; 2 Chronicles 4; 2 Chronicles 5; 2 Chronicles 6; 2 Chronicles 7 the building and inauguration of the temple under King Solomon. Later on, the restoration of worship in the temple is mentioned several times (Josiah, Hezekiah). The Chronicles show the spiritual side of life in Judah and therefore bear a priestly character. The books of Kings however bear a prophetic stamp.

As in Kings the soon progressive decline of the people is described. This decline was interrupted in Judah by several revivals of God fearing kings (especially under Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah and Josiah). The description of the history of the people of God ends with Jehovah’s rejection and the deportation of the Jews into Babylonian captivity (around 605 to 586 BC). Babel is a picture of worldly power in a religious cloak (compare Genesis 11 and Revelation 17; Revelation 18).

But at the very end of the two books we find how God awakens the heart of King Cyrus of Persia to induce the Jews to return to Palestine. In this we find again the grace of God!

The Temple

In addition to the differences between Chronicles and Kings mentioned above we find further remarkable differences in the descriptions of the temple. In 1 Kings 6:5-10 the chambers round about are mentioned which are missing in 2 Chronicles. In 2 Chronicles 3:14 we read of the veil and in 2 Chronicles 4:1 of the altar of brass whereas the author of 1 Kings does not mention either. This fact, and other small details, make it plain that 1 Kings describes the habitation of God and the intimate fellowship of God with His people. Second Chronicles however depicts the place where one can come near to God to worship Him.

INTRODUCTION TO SECOND CHRONICLES

During the era of Persian rule (539–332 B.C.), when the land of Israel was known as the province of Yehud, a Jewish writer with close connections to the Jerusalem temple authored a new version of Israel’s sacred story. Crafted for the Jewish people of his time, Chronicles spans the time from the creation of the world through the end of the Babylonian exile and Cyrus’ permission for Jews to return home in 538 B.C. These books tell the story from a special perspective. They emphasize the relationship with God centered at the temple and focus on Israel’s monarchs as leaders in political and religious matters, cooperating with Levites, priests, and prophets. For example, in Chronicles there is little concern for the split between the northern and southern kingdoms after Solomon. Jerusalem is God’s chosen city, the temple is God’s special place of presence, and public worship and song are critical aspects of Israel’s public life. God appears as mighty power, transcendent divinity, creator and sustainer of the world. There are no other gods as rivals.

These views come from the same storyline as that in the books of Deuteronomy through 2 Kings, often referred to as the Deuteronomistic History. The Chronicler, however, paints this picture with different shades and accents. Often, such differences can be easily traced when the Chronicler follows the story in the Deuteronomistic History rather closely. In fact, one can read 1–2 Chronicles synoptically, comparing it with Samuel and Kings, much as one reads Matthew, Mark, and Luke in synoptic fashion. In this commentary we will attend to the Chronicler’s alterations of the older text as he rewrites Israel’s history. As we observe his changes to the story, some very obvious, many very subtle, we will notice how his theological perspective differs greatly from the earlier history. One difference is striking: the Deuteronomistic History views the era of the monarchy as a downward spiral leading to the Babylonian exile, and blames the regression on sinful actions of the kings. The Chronicler, on the other hand, presents a far more positive view of kings, especially those of Judah. He implies that their ways of conduct, especially their faith and their attention to God through worship, can lead to bountiful blessings for Israel. For the Chronicler, “Israel” is the Jewish people in Judah in the postexilic era, so the message to his audience is that they can enjoy more blessings if they wholeheartedly dedicate themselves to their God.

Israel’s early history is recounted in these books quite differently than in the Pentateuch. 1 Chronicles 1-9 consist of a series of genealogies, which cover time from the creation of the world up to the reign of Saul. While many connections exist between people in the genealogies and persons known from stories elsewhere, Chronicles does not entirely depend on narratives. Rather the story is carried through the genealogical connections. King David’s reign constitutes the second part of this book (1 Chronicles 10-29). Here, the Chronicler repeats much of the material in the books of Samuel and describes David’s plans for the temple and its personnel in much greater detail (1 Chronicles 22-29). Solomon’s reign (2 Chronicles 1-9) was a wonderful time for later Israel to remember and to emulate; it includes his building and dedication of the temple and lacks the negative evaluation of him found in 1 Kings 11:10-22. 2 Chronicles 10-36 narrates the history of the kingdom of Judah, with special focus on the exemplary rule of kings Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josiah. Chronicles generally omits criticism of kings in the northern kingdom of Israel, so the Chronicler may be seen to favor a reunion of the northern and southern kingdoms. In short, we can say that the Chronicler rewrites the Pentateuch by way of genealogies, and the books of Joshua through 2 Kings by a new version of the history emphasizing David’s line.

It is very helpful to keep a copy of the books of Samuel and Kings handy while reading this text, since Chronicles clearly uses these sources. The differences between them will catch our attention and suggest to us important emphases for the Chronicler. In particular, the Chronicler rewrites Kings with subtle and substantial differences (e.g., the story of Solomon, 2 Chronicles 1-9) and completely omits stories well known from Kings (e.g., the narratives about the prophets Elijah and Elisha, 1 Kings 17-2 Kgs 9). The Chronicler almost ignores the kings of the North, whereas the author of Kings had evaluated them as consistently evil and guilty of idolatry. Along these lines, the Chronicler omits 2 Kings 17 and 18:9-12, a detailed examination of Israel’s various offenses against God and how they fulfill God’s word through the prophets. The Chronicler’s idiosyncrasies show a great interest in how Israel (i.e., Judah in postexilic times) should pray and worship, and ultimately what religious practices can help the divided sectors of Israel come together in unity.

SOLOMON

2 Chronicles 1–9

Acclaimed as king by all Israel (1 Chronicles 29:20-25), Solomon was not the candidate of any particular group. Like David, his father, he proved to be an avid patron of divine worship at the temple, which he constructed and dedicated, following David’s instructions. Solomon’s role in worship overshadows his wise actions, so strong in 1 Kings and in other biblical traditions. The Chronicler makes a very significant change in his portrayal of Solomon. Here he is not a man of sin, as in 1 Kings 11, where his many wives and concubines lead him astray. The Chronicler simply omitted all the offending sections of 1 Kings, just as he skipped over most of David’s sins and problems in 2 Samuel 11-20. Here is an idyllic picture of national solidarity and prosperity.

A Good Start (2 Chronicles 1)

Solomon inherited more than an earthly kingdom from his father David, for he was also the heir to many of the promises that God had made to David, the "man after God’s own heart". Not least of these was God’s assurance that Solomon would build the temple that David only dreamed of. Moreover, David had taken many practical steps (described in 1 Chronicles) to leave Solomon with a strong throne, a reservoir of goodwill, and thorough groundwork for the projects ahead.

Yet in Solomon’s reign and also throughout 2 Chronicles, we see repeatedly the difficulties that arise when a worshiper of the holy God must live in the real world. There is a constant tension between the demands and temptations of this world and the holy identity that God gives to those who seek him. Even David was far from immune to the lure of this world, for he committed some of the most grievous mistakes in the Bible. Yet holiness is not the same as perfection - it is something deeper, unattainable by human effort, yet freely given to us by God’s grace.

Solomon began his reign under extremely favorable conditions (2 Chronicles 1:1-6). To show his appreciation he leads Israel in worshiping at the tent of meeting, and resolves as king to allow God to guide his steps. Solomon would not always have this attitude, yet because he showed such sincerity and humility in his early days as king, for some time God’s blessings to the new ruler also overflowed to the nation as a whole.

God in turn provided Solomon the extraordinary opportunity to make a special request, with no conditions at all imposed (2 Chronicles 1:7). God always gives generously, answering so many prayers from so many different persons; and he often gives us blessings we do not need at all, just to show us how much he cares. So his initiative to Solomon, openly inviting an extravagant request, is that much more interesting. Solomon has as yet ’done’ nothing and ’accomplished’ nothing - so this shows just how much God appreciates simple humility and faithfulness.

As for Solomon, he emulates the best aspects of his father’s personality in making a request that is at once humble, thoughtful, faithful, and caring (2 Chronicles 1:8-10). Keenly aware that no human is ever truly worthy to lead or rule over others, Solomon above all desires to have wisdom, so that he can perceive God’s well and understand what is best for the people whom God has entrusted to him. His perspective is just as appropriate for us to adopt - genuine spiritual wisdom, which comes directly from God, is always of greater value than anything in this world.

And so to Solomon’s favorable situation are added even more blessings, giving his reign a thoroughly promising beginning (2 Chronicles 1:11-17). God appreciates Solomon’s attitude; but more than that, he knows that someone who values understanding above riches and honor can be trusted with riches and honor - so God gives him a lavish supply of these and other blessings, even though Solomon avoided asking for them. "Seek first the kingdom and his righteousness" (Matthew 6:33), and God will give us not only what we need, but also a lot of undeserved blessings just to show us how much he loves us.

2 Chronicles 1:1-13

[cf. 1 Kings 2:12 b; 1 Kings 2:46 b; 1 Kings 3:1-15; 1 Kings 4:1 a]

Solomon prays for wisdom at Gibeon In this version Solomon took hold of royal power unhindered, since the Lord supported him (2 Chronicles 1:1; cf. 1 Kings 2:12 b, 46b). The Chronicler omits information in Kings about the king’s political marriage with the daughter of Pharaoh (1 Kings 3:1). He journeys to Gibeon (2 Chronicles 1:2-6), the great high place where the tent of meeting (with the ark) and the bronze altar were located (2 Chronicles 1:3-5). Solomon and all the people go in procession to Gibeon (2 Chronicles 3:3).

The ark of God was the central religious symbol in the books of Joshua and Samuel, while the tent was the major religious symbol of priestly traditions in the Pentateuch; here the Chronicler joins them all together. Since 1 Kings waged a verbal campaign against worship at the high places, the writer needed to justify Solomon’s trip there—i.e., the temple had not yet been built. The Chronicler has a more complex view of Israel’s worship during the time of Solomon. The tabernacle built by Moses in the wilderness, with its altar for sacrifices, was still at Gibeon, where they conducted full worship ceremonies: sacrifices and song. After David moved to Jerusalem, the ark and the tent were symbols of another religious movement: music and song.

The Chronicler solves two problems of Israel’s worship. First, he shows why Solomon could go to Gibeon to pray; second, he provides a smooth transition between the older pattern of worship, established by Moses and practiced by the priests in the desert, and the newer worship which also includes choral music and song by the Levites, representing David’s liturgical innovations. This story in Chronicles helped people of the Chronicler’s day appreciate worship with both sacrifice and song at their temple.

Solomon goes to Gibeon, offers sacrifices, and then makes his famous prayer (2 Chronicles 1:8-12; cf. 1 Kings 3:6-15). The Chronicler reduces the content in 1 Kings by about half, especially by omitting some of the typical Deuteronomistic language (e.g., 1 Kings 3:6-8; 1 Kings 3:10). Here Solomon asks for gifts more closely resembling those God gives him, “wisdom and knowledge”; in 1 Kings 3:9 he had requested an “understanding heart to judge your people.” In Chronicles, Solomon wants these gifts so that he can lead this people and govern appropriately. As in Kings, Solomon receives more gifts than he asks for: wisdom, knowledge, riches, treasures, and glory (2 Chronicles 1:11-12). But the Chronicler omits verses in Kings which demonstrate Solomon’s wisdom: the story of Solomon’s judgment between the two harlots and the one living child (1 Kings 3:16-28), and the lists of Solomon’s administrators and officials, which demonstrated his wisdom at governance (1 Kings 4:1-19).

2 Chronicles 1:14-17

[cf. 1 Kings 4:20 to 1 Kings 5:14; 2 Chronicles 9:25-28; 1 Kings 10:26-29]

The wealth of Solomon

The Chronicler describes Solomon’s wealth: chariots, horsemen, horses, silver and gold, and cedar for (temple) construction. Mentioning them right after Solomon’s prayer shows how God’s gift of wisdom also resulted in wealth. Information about Solomon’s wealth, wisdom, and horses is repeated in 2 Chronicles 9:25-28. By repeating this information, the Chronicler shows that Solomon’s wisdom and wealth do not fail him (unlike 1 Kings 11, where his reign ends disgracefully, in sin).

Holiness, Material Things, & Human Labor

(2 Chronicles 2-4)

Solomon sets out to fulfill the dream of his father David, who longed to build a grand temple to house the ark of the covenant. The work is undertaken with a genuine desire to serve and glorify God, yet there is from the beginning an inherent tension between the holiness of God’s presence and the material nature of the very things that Solomon intends to use in God’s Name.

In years to come, Solomon’s relationship with God would deteriorate, and his rule as king would become oppressive and unpopular. In time, even the temple itself became a center of ritualistic, empty religious activity instead of a humbling reminder that God lived among his people. All this should be on our minds when we read about the way that the temple came to be.

Building the temple required plenty of material wealth and manual labor (2 Chronicles 2). David had made many arrangements prior to his death, but Solomon takes additional steps in his desire to make the temple as impressive as possible. He obtains wood from Lebanon, known for its high quality lumber. His friend Hiram, the king of Tyre, sends him a master craftsman to instruct the Israelites in the finer arts of engraving and other types of design work. Solomon pays for all this with huge amounts of grain, wine, and oil. Solomon also conscripts tens of thousands of laborers against their will - a practice that will later lead to considerable trouble.

Spiritual ministry still uses earthly resources and human energy. It should be a constant concern for us to balance the outward and the inward. There will never be an obvious or simple way to resolve this - instead, those who truly seek God should just always accept that neither results nor personal self-interest ever provides a reliable standard. We should humbly accept this constant reminder of our humanness, instead of seeking simplistic extremes.

The temple’s inner features are based on the old tabernacle, but the furnishings and external structure are far more lavish (2 Chronicles 3). Was all this ornate and expensive detail good? Did it glorify God, or simply consume resources? Probably a little of both - there is no easy answer. In Solomon’s lifetime, the temple brought attention to Israel and to God. But later it was an object of practical idolatry and legalistic religion. Solomon truly wished to glorify God. Yet besides using material resources, he forced thousands of laborers to work against their will.

Physical "temples" are irrelevant to Christianity, since God is present with us already. But ministries like serving and evangelism call us to give to others without forcing anyone to fulfill our own expectations. We do not need arbitrary or authoritarian methods to bring glory to God.

The chronicler then describes in detail the items that will be used for worship in the new temple (2 Chronicles 4). Many of these were made holy, given solely to the worship of God. This list includes the only truly essential parts of the temple, the items essential in maintaining God’s presence. While the outward furnishings were impressive and may in some sense have brought temporary glory to God’s name, it was the inner workings that really mattered in keeping God close to his people. May we remember this lesson too in our own worship and ministries.

2 Chronicles 2:1-17

[cf. 1 Kings 5:15-18]

Solomon’s treaty with King Huram

This story shows that Gentile kings now recognize Solomon. The decision to build a temple is Solomon’s first action after receiving the gift of wisdom (1:18). Here, unlike Kings, Solomon initiated correspondence with Huram of Tyre (Hiram in Kings), which gives him a bit more stature. Since the Chronicler has more interest in worship than the book of Kings, he describes temple vessels, furnishings, and rituals not mentioned in Kings: incense and bread offerings for daily morning and evening sacrifice, and for Sabbaths, new moons, and appointed festivals. Each of these practices is known from the Pentateuch, but the Chronicler implies that all should take place in the temple of his day. Later kings will be judged by their fidelity to these criteria (e.g., 2 Chronicles 13; 2 Chronicles 28; 2 Chronicles 29-31).

All these negotiations with Huram of Tyre focus on building and equipping the temple, as Huram’s response emphasizes in his letter to Solomon (2 Chronicles 2:10-15). He realizes that the Lord loves Solomon and ought to be blessed for appointing Solomon to such a task, so he will send to him a skilled helper, Huram-abi. In 2 Chronicles 2:16-17 Solomon counts as workers all the aliens, probably the Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and the Jebusites not from Israel (2 Chronicles 8:7). By speaking of aliens [resident aliens], he implies that they are no longer foreigners but are still not incorporated into Israel. Here is another occasion where the Chronicler includes all the various groups in the land in Israel.

2 Chronicles 3:1-14

[cf. 1 Kings 6:1-31]

Solomon builds a house for the Lord

Now Solomon accomplishes his plan; this description is about half as long as its counterpart in Kings. The Chronicler omits completely 1 Kings 6:4-18; 29-38; and 1 Kings 7:1-12. Curiously, the Chronicler abbreviates descriptions of the temple, its construction and furnishings, even though he puts more emphasis on worship and the temple. Apparently the Chronicler has more interest in what went on in the temple than in its furnishings. Also, many details mentioned in Kings may not have existed in the second, rebuilt temple of the Chronicler’s era.

Solomon chooses to locate the temple at the site of David’s sacrifice (1 Chronicles 22:1). The Chronicler also names the site Moriah, the place of Abraham’s offering of Isaac (Genesis 22:2; Genesis 22:14), so this may be the first witness to an ancient tradition that the temple stands on Mount Moriah, site of Abraham’s sacrifice. Thus the Chronicler connects traditions about Abraham and Isaac with those about David’s sacrifice and plan for the temple.

2 Chronicles 3:15 to 2 Chronicles 5:1

[cf. 1 Kings 7:15-51; 2 Kings 25:17; Jeremiah 52:21-23]

The work in the temple

Many details about the physical construction and appearance of the temple derive from Kings, but much of that is not reproduced here, esp. 1 Kings 7:27-37. The Chronicler describes the two columns, Jachin and Boaz (2 Chronicles 3:15-17), which are also known from 2 Kings 25:17 and Jeremiah 52:21-22. He then describes the bronze altar (2 Chronicles 4:1), the molten sea (2 Chronicles 4:2-5), ten basins (2 Chronicles 4:6), ten menorahs of gold (2 Chronicles 4:7), the ten tables (2 Chronicles 4:8), the courtyards for priests and the great court (2 Chronicles 4:9), pots, shovels, and bowls (2 Chronicles 4:11) and then describes the placement of all these sacred objects (2 Chronicles 4:11-16). Then he describes Solomon’s work with all these sacred objects (2 Chronicles 4:17-22) and says that Solomon put them all in the temple treasuries (2 Chronicles 5:1). The only object here that is not found in Kings is the bronze altar (2 Chronicles 4:1), though it does appear elsewhere in the source (1 Kings 8:64; 2 Kings 16:14).

The Dedication Of The Temple

(2 Chronicles 5-7)

The temple’s lavish furnishings and expensive materials were never, in themselves, the point of constructing it. With the physical edifice completed, it was time for God’s presence to be established and the temple to be dedicated to God. Solomon oversees all this, making sure to keep the focus on God and not on the building or the people. After the joyous dedication, God appears personally to Solomon again, to provide him with guidance for the future.

Only when the ark of the covenant is brought to the new temple, establishing God’s presence in it, is the work truly completed (2 Chronicles 5:1 to 2 Chronicles 6:2). The occasion is marked with extensive sacrifices, in recognition that the holy presence of God is being brought among the people; and there is a further reminder of holiness in the cloud that for a time even prevents the priests from continuing with their work (2 Chronicles 5:14). Solomon emphasizes the significance of this, pointing out that only as a dwelling place for God’s presence does the temple have any real meaning.

It is human nature to practice lavish religious observance while neglecting the presence of God himself. No results, good deeds, or ministry has true meaning unless we remain conscious of God’s presence. When we do keep God’s presence on our hearts, we also help others to see him. Even if they do not realize it is God who is actually ministering to them, they shall nevertheless see his light and love in us, and feel his presence through us - giving God both glory and joy.

Solomon reminds everyone of the how the temple came to be (2 Chronicles 6:3-11) and then offers a prayer of dedication (2 Chronicles 6:12-42). The temple is in part a promise fulfilled by God. Like so many things that we do in God’s name, the temple was not for God’s benefit but rather was an act of grace on his part. Though the temple was lavish by human standards, it could not approach God’s own true glory. God indulgently allows us to think that we do grand things for him, while in reality he could do much better himself. Solomon sees this, for his prayer focuses on all the ways that he and the people will always be dependent on God, regardless of what they may accomplish.

The glory of the Lord fills the newly-dedicated temple (2 Chronicles 7:1-10). Seeing the fire and other signs of God’s presence, the people kneel with their faces on the ground, while Solomon directs a continual offering of sacrifice. Whenever someone actually sees God, it leads to humility, respectful praise, and a determination to give everything to God. Genuinely seeing God does not bring fleshly thrills or even necessarily any outward results - but it always brings humility.

When God appears to Solomon afterwards, he promises to maintain his presence, yet solemnly cautions Solomon (2 Chronicles 7:11-22). God promises always to be near Solomon, but warns him not to seek other ’gods’. God’s presence, then and now, is a blessing to the faithful but a hazard to the idolater. It is inherent in God’s presence that it brings blessings to the humble, and it is inherent in God’s presence that it brings trouble to those who lose their humble dependence on God and instead seek satisfaction from human accomplishment or fleshly righteousness.

2 Chronicles 5:2-14

[cf. 1 Kings 8:1-11]

Solomon brings the ark into the temple

In the seventh month Solomon summons all Israel to bring the ark into the temple (2 Chronicles 5:2-3). The elders enter along with the Levites, who carry the ark to the tent, while priests help to carry the sacred vessels and solemnize the ritual with animal sacrifices (2 Chronicles 5:4-6). In a solemn assembly of all Israel, they carry the ark to its place, “the inner sanctuary of the house, the holy of holies, beneath the wings of the cherubin” (2 Chronicles 5:7).

Three times during this worship service the Chronicler mentions sacred song: in 2 Chronicles 5:11-14 (esp. 2 Chronicles 5:13); in 2 Chronicles 7:1-3; and in 2 Chronicles 7:4-6. Song does not appear in the parallel passages in Kings. The Chronicler emphasizes that David established sacred song and he fashioned the musical instruments. It was sung by Levites and priests, and presumably all the people. The Chronicler also notes how huge public sacrifices were accompanied by song with joy, contrary to some scholars who think that Israel’s sacrifice was always a silent affair.

A different kind of liturgy occurs in 2 Chronicles 5:11-14 : the priests exit from the shrine and are joined east of the altar by large numbers of Levites singing along with the one hundred and twenty priests making music on trumpets. Then a cloud fills the temple as a sign of divine presence (2 Chronicles 5:14); smoking incense may have carried this meaning in the Chronicler’s community. The Chronicler creates this liturgy of choral song (2 Chronicles 5:11-14), just like his other two descriptions of sung worship within the temple dedication service. Levites sing “praise to the Lord, who is so good, whose love endures forever” (2 Chronicles 5:13).

This antiphon is very characteristic of post-exilic texts. It already appeared in the psalm of thanksgiving at the worship ceremony in David’s era (1 Chronicles 16:34). In general it praises the Lord’s ongoing goodness and steadfastness in language that reminds us of the covenant with Moses. We may imagine a cantor and a choir singing this antiphonally, like Psalms 118, reminding us of the covenant and praising God wholeheartedly in grateful acceptance. The Chronicler redefines the style of worship for this moment by introducing Levites and their choirs as a central element. Finally, the cloud that fills the temple reminds Israel of God’s presence (5:14), a symbol drawn from old priestly traditions: Exodus 24:17; Exodus 40:34; and Numbers 17:7.

2 Chronicles 6:1 to 2 Chronicles 7:10

[cf. 1 Kings 8:12-66; Psalms 132:1; Psalms 132:8-10; Psalms 136:1]

Temple dedication

This long, complicated ceremony owes much to the Chronicler’s source in Kings, but there are significant changes. Israel’s heritage in Egypt is downplayed. When speaking of the ark “of the covenant,” the Chronicler fails to mention their ancestors coming out of Egypt as God’s covenant partners (as in 1 Kings 8:21). At the end of this prayer, the Chronicler omits the verse in Kings describing Israel as a people brought out of Egypt and set apart by God, as Moses the prophet had proclaimed (1 Kings 8:53).

Solomon’s prayer (2 Chronicles 6:12-42) is the centerpiece of the service in both Kings and Chronicles, but the Chronicler introduces changes. In 1 Kings the king was simply standing before the altar at prayer (1 Kings 8:22), but here he was standing on a bronze platform (2 Chronicles 6:13), possibly the liturgical practice of the Chronicler’s era.

Solomon’s long prayer (2 Chronicles 6:13-42) highlights the temple as a house of prayer (as in 1 Kings 8:22-54), a place for petition to God for God’s people Israel, especially when they suffer distress. This prayer petitions God, as do psalms of lament, and it seems to fulfill a task that the Chronicler assigns to Levites, to “invoke” God in petitions. Here Levites also fulfill their role in choral song, and later they give thanks. The prayer refers to seven occasions for the people Israel to approach God, so it is often called a Prayer of the People. The crises that call for such prayer are: improper oaths (2 Chronicles 6:22-23); defeat in war (2 Chronicles 6:24-25); drought (2 Chronicles 6:26-27); famine and pestilence (2 Chronicles 6:28-31); a foreigner praying to God in the temple (2 Chronicles 6:32-33); God’s people going out to battle (2 Chronicles 6:34-35); and God’s people sinning against God (2 Chronicles 6:36-39).

In the postexilic context one petition stands out: foreigners (e.g., Gentiles) coming to pray in the temple characterizes the Chronicler but contradicts views of Gentiles in other postexilic books (e.g., Ezra and Nehemiah). The second and sixth occasions for prayer concern Israel at war or battle, praying here in the temple for divine help. After the time of Solomon, the Chronicler will show the effectiveness of such prayer in seven different situations. Each time God saves Israel (Judah) against their enemies: Egypt (2 Chronicles 12:1-8); the northern kingdom of Israel (2 Chronicles 13:13-16); Zerah of Cush (2 Chronicles 14:11-12); the Aramaeans (18:31-32); Moab and Ammon (2 Chronicles 20:5-17); Edom (2 Chronicles 25:7-11); and Assyria (2 Chronicles 32:20-22). This lesson of history shows proper recourse to God in times of crisis.

The Chronicler continues Solomon’s prayer with words drawn from Psalms 132, an ancient psalm for processions with the ark. This psalm glorifies David as he brings the ark to Jerusalem, and it celebrates God’s choice of David, of the temple, and of the ark. It suggests that Israel—after the exile, in the Chronicler’s era—should return to their ancient style of worship, bringing the ark to the temple and singing Psalms 132. In verse 41 the words “Arise, Lord God” come from an ancient song Israel sang when they carried the ark into battle (Numbers 10:35). This song’s theology envisions God’s presence moving into the temple. This is a more priestly theology than that in Kings, which describes the temple as the place where God’s name dwells.

The Chronicler changes other words of Psalms 132. Priests should clothe themselves with salvation (i.e., saving, delivering properties) rather than with clothing of righteousness (1 Kgs). This small change suggests a desire for God’s decisive military aid in the Chronicler’s era. The Chronicler says that God’s priests should rejoice in goodness (they sing out in Kings). “Rejoice” is a technical word for festive worship, which the Chronicler recommends. The Chronicler’s use of Psalms 132 gives the sense of solemn procession and worship.

In 2 Chronicles 7:1-11, like his source in Kings, the Chronicler describes the consecration of the middle court (2 Chronicles 7:7), the seven-day festival and consecration of the altar (probably the Feast of Booths/Tabernacles, the harvest festival in autumn), and an additional seven days (2 Chronicles 7:8-9). They rejoiced because of all the good the Lord did for them. This liturgical celebration leads to great benefit and blessing from God, so the Chronicler shows the proper response of the people: sacrifice and also song, always expressed with great joy.

2 Chronicles 7:11-22

[cf. 1 Kings 9:1-9]

God responds to Solomon’s temple dedication

God appears to Solomon during the night after he dedicates the temple (2 Chronicles 7:12), concluding the dedication liturgy. God has heard the prayer of the temple and confirms the power of Solomon’s prayers of petition (2 Chronicles 6:13-39). God promises Solomon an enduring kingly line if he will walk faithfully according to God’s commands, as David his father did (2 Chronicles 7:17-18). Then God challenges Israel: if you turn aside from me and my commands then I will pluck you up, and the fate of your temple will shock everyone who sees it (2 Chronicles 7:19-22). Although the Chronicler follows the words of 1 Kings closely, the tone is different after the exile. The Chronicler focuses more on God’s promise of blessing than on warnings.

Solomon’s Later Years

(2 Chronicles 8 & 9)

Throughout Solomon’s reign, his wealth and renown grew steadily. Yet, as we know from Ecclesiastes and 1 Kings, his spiritual condition deteriorated, and he himself was far from happy. In the final two chapters about Solomon’s reign, the chronicler makes little mention of this, focusing instead on the nation as a whole and the way that Israel continued to benefit from Solomon’s good side. Like his father David, Solomon kept God’s presence among the people even when he himself erred grievously.

After the temple is completed, Solomon undertakes a variety of other building projects (2 Chronicles 8). He renovates and fortifies some neglected towns, and also seizes new territories from the neighboring Canaanites. In this we continue to see Solomon’s mixed legacy, as outward progress masks the signs of spiritual trouble. Solomon’s spiritual decline was not the result of one or two terrible mistakes, but rather of slowly forgetting the meaning of holiness.

The chronicler tells us that Solomon scrupulously avoided making slaves of any of the Israelites; yet in addition to enslaving large numbers of Canaanites he subjected many thousands of Israelites to terms of forced labor, which would become one of the grievances the people later presented to his son Rehoboam. And it was during this time that Solomon’s intoxication with pagan women, so destructive to him and Israel (as recounted in Kings), began. He does still realize that Pharaoh’s daughter, one of his wives, should not live in a holy part of the city - but he disregards the spiritual warning that this could have given him.

Solomon’s fame is further illustrated by the visit of the illustrious Queen of Sheba (2 Chronicles 9:1-12). The queen’s open admiration for everything she finds shows us what Solomon and Israel looked like on the outside. Yet what the queen really saw, without fully realizing it, was God - for God’s presence had blessed Solomon and Israel far beyond what either of them deserved.

Solomon’s reign is a reminder for us not to judge by the external. Churches today also become self-satisfied and self-congratulatory when God graciously blesses them, forgetting that it is God’s presence rather than our faith that provides the real power. When we forget this, we too can become like Solomon - presuming that we are entitled to privilege, luxury, and credit instead of getting on our knees to thank God and serve others.

Although we know that there were many long-term problems in Israel, until the end of Solomon’s reign the nation continued in outward peace, prosperity, and strength (2 Chronicles 9:13-31). Solomon’s extravagance was such that he came to expect everything to be made of gold - not even silver would satisfy him. His materialism and high-handed ways would hurt Israel later on, but even now the wisdom God gave him continues to bless and encourage the nation. Like everyone in the Old Testament, Solomon was a human with strengths and weaknesses. His highly mixed legacy leaves today’s church with much to think about.

2 Chronicles 8:1-18

[cf. 1 Kings 9:10-28]

Solomon’s further activities

The Chronicler surveys Solomon’s accomplishments on a more political front, i.e., the cities which he captured, controlled, built, and fortified. One telltale change by the Chronicler is the following: in 1 Kings 9:11 Solomon seems to hand over to Hiram (Huram in Chronicles) twenty cities in Galilee, but the Chronicler does not mention Solomon’s subservience to Huram, so he suggests that Huram actually gave these twenty cities to Solomon (2 Chronicles 8:2). Solomon needs “forced labor” for his extravagant building projects, but the Chronicler points out that he enlisted descendants of the land’s original inhabitants—Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—for this work, but not native Israelites (2 Chronicles 8:7-9).

Solomon marries Pharaoh’s daughter, but the Chronicler abandons Kings’ interpretation of this marriage (as evidence of Solomon’s wisdom and wealth). For the Chronicler her presence in the city where the temple now stands presents a problem; his wife cannot reside in the palace because of its sacred precincts (2 Chronicles 8:11). Some think that these verses suggest Jerusalem is to be a sex-free zone, as the temple scroll from Qumran indicates, but others propose a more likely view: she must reside outside the zone of holiness if she keeps worshiping her ancestral gods.

The Chronicler gives more details about Israel’s worship practices at the temple (2 Chronicles 8:12-16). Kings mentions three annual festivals with burnt offerings, peace offerings, and incense offerings (1 Kings 9:25). Here Solomon arranges the proper sacrificial system (2 Chronicles 8:12) with its worship calendar: daily offerings, Sabbaths, new moons, and three annual festivals, as Moses commanded (2 Chronicles 8:13). He also arranges the divisions and work of the priests, Levites, and gatekeepers. Here Solomon finalizes the worship arrangements given by his father David.

2 Chronicles 9:1-12

[cf. 1 Kings 10:1-13]

Visit of the queen of Sheba

In this popular story she travels a long way to visit Solomon and her goal is to test him with riddles, to see if his wisdom matches his reputation (2 Chronicles 9:1). His correct answers demonstrate his wisdom, just as the wealth and beneficence of his house and temple give signs of wisdom (2 Chronicles 9:2-4). She praises his wisdom and acclaims him as king appointed to administer “right and justice” (2 Chronicles 9:8), further signs of wisdom. She brings magnificent gifts to Solomon, who uses them to furnish both his palace and the temple. Solomon even uses some of the precious cabinet wood he receives to make lyres and harps for temple singers (2 Chronicles 9:9-11). In the view that wisdom begets the good life—especially opulence—his wisdom is being recognized. Since wisdom crosses boundaries, it seems fitting that Solomon’s wisdom is tested and proclaimed by someone from another country. That this person is a woman and a queen adds to the perennial appeal of the story. The Chronicler shows how Solomon’s greatness was recognized by Gentiles both at the start (ch. 2) and end (ch. 9) of his story. The final sentence (2 Chronicles 9:12) claims that Solomon gave her all that she desired, more than she brought to him. His largesse is appropriate for a great and wise king.

2 Chronicles 9:13-28

[cf. 1 Kings 10:14-29]

Wisdom and happiness of Solomon

The opulence of this golden era of Israel’s life is a measure of Solomon’s wisdom, how he was gifted by God (2 Chronicles 9:22-23). Solomon’s horses and stables and his trade in horses with rulers in Egypt, Aram, and the Hittites (2 Chronicles 9:25-28) again remind us of his wisdom. Often the horse with chariot is the equivalent of a modern war machine. The Chronicler ends the story of Solomon just as he began it, with his great wealth and riches (2 Chronicles 1:1-17). The comment here about his horses recalls 2 Chronicles 1:14-17; this is a literary repetition and it binds the entire Solomon section together and alerts readers to see what the Chronicler considers to be most important in Solomon’s story. The Chronicler omits from the older story of Solomon (1 Kings 11:1-40) a description of the sin and errors of Solomon’s life, especially all his wives and concubines. In Kings this chapter sets the theological stage for the division of the kingdom after his death; it also contains much historical information about opposition faced by Solomon, both external and internal. All that is absent in Chronicles. Solomon’s faults and sins have vanished, and he emerges as the most faultless of the kings of Israel (even more so than David).

2 Chronicles 9:29-31

[cf. 1 Kings 11:41-43]

The death of Solomon

The Chronicler narrates Solomon’s death and Rehoboam’s succession to the throne with only minor changes to the account in Kings. In verse 29, the Chronicler omits Solomon’s wisdom (1 Kings 11:41) as a topic of discussion. For the Chronicler there were three additional prophetic sources of information to consult for further information: the acts of Nathan the prophet, the prophecy of Ahijah, and the visions of Iddo the seer. Only Nathan and Ahijah are mentioned elsewhere. For the Chronicler, telling history becomes another of the tasks of the prophets.

THE DIVIDED MONARCHY

2 Chronicles 10–28

Israel Divided (2 Chronicles 10 & 11)

After Solomon’s death, long-standing problems became impossible to ignore. But his weak- minded son and successor Rehoboam proved incapable of constructive action. God fulfilled his promises to David by allowing Solomon a long and peaceful reign despite the king’s many mistakes. Rehoboam’s generation was given the responsibility to set a new and better course - but they failed completely, beginning a new and much different era in the history of God’s people.

Immediately upon becoming king, Rehoboam faces questions about the unpopular policies of his father’s later years (2 Chronicles 10:1-5). A public confrontation is initiated by Jeroboam, a popular and talented official who had been living in exile because of Solomon’s jealousy (see 1 Kings 11). In a sense, it is "unfair" that the new king should have to answer for Solomon’s mistakes, but this often happens. Nations and even churches commit sins that later generations must answer for. The sins of the past are never our fault, but it is often our responsibility to acknowledge them.

Rehoboam wisely requests some time to consider how to proceed, and he seeks advice from two different sources (2 Chronicles 10:6-11). Solomon’s older advisers, having learned from his long reign, advise the new king to abandon the harsh policies of his father’s later years. They know that Solomon’s splendor and the nation’s prosperity came at the expense of economic and social exploitation that now threaten to derail or even divide the nation. Not satisfied with this, though, Rehoboam seeks out his personal friends, younger men like himself, who tell him instead to flaunt his authority as king and to refuse to make any accommodations to the petitioners.

So, at an important moment, Rehoboam makes the worst possible choice (2 Chronicles 10:12-17). Not only does he decide to continue with the same unpopular policies, but he also approaches the subject in a contentious fashion that provokes an immediate revolt. Like many self-important clods throughout history, he thinks that ’toughness’ constitutes leadership. Even if the policies in themselves were necessary, there was no excuse for his belligerent, condescending attitude.

The situation quickly becomes violent (2 Chronicles 10:18 to 2 Chronicles 11:1). The official in charge of forced labor is killed by an angry mob, and the king himself barely escapes alive. But the prideful, dull-witted monarch has not yet learned his lesson, for he decides to launch an armed attack on the people he has mistreated and insulted. A better leader would have graciously admitted his error.

The foolish king’s desire to provoke a civil war is thwarted only by God’s direct intervention through the prophet Shemaiah (2 Chronicles 11:2-4). Only when the people of Judah hear the prophet’s words and return to their homes does the new king realize that his folly has irrevocably cost him the larger part of his kingdom - leaving the nation permanently divided.

So there is nothing better for Rehoboam and Judah to do but make the best of the new situation (2 Chronicles 11:5-23). To his credit, from this point onward the king behaves much more sensibly, arranging for supplies and protection for what is left of the kingdom. His actions reassure the faithful, and the Levites from the rebellious territories flock to Judah in support of the now-chastened king. Rehoboam has learned humility too late to avoid great losses, but at least he has learned.

2 Chronicles 10:1 to 2 Chronicles 11:4

[cf. 1 Kings 12:1-24]

Israel’s revolt After Solomon’s death

Rehoboam goes north to Shechem to be made king, so Jeroboam returns home from Egypt to confront Rehoboam. Since the Chronicler skipped 1 Kings 11 with its justifications for rebelliousness against Solomon, he can blame this rebellion on Jeroboam and his followers. Jeroboam and his northern companions ask Rehoboam for lighter treatment than they received from Solomon.

Rehoboam consults first with his elders. They understand that a kingdom united North and South as under David and Solomon depends on the good will of all parties, but especially on Rehoboam’s style of rule. They recommend a kindly approach in negotiations to render the Israelites generous (2 Chronicles 10:7). But Rehoboam also consults his impetuous younger advisors, who counsel forceful and harsh actions to make the northerners submit (2 Chronicles 10:10-11), and they insult their northern brothers. Unfortunately, Rehoboam prefers their advice, so he reacts harshly to the northerners and alienates them. Israel’s rebellion against the house of David begins here (2 Chronicles 10:19).

Later, the Chronicler has King Abijah summarize this view of Jeroboam as a rebel (1 Chronicles 13:6-7). But Rehoboam, indecisive son of Solomon, could not stand up against his young counselors, so the Chronicler also hints that the rebellion was due to Rehoboam’s ineptitude. But the Chronicler still follows Kings in explaining Rehoboam’s rejection of advice as somehow intended by God (2 Chronicles 10:15; cf. 1 Kings 12:15). Thus, the Chronicler remains ambivalent: the rebellion and division were brought about by God, but the willfulness of Jeroboam was responsible for its continuation.

The Chronicler changes the picture in Kings because he cannot admit a hint that Jeroboam’s reign was legitimate. The Chronicler omits Kings’ statement that all Israel went out to meet Jeroboam when he returned in order to make “him king over all Israel” (1 Kings 12:20). In Chronicles, “all Israel” is the entire people, though it refers only to the North in Kings. In 2 Chronicles 11:4 Rehoboam and “all Israel” obey the words of the Lord by deciding not to go against Jeroboam. Now Rehoboam demonstrates a sensitivity to God’s word (as in 2 Chronicles 11:17 and 2 Chronicles 12:5-6), a change from before.

2 Chronicles 11:5-23

The prosperity of Rehoboam

The Chronicler here paints a positive portrait of King Rehoboam. His building projects symbolize divine blessing on his reign (2 Chronicles 11:5-12). These projects demonstrate his prosperity and suggest a sound strategy: cities for defense, fortified with ample supplies of food, oil, wine, and weapons. Religious matters and reforms come up when the Chronicler speaks of Levites who had lived and worked in the northern kingdom of Israel but were prevented by Jeroboam from being priests to the Lord. Many decide to move south after being deprived of office by Jeroboam, who reforms northern religion by appointing his own priests. This detail, not found in Kings, proves quite interesting, since many scholars think that northern Levites moved south to Judah, bringing with them the Moses traditions which comprise the core of the book of Deuteronomy. The Chronicler describes the spirituality of those who joined Israel in the South. They had “set their hearts to seek the Lord, the God of Israel” (2 Chronicles 11:16), so they came to Jerusalem to make sacrifices there to God.

Altogether Rehoboam had eighteen wives, sixty concubines, twenty-eight sons, and sixty daughters (2 Chronicles 11:21). These statistics show God’s blessings for Rehoboam. Rehoboam also appoints Ahijah as crown prince (2 Chronicles 11:22) and then distributes his sons to every region of the country, a very strategic move. This information is unique to Chronicles. Comparing this section with the book of Kings is instructive. The Chronicler omits the long account of Jeroboam in 1 Kings 12:25 to 1 Kings 14:20, so his account of Rehoboam is unique and seems designed to present a story parallel to Jeroboam in Kings. This king will set a pattern for viewing later kings in Judah.

Judah Struggles (2 Chronicles 12 & 13)

Israel’s rebellion against Solomon’s son Rehoboam created an entirely new situation. Israel was now split into two rival nations, and the northern part - which retained the name "Israel" - held a large majority of the land and the population. The southern kingdom, now known as Judah after the tribe of its kings, quickly faced a series of uphill struggles, many of their own making.

While Rehoboam strengthened his personal position, the nation followed their new king’s faithlessness (2 Chronicles 12:1), leading God to arrange for discipline (2 Chronicles 12:2-4). We do not know whether Rehoboam’s character was shaped by his father’s own spiritual struggles, but in any case he comes across as an opportunist who feels entitled to do as he pleases without regard to how it affects others. When the Egyptians discipline Rehoboam, other Judeans also pay the price.

Things would have been much worse for Judah and its king if they had not humbled themselves at the last minute, admitting their faithlessness and God’s righteousness (2 Chronicles 12:5-12). When the prophet Shemaiah confronts Judah’s leaders, Rehoboam and the others admit that God is just and that they have guided the nation poorly. Despite his many deep flaws, this is the second time that Rehoboam has immediately humbled himself in response to Shemaiah’s prophetic rebukes.

And so God limits the damage that he allows the Egyptians to do, acknowledging that, "there was some good in Judah". It is never too late to turn away from idolatry or other spiritual folly, and God never makes it difficult. A mere honest acknowledgement of wrongdoing is usually all that God asks for. Rehoboam and Judah will still endure the consequences of their errors - they will for a time be vassals of the Egyptians - but it could have been a lot worse.

Though things have now stabilized, Rehoboam turns over to his son Abijah a kingdom that is both struggling inwardly and also menaced from outside (2 Chronicles 12:13 to 2 Chronicles 13:2). To his credit, Rehoboam stepped back when it was perhaps most crucial to do so, and saved his country from total destruction. Yet the rest of his reign was a dreary story of unfaithfulness and spiritual decay. He never established real peace with his neighbors, or did anything else of lasting importance.

Abijah had his own serious flaws, yet he retained just enough awareness of God’s presence to protect Judah against the attacks of its brothers to the north (2 Chronicles 13:3-22). Although - as the author of Kings tells us (1 Kings 15:1-3) - Abijah shared in some of his father’s idolatrous and oppressive ways, the new king also rose to the occasion when it was needed most. Under attack by a much larger force of northern Israelites, Abijah not only puts his faith in God but also lets everyone on both sides know that Judah will trust in God and not in human force.

Throughout Judah’s history in 2 Chronicles, we shall see faithful kings make horrible blunders or even turn away from God altogether - and we shall also see weak or idolatrous kings sometimes become capable of acts of faith and humility. This is the real world, both then and now - and a perceptive study of history will invariably help us to be less dogmatic about our own times.

2 Chronicles 12:1-16

[cf. 1 Kings 14:21-31]

Rehoboam’s demise as Shishak invades Judah

Then Rehoboam and all Israel forsake God’s law (2 Chronicles 12:1), so the Egyptian King Shishak attacks Jerusalem in his fifth year. Shemaiah the prophet delivers a warning to Israel (2 Chronicles 12:5-6): since they have abandoned the Lord, so the Lord will abandon them. This kind of speech can be used either to evaluate the past or prepare for the future. Here the prophet warns people to change their future behavior. They humble themselves so that God determines not to destroy them but rather to provide a means of escape, even though they must serve Shishak (2 Chronicles 12:6-7). Servitude to Shishak is intended to teach Israel the difference between serving others and serving God (2 Chronicles 12:8). Rehoboam humbles himself by agreeing to hand over signifi-cant wealth and taxes to the Egyptians, so God’s wrath turns away from total destruction of Judah. But the Chronicler’s final assessment of Rehoboam is fairly negative; it concludes with an ominous remark about continuing wars between Rehoboam and Jeroboam.

2 Chronicles 13:1-22

[cf. 1 Kings 15:1-8]

The reign of Abijah (Abijam)

The Chronicler expands the eight verses in Kings to twenty-three verses for this three-year reign, but also omits the negative conclusion in 1 Kings 15:3-5. The Chronicler’s fairly positive account focuses on a battle with Jeroboam not included in Kings. Although greatly outnumbered, Abijah stands on a mountain slope in southern Israel (Ephraim) and delivers a long theological speech to his opponents, Jeroboam and Israel (2 Chronicles 13:4-12). His speech develops these points. God established a covenant with King David, but Jeroboam opposed him, and worthless young men surrounded Rehoboam, who was too young and inexperienced to stand up to them. He challenges the northerners: you cannot oppose David, God’s choice. You banished the priests of the House of Aaron and the Levites and set up your own priesthood. Remember that we are faithful, that our priests and Levites continue to perform their duties—burnt offerings morning and evening, spicy incense, the rows of bread, and the lamp they light each evening (2 Chronicles 13:10-11). God is with us Judeans, so you Israelites should not fight us, or the Lord. You will not succeed!

This speech does not persuade Jeroboam, so he sets out for battle and surrounds the southerners. But the Judahites cry out to God while the priests blow their horns (2 Chronicles 13:14). As is normal for those who cry out to God, the Lord responds: Jeroboam and his men are routed, the northerners flee and many thousands are killed. Theologically speaking, the Israelites are humbled, while the Judahites prevail because they rely on the God of their ancestors (2 Chronicles 13:18). Abijah’s fortunes include fourteen wives, twenty-two sons, and sixteen daughters, signals of a blessed life. The witness to his success is evident.

King Asa - Reform & Relapse (2 Chronicles 14-16)

After two spiritually weak kings, Judah finally gets a new king, Asa, who sets his mind on seeking God’s will. Asa was the first of several reformer kings during Judah’s history. In contrast to the northern half of Israel, which strayed into idolatry from the beginning and never changed course (aside from the short-lived attempts of the bloody reformer King Jehu), the southern kingdom of Judah had an up-and-down spiritual history. Some times it seemed that the reforms might lead to permanent change; but this was invariably followed by disappointment.

Asa immediately sets out to abolish the idolatry that had permeated Judah, and as he does so, God’s hand keeps Judah’s enemies from exploiting the land’s weakness (2 Chronicles 14). Asa had inherited a weak nation that was constantly under pressure from its neighbors; and from a secular viewpoint it was very hazardous to expend his energy on internal reforms instead of building up military strength. But Asa set his priorities on spiritual values, not worldly ones.

Soon enough, the nation faces attack from Cushite forces. Though the opposing army is much larger, Asa appeals to God instead of seeking safety through worldly force. God protected Judah and its faithful king, to the point of disrupting the Cushite army completely so that it would no longer be a threat. While Asa willingly focused first on the nation’s spiritual needs, God himself made sure that his faithfulness did not allow outsiders to oppress or exploit Judah.

God’s reassurance helped Asa proceed with a wide range of spiritual improvements (2 Chronicles 15). Helped by the prophet Azariah Ben-Oded, the king launches a thorough clean-up of Judah’s idols, leads the nation in sacrificing and in renewing their commitment to the covenant with God, and even disciplines members of the royal family when they practiced idolatry. For thirty-five years, he honestly and courageously provided an example of spiritual leadership.

But after all the years of faithful reforms, Asa’s faith and reliance on God weaken, leading to some sad times in his later years (2 Chronicles 16). Baasha, the idolatrous king of northern Israel, and the king of neighboring Aram (Syria) had set up a military barricade around Judah - a problem, but no worse than the challenges Asa had faced previously with success. This time, though, Asa chooses a worldly solution instead of relying on God.

Asa takes the very gold and silver he had dedicated to God, and gives it to the Arameans as a bribe to induce them to break their agreement with northern Israel. It "works", but God rebukes Asa with some memorable words: "the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war" (2 Chronicles 16:9). Asa responds with pride and anger - leading to a sad six years as the one-time reformer becomes oppressive, prideful, and miserable.

No amount of learning, sacrifice, or ministry accomplishment ever justifies turning to deceitful worldly methods instead of to God. Asa was not the first person to turn his back on his own faithful living, and he was hardly the last. We can learn from his example, both good and bad.

2 Chronicles 14:1 to 2 Chronicles 17:1

[cf. 1 Kings 15:9-24]

The reign of Asa

Asa begins well, calling Judah to seek the Lord, so they prosper. When King Zerah and the Cushites (Ethiopians) attack Judah, Asa cries to the Lord. He professes reliance on God, so they defeat the Ethiopians and other peoples around Gerar. Still Azariah son of Oded receives “the spirit of God” (2 Chronicles 15:1) and he urges Asa in a type of sermon to seek God (2 Chronicles 15:2-7). The message is: God is found by those who seek him. Therefore, do not weaken, do not give up, but seek God and persevere. Asa responds by reforming worship in Jerusalem and gathering the people of Judah, Benjamin, and sojourners from the North to celebrate Weeks/Shabuot (2 Chronicles 15:8-15). Three times the Chronicler says the people sought God (2 Chronicles 15:12-13; 2 Chronicles 15:15). Here is the key to his auspicious beginning: no war (with Israel) for his first thirty-five years (2 Chronicles 15:19).

In his latter years, Asa responds poorly to the menacing of Baasha, King of Israel (2 Chronicles 16:1-10). Asa seeks an alliance with the king of Aram instead of renewing the covenant with God; this leads to initial success (2 Chronicles 16:2-6). Then Hanani the seer excoriates Asa for relying on Ben-hadad rather than on God, reminding him that he overcame the Ethiopians by relying on God (2 Chronicles 16:7-9). Asa is angered and imprisons the seer and oppresses many others. When he contracts a serious foot disease, he seeks the help of physicians rather than God (2 Chronicles 16:12). Asa had sought and trusted God in his earlier years, but he changes in his later years. This turn of events challenges the audience to persevere in seeking God.

The Chronicler moves on to the reign of King Jehoshaphat, passing over without mention several kings of Israel (Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Omri, Ahab), plus Elijah and Elisha the prophets (1 Kings 15:25 to 1 Kings 21:29). The Chronicler normally omits the history of northern kings, all of whom were evaluated very negatively in the book of Kings.

Hanging Out With A Bad Crowd

(2 Chronicles 17:1 to 2 Chronicles 19:3)

King Asa provided Judah with reform-minded spiritual leadership for 35 years, only to turn away from God in his later years. His successor, Jehoshaphat, also left a mixed legacy. A faithful man but overly eager to please others, Jehoshaphat hoped to renew close ties between Judah and its brothers in the northern kingdom of Israel. While the new king’s policies may have been well- intentioned, they entangled Judah with the idolatrous practices of the northern kings.

Jehoshaphat himself was personally faithful and a capable administrator (2 Chronicles 17:1-19). He arranged for a solid plan to defend the kingdom, and he combined this with effective diplomacy to keep Judah safe and at peace. His policies created a stable and prosperous nation; but his most important legacy was one of spiritual example and instruction. He did not stop at removing idols, but also instituted a positive plan of spiritual instruction.

Jehoshaphat’s plans are quite detailed, as he involves both the royal officials and the Levites. And it is an active plan, sending spiritual teachers out to the people where they live, not expecting them to come to Jerusalem. As a spiritual leader, Jehoshaphat himself puts forth extra time and effort to help others know God. He knows that no one is obligated to do things his way, so he does everything he can to make spiritual growth possible.

But then Jehoshaphat’s closeness with Ahab, the violent and idolatrous king of northern Israel, involves him in some compromising and hazardous situations (2 Chronicles 18:1-27). Their alliance creates an uncomfortable scene, with the innocent but over-eager Jehoshaphat ready to do the bidding of a cynical, corrupt, idolatrous tyrant - even to the point of going to war on his side. We can to some degree understand and even approve Jehoshaphat’s desire to repair relations between the brother nations, but he goes much too far in adapting to their ways.

The strange encounter with the prophets of the north makes Jehoshaphat feel awkward, but it does not dissuade him from joining in Ahab’s foolish aggression. Jehoshaphat quickly realizes that King Ahab had gathered a large collection of subservient "prophets" who would tell him whatever he wished to hear, and the Judean king asks to hear from a genuine prophet. But even the pointed, truthful words of the true prophet Micaiah are not enough to make Jehoshaphat abandon his unwise intentions.

In the ensuing military debacle, God protects the misguided but faithful Jehoshaphat, and so the king survives - but barely (2 Chronicles 18:28 to 2 Chronicles 19:3). Ahab meets his death in the unnecessary battle against the Arameans, and several times Jehoshaphat almost meets the same fate. His royal clothing attracts the attention of opposing forces, who more than once have him in deadly range; and only God’s direct protection saves him from a pointless and ignominious death.

Although God protected the king, he also rebukes him after the battle through another seer. Whether Jehoshaphat had good intentions does not matter, for he willingly joined in the aggression of a thoroughly ungodly ruler. God protected him, but warned him of what could happen if he made the same mistake in the future.

Weak But Faithful, Or Faithful But Weak?

(2 Chronicles 19:4 to 2 Chronicles 21:3)

King Jehoshaphat was personally faithful, but he and Judah barely survived his unwise alliance with the violent and idolatrous Ahab, king of northern Israel. As Jehoshaphat’s reign continued, he realized the importance of God’s presence both for protection and for blessing. Yet the king still repeats some of the same mistakes. Was he faithful but weak, or the other way around? The chronicler merely tells us the facts, so that we can learn from them.

After escaping the consequences of his ill-advised alliance with Ahab, Jehoshaphat concentrates on providing spiritual leadership for Judah (2 Chronicles 19:4-11). He expands the network of judicial officers throughout the land, hoping to make justice more equal for those living in neglected or remote areas. Notice that Jehoshaphat creates two distinct networks, one for handling spiritual issues and the other for judging purely civil matters. He realizes that an official suitable for one type of case is probably not going to be as appropriate for the other.

Jehoshaphat also remains faithful and strong during a time of crisis, when several of Judah’s neighbors gang up and attack (2 Chronicles 20:1-30). The king he can no longer count on lasting peace, as he could at the beginning of his reign, in large part due to his own ill-advised dalliance with the late, idolatrous Ahab. But Jehoshaphat has regained his spiritual focus enough to trust God, not the preponderance of human force, to keep him and the nation safe.

Outnumbered by an alliance of forces from Moab, Ammon, Edom and other nations, Jehoshaphat this time does not try to find worldly allies. He calls for all of Judah to fast and to put full faith in the Lord. He is thus able to pass along the assurance God gave him that, "you will not have to fight this battle." The Judean soldiers do take up their defensive positions, but then they simply watch as God causes a falling out amongst the forces arrayed against them, so that the opposing nations attack each other instead of the Judeans. And so Jehoshaphat leaves his people with a memorable example of divine deliverance.

Yet Jehoshaphat still goes astray from time to time (2 Chronicles 20:31 to 2 Chronicles 21:3). His mistakes are hardly as severe as those his father Asa had made later in his reign, and yet they will provide the roots of trouble later. Though Jehoshaphat had diligently cleared the idols out of the land, he had not taken any steps against the so-called ’high places’, shrines where both God and false gods were worshiped by citizens hoping to ’have it both ways’. Later in his reign, Jehoshaphat once again went too far in pursuing friendship with northern Israel, collaborating with the idolatrous king Ahaziah in an economic venture - which God destroys.

By the time Jehoshaphat’s reign ended, Judah was again at peace but was also uneasy beneath the surface. The spiritual malaise would later become more harmful, and the old king’s habit of spoiling his sons would lead to horrifying consequences in the reign of Jehoram, his successor. Once more we have an example of a leader with some fine character traits who experienced some real successes, and yet who is hardly worthy of full admiration or emulation. The lesson to us is that this is how leaders - even holy ones - invariably come in the real world.

2 Chronicles 17:2 to 2 Chronicles 21:1

[cf. 1 Kings 22:1-51]

The reign of Jehoshaphat

The Chronicler expands Jehoshaphat’s story from one chapter in Kings to four chapters in Chronicles. Chapter 17 has no parallel in Kings. Jehoshaphat begins positively: he does not seek the Baals but the God of his fathers, and he avoids the practices of Israel. The result is predictable: Jehoshaphat’s reign is firmly established and he receives tribute and wealth (2 Chronicles 17:5). As proof of his piety (2 Chronicles 17:6), he sends officials and Levites throughout Judah to teach the Torah, so the people can live according to God’s law (2 Chronicles 17:7-9). The Chronicler lists this king’s projects, his success in international relations, and the numerical strength of his warrior allies (2 Chronicles 17:10-19). This data sets the stage for his alliance with Ahab in chapter 18 and it raises an intriguing question: why does a king so devoted to the Lord align himself with Ahab through a marriage alliance (2 Chronicles 18:1)?

In chapter 18 Jehoshaphat and Ahab of Israel conspire to battle against Aram. Seeking God’s word (2 Chronicles 18:4) will be tricky, especially since Ahab hates his own prophet by whom he has sought God’s word; Micaiah ben Imlah has spoken words that displease Ahab (2 Chronicles 18:7). Asked about Ahab’s proposal to go to battle at Ramoth-gilead, Micaiah describes a terrifying image: Israel will be scattered on the mountains, with no shepherd to guide or guard them, so that all the sheep return home alone (2 Chronicles 18:16). In the ancient near East the shepherds symbolize kings, so Micaiah effectively says that Israel will be without its king, i.e., that Ahab will die in battle. Ahab disregards this unpleasant word, goes to battle, and dies of combat wounds. But Jehoshaphat cries out, so God helps him by luring away his attackers. Once again, crying out to God brings success. The Chronicler’s message is: trust more in God than in human means, including political alliances.

Chapters 19–20 contain more events not included in Kings. A prophet named Jehu, son of Hanani, rebukes Jehoshaphat for aligning with Ahab, one who hates God (2 Chronicles 19:1-2). Still, Jehoshaphat dedicates his heart to seek God (2 Chronicles 19:3), with happy results. He reforms Israel’s judicial system by appointing judges dedicated to ancient notions of justice (parallels from Deuteronomy 1:16-17; Deuteronomy 10:17; and Deuteronomy 16:18-20). The most important guide for justice, however, is the divine model: “with the Lord, our God, there is no injustice, no partiality, no bribe-taking” (2 Chronicles 19:7).

The Chronicler now relates in chapter 20 a victory in battle over the Ammonites and Moabites, a story not known from Kings. When enemies advance from the East, Jehoshaphat’s fear leads him to “consult the Lord” (2 Chronicles 20:3), the proper religious approach for the Chronicler. This going to God forms part of a larger service of worship, a communal fast and lament service (2 Chronicles 20:5-12), which leads to God’s clear protection of the people. This story shows how postexilic Israel could address God in time of crisis with prayer in the form of communal laments (which address God, complain of their sufferings, petition God to intervene). A similar event is found in a communal fast alluded to in Joel 1-2, when they are facing a natural disaster (probably a plague of locusts).

Then a prophetic figure stands up—the Levite Jahaziel (2 Chronicles 20:14)—and proclaims God’s response to the king’s outcry; they should not fear, for God will be with them (2 Chronicles 20:17). Responding to this promise of victory, the king and people of Jerusalem bow down and worship the Lord (2 Chronicles 20:17-18). Then Levites arise to praise God with a very loud voice, which they are appointed to do, but here it seems premature, for the victory is still in the future. Jehoshaphat then rises and delivers a speech that sounds like a sermon. Believe God and you will be set firm (2 Chronicles 20:20); here the Chronicler adapts an old prophetic saying: “Unless your faith is firm / you shall not be firm!” (Isaiah 7:9). The Chronicler gives a theological commentary on this event: Jehoshaphat faces a test of faith, just as Ahaz faced a test of faith when Isaiah uttered the word to him.

Again the Chronicler views Levites as prophetic speakers. God’s spirit came on Jahaziel the Levite in the assembly (2 Chronicles 20:14) and he publicly utters a salvation oracle in response to the king’s lament prayer (2 Chronicles 20:14-17). This Levite’s concern seems more spiritual than tactical; Judah and its leader are to conduct themselves in utter humility and confidence in God, whose deliverance can be expected. The Chronicler seems to address the spiritual yearnings and laments of his own day (Persian-era Judeans). They can realize that God is about to work a new saving action in their day, in the tradition of God’s earlier saving acts for Israel.

Jehoshaphat did not always seek God, but he followed the ways of his father Asa, who ended badly (2 Chronicles 20:35-37). This shift toward unfaithfulness stands as a powerful reminder to the Chronicler’s audience: persevere in seeking God. Chapters 21–28 are filled with Judean kings who fail because of disobedience, who do not seek God.

Dark Days In Judah (2 Chronicles 21:4 to 2 Chronicles 22:12)

King Asa brought needed reforms in Judah, only to become prideful and oppressive in his later years. His son Jehoshaphat loved God, but was weak-minded and often put the nation in danger because of his ill-considered decisions. But those were the good old days, because after Jehoshaphat, three consecutive idolatrous monarchs led Judah into one of the worst periods in its history - a time of both spiritual emptiness and constant peril.

After Jehoshaphat’s death, it becomes immediately apparent that his son and successor Jehoram is a repulsive and hateful individual (2 Chronicles 21:4-11). Vain, spoiled, and idolatrous, Jehoram murders his own brothers even though they were no real threat to him. From then on he rules through fear and self-importance, and the people raise no objections.

God preserves Judah solely because of his own promises to David and other faithful members of previous generations, but he feels no obligation to bless Jehoram himself. Edom and other formerly allied territories successfully rebel against Jehoram’s rule, as the king himself reserves his best efforts for his campaign to fill the land with idols and violence.

Jehoram’s reign was a time of misery for Judah (2 Chronicles 21:12-20). While some idolatrous rulers nevertheless led effectively from a secular viewpoint, Jehoram is inept as well as sinful. Because of his incompetence, the land is plagued by foreign raiders who do not even spare the king’s family. As a somber parallel to the harm and unhappiness that he has caused for his subjects, Jehoram is stricken with a humiliating and excruciatingly painful disease. When it finally ends, the chronicler makes the telling statement that, "he passed away, to no one’s regret" (2Ch 21:20).

Sadly, the new king Ahaziah is every bit as bad as his father had been (2 Chronicles 22:1-9). As the dead king’s youngest son, Ahaziah had unexpectedly become the heir to the throne because foreign raiders had killed the rest of Jehoram’s sons. Ahaziah is both unprepared and idolatrous, and his reign does not last long. His foolish decisions not only place the kingdom in danger, but also lead to his own death at the hands of Jehu, the bloody reformer from Northern Israel.

Yet the passing of a repellent king is once again no cause for celebration, for things continue to get even worse (2 Chronicles 22:10-12). With no clear heir to the throne, Ahaziah’s mother Athaliah - a bloodthirsty and idolatrous daughter of northern Israel’s notorious King Ahab - decides to seize the throne for herself. As her dead husband Jehoram had done, she murders most of her own family members. For six years Athaliah reigns through violence; and only the courage of her own daughter preserves - unbeknownst to the idolatrous monarch - a hope for the future.

Though Judah was always a holy nation since it belonged to God, it suffered the consequences of its errors, as any nation would have. If anything, the presence of God increased the risks for the people and their rulers. So too, in the holy body of Christ, God’s presence does not justify our indulgence in worldly alliances or our use of aggression, manipulation, or guilt - it makes these things even more harmful than they are when the world uses them.

2 Chronicles 21:2 to 2 Chronicles 22:1

[cf. 2 Kings 8:16-24]

The reign of Jehoram of Judah

The Chronicler’s additions tend to highlight the evils of this reign. The Chronicler lists Jehoram’s brothers, who received many gifts from their father Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 21:2-3); Jehoram kills them all as soon as he takes power (2 Chronicles 21:4). After marrying Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab of Israel, he follows the evil ways of the kings of Israel (2 Chronicles 21:6; cf. 2 Kings 8:18). God’s anger is provoked, so this king might have been put away except for God’s covenant promise not to destroy the royal line of Judah (2 Chronicles 21:7). His punishment comes in the form of a revolt by Edom and Libnah against Judah (2 Chronicles 21:10). The Chronicler adds a theological reason for these revolts: Jehoram built high places and led Jerusalem and Judah astray in false worship, thus forsaking God (2 Chronicles 21:11).

The Chronicler adds a letter from the prophet Elijah to Jehoram (2 Chronicles 21:12-15). His prophecy of doom explains how his evil conduct (especially killing his brothers and infidelity to God) will lead to a plague on his people and a horrible death by sickness of the bowels for himself. Elijah’s appearance here is intriguing. First, all the stories about Elijah in 1 Kings are omitted by the Chronicler, so this appearance is unique. Nevertheless, Elijah opposes the house of Ahab in Chronicles as in Kings. Just as he proclaims disaster, so it happens for Judah and for Jehoram. The king dies of some terrible disease of the bowels (2 Chronicles 21:19), and though he was buried in Jerusalem, it was not in the tombs of the kings. After his death, Jerusalem’s inhabitants make his surviving son Ahaziah (Jehoahaz) king in his place (2 Chronicles 22:1).

2 Chronicles 22:2-9

[cf. 2 Kings 8:25-29]

The reign of Ahaziah of Judah

The Chronicler adds very little new material and seems to blame his evil on the counsel he followed, much of it from Athaliah and the house of Ahab (2 Chronicles 22:3-5). So Ahaziah appears as a kind of victim in this text. His ruin came from God because he had sided with Joram, and he was killed in the executions of the house of Ahab conducted by Jehu (2 Chronicles 22:8-9). In deference to his grandfather Jehoshaphat who sought the Lord, they gave him a burial, though the Chronicler does not mention where. So another unfaithful king of Judah has now passed, and the house of David stands at a precarious point, with no obvious successor to the rule (2 Chronicles 22:9).

A Sad, Familiar Story (2 Chronicles 23 & 24)

After two faithful but very flawed kings were followed by three consecutive monarchs who were both idolatrous and violent, Judah was finally blessed with a king willing to undertake some long overdue spiritual reforms. Guided by his aunt Jehoshaba and her courageous husband Jehoiada, the new king Joash was a model leader for a holy people. But after Jehoiada died, the king’s worst qualities came out, turning the last part of his reign into a nightmare for the faithful.

When the idolatrous king Ahaziah was killed, his mother Athaliah had slaughtered off her own family and ruled by herself; but Ahaziah’s sister Jehoshaba had hidden her nephew Joash, the legal heir to the throne (see 2 Chronicles 22:10-12). Now, seven years later, Jehoshaba’s husband Jehoiada the priest presents Joash as king, supported by the Levites and other faithful residents (2 Chronicles 23:1-11). Jehoiada and his faithful associates have planned well and waited patiently. The priest’s plan not only takes into account the idolatrous monarch’s possible counter-actions, but also arranges for the preservation of the temple’s cleanness and holiness during whatever confusion may arise.

Athaliah wants to fight, and so there is a violent interlude while she is forcibly removed as queen (2 Chronicles 23:12-21). Although the ruler has the forces of the kingdom under her control, the priest’s careful planning prevails. The people, probably more excited about overthrowing a cruel tyrant than concerned about spiritual matters, nevertheless gladly assist Jehoiada in dismantling the places of idol worship that Athaliah had constructed. Eager for a change after six years of horror, they enthusiastically support the new boy king.

Though just a child when he becomes king, Joash initiates a restoration of the neglected temple (2 Chronicles 24:1-16). He is careful to arrange for the financing of the work in a way that fits in with Levitical precedent, and he gives the Levites both encouragement and exhortation. The work moves steadily, and continues to have popular support. The old priest Jehoiada oversees it all, living long enough not only to see the worship of the living God fully resumed, but also to see himself honored as a valued servant of the nation and its king.

But Joash later undoes all the good he had once done, becoming idolatrous and violent (2 Chronicles 24:17-27). Jehoiada’s death brings out Joash’s weaknesses, showing that the king does not have (and maybe never had) any deep spiritual convictions of his own. He abandons God and follows the bad advice of Judah’s self-important officials, themselves impatient to use their positions for personal gain after being long prevented from doing so under Jehoiada’s godly influence.

When Jehoiada’s son questions the king’s new policies, Joash cruelly kills him; and the rest of his reign is filled with disaster and horror. The same officials who had egged him on to abandon God now conspire to assassinate him. Joash’s reign reminds us too not to place so much emphasis on outward obedience or zeal, no matter how strong it looks. Whatever was inside Joash, it took very little to change it - and the same is too often true of human nature in any era.

2 Chronicles 22:10 to 2 Chronicles 23:21

[cf. 2 Kings 11:1-20]

Athaliah usurps the throne

When Athaliah realizes that her house and that of David are facing extinction and she is the only adult who could claim the throne, she prepares to put to death all of Ahaziah’s sons. But Jehosheba, daughter of King Jehoram and sister of Ahaziah, steals away Joash, the only son of Ahaziah still living. She acts to save him from the murderous intentions of Athaliah and to preserve the line of the house of David. The Chronicler emphasizes that Jehoshabeath was married to the priest Jehoiada. This detail fits well with the fact that she and her husband hid the child in the temple for six years, while Athaliah reigned (2 Chronicles 22:12). The Chronicler says that the child was with “them” in the temple, i.e., husband and wife, rather than with “her” (as in 2 Kings 11:3). Saving this child involved more than a single person, including cooperation between priests (Jehoiada) and royal family to preserve the Davidic line.

In 2 Chronicles 23:1-15 the Chronicler retells the story of the coronation of Joash as king of Judah. The leaders go out to the towns of Judah to enlist support of the Levites and leading families. The Chronicler thus demonstrates widespread support and participation to save the royal line because an unbroken succession in the line of David was so important for all. Levites generally replace the military conspirators of 2 Kings (2 Chronicles 23:2; 2 Chronicles 23:4; 2 Chronicles 23:6-8) and priests are added in two places (2 Chronicles 23:4; 2 Chronicles 23:6). The Chronicler implies that danger to the king is also danger to the temple. In Chronicles these events involve all the people, not just a group of military conspirators. The people of the land sound their trumpets along with singers with their musical instruments and praise songs (2 Chronicles 23:13). Worship is the overall horizon. Then follows the assassination of Athaliah (2 Chronicles 23:14-15).

Jehoiada the priest acts as a kind of regent for the young king Jehoash after Athaliah’s death. He begins with a covenant ceremony between himself, the people, and the king, so they will be a people of the Lord (2 Chronicles 23:16). Thus they destroy all signs of Baal worship (2 Chronicles 23:17) and Jehoiada the priest appoints people to rule the temple. The Chronicler specifies that all these officials were responsible to the Levitical priests who had been organized and appointed by David to offer sacrifices with rejoicing and song. The Chronicler mentions gatekeepers for the temple to protect it from entry by people who were unclean; this was clearly a Levitical concern (2 Chronicles 23:19). Ultimately the Chronicler is more interested in the cultic purity of the temple than in the political plotting. The Chronicler concludes that the whole city was quiet after Athaliah was executed, so the people of the land rejoiced: God has indeed preserved the line of David and his promise to that line (1 Chronicles 17).

2 Chronicles 24:1-27

[cf. 2 Kings 12:1-21]

The reign of Jehoash

Jehoash, the young survivor of Athaliah’s massacre, becomes king at age seven and reigns for forty years (2 Chronicles 24:1). The Chronicler describes a good and blessed reign, as long as his patron Jehoiada is living, and the king restores the temple. The Chronicler has special emphases. First, Jehoash is rewarded for upright behavior; Jehoiada provides him with two wives and he fathers numerous sons and daughters (2 Chronicles 24:3). Second, the collection to restore the temple features Levites (in addition to priests) following regulations given by Moses (2 Chronicles 24:9). Third, the officials and people participate enthusiastically in the collection (2 Chronicles 24:10). The Chronicler thus portrays the project as a joint venture of priest and king; it probably reflects his vision for cooperation in his own day. In contrast to Kings, where money was not spent for temple vessels, they spend leftover money on temple worship vessels and they actively continue the schedule of burnt offerings in the temple (2 Chronicles 24:14). Thus far Jehoash seems a model king.

After Jehoiada’s death, however, things change dramatically in the Chronicler’s version—with no parallel in Kings. Judean officials approach Jehoash, who heeds their advice and shifts worship back to the old idols (2 Chronicles 24:18). Divine anger follows (2 Chronicles 24:18), but God sends prophets to bring them back. They do not heed the prophets (2 Chronicles 24:19), so God endows Zechariah, son of the priest Jehoiada, with a prophetic spirit and he issues a stern oracle of judgment. Angered, the king orders his officials to stone the priest/prophet in the temple court, a horrifying sacrilege (2 Chronicles 24:21). The Chronicler accuses Joash of ingratitude, not remembering Jehoiada’s kindness to him, i.e., of breaking the covenant they had made (2 Chronicles 24:22). The result is a punishment from God in the form of an Aramean invasion (2 Chronicles 24:23-24). Joash is killed by a conspiracy of his own servants because he spilled the blood of the sons of Jehoiada the priest (2 Chronicles 24:25). Because of the murder and sacrilege recounted here, the Chronicler claims that he was not buried with the kings of Judah, although his grave was in Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 24:25). This murder of Zechariah seems to be mentioned in a woesaying of Jesus against unfaithful people of his own time who shed the blood of prophets (Luke 11:49-51).

We’ve Seen This Before (2 Chronicles 25)

After the extreme change during the reign of Joash, who began as a courageous reformer and ended as an oppressive idolater, the new king Amaziah "did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not wholeheartedly" (2 Chronicles 25:2). And so, as seemingly happens over and over again in the history of Judah, there is another ruler whose inconsistencies mirror the ongoing spiritual struggles of the people as a whole.

Having become king because his father was assassinated in a conspiracy, Amaziah must begin his reign by dealing with the killers (2 Chronicles 25:1-4). It is a difficult situation; and though he feels obliged to execute those directly involved, he lets the matter stop there instead of extending his vengeance to their families and friends. Many rulers probably would have felt the need to express their ’authority’ through further punishment.

Amaziah next makes arrangements for the nation’s defense, but in doing so he gives in to his fleshly desires (2 Chronicles 25:5-6). Though justified in assessing Judah’s capacity for defense, he also hires mercenaries from the neighboring northern kingdom of Israel - one of the rivals eagerly looking for a chance to attack Judah. Yet this foolish mistake is no different from steps taken by leaders of our own time, even in Christian fellowships. The temptation to use worldly force - whether money, weapons, guilt, numbers, or aggression - is always there.

God thus sends a messenger to reprove the king for this blunder; and after some resistance, Amaziah finally accepts this correction (2 Chronicles 25:7-10). He has avoided one bad mistake, but his initial misjudgment leaves some resentment in the north that will add to his problems later.

After this brief moment of humility and obedience, the king gives in to the worst of his fleshly desires, with appalling consequences (2 Chronicles 25:11-16). After a successful campaign against Edom, he senselessly slaughters thousands of prisoners. He also claims the Edomite idols as prizes of war, and makes the bizarre decision to use them as his own personal ’gods’, even offering sacrifices to the idols. And this time he coldly rejects the prophet whom God sends to reprove him.

The rest of Amaziah’s reign goes further downhill, as he experiences humiliating defeats and is eventually killed by conspirators, just as his father had been (2 Chronicles 25:17-28). His brutal campaign against the smaller nation of Edom fills him with fleshly pride, and he thinks it may be time for Judah to challenge their larger neighbors in the north of Israel. The king of Israel - himself an idolater - at first gently mocks Amaziah’s presumption and then, when Amaziah persists in his stubborn pride, the king of Israel responds with a forceful attack.

As so often happens, the people suffer for their ruler’s folly. The city of Jerusalem is vandalized and looted, as a rebuke to the foolish pride of Judah’s king. Not long afterwards, the residents of Jerusalem hire assassins who chase Amaziah all the way to Lachish and kill him there. Whatever faith or good qualities Amaziah may have had were constantly negated by his pride. His only legacy is to provide one of Scripture’s many reminders for us to remain humble, and never to think that God owes us anything because of our position, our heritage, or even our faith.

2 Chronicles 25:1-28

[cf. 2 Kings 14:1-20]

The reign of Amaziah

Amaziah reigns for twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. The Chronicler includes most of the material in Kings and concludes that he acted correctly in God’s eyes, except “not wholeheartedly” (2 Chronicles 25:2). His adherence to God’s ways is partial. His first move, political and tactical, is to kill those servants who had killed his father, but he does not kill their children, reasoning from Deuteronomy 24:16 that children should not be put to death because of the sins of their fathers (2 Chronicles 25:4). The Chronicler adds a story that Amaziah organized his military and hired one hundred thousand northern Israelites. This action invites a prophetic rebuke to rely not on Israel and Ephraim but on God alone (2 Chronicles 25:7-8). There follow details of acrimonious relations with the North, a successful battle against peoples of Edom and Mt. Seir, and disturbing reports that he then worships the gods of Seir (2 Chronicles 25:9-14). Another prophet comes to express the Lord’s anger that he would trust other gods to deliver him (2 Chronicles 25:15). Many other disastrous interchanges follow. He is carried back to Jerusalem on horses and is buried there with his ancestors (2 Chronicles 25:28). The initial evaluation is correct; he acted uprightly, but only partially. Like Jehoash before him, he begins well but does not persevere.

Flawed Kings & Worse Kings (2 Chronicles 26-28)

After two kings, Joash and Amaziah, both started well but ended up as oppressive idolaters, the new king Uzziah (called Azariah in the book of Kings) provides Judah with a fresh start - but then his life follows the same pattern. His successor Jotham is personally faithful but a weak ruler, and after Jotham comes Ahaz, a violent, hardcore idolater.

Uzziah gave the nation many years of sound, faithful leadership (2 Chronicles 26:1-15). He had inherited a weakened nation whose neighbors were a constant threat, giving him little alternative but to concentrate a good deal of attention on military concerns. He also found Judah in need of economic and agricultural reforms, to make up for years of neglect in these areas. And as always, the people were starved for genuine spiritual examples amongst their leaders.

Uzziah delivered in all these areas. He humbly sought out personal spiritual guidance, aggressively defended the land against the Philistines and other enemies, and resourcefully devised ways to improve Judah’s agricultural production without coercing or exploiting his subjects. His ingenuity and strong character blessed the nation and also drew personal acclaim.

But with power inevitably comes pride, and in his later years Uzziah strayed badly from God and from his own best qualities (2 Chronicles 26:16-21). His decline started abruptly when he decided that he was great enough to disregard the distinction between religious leaders and civil rulers. Uzziah barged into the temple, determined to take over the priests’ duties, and was gently but firmly opposed by the priests. Instead of humbly acknowledging his mistake, Uzziah became hostile, and was stricken with leprosy. The rest of his reign saw a sad decline for him and for the nation.

His son Jotham was the real ruler late in the reign of his diseased and discredited father, and then became king in his own right (2 Chronicles 26:22 to 2 Chronicles 27:9). Isaiah dates his call to ministry in the year Uzziah died, and in a famous passage (Isaiah 6) God gives Isaiah the message that Judah will be, "ever hearing but never understanding." This begins with Jotham’s reign, for although the new king was successful in his personal endeavors - like Uzziah he devised some useful ways to improve Judah’s economy and infrastructure - he did little to deal with the nation’s spiritual decay.

Jotham’s son and successor Ahaz was Judah’s worst king to-date (2 Chronicles 28:1-8). Ahaz even personally practiced human sacrifice, murdering his own sons in the course of ’worshiping’ Canaanite idols. God had little choice but to withdraw his presence, with the result that Judah was ravaged by enemies, including the Arameans as well as their own brothers from Northern Israel.

Although God repeatedly warned Ahaz through prophets and other means (see also Isaiah 7), Ahaz’s practices grew ever bolder until they permeated the land (2 Chronicles 28:9-27). His worst decision was to seek out help from the powerful Assyrian Empire, which brought even worse oppression and danger to Judah. Yet except for the prophet Isaiah, the people were content with such a king. They wanted worldly pleasures, and God allowed them to experience the worldly fulfillment but also the worldly consequences of their desires.

2 Chronicles 26:1-23

[cf. 2 Kings 14:21 to 2 Kings 15:7]

The reign of Uzziah (Azariah)

This king also begins well but ends badly. He becomes king at age sixteen, when his father was killed, and he reigns fifty-two years. The Chronicler gives a much longer account than Kings. At first he seeks God, as instructed by his advisor Zechariah, so God made him prosperous. The Chronicler describes victory on the battlefield, his construction of cisterns and towers, and his development of farms and vineyards because of his love for the earth. Under him the kingdom is prosperous and secure, and much the same situation prevails in the North. This era, the early eighth century B.C., is a time when superpowers were weakened and Israel and Judah could grow strong. Later he grows proud and personally enters the sanctuary to offer incense (2 Chronicles 26:16). Usurping the authority of the priests brings the punishment of leprosy for the rest of his days (2 Chronicles 26:19-20). He lives in seclusion, excluded from the temple, while his son Jotham takes over his judicial duties (2 Chronicles 26:21). After his death, Uzziah is buried adjacent to a royal burial ground. One of the Chronicler’s sources for this story was written by the prophet Isaiah, son of Amoz (2 Chronicles 26:22). Like his father, Uzziah’s richly prosperous reign turns sour at its end as pride guides his actions.

2 Chronicles 27:1-9

[cf. 2 Kings 15:32-38]

The reign of Jotham

This report is quite positive, a welcome interlude among many negative accounts. He follows the best paths of his father Uzziah, especially in his construction projects in Jerusalem (Ophel hill) and the hill country of Judah, as he established his ways before God (2 Chronicles 27:6). In one important detail he does not imitate his father: he does not presume to enter the temple (2 Chronicles 27:2). Ammonites pay him tribute (2 Chronicles 27:5), and after his death he rests with his ancestors in the city of David (2 Chronicles 27:9).

2 Chronicles 28:1-27

[cf. 2 Kings 16:1-20]

The reign of Ahaz

This king reverses the positive pattern of his father, Jotham, so the Chronicler narrates nothing positive about his reign. He is responsible for much idolatry. He personally produces metal images of the Baals (2 Chronicles 28:2), makes incense offerings in the Ben-hinnom valley, and engages in child sacrifices (2 Chronicles 28:3). Because he has forsaken his ancestral God (2 Chronicles 28:6), who is thereby enraged (2 Chronicles 28:9), Ahaz suffers defeats at the hands of the Arameans (2 Chronicles 28:5), Israelites (2 Chronicles 28:6-15), Edomites (2 Chronicles 28:17), and Philistines (2 Chronicles 28:18), and is oppressed by Assyria (2 Chronicles 28:16; 2 Chronicles 28:20-21).

The Chronicler tells a much more detailed story of battle with northern Israelites. The prophet Oded exhorts the northerners to curb their rage and return Judean captives, arguing that both Judah and Israel have sinned equally (2 Chronicles 28:9-11). This unusual speech succeeds and many captives are returned. With regard to Damascus and the Arameans, the Chronicler has Ahaz sacrificing to their gods. He collects temple vessels and uses the metal to pay tribute, closes the temple doors (i.e., causes normal worship to cease), and builds altars everywhere. This thoroughly disobedient king was buried in Jerusalem, but not in the royal cemeteries. The Chronicler will move directly to Ahaz’s son, Hezekiah, the next king of Judah.

At this point, the Chronicler omits crucial texts: 2 Kings 17 and 2 Kings 18:9-12. The Kings account begins with the reign of King Hoshea of Israel and includes the attack by Shalmaneser, King of Assyria, and his siege of Samaria. Eventually the Assyrians capture the Israelite capital and send its people into exile. The Chronicler does not comment on these events, since he does not specifically narrate the history of the northern kingdom. Some scholars suggest that the condemnations of Israel are not included by the Chronicler so that northerners, the lost tribes of Israel, could be more clearly invited back to union and worship with the southern kingdom of Judah.

HEZEKIAH

2 Chronicles 29–32

Hezekiah ranks as one of Judah’s three most important kings, after David and Solomon. The Chronicler devotes four chapters to him, most of them without parallels in Kings. The unique material recounts issues of worship at the temple, whereas Kings focuses more on military and political events, especially the invasion of Assyrian King Sennacherib. The Chronicler links Hezekiah’s concern for worship with the accomplishments of David and Solomon. The Chronicler transforms the Hezekiah story into a renewal program for the entire people, including northerners who were presumably cut off after 722 B.C. In chapters 29–30 Hezekiah cleanses the temple from the impurity introduced by Ahaz and reestablishes the proper rituals and the joyful celebration of Passover and Unleavened Bread. He delineates duties and roles of Levites and priests, focusing on status and responsibility for the Levites. Thus the Chronicler underscores the importance of worship for Israel’s common life. His attention to Sennacherib’s invasion and defeat is quite abbreviated when compared with its parallels in 2 Kings 18-19 and Isaiah 36-37. This commentary will emphasize the Chronicler’s favorite issues: temple worship, personnel, and the great Passover festival.

The Great Reformer (2 Chronicles 29)

Judah had seen reformer kings before, but King Hezekiah outdid them all with the thoroughness, diligence, and understanding that he displayed during his determined efforts to show the land what it really meant to belong to the living God. Moreover, his reforms were hardly a matter of mere outward observance. The new king quickly shows a thorough understanding of spiritual responsibility and, even more importantly, an awareness of God’s presence.

Almost as soon as he becomes king, Hezekiah initiates efforts to cleanse the temple and to make up for years of neglect (2 Chronicles 29:1-11). Knowing that he cannot personally minister in the temple, the king rallies the priests and Levites to resume long-abandoned ministries involving the temple and its holy contents. The king reminds the priests and Levites that they alone can stand in God’s presence and minister on behalf of the community and its spiritual needs.

Taking the king’s exhortation to heart, the priests and Levites diligently set about purifying the temple and preparing it for a full-scale resumption of the Levitical ministry (2 Chronicles 29:12-19). Each family of Levites resumes its historical ministry, so that there is someone to perform each necessary task. So, in due time, the temple and its articles are methodically cleansed and readied for ministry. No one person’s role was more important than the rest, yet everyone was needed.

Hezekiah’s next step is to bring the officials and leaders to the temple to observe the culmination of the rededication and the resumption of the sacrificial ministry (2 Chronicles 29:20-28). It is not enough for them simply to know that these sacrifices are being taken care - they must be there to watch, to see the sacrificial blood being spilled. And while the sacrifices are being offered, the other officials join in worship with the king.

Hezekiah then leads everyone in worshiping and praising God (2 Chronicles 29:29-36). The joy is increased by the awareness that, "it was done so quickly" (2 Chronicles 29:36) - in a short time, the nation has turned from a complete neglect of God’s presence to a renewed appreciation for it. It has taken a lot of work on the part of many persons to produce the cleansing of the temple and the resumption of its intended activities, but above all the praise goes to God for his presence among his people.

Although the circumstances differ, in some important ways Hezekiah’s reform still provides a model for the church today. There are often times when we perceive the need for renewed cleansing, purification, and worship - either as a congregation or as an individual(s). There are also those who would wish to see our nation or our culture undergo this kind of sweeping reform. Yet those who desire such reforms generally go about them in exactly the wrong way.

In Hezekiah’s reforms there is only grace, peace, and joy - not guilt, blame, pride, or anger. Everyone participated in the process of purification by grace, not by works. Everyone sought to have the nation’s sins forgiven and wiped away, not analyzed and punished. This must always be the foundation of any plan of genuine spiritual renewal.

2 Chronicles 29:1-36

[cf. 2 Kings 18:1-12]

Hezekiah restores temple service

Hezekiah reigns for twenty-nine years and does what God considered right and honest, like David. He restores the temple for worship and for the Passover, after the reign of Ahaz left it with a polytheistic atmosphere. First, he cleanses the temple and rededicates it (2 Chronicles 29:3-30). Then he assembles the priests and Levites and exhorts them to participate in the cleansing and consecration of the temple (2 Chronicles 29:5-11). The Levites are prominent in their enthusiastic response. In 2 Chronicles 29:12-14 the Chronicler lists fourteen Levitical families that participated. The first eight come from the four great Levite families: Kohath, Merari, Gershon, and Elizaphan (2 Chronicles 29:12-13 a), and the next six names derive from three families of singers: Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun (2 Chronicles 29:13-14).

To purify the temple, the priests bring out unclean things, while the Levites receive and dispose of them in Wadi Kidron. The ceremonies take eight days for the outer court and another eight days for the inner house of the Lord; so this entire process takes them to the sixteenth of the first month. Since Passover begins on the fourteenth of the first month, they cannot begin on time since the temple is not yet consecrated. Their only alternative is celebrate Passover in the second month.

The consecration ceremony (2 Chronicles 29:20-30) begins with various sacrifices (sin offerings and sprinkling blood against the altar) to make atonement for all Israel. During the public sacrifices Levites are stationed in the temple and begin their music and song, while the priests sound their trumpets. At the same time the assembly bows down in prostration. Hezekiah arranges for burnt offerings accompanied by the Lord’s song and the playing of trumpets and other musical instruments of David. Having music, song, and burnt offerings together seems to be a liturgical innovation of Hezekiah. The Levites praise God using the ancient words of David and Asaph.

When the assembly brings thank offerings and burnt offerings (2 Chronicles 29:31-33), Levites assist the priests to prepare the offerings, until enough priests had consecrated themselves. The Chronicler notes that the Levites “were more careful than the priests to sanctify themselves” (2 Chronicles 29:34). This was a time of great rejoicing over the revival of worship and the Chronicler offers a message for his own era. Postexilic Israelites should adhere to the great worship traditions, especially Passover and Unleavened Bread, which recall Israel’s covenant with their God. Worship should include public sacrifices, music, and song, along with physical prostration; it concludes with personal sacrificial offerings, many of them shared in a liturgical meal with great rejoicing.

Restoring The Passover (2 Chronicles 30-31)

After beginning his reign with some long-overdue reforms, Hezekiah did not stop calling the people to draw closer to God. He continued to look into practices long-neglected. The great reformer knew that spiritual growth does not consist of an occasional thrilling change, no matter how worthwhile. Hezekiah’s devotion to God was constant - it did not depend on outward results, but on a continual willingness to look deeper and a constant readiness to humble himself.

With the temple cleansed and the Levitical ministry resumed, Hezekiah invites all of Israel - not merely Judah - to a full celebration of the Passover, which had also been long neglected (2 Chronicles 30:1-12). This is a big step in two ways. Most obviously, resuming the Passover will restore an important annual reminder of the people’s spiritual identity. The Passover observance called for active participation on the part of every single person - which was exactly why it had been neglected for so long. Hezekiah realized that, instead, this was a good reason to resume it.

A more easily overlooked aspect of Hezekiah’s Passover reform is that he went out of his way to include all of Israel. For almost 200 years, Israel had been divided into two rival kingdoms that often fought with each other. And the northern half was ruled by idolaters - yet Hezekiah looked beyond all this, realized that there were believers in the north who would benefit spiritually from the Passover, and realized that this mattered more than any political or religious rivalries.

The crowd that comes for the Passover experiences a time of spiritual joy and spiritual renewal (2 Chronicles 30:13 to 2 Chronicles 31:1). Yet this too was only possible because Hezekiah continued his devotion to putting spiritual needs ahead of everything else, for during the course of the Passover observance, some thorny issues arose as result of the long neglect of the holy day.

Many of those who came to the Passover from northern Israel, where idolatry was the norm, did not realize that there were purification rites they were supposed to follow before eating their portion of the Passover. Instead of reproving them for this, the gracious Hezekiah simply prays for them, confident that God would heal them of any harm that might somehow have been done by their lack of awareness. The cleansings were, in truth, an important part of the Passover; but Hezekiah realized that there was no ill intent in the northerners’ failure to follow them. Instead of emphasizing rules and conformity, he made it easy for his brothers to join the Passover.

As Hezekiah continues to look for ways to bring the community closer to God, he next institutes a comprehensive plan designed to ensure the necessary financial support for the priests and Levites and their ministries (2 Chronicles 31:2-21). The chronicler not only describes the arrangements that the king implements, but also gives us the names of many of the persons involved. This is a reminder to us that, although the situation seems remote from our perspective, God wants these faithful servants and worshipers to be remembered for their honest acts of worship.

2 Chronicles 30:1-27

The celebration of Passover

This chapter has preparations for the Passover (2 Chronicles 30:1-12) and the ceremony itself (2 Chronicles 30:13-27). Invitations to come to Jerusalem for Passover go out also to the northern tribes Ephraim and Manasseh (2 Chronicles 30:1-2). It seems that the Chronicler aims at some kind of reconciliation with the lost northern tribes. He also invites them for a festival in the second month, as explained in 2 Chronicles 29:17. The invitation to “return to the Lord” in penitence intends that God might bring back all the exiles to their homeland (2 Chronicles 30:6). This spirituality of repentance deepens; when you turn to the Lord you will find mercy before your captors, for your God is merciful and compassionate (2 Chronicles 30:9).

His invitation to Passover finds two distinct responses. Many northerners ridicule the messengers who bring the invitation, while others humble themselves and go to Jerusalem. For some northerners, answering Hezekiah’s invitation carries political ramifications that they could not overcome. Southerners from Judea accept the invitation unanimously (2 Chronicles 30:12). They celebrate with a huge assembly in Jerusalem for the Unleavened Bread. The Passover sacrifices on the fourteenth of the month (2 Chronicles 30:14-20) follow prescriptions of the Torah of Moses. There were so many people who needed assistance but had not consecrated themselves that many Levites assisted them in their sacrifices (2 Chronicles 30:17). The Chronicler mentions large numbers of northerners who had not purified themselves but still ate the Passover meal against regulations. This act poses a challenge for the king. He prays to God for them, especially those who set their heart to seek the Lord (2 Chronicles 30:18). This shows the importance of a right heart, a spiritual intention in celebrating the festival sacrifice. The Chronicler focuses on inner spirituality in a balance with ritual actions. God listens to the king’s prayer and heals the people (2 Chronicles 30:20). The feast of Unleavened Bread follows for another seven days, and it combines thanksgiving sacrifices and feasting with thanksgiving songs and music; it is another occasion of great joy.

The entire assembly decides on an additional festival of seven days, a festival not required by Torah and not characterized by burnt offerings or Levitical song and music. However, the notion of joy or rejoicing appears three times in the space of four verses (2 Chronicles 30:23-26), so typical for the Chronicler. This was an inclusive celebration—with Judeans (community, priests, and Levites), northerners from Israel, and resident aliens (from Judah and Israel). Joy and inclusiveness were sufficient reasons for the Chronicler’s enthusiasm: he exclaims that Hezekiah’s Passover was like none since the days of David and Solomon (2 Chronicles 30:26).

This celebration shows five important aspects of Israel’s public worship. First, it should be an inclusive celebration. Second, it recognizes God’s past generosity to Israel, especially the exodus from Egypt. Third, speaking of the Lord as merciful and compassionate highlights the notion of God’s everlasting compassion, often related to the exodus tradition. Fourth, a whole heart was crucial for good worship. Fifth, there should be great joy and rejoicing. The Chronicler uses the word for joy six times in these chapters (2 Chronicles 29:30; 2 Chronicles 29:36; 2 Chronicles 30:21; 2 Chronicles 30:23; 2 Chronicles 30:25, and 2 Chronicles 30:26), suggesting that the rituals of worship, exercised with a full heart, actually lead to great rejoicing and to the experience of unity with each other and their entire tradition (2 Chronicles 30:26).

2 Chronicles 31:1-21

Hezekiah provides for priests and Levites

This chapter adds more information about religious matters during Hezekiah’s reign. They continue to remove vestiges of idolatry after the Passover feast. Hezekiah also establishes the work rotations of priests and Levites, similar to the specifications of David in 1 Chronicles 23-27 (2 Chronicles 31:2). The monarch is responsible for providing animals for sacrifice; royal funding of sacrifices was likely the historical practice in postexilic times. Financial remuneration for priests and Levites is assigned to voluntary offerings of the people, who respond generously (2 Chronicles 31:4-13). Moreover, one document specifies the organization of Levites and priests for the distribution of tithes to them (2 Chronicles 31:14-19). The chapter ends with a positive summary of Hezekiah’s actions; he has acted with a whole heart, so he prospers. The only other king who prospered, according to the Chronicler, was Solomon (1 Chronicles 29:23), which means that they both follow God’s Torah.

More Crises (2 Chronicles 32-33)

King Hezekiah was Judah’s most determined reformer, re-establishing many long-neglected practices that helped the nation to benefit from God’s presence. Yet neither he nor the nation was immune from danger. Nor did his faithfulness guarantee that his son and heir would seek God. Hezekiah made a few mistakes, but the troubled times that follow were not at all his fault. They simply show us how the world relentlessly brings trouble to believers and unbelievers alike.

The chronicler knows how unjust it is that the Assyrians would launch a deadly attack against Judah, "after all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done" (2 Chronicles 32:1-2). But Hezekiah wastes no time on protest or self-pity, diligently preparing Jerusalem both practically and spiritually (2 Chronicles 32:3-8). His plans show diligence, responsibility, and ingenuity. Even in secular sources, Hezekiah is still remembered for his resourcefulness in building an aqueduct or tunnel (see also 2 Chronicles 32:30) as part of his strategy for managing the water supply to Judah’s advantage.

Thus, even when the Assyrian king combines his imposing army with brutal threats, the people stand firm in their faith (2 Chronicles 32:9-23). The Assyrians were universally feared for their brutality, so King Sennacherib’s threats carried considerable menace behind them. The people of Jerusalem needed both their faith and the assurance of Hezekiah’s practical arrangements to resist Assyria’s overpowering force so calmly.

Other passages (see 2 Kings 18:17 to 2 Kings 19:37 and Isaiah 36:1 to Isaiah 37:38) recount in much more detail both Hezekiah’s efforts and the ways that God delivered Jerusalem without the people even having to fight a battle. These passages also show Hezekiah’s conscientiousness and humility, through his close association with the prophet Isaiah. The two of them helped Judah through a time of crisis by reminding everyone that they were a holy people, not by using worldly methods.

Even though Hezekiah, like all human rulers, committed some blunders, God kept him in his care; and Hezekiah’s faith and ability brought blessings to Judah (2 Chronicles 32:24-33). Of his few mistakes, the chronicler mentions that God wished to "test him and to know everything that was in his heart" (2 Chronicles 32:31). Overall, Hezekiah left a legacy of a faithful, gracious leader.

Sadly, Hezekiah’s son and successor Manasseh was one of Judah’s worst kings, violent and idolatrous (2 Chronicles 33:1-9). How did such a faithful man as Hezekiah wind up with a son like this? There is no reason other than Manasseh’s own freewill to be what he wished - and he is one more reminder that none of us can ever take spiritual responsibility for someone else’s soul.

Yet, after a traumatic experience at the hands of Assyria, Manasseh completely humbled himself and tried to make up for the harm he had done (2 Chronicles 33:10-16). This remarkable transformation had little practical effect on the nation as a whole; for the nation was indifferent to their king’s example of repentance, and even his son Amon persisted in idolatry when he became king in his father’s place (2 Chronicles 33:17-25). But to God, individual souls matter, not numbers or nations. Despite all the harm he did, Manasseh passed from this life as a faithful believer.

2 Chronicles 32:1-33

[cf. 2 Kings 18:13 to 2 Kings 20:21; Isaiah 36:1 to Isaiah 39:8]

Invasion of Sennacherib and other

events during Hezekiah’s reign

The challenges brought on by the Assyrian invasion of Judah take up only one chapter here, but two chapters in Kings (2 Kings 18:13 to 2 Kings 20:19) and Isaiah (chs. 36–37). The Chronicler’s interest in Hezekiah’s political and military affairs focuses more on their religious and theological significance, though his reign was apparently a time of great construction projects in Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 32:27-30). The discussions and negotiations between Judeans and Assyrians in Kings are shortened by the Chronicler, who then mentions that Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah pray to God (2 Chronicles 32:20), who delivers them just as he had delivered Israel during the reigns of Abijah (2 Chronicles 13:3-20), Asa (2 Chronicles 14:9-15), and Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20:1-30). Finally, a very brief version of Hezekiah’s illness is mentioned (2 Chronicles 32:24), distilled from 2 Kings 20:1-11 and Isaiah 38:1-22 (with the famous prayer of Hezekiah). Still, there are danger signs. Hezekiah is affected by pride (2 Chronicles 32:25), though he later humbles himself, thus delaying God’s anger until after his time (2 Chronicles 32:26). Sin is followed by repentance, but it seems possible that the exile was occasioned by his pride. Hezekiah’s repentance repairs the breach, for he is greatly successful again. Great construction projects date to this era, including diversion of the spring Gihon (2 Chronicles 32:30), corroborated by Hezekiah’s tunnel (visible to this day), with an inscription describing its construction. Also, envoys came to him from Babylon to make inquiries. Finally comes his death notice (2 Chronicles 32:32-33), with the positive note that he was buried in royal tombs in Jerusalem.

2 Chronicles 33:1-20

[cf. 2 Kings 21:1-18]

The reign of Manasseh

The Chronicler transforms a very negative view of Manasseh in the book of Kings into a vision of hope. Here is a great idolater who becomes a king who is humbled and repents of his sin. His reign of fifty-five years must be seen as a blessing. At first he does evil (as in Kings), rebuilding high places that Hezekiah had torn down, and conducting child sacrifice in the valley of Ben-hin-nom (i.e., Gehenna, as in the New Testament: Matthew 5:22; Mark 9:43; James 3:6). The Chronicler’s new version in 2 Chronicles 33:10-17 is surprising. God warns Manasseh and the people to repent (2 Chronicles 33:10), and then Assyrians capture him and take him to Babylon (2 Chronicles 33:11). There he prays to his God and humbles himself (2 Chronicles 33:12; cf. 2 Chronicles 7:14); his petition is heard and God returns him to Jerusalem, so Manasseh knows that the Lord is God (2 Chronicles 33:13). Then he pursues ambitious construction projects in the city of David, removing idols and altars, and installing an altar for the Lord. Although his life is changed, the people keep sacrificing on high places, though to the Lord (2 Chronicles 33:17). In conclusion the Chronicler mentions particularly Manasseh’s prayer to God after he had been humbled and that he was buried in his house (2 Chronicles 33:18-20). These verses replace the condemnation in 2 Kings 21:10-16. The Chronicler omits mentioning that his sin and the evil of Manasseh were the reason for the downfall of Judah in the South.

Unlike other Judean kings, Manasseh’s life pattern went from bad to good. The Chronicler seldom invents stories, so this account may be considered historical in some way. Still, his repentance, return, and actions are not portrayed as historical but as acts of God. The Chronicler uses his life as an excellent example of the possibility of repentance, forgiveness, and grace, especially for postexilic Israel. In this tradition is the beautiful Prayer of Manasseh, a prayer of penitence found in the Apocrypha but not in the biblical canon.

THE FALL OF JUDAH

2 Chronicles

2Ch 33–36

2 Chronicles 33:21-25

[cf. 2 Kings 21:19-26]

The reign of Amon Manasseh’s son, Amon, follows the evil in his father’s life rather than humbling himself, as Manasseh had done. Rather, he increases his own guilt (2 Chronicles 33:23). As in Kings, he was assassinated by conspiratorial servants, who were in turn struck down by the people of the land (2 Chronicles 33:25). Unlike the Kings account, there is no burial notice or regal notice for this king.

Judah’s Last Chance? (2 Chronicles 34-35)

After Hezekiah’s idolatrous successors undid all the good things Hezekiah had done, King Josiah became Judah’s last reformer king. We shall never know whether this was Judah’s last chance, or whether Judah was already irrevocably headed for destruction and exile. We do know that Josiah wholeheartedly attempted to restore many important, neglected practices - and yet that even as he was in the midst of these reforms, God warned him that the people would not change.

King Josiah eliminates idols and restores the ministries of the temple, which again had been long-neglected (2 Chronicles 34:1-13). Josiah is often more violent in suppressing idolatry, but otherwise his reforms are similar to those of Hezekiah - the temple is purified, work on the temple is carefully planned, and worship is resumed according to patterns long ago established by God.

Josiah’s reforms continue to go even further, but the work is accompanied by a prophetic warning that they may already be too late (2 Chronicles 34:14-33). While working on the original set of reforms, one of the priests had found a copy of the Book Of The Law - which, amazingly, is considered a novelty. Even Josiah is astonished by some of the things he reads in it. He consults a prophetess so that he can quickly move ahead to determine how best to begin applying it.

But Josiah gets an unexpected answer - the prophetess Huldah provides no practical direction, but instead bluntly states that Judah will be destroyed for its accumulated idolatry and spiritual adultery. Because of his own desire to seek God, Josiah will not have to see this happen; but he is helpless to stop what God has determined to do. Even a powerful leader like Josiah has to accept the truth that each person’s spiritual condition is his or her own responsibility.

Josiah follows in Hezekiah’s footsteps by reviving the Passover observance, with a celebration even larger than Hezekiah’s (2 Chronicles 35:1-19). Though he now knows that the nation cannot be saved in the long run, he still desires to please God in any way he can. And his Passover celebration was by no means futile. It brought spiritual encouragement to anyone who understood its significance, and it was an outpouring of grace that was probably deeply appreciated by all those who, like Josiah, were troubled and discouraged by the rampant sin around them.

But Josiah makes one bad decision that brings his reign to a sad, abrupt end (2 Chronicles 35:20-27). When Pharaoh Neco leads an army past Judah on the way to fight the Babylonians, Josiah takes offense and insists on fighting Neco himself. Neco goes out of his way to avoid conflict, but Josiah insists - and he is killed in the ensuing pointless battle. Perhaps thereby he avoided seeing Judah’s coming collapse - but so too, faithful citizens lost someone who understood their needs.

Throughout Judah’s history, reformers like Josiah made determined efforts to oppose idolatry and to return the people to an awareness of God’s presence. But none of their efforts lasted. We both overestimate and underestimate the difference one person can make. Even the most powerful and spiritual believer cannot change the unbelief of others - but any believer can leave behind a testimony to God’s grace and holiness that can encourage and bless those who do seek God.

2 Chronicles 34:1-7

[cf. 2 Kings 22:1-2]

The reign of Josiah: early reform movements

After Amon’s murder the people of the land make the eight-year-old Josiah their king. Surely other officials administer the kingdom until he reaches his majority at age twenty, the twelfth year of his reign (2 Chronicles 34:3). Josiah is a notable religious reformer, but the Chronicler’s description differs greatly from 2 Kings; there Josiah initiates the reform after his officials find the book of Torah in the temple. For the Chronicler, Josiah’s religious concerns come first. At age sixteen he begins to seek the God of David his forebear, removing high places from Judah and Jerusalem. At age twenty, when he begins to rule himself, his religious reforms begin. He removes and destroys idol altars and images in Jerusalem and Judah; then they pulverize all these objects and spread their dust on the graves of their worshipers (2 Chronicles 34:4). Since corpse pollution is considered a terrible degradation in Israel, these actions would be especially harsh. As elsewhere, the Chronicler extends the reform to northern Israel (2 Chronicles 34:6). Josiah’s religious devotion and concerns come first in his career, which is the Chronicler’s preferred order of events (also evidenced in the lives of David and Solomon). The Chronicler also emphasizes that worship and liturgy typify Israel as God’s people, more than politics, economics, or warfare.

2 Chronicles 34:8-18

[cf. 2 Kings 22:3-11]

The Torah book discovered

Josiah’s religious concern continues. At age twenty-six he orders his officials to repair the Jerusalem temple, using funds collected by the Levites from Israel, Judah, and Jerusalem. They give the money to the appointed workers, honest workers supervised by various Levites. In the midst of these operations Hilkiah the priest finds the book of the Torah given through Moses (2 Chronicles 34:14). He hands it over to Shaphan, an official, who takes it to Josiah to read aloud before the king (34:18). When Josiah hears the words of the Torah he weeps and tears his garments and is moved to repentance by what he has heard. Many scholars today think that this scroll discovered in the temple was a version of the book of Deuteronomy. For the Chronicler, this discovery results from his reforms, whereas in Kings this discovery motivates Josiah to reform.

2 Chronicles 34:19-33

[cf. 2 Kings 22:12 to 2 Kings 23:3]

Confirmation by the prophetess Huldah

Eager to learn the status of this document, Josiah sends Hilkiah, Shaphan, and other officials to inquire of the prophetess Huldah. She responds in an oracle which describes the evil about to overcome Jerusalem and Judah because of their sins (2 Chronicles 34:23-28). She answers their question only indirectly. She says that God is about to enact all the curses written in the book (presumably those listed in Deuteronomy 28:15-68), which implies that Israel deserves the fulfillment of God’s word in Deuteronomy. So she implies that this book of Torah is authentic, i.e., it is God’s word for Israel. But she also prophesies that Josiah will die in peace rather than in battle, because he repented (2 Chronicles 34:27-28). She is the prophet who authenticates the Torah document and exhorts the king and people to adhere to it and the covenant with God. She is the one woman prophet of the era of Israel’s monarchy.

2 Chronicles 35:1-19

[cf. 2 Kings 23:21-23]

Josiah keeps the Passover

Josiah’s religious reform also includes a great Passover celebration at the Jerusalem temple, just as Hezekiah has done. Here again the festival is not family-oriented as in contemporary practice but is an act of public worship. It includes slaughtering Passover lambs, burnt offerings, arrangements for the priests and Levites, singers, and gatekeepers. It is followed by the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days. This celebration proceeds according to plan.

One unique aspect of this celebration is the description of roles for the Levites. The Chronicler identifies them as teachers of Israel and changes their responsibilities; no longer do they carry the ark, but they assist in temple liturgy and they help in the flaying of the Passover lambs (2 Chronicles 35:11). The Chronicler emphasizes that the Levites follow God’s word found in the Scriptures: verses 6 and 12 connect their roles with the book of Moses. The Chronicler was very impressed with this festival, noting that nothing comparable had occurred since the days of Samuel the prophet. The Chronicler uses this pattern of an authentic Passover celebration to encourage his community’s practice.

2 Chronicles 35:20 to 2 Chronicles 36:1

[cf. 2 Kings 23:28-30]

The death of Josiah

Despite his religious reforms and despite Huldah’s prophecy about Josiah dying peacefully, this king gets caught in the war between Egypt and Assyria. He moves into the path of Pharaoh Neco on his northward battle march through Israel. Chronicles reflects the basic narrative in Kings, but the Chronicler seems troubled by Josiah’s untimely, unmerited death. Neco, the Egyptian ruler, proclaims to Josiah that he intends to attack the house of Judah but not him, so he should cease his opposition. Josiah does not obey Neco, but the Chronicler explains it in a startling way: “he would not listen to the words of Neco that came from the mouth of God” (2 Chronicles 35:22). Even an enemy king can mediate God’s word to Israel! Perhaps his downfall relates to disbelief in God’s word through the Pharaoh, for Josiah is soon shot by archers, mortally wounded, and dies after his servants carry him back to Jerusalem. Judah and Jerusalem all mourn for Josiah (2 Chronicles 35:24), and Jeremiah utters a lamentation for him, while male and female singers mention him in their lamentations (2 Chronicles 35:25). These lamentations remind us of the book of Lamentations, usually connected with Jeremiah the prophet. Josiah has a glorious burial, for he has been loyal and faithful to God’s Torah (2 Chronicles 35:26). This death notice is extremely positive for Judah’s last independent king.

The End Of Judah (2 Chronicles 36)

After Josiah’s reforms failed to pull the nation out of its spiritual decay, the end was inevitable, if drawn-out. A final series of four kings - each one spiritually bankrupt, administratively incompetent, and politically overbearing - presides over Judah’s final disintegration. In its last years, the kingdom of Judah is little more than a doomed nation at the mercy of its stronger neighbors, with a population that seems not to care about anything.

It becomes apparent that Judah is in great danger when Josiah’s son Jehoahaz, after reigning only three months, is captured and removed from the throne by the Egyptians (2 Chronicles 36:1-4). The Pharaoh installs the deposed king’s brother as a puppet ruler, and renames him Jehoiakim. Judah will never again be truly independent. For the rest of its existence, it will alternate between serving Egypt and serving Babylon. Through their idolatry, the people had longed to be like the other nations - and God has simply granted their desire.

With Judah now at the mercy of the stronger nations, the next two kings are removed by the Babylonians (2 Chronicles 36:5-11). Jehoiakim is an idolatrous fool, but that’s not what gets him into trouble. His status as a tool of Egypt arouses the anger of Babylon and their young, aggressive King Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar forcibly removes Jehoiakim, takes time while in Jerusalem to raid the temple, and installs the king’s son Jehoiachin as a Babylonian puppet ruler.

When Jehoiachin proves unsatisfactory (both to God and to Babylon), Nebuchadnezzar quickly removes him too, while also once again helping himself to another collection of valuables from the temple. The whole dreary situation parallels the bleak spiritual situation of those who sell themselves to the world. When we live by the world’s values of greed, pride, ambition, and aggression, then our souls become empty, vulnerable to every one of the world’s threats, prejudices, and manipulative tactics.

Judah’s final king Zedekiah - another of Josiah’s sons - is both foolish and faithless (2 Chronicles 36:12-14). He rejects God’s guidance and also deliberately offends the Babylonians - not a wise policy for someone in his position. He also encourages the nation’s priests and leaders to adopt similar attitudes, making them both an annoyance to Babylon and also a detestable spectacle to God.

And so the final fall of Judah is now no real surprise (2 Chronicles 36:15-20). God must regretfully withdraw his protective presence, leaving his people in the hands of the Babylonians. Nebuchadnezzar’s army indulges in rampant slaughter, seizes anything left of value, and then devastates the looted city with fire. All of the survivors, except for the old and weak, are enslaved. Only thus does Judah find peace, of a tragic kind, as for a time it will be left quiet and desolate.

Yet even in disaster God’s presence brings hope, for God has already provided for his people’s future (2 Chronicles 36:21-23). This generation will have to endure exile and slavery as God purifies his people and rebuilds them spiritually. But God is already taking advantage of world events to prepare a future for his restored, humbled people.

2 Chronicles 36:2-4

[cf. 2 Kings 23:31-35]

The reign and dethronement of Jehoahaz

Made king by the people of the land, Jehoahaz reigns only three months before being deposed by the king of Egypt. Neco imposes tribute on the land, replaces Jehoahaz with his brother Eliakim (his name is changed to Jehoiakim), and exiles him to Egypt. The Chronicler’s account is so brief—an indignity in itself—that it even omits negative comments about his evils.

2 Chronicles 36:5-8

[cf. 2 Kings 23:36 to 2 Kings 24:7]

The reign of Jehoiakim

The Chronicler greatly abridges Jehoiakim’s story in Kings. He removes much of the information in 2 Kings, including hints of the great historical shifts of this time, when Egypt was defeated by Babylon and Judea shifted loyalties from Pharaoh Neco to Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. He also omits the king’s revolt against his Babylonian overlord. For the Chronicler it seems sufficient to mention his reign of eleven years, the evil and abominations of his reign, and his capture and exile to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. As usual, the Chronicler’s interest focuses on his king’s religious posture, so he adds the information that Nebuchadnezzar took vessels from the Jerusalem temple to his temple in Babylon. This deed is noted also in Daniel 1:1-2. The Chronicler’s brief account demonstrates his negative evaluation of Jehoiakim based on his religious posture.

2 Chronicles 36:9-10

[cf. 2 Kings 24:8-17]

The reign of Jehoiachin

This brief reign (three months and ten days) lasts long enough for him to do evil in God’s sight, so Nebuchadnezzar takes him to Babylon along with the best vessels from the temple, and in his place installs Zedekiah his brother as king. Overlooking the details of Jehoiachin’s surrender to his enemy and the detailed account of exiles to Babylon (2 Kings 24:14-16), the Chronicler pinpoints religious attitudes and objects as his main interest in this king.

2 Chronicles 36:11-17

[cf. 2 Kings 24:18-20; Jeremiah 52:1-3]

The reign of Zedekiah

Appointed by Nebuchadnezzar, this king also does evil in God’s sight. The Chronicler summarizes the problem: Zedekiah should have repented and humbled himself before the word of God uttered through Jeremiah (2 Chronicles 36:12). The prophet Jeremiah contains eight chapters of oracles during Zedekiah’s reign, so we cannot identify a specific act of disobedience but rather a general failure to heed God’s prophetic word. The Chronicler composes his own version of Judah’s end (2 Chronicles 36:13-17). Zedekiah rebels against Nebuchadnezzar, even though he had sworn by God to serve him: so he offends God and also errs politically (2 Chronicles 36:13 a). More seriously, he hardens his heart against returning to God (2 Chronicles 36:13 b); in biblical language, he refuses to repent, so he is cut off from God. Leaders of the priests and people also act unfaithfully, like the Gentile nations; thus they help to pollute the temple. The Chronicler speaks of the sin and evil in more general terms, but mocking God’s prophetic messengers is serious enough to bring divine anger. Still, the Chronicler claims that God has compassion on his people and temple and keeps sending messengers to call them back (2 Chronicles 36:15). Even as the Chronicler spells out Israel’s sins he carefully juxtaposes God’s compassion on the people and temple. God’s ultimate action, bringing the enemy to victory over Jerusalem, seems almost an act of divine desperation (2 Chronicles 36:17). The Chronicler states tersely that God brings against them the Chaldeans, who destroy the temple and its vessels and slaughter the people.

2 Chronicles 36:18-21

[cf. 2 Kings 25:8-21; Jeremiah 52:12-30]

The fall and captivity of Judah

Nebuchadnezzar exiles to Babylon all those who survive the sword in Jerusalem, until the rise of Cyrus the Persian. For the Chronicler, this exile fulfills Jeremiah’s prophetic saying about seventy years of exile (Jeremiah 25:11-12; Jeremiah 29:10). In this connection, Leviticus 26:34 mentions times of exile for the people as a time for the land to make up its lost sabbaths with sabbatical years. For the Chronicler this is an opportunity for transformation and change in relationship with God. The Chronicler follows the story pattern of 2 Kings, but not its details or theology. Missing here is the international political scene, especially struggles between Babylon and Egypt and their impact on Judah. Missing also is the notion that exile to Babylon mostly involved higher echelons of Judeans, with the poorer farmers and peasants left around the destroyed city. Lacking also is the tendency in 2 Kings to blame the Babylonian invasions on the sin of Manasseh (e.g., 2 Kings 24:3; not repeated in 2 Chr). Manasseh has repented in Chronicles. More significant, the Chronicler tends not to blame present evils on past generations; rather he finds the evil in the kings and Judean social groups of the generations after Josiah’s untimely death.

2 Chronicles 36:22-23

[cf. Ezra 1:1-4]

Cyrus’ proclamation about a return to Jerusalem

The Chronicler concludes this history quite differently than Kings, which ends with the image of Jehoiachin, the last king of Judah, under house arrest in Babylon. Here the reader is moved to the next historical period, the Persian Era when Jews return to Jerusalem and Judah. Cyrus the Persian has come to power after defeating the Babylonians, and with him has come a new policy of allowing subject peoples to return to their homelands, under watchful conditions. His proclamation begins the book of Ezra (Ezra 1:1-4) but also concludes 2 Chronicles. It includes a startling image of Cyrus in the service of the Lord God of heaven, i.e., as an instrument of Israel’s God. The Chronicler also transforms the doom of exile into a moment of blessing for those who belong to God: May God be with them as they return. Here is a final word of hope, consistent with a theology which envisions the conversion and transformation even of Judea’s worst king, Manasseh. In the last sentences the Chronicler looks forward, to a time of renewed hope and blessing, when Israel strengthens its covenant bond with God through committed worship and faithful service.

 
adsfree-icon
Ads FreeProfile