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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.



The underlying presumption of this commentary is that Chronicles can be seen as a counter to Manetho, Hekataios, and Berossos, whilst providing an alternative to the predominant Hellenistic values of the time. It ascribes well-received Hellenistic improvements (in agriculture, fortress construction, army organization, and warfare technology) to Israel, but virtually ignores or implicitly combats Greek culture and theology.

This thesis has been partially anticipated by Welten (1973 ). According to him the war reports which are unique material in Chronicles reflect the constant threat to which Judah was exposed during the 3rd century through the conflicts of the Seleucids (in Babylonia) and the Ptolemeans (in Egypt). The unique material in Chronicles, in addition to war reports, encompasses information on the army's composition, building activities of the kings, speeches, prayers, and cultic material. It seldom contains valuable source material which was overlooked by the books of Kings.


Despite attempting to be historical literature, Chronicles is surprisingly unhistorical in its portrayal. Once the Davidic monarchy has been installed, the temple constructed, and the cult accommodated, nothing more of fundamental importance occurs. The Chronicler only briefly refers to such important events in Israelite history as the Exodus, the taking of the Land, and the judges period. As an author he viewed the history of Israel up to Cyrus's edict in its entirety. One example of this can be seen in his anticipation of the deportation of Transjordanian tribes to Assyria in 1 Chr 5:6 .


It is of special significance that the Chronicler almost entirely ignored the Exodus. Those who see Chronicles as part of an anti-Samaritan historical text can easily explain this: Chronicles only deals with controversial subjects, whilst the Exodus had already been documented in the Pentateuch, a text common to Samaritans and Jews. Japhet (1997 ) argues that the Chronicler's relative silence regarding the Exodus expresses Israel's conviction of being native in the land since the beginning of time. This may at least be partly true, since Israel's exile in Babylon is also treated with extreme brevity. Beyond this the Chronicler regarded the temple and not the Exodus as the way to salvation and, after all, was mainly concerned with the history of the Davidic monarchy.


The text's major sources are Genesis to 2 Kings and Ezra 1:1–3 , whilst a large number of other OT texts are incorporated. One can regard Chronicles (though not quite as exclusively as Willi (1972 ) suggests) as textual interpretation, particularly in passages where the Chronicler interprets events using the Pentateuch and other parts of the canon as his source, instead of the more frequently used books of Samuel and Kings (the wording of 2 Chr 7:18 , e.g., contains elements taken from 1 Kings 9:5 and Mic 5:1 (ruler over Israel)). The Chronicler's reworking of sources can more or less be described as a midrash, Targum, or ‘the rewritten Bible’. Exegetic techniques systematically developed and applied more strictly by the rabbis, among others, stem from Chronicles. The text has often been criticized for its lack of care and its poor language, although (with a few exceptions) it actually reveals thoughtful conception and an awareness of style and form.


The Chronicler omitted much from the source materials he used, such as the story of David and Bathsheba. This is not an attempt to show David in a better light, since the author presumed that the reader already knew the source text. The Chronicler was interested merely in the public side of David's reign.


The Chronicler's theology is impressive in its encompassing, strict, and even rational nature. God, who is never mentioned using his old names or any reference to place, is distant, but still keeps in touch with mankind. Intermediary bodies play no part in Paraleipomena. All the kings' actions derived directly from YHWH. YHWH imposed his monarchy, the kings sat upon his throne. This does not mean that the kings were simply puppets; the Chronicler depicted good kings as active and dynamic.


There was only one legitimate monarchy, namely the Davidides in Jerusalem. The kings of the northern kingdom were regarded as usurpers. Similarly, there was only one people, to whom the inhabitants of the north belonged if they acknowledged Jerusalem's exclusive rights of representation and accepted the cult performed there as uniquely legitimate. (This claim is underlined by the southern kingdom's right to use the name Israel.) Since the northern kingdom was illegitimate, its history is not described by the Chronicler. Nevertheless he often mentions the northern kingdom when it comes into contact with the south. Chronicles contains hardly any anti-Samaritan arguments, distinguishing it from Ezra/Nehemiah.


One of the most important and prevalent characteristics of Chronicles is the dogma of retribution applied to individuals: those who act correctly are rewarded, whilst crimes against YHWH are punished. In other words, a long and wealthy reign is proof of good behaviour, although a fall from grace is possible at any time. This dogma, which strongly distinguishes Chronicles from its (Deuteronomist) source in the books of Kings, forces the author to rewrite Israel's history, as the example of Manasseh clearly shows: his fifty-five-year reign shows him to be a God-fearing king, though reports from source texts suggest the opposite. The Chronicler elegantly solves this problem: as punishment for his godlessness, Manasseh is deported to Babylon by the Assyrians, where he repents. This allows him to return to Jerusalem and reign for a further 30 years. This strict dogma of retribution, which Albertz (1992: 622) cautiously interprets as a reaction to Greek Moira (or rather Tyche as I think) faith, can be seen as a plea by the Chronicler for responsible conduct. According to this Greek conception man is not the master of his own destiny.

It is recommended that two Bibles be used by readers of this commentary, the second for comparison of the relevant Chronicles chapter with parallel texts. Parallels are noted in good (academic) editions of the Bible.

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