Sunday, October 26, 2008

2 Chronicles 1 - 9: Solomon Redux

That Déjà vu Feeling, Again

1 Chronicles outlined the history of the Biblical chronology from Creation to (mostly) the reign of King David, with lots of specific individual names and genealogies thrown in. So, I expected that 2 Chronicles would start with an outline of Solomon's reign, with lots of supplementary data about the individuals in his civil, military, and religious administration. But as usual, the Bible defeated my expectations.

What we get instead in the first nine chapters of 2 Chronicles is just a very slightly altered retelling of the material on Solomon in 1 Kings 3 - 10. There are a few differences -- the famous baby-splitting story is not in 2 Chronicles, nor (in contrast to the expected pattern) is a long list of court and local officials that's in 1 Kings -- but for the most part it is a nearly word-for-word retelling. The speech that Solomon gives to dedicate the Temple -- the one I argued established a whole new religion -- is also here, with only a few differences in phrasing. The description of the building of the Temple is repeated, as is the account of the Ark being moved into the new temple.

I Ain't No Queen of Sheba, Baby, Whatever THAT Means....

The visit from the Queen of Sheba (1 Kings 10:1-13; 2 Chronicles 9:1-12) is virtually identical in both books, too, which was kind of disappointing to me. "Queen of Sheba" is one of those phrases you hear all the time, and I had hoped that I would come out of this knowing why she was significant, and what people mean when they toss her around as a metaphor. No such luck.

The Queen is a nearby ruler who hears that Solomon is very wise. She comes to Jerusalem and chews the fat with him; "Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was too hard for [the king/him] to explain to her." (10:3 or 9:2, take your pick). She's said to be very impressed with the Israelite court, and remarks that the Israelite God must be very praiseworthy to have put Solomon in charge and made hims so prosperous. Then she gives lavish gifts (which are enumerated), recieves even more lavish gifts (which are not), and leaves.

So, why is the Queen of Sheba important? Beats me. Sounds like an state visit from a wealthy neighbor, is all. Anybody know more about the significance of this passage?

As with the visit from Sheba, so with Solomon's life as a whole: there is so little of substance in the Bible about someone who is one of the biggest of the Biblical Big Names. I was hoping we'd get more details here in 2 Chron, but it didn't happen. On the other hand, now that the text is not running in a straight chronology, maybe there will be more information in coming chapters about the man. The Song of Solomon, for instance, seems like it might be relevant....

Next Time: More Retellings!


Jennifer said...

I see where you're going with this! You think that Solomon and the Queen of Sheba get together in Song of Solomon! I'm very impressed with your ability to turn the Bible into a romance.


Anonymous said...

I saw a documentary claiming to be based on non canonical books(I did not check the facts) that king solomon had an affair with the queen of sheba and she had his son after she returned home. When the son became an adult, he visited his father, and King Solomon gave the ark of the covenant to him. I would like to know more about that story.