Monday, November 03, 2008

2 Chronicles 10-20: Reheboam, Asa, Jehoshaphat, and ol' whatshisname.

Last time, we took a quick look at 2 Chronicles 1-9, a biography of Solomon that covered pretty much the same terrain as 1 Kings 1-11. The next 11 chapters of 2 Chronicles continue to run more or less parallel to 1 Kings, covering the lives of the first four kings of Judah. The accounts differ in that there is considerably more detail on these guys here in Chronicles, and in that unlike 1 Kings, 2 Chronicles does not cover the Kings of post-Solomonic (a word I just made up, but which sounds very scholarly!) Israel. Also, in one case the accounts are just... different.

Here's how the material lines up in the two books:

Solomon: 1 Kings 1 - 11; 2 Chronicles 1 - 9
Reheboam: 1 Kings 12 & 14; 2 Chronicles 10 - 12
Abijah/Abijam: 1 Kings 15: 1-8; 2 Chronicles 13
Asa: 1 Kings 15: 9 - 24; 2 Chronicles 14 - 16
Jehoshaphat: 1 Kings 22; 2 Chronicles 17 - 20

Reheboam is still the same headstrong jerk (remember, he's the "chastise you with scorpians!" dude) who provokes the schism in the Israelite kingdom. In Chronicles, however, we're given a suggestion that he eventually grew into the job and was eventually a halfway decent administrator. We're given a lot more detail on Asa and Jehoshaphat, but they still come off as good, successful kings who follow God's laws and stay mostly in God's favor. The additional material is mostly military history, plus oddments such as that Asa contracts a disease of the feet late in life.


But what about this Abijah/Abijam situation? Well, in both books there is a son of Rehoboam, the father of Asa, who ascends the throne in the 18th year of King Jeroboam of Israel and rules Judah for three years. But in Kings he's named Abijam, and in Chronicles he's named Abijah. It's especially confusing because theres another Abijah back in Kings; that Abijah is the son of Jeroboam, not Rehoboam, and he dies before reaching the throne. With me so far?

Well, a typo is not quite a contradiction. But the Abijam of 1 Kings is quickly dismissed as one of the unrighteous kings who turns his back on God.

3 He committed all the sins his father had done before him; his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his forefather had been. 4 Nevertheless, for David's sake the LORD his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem by raising up a son to succeed him and by making Jerusalem strong.
The Abijah of 2 Chronicles, on the other hand, leads his army into a battle in which it is greatly outnumbered and outmaneuvered, but then prevails but calling on and trusting God to defeat his unrighteous enemies. So, while neither account makes a statement of fact that the other explicitly indicates is untrue, they certainly present radically different accounts of King Whatshisname.

The Library of Fragments

It is always interesting to see the Biblical texts talking to each other, though. The writer of 1 Kings, after covering Jehoshaphat, asks:
45 As for the other events of Jehoshaphat's reign, the things he achieved and his military exploits, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah?
Why yes, yes they are -- and here we are reading about them, in the annals of the kings of Judah. Meanwhile, in Chronicles we are told that:

34 The other events of Jehoshaphat's reign, from beginning to end, are written in the annals of Jehu son of Hanani, which are recorded in the book of the kings of Israel.
Which, like so many of the books casually mentioned in the Old Testament, is presumably lost to us forever. Bummer.

Next time: Wrapping up the Bible-readin' year.

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