Tuesday, November 11, 2008

2 Chronicles 21-26: More Kingly Cross-Reference

In 2 Chronicles, we continue our cross-referencing of the kings of Judah, all of whom were discussed earlier in 2 Kings.


In 2 Kings 7:16-24, we learned that Jehoram did evil in the eyes of the Lord and that he was too much like a king of Israel rather than a king of Judah, probably because he was related to Israel's royal house. In 2 Chron 21, we get more specifics. For instance, he put all his brothers to the sword along with some of the princes of Israel when he came to the throne, which I think we can all agree is no sort of way to behave. In his later reign, he has some military success, but builds alters that are either to other gods or to God, but not to God's specifications. For this offense, he gets the kind of letter from Elijah that you really hate to see in your mailbox:

"This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: 'You have not walked in the ways of your father Jehoshaphat or of Asa king of Judah. 13 But you have walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, and you have led Judah and the people of Jerusalem to prostitute themselves, just as the house of Ahab did. You have also murdered your own brothers, members of your father's house, men who were better than you. 14 So now the LORD is about to strike your people, your sons, your wives and everything that is yours, with a heavy blow. 15 You yourself will be very ill with a lingering disease of the bowels, until the disease causes your bowels to come out.' "
Subsequently, this prophecy comes unpleasantly true.


This is the guy that in 2 Kings 8:25 - 9:29 pays a visit to the king in Israel, Joram, and they both end up getting assassinated by the rebel Jehu. The interesting thing here is that they die quite differently in Kings and Chronicles.

27 When Ahaziah king of Judah saw what had happened, he fled up the road to Beth Haggan. Jehu chased him, shouting, "Kill him too!" They wounded him in his
chariot on the way up to Gur near Ibleam, but he escaped to Megiddo and died there. (9:27)

9 [Jehu] then went in search of Ahaziah, and his men captured him while he was hiding in Samaria. He was brought to Jehu and put to death. (22:9)
This is not a hugely important point, but the contradiction is pretty blatant. For those of you who like the idea of contradictions in the Bible, here is a total smoking gun for you. Those of you who don't think contradiction within the Bible is possible have a problem on your hands here. However, it's worth remembering that, whatever your perspective, the exact way that Jehu killed Ahaziah is not exactly a point critical to the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition.


Athaliah, the matriarch who kills off most of her family to consolidate power, is discussed in 2 Kings 11 and 2 Chronicles 23 with only minor divergences of detail and wording.


Joash, in 2 Kings 12 and 2 Chronicles 24, is the king who is brought up in secret in the Temple and then takes the throne when the high priest engineers a coup against Athaliah. More details about his major Temple repair project show up in Chronicles, in an account that hints at a running power struggle between the religious and civic leadership. Moreover, we learn that Joash had Zechariah, the son of the high priest who put him in power, killed for criticising him. This sheds some light on why Joash himself is assassinated a while later.


In both accounts -- 2 Kings 14 and 2 Chronicles 25 -- Amaziah is most noteworthy for provoking Israel and then getting stomped by Israel; Jerusalem is sacked, and many of its walls torn down. In Chronicles, we also learn that he adopts the gods of the Edomites after conquering them, clearly a no-no. There is also an interesting passage in which, obeying a prophet of God, Amaziah dismisses an army of Israelite mercinaries he had hired, and they proceed to raid, plunder, and kill all up and down Judea. This is the only passage in which I remember seeing such explicitly negative consequences for obeying God's instructions. There is also this little detail, neutral in the Bible but likely to color a modern reader's impression of Amaziah:

The army of Judah also captured ten thousand men alive, took them to the top
of a cliff and threw them down so that all were dashed to pieces.
These kind of passages are, in a way, just gratuitous gore and just signs of the ancient times. But they are still worth meditating on, I think, when you hear someone talking about how the ethical code of the Old Testament is the foundation stone of all morality.

Next Week: Finishing up with Chronicles.


Serendipity said...

I'm actually kinda shocked about the fact that bad consequences can come from obeying a prophet in the Old Testament. Doesn't seem like very good marketing.

al said...

The marketing is quite bad. Reminds me of David obeying God's command by taking a census which results in 70,000 people dying. These incidents beg for a plausible explanation, and would seem to suggest that the bible is inspirationaly infallible(true and historically accurate when pertaining to the major spiritual doctrine and not inerrant with regards to history or scientific facts) at the very best. One would have to be either delusion or greatly misinformed to belief in complete biblical inerrancy, or the belief that scriptures were dictated by God word for word.

Michael5000 said...

@al: Wow, I was all ready to smugly correct you about how the problem with David's census was that it was his own idea, but you're right -- God puts him up to it.

It's the same pattern I was noticing way back with Moses and the Pharoah: where you would expect the Bible to say "a person did something bad, so God punished him," it actually says "God made a person do something bad, so He could punish him." Which is a more difficult reasoning to swallow!

You could argue, I suppose, that this is just a stylistic convention, but....