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Friday Bible Blogging - 2 Chronicles 11 to 2 Chronicles 20

This entry is part of a series. For a listing of all entries in the series, go to the Index. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

BibleChapters 11 through 20 of 2 Chronicles pick up shortly after the time of Solomon, and continue on with several of the kings of Judah. As I mentioned last week, the Chronicler didn't consider the Israelite kings to be legitimate, and so didn't discuss them much, other than in how they affected Judah. One change in these chapters compared to previous chapters of Chronicles - there's now actually a bit more detail than there was in Kings for the monarchs that actually are covered. This extra information is mostly brief descriptions of the blessings the kings received, following the Chroniclers motif of faithful to God - blessings, unfaithful to God - punishment.

I'll be honest - this is getting tedious. It was bad enough reading about all these monarchs the first time around. Reading about them again, even with the little bit of extra information, is pretty boring.


2 Chronicles, Chapter 11

Chapter 11 contained the details of the positive aspects Rehoboam's reign, from an intended campaign against Israel that God called off, to a list of his wives and sons.

In describing Jeroboam's revisions to Israeli religious customs, there was a mention of something interesting that wasn't included in Kings - priests for the "goat-demons".


2 Chronicles, Chapter 12

Once Rehoboam became powerful, he turned away from God. So, this chapter contained the details of the negative aspects of his reign, particularly an invasion by Egypt and the subsequent plundering of Judah's treasures. At the end of the chapter, Rehoboam "slept with his ancestors and was buried in the city of David".


2 Chronicles, Chapter 13

This chapter gave a completely different account of Abijah than Kings. While in 1 Kings 15, when Abijah was described, it was "He committed all the sins that his father did before him; his heart was not true to the Lord his God, like the heart of his father David," here in 2 Chronicles, Abijah was described defending the Lord.

The New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB) noted a textual issue in this chapter concerning the name of Abijah's mother. According to the NOAB, "The Hebrew gives Abijah's mother a Yahwistic name (meaning "Who is like the Lord"), whereas the ancient versions name her "Maacah" in conformity with 1 Kings 15.2 and 2 Chr 11.20."

To me, the most interesting part of this chapter was how the battle played out between Abijah of Judah and Jeroboam of Israel. God actually fought for Judah, "when the people of Judah shouted, God defeated Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah." After that, Abijah's men went in for the requisite slaughter.


2 Chronicles, Chapter 14

Chapter 14 begins the story of Abijah's son, Asa. As noted in the NOAB, the coverage devoted to Asa is much more extensive here in Chronicles than it was in kings. The first half of the chapter was devoted to Asa's public works and his removal of religious installations that weren't devoted to Yahweh. The second half dealt with a battle between Judah and a group whose name depends on the translation - either Ehtiopians, Nubians, or Cushites. Again, there's mention of direct intervention by God in the battle, "So the Lord defeated the Ethiopians before Asa and before Judah, and the Ethiopians fled." And of course, the Judeans pursued and slaughtered the remnants of that army, and then went on to plunder the surrounding cities.


2 Chronicles, Chapter 15

Chapter 15 continued on with the good period of Asa's reign - a prophecy from Azariah son of Oded, and Asa and the people of Judah subsequently committing themselves to the Lord. It stated that "King Asa even removed his mother Maacah from being queen mother because she had made an abominable image for Asherah."

There was one verse I found interesting in the context of the people in the modern age who disparage Islam as being violent towards infidels, while implying that the Judeo/Christian tradition is peaceful. Consider verses 12 and 13, "They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their ancestors, with all their heart and with all their soul. Whoever would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, should be put to death, whether young or old, man or woman."


2 Chronicles, Chapter 16

This is where Asa's reign went downhill. King Baasha of Israel "went up against Judah, and built Ramah, to prevent anyone from going out or coming into the territory of King Asa of Judah." To defend Judah, Asa formed an alliance with King Ben-hadad of Aram. Now, to you and me, that might seem like a reasonable thing to do - becoming a temporary ally of a country to defend yourself against a common enemy. As the old saying goes, God helps those who help themselves. But, that saying isn't actually anywhere in the Bible, and that's not actually the type of thing Yahweh likes. Because of Asa's impertinence in not having complete faith Yahweh, God sent a prophet to condemn him, "You have done foolishly in this; for from now on you will have wars." Asa was further punished with a disease in his feet that lasted until his death (I wonder if feet was still being used as a euphemism for genitals in the Chronicler's time).


2 Chronicles, Chapter 17

As was the case with Asa, the Chronicler has devoted much more coverage to Jehoshaphat than what was in Kings. According to the NOAB, there's debate among scholars on whether this extra information comes from other source material, or whether the Chronicler just made it up from whole cloth. Interestingly, despite there being more material devoted to Jehoshaphat, the prophet, Elijah, is complete absent from the account in Chronicles.

This chapter was devoted to the good aspects of Jehoshaphat's reign - remaining faithful to God, sending out officials to teach the people the ways of the Lord, public works, receiving gifts from other nations, etc. Actually, the NOAB notes that the part about sending out officials to teach "having the book of the law of the Lord with them" may have post-exilic, after the first temple had been sacked and the Torah became much more important.


2 Chronicles, Chapter 18

This chapter contained the story of Jehoshaphat joining forces with Ahab, and the prophecy from Micaiah son of Imlah. All of Ahab's prophets save Micaiah foretold of victory in battle, but Micaiah gave a different story. I still find his prophecy to be very interesting - he saw the Lord sitting around with the rest of the host of heaven, trying to think of a way to mislead Ahab so that he would go into battle and be defeated. Finally, a spirit came forward and offered to go be "a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets". Yahweh apparently liked the idea, and sent the spirit to give the prophets false visions and lead Ahab to his doom. This is just such a strange story. It definitely doesn't present Yahweh as all-knowing, since he's brainstorming with his host to try to figure out a solution to his problem. And he's not particularly nice or honest, either. But then you also have to wonder how Micaiah was able to get the correct prophecy when all the other prophets were mislead. Did Yahweh give him alone the correct vision? Or did Micaiah have some power that allowed him to see even God's secrets? In other words, it seems that Yahweh isn't omnipotent and the source of all power in the universe, but just a powerful being himself, and that there are other sources of magic power, such as Micaiah's vision.

Anyway, like in Kings, Ahab and Jehoshaphat led their forces into battle, with Ahab disguised to try to protect himself, but Ahab still wound up mortally wounded by a stray arrow.


2 Chronicles, Chapter 19

Jehoshaphat escaped the battle and returned safely home, but he was immediately reprimanded by God through a seer, Jehu, for even joining up with Israel, "Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord? Because of this, wrath has gone out against you from the Lord." However, after that reprimand, no punishment came. The rest of the chapter dealt with further reforms under Jehoshaphat, appointed judges and priests throughout the land.


2 Chronicles, Chapter 20

An alliance of Moabites, Ammonites, and Meunites came to attack Judah. Jehoshaphat proclaimed a fast throughout Judah, and the nation assembled to "seek help from the Lord". Jehoshaphat issued a prayer to God while "all Judah stood before the Lord, with their little ones, their wives, and their children." A prophet, Jahaziel, delivered God's reassurance and instructions - the people of Judah were merely to assemble, but then let God do the fighting. And it came to pass, "When Judah came to the watch-tower of the wilderness, they looked towards the multitude; they were corpses lying on the ground; no one had escaped." Since there was noone left to kill, the Judeans simply plundered what they could.

Jehoshaphat made one more mistake before his death - he worked with the new king of Israel, Ahaziah, to build ships for trade. And again, Yahweh was upset, " 'Because you have joined with Ahaziah, the Lord will destroy what you have made.' And the ships were wrecked and were not able to go to Tarshish."

---

A thought occured to me while reading these chapters. Many modern day Christians ascribe to the Sola scriptura doctrine - that the Bible contains all the knowledge you need to form the basis of your Christianity. These Christians think of the Bible as a coherent work. If some information is missing in one book, it's available in another. But imagine yourself in the time period in between when Kings was written and when Chronicles was written. Since Chronicles contains information that wasn't in Kings, you wouldn't have had that future information. Your scriptures would have been incomplete. Why would God have provided incomplete scriptures?

The main thing I noticed in these chapters was the pattern I mentioned up in the introduction, where a king do good and be faithful to God and subsequently be rewarded, and then turn from God and be punished.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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