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Posts Tagged ‘Chronicles’

The Chronicler of Israel/Judah is often faulted for a tendentious and rigid view of his nation’s history. To be fair, one resorts to brief summaries of any complex reality when a word count is in the mix. And an ancient manuscript imposes hard-wired volume limits on any writer.

Read sympathetically, neither of the two great biblical histories of Israel requires the conclusion that their authors were beady-eyed ideologues. (more…)

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Power turns the heart of those we would never expect capable of using it wrongly. Power moves hands that had previously been clean in darting, surreptitious ways. Power corrupts good men and good women.

When Jehoshaphat was reforming the kingdom of Judah, he set the bar high for those who would wield power in the context of local disputes. He seemed to anticipate both the blessing and the bane that come with distributing power among men who are but flesh and therefore susceptible to its distorting force. (more…)

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In the judgement of the Hebrew Bible’s two great histories of Israel and Judah, these kingdoms were dismally served by their kings. When the reader happens upon a noble king in the chronology of monarchs, he breathes fresh air. For a moment, the sky clears itself of its gray steel. (more…)

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The Hebrew Bible’s core claim about YHWH is that ‘there is no one like you’. He is incomparable.

Nowhere is YHWH’s singularity more apparent than when nothing and on one but YHWH could possible save his people from their proximate peril. (more…)

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It is not immediately clear, even for those with the most solid theology of creation, that this world deserves our allegiance.

If it is only a clearing in the woods where the most unaccountable and vicious violence can be visited with impunity upon the innocent, then we ought to turn our backs on it, shake its pathetic dust off our sandals, and long for another place. (more…)

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The biblical literature laments few losses so frequently as wasted opportunity. A leader emerges with something like a clean slate in his hand. Instead of noble lines, he scrawls the moral equivalent of excrement across the tablet.

It would have us develop an instinct for the same.

The Bible knows a thousands ways to spell such loss. It rues what might have been. (more…)

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Israel’s biblical historians are often taciturn in the face of behavior we might have expected them to condemn.

It is their way of respecting the reader. Not every moral, not every lesson need be spelled out. The listener is expected to arrive at his or her own conclusions based on instruction that is both prior and ongoing.

One of the sad features of both David’s and Solomon’s reigns is the unfortunate and even chaotic manner in which they lurch to their conclusion. We should probably suspect that Solomon’s amassing of both riches and retinue as a consequence of his fabled wisdom is not an entirely promising trend. The Queen of Sheba was impressed to the point of breathlessness. We should not be. (more…)

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The country of which I am a grateful citizen celebrated its bicentennial during my junior year of high school.

Among American Christians, it was common to hear a portion of the long prayer with which the ancient Israelite King dedicated the house that he had constructed for YHWH. Quoted according to the King James Bible in which more often than not it was remembered in that moment, it runs like this:

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. (1 Chronicles 7:14)

Though it did not strike me at the time as out of place when quoted by Americans of their nation, that awkwardness was to grow on me in later years as I learned the tools of historical research and realized how far Solomon’s dedicatory words ranged from my modern country’s 200th birthday. (more…)

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Though we toss off phrases like ‘the sanctity of life’ as though we all knew what we mean by that, the biblical literature traces the shape of such things in more narrative form.

Biblical narrative tends to insist on a couple of foundational dynamics that modern life obscures with a vengeance. For one, the narratives suggest that no life is so small or marginalized that it becomes no candidate for YHWH’s extraordinary attention. So does a poor woman’s dilemma become the centerpiece of several chapters of Israel’s epic history while the Omride Dynasty under which she lived—a period of rule which we know from archaeology to have been among the most impressive that ancient Israel produced—is spared just a few words. (more…)

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Few kings are as highly regarded by Israel’s historians and chroniclers as Hezekiah. His rule falls upon Judah like a long, sunny day when storms have been and others are forecast.

Not only does this monarch preside over an unprecedented surge of generosity towards the temple and its officials. He also pushes forward a systematic religious reformation and experiences a remarkable liberation from the previously unvanquished Assyrian armies. In each case, the man occupies the Chronicler’s pages like a latter-day David without the vices. (more…)

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