After several days of reading names we struggle to pronounce and way more killing than we ever care to read about again, we have a day free to reflect. We read as the northern kingdom was dismantled by the Assyrians because of their disobedience to the Lord. And one day we read about 15 different kings! The scattering of the Israelites by Assyria in 722 B.C. changed the landscape for all of Israel for centuries afterwords. The residents of the northern kingdom who remained in the land inter married with many of the neighbors and the people the Assyrians brought into the northern kingdom to settle in the land. The intermarrying by the Jews of the northern kingdom created “half breeds”. They were no longer pure Jews and this caused angst and division. In fact the rancor was so great that Jews from the southern kingdom would travel to Jericho and cross the Jordan River there, walking up the east bank of the river so they did not get the dirt and dust from the Samaritans on their sandals. They became known as Samaritans, the name taken from the capital city of Samaria. It was faster to journey north if you went straight north through Samaria but many chose not to. Even in Jesus day this rancor existed, which made the account of Jesus sitting by the side of a well in Samaria so unbelievable. And then he spoke to a Samaritan woman besides. This woman who is nameless is the first in Samaria to make Jesus known to others, running back into the city to tell people come and meet a man who told me all that I ever did. And many Samaritans believed because of this woman’s testimony.
Over the last week we read as the southern kingdom went sea sawing back and forth between good kings like Hezekiah and Josiah, to bad kings like Manasseh and Jehoiakim. God was faithful to the southern kingdom because He had made a promise to King David that there would always be one of his descendants on the throne and eventually a descendant would rule on that throne forever. The division of the nation of Israel after Solomon’s death took place in 931 B.C. Between the years of 931 and 587 B.C. there were 20 kings in the north, all of them bad. There were also 20 kings in the south, 6 of them good. And during those years there were 168 battles a recorded in the books of 1 and 2 Kings. The most interesting thing here is, the largest number of battles, 38, were fought between the northern and southern kingdoms. They also fought the Philistines, Canaanites, Syrians, Babylonians, and others. Not only could God’s people not get along with outside people, they couldn’t get along with one another either. They failed to follow the Lord’s laws, covenants, and statutes and that ultimately led to their defeat at the hands of other nations. The people were warned repeatedly by prophets the Lord sent but few of the prophets were listened to.
Chronicles portrays Israel’s long succession from the beginning of human history to the dynasty of David, the greatest king of Israel, who received the promise that God would send a savior to His people. In this way, the writer provided a sense of general history and comfort to defeated Israel, allowing them to see that the Lord was not done with them yet. The bulk of the Chroniclers history is devoted to David and Solomon. And his portrait of these two kings are very distinctive and they give us a clue to his concerns. He has elevated David’s involvement with the temple, omitted many of his faults, and diminished Solomon so that David is clearly seen as the ideal leader of Israel. Overall, he writes a more positive history to inspire those returning from exile, especially the Levites who would lead the temple services. The chronicler ends his books with a prophecy from the prophet Jeremiah, which foretold that God’s people would return from exile after 70 years. This prophecy was fulfilled when Cyrus, king of Persia, decreed that Israel could rebuild the temple at Jerusalem. The faith and the people would survive!
As we prepare to read the rest of 1 and 2 Chronicles, let me share some pieces of the Chroniclers portraits of David and Solomon. He has idealized them, and anything in his source material…the books of Samuel and Kings that might tarnish his picture of them is omitted. He makes no references to the wars between Saul’s house and David, the negotiations with Abner, or the murders of Abner or Ish-Bosheth. The Chronicler also presents David as being immediately anointed king over all Israel after the death of Saul. And that David immediately enjoyed the support of all Israel. Later difficulties are not recorded. No mention is made of David’s sin with Bathsheba, the crime and death of Amnon, the fratricide by Absalom and his plot against his father, the flight of David from Jerusalem, and any other incidents that might tarnish David’s reputation as the greatest king ever. David is presented without blemish except for the incident with the census. And the only reason for including that incident was because it led to David buying the land on which the temple would be built.
The Chronicler handles Solomon in much the same light. Solomon is specifically named in a divine prophecy as David’s successor. His ascension to the throne is announced publicly by David and is greeted with the unanimous support of all Israel. No mention is made of the bedridden David, who must overturn the attempted coup by Adonijah at the last minute to secure the throne for Solomon. The accession of Solomon is without competition or detracting incident. The account of his reign is devoted almost exclusively to building the temple and there are no references to his failures. Even the blame for the schism, the diving of Israel into northern and southern kingdons is removed from Solomon and placed on the scheming Jeroboam.
The David and Solomon of Chronicles then must be seen not only as the David and Solomon of history but of also typifying the Messianic king of the Chronicler’s expectations. But there is more. Not only are David and Solomon idealized, but the author also appears to consciously adopt the account of the succession of Moses and Joshua as a model for the succession of David and Solomon. Think about this. Both Moses and David failed to achieve their goals. Moses didn’t get to enter the promised land and David didn’t get to build the temple. In both cases the divine prohibition is related to the appointment of their successor, Joshua and Solomon. Both Joshua and Solomon bring God’s people into rest. And there a couple of places where it is reported that God exalted or made great Solomon and Joshua. Like Moses, David revealed plans for the temple from God. Both men called for the people to bring voluntary offerings for its construction. And Solomon’s relationship to Hiram, the craftsman from Tyre, echoes the role of Bezalel and Oholiab in the building of the tabernacle.
None of these differences makes one book right and another wrong. Each book of the Bible had a specific purpose and Chronicles points to a promised Messiah through the line of David. Because the promised Messiah would be a Savior, those who pointed to him needed to have a cleaned up persona. The reality is, all of us who have been called to be the Lord’s representative here on earth have parts of our lives that need a bit of polishing. But God uses us anyway. And that is good news.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W