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1, 2 Chronicles (New American Commentary, 9) Hardcover – December 2, 1994
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From the Back Cover
The New American Commentary is for those who have been seeking a commentary that honors the Scriptures, represents the finest in contemporary evangelical scholarship, and lends itself to the practical work of preaching and teaching. This series serves as a minister's friend and a student's guide.
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Chronicles, like Deuteronomy from earlier times, gives us a window into the evolving self-understanding of Israel by retelling its history from a different time, stance, and outlook. Whereas Kings was compiled and written near the time of the Babylonian Captivity [589 B.C.E.] Chronicles was written later, as recently as 180 B.C.E. according to some sources. While Kings narrates the tale of the Davidic throne to its doleful degradation, The Chronicler explains how these kings, and the people as a whole, succumbed repeatedly to infidelity to Israel's God and a general casualness toward temple observance.
J.A. Thompson's commentary  is based upon the New International Version of the Scripture and his scholarly sources are current through the early 1990's. Though the book flap characterizes this work as "the minister's friend," there is nothing in Thompson's approach to contradict my long held opinion that Scripture study is the mother of ecumenism. A biblically informed Catholic will feel at home.
Thompson's 25-page orientation is brief and to the point; the reader will glean the major themes and linguistic characteristics of I & II Chronicles. His commentary throughout the work is primarily recapitulation and connections to other texts that the reader may have missed in first passing. On a few occasions he draws parallels to Christian Scriptural texts; I have some reservation about this practice in Old Testament commentaries, in part because of the danger of obscuring the author's original theological intent. However, as this commentary was intended for Christian preachers, among others, some contemporary extrapolation can probably be forgiven.
Thompson is clear about the author's overarching theological intent--the rebuilding of Israel after the Exile by a thorough examination of the old days, for better and worse. We know now that the return of the Israelites to homeland from a 60-year exile was staggered, confused and embittered. These troubles are enumerated in the Ezra/Nehemiah books, but the Chronicler hopes to restore unity and identity in his work.
Toward this end, I Chronicles begins with nine full chapters of the genealogy of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. While not exactly captivating to a novice reader, the overall intent is critical: to remind a disparate Jewish nation of its common bloodline. Recall that for much of the era of the monarchy, the Jewish people were divided into a northern kingdom [Israel] and a southern kingdom [Judah], the latter enfolding Jerusalem and the temple. This division also facilitates a major literary contrast between Kings and Chronicles: the former narrates the succession of both northern and southern kings, while the latter reserves its attention to the Southern Kingdom and concurrently the life of the Temple. Even after the Exile, struggles between returning Jews and the remnant left behind--let alone those who chose not to leave Persia--were creating a Diaspora or scattering of identity, theology and practice.
It was this confused scene that the Chronicler's history attempted to ameliorate for his contemporaries. Having quickly dispatched of Saul, the Chronicler features David and Solomon as the ideal kings--precisely because both were instrumental in the construction of the Temple and dedication to the style of worship that pleased Yahweh and maintained his favor toward his chosen people. When the Chronicler wished to designate a future king of outstanding virtue, he spoke of him as one like "David and Solomon." Granted, very few subsequent kings were honored in such a way. Hezekiah and Josiah come closest to the mark for their efforts of reform. Northern [Israel] kings were regarded as apostates and renegades once the kingdom split after Solomon's reign. Even business or military dealings with the north generally came to a bad end for Judah.
That so many kings missed the mark is a constant theme of the Chronicler. When a king displeased Yahweh, the sin was most often either a loss of trust in Yahweh, and/or permissiveness in matters of tolerating pagan deities, coupled with neglect of the Temple and its prescribed rituals of sacrifice. I might add here that the Chronicler seems to approve of those kings who made capital improvements to Jerusalem's defenses and quality of life, such as the engineering of underground water sources. This latter point was highly contentious in post exilic life when Israel was something of a pawn in international affairs between larger kingdoms.
The true Israel, in the eyes of the Chronicler, never quite had the endurance of faith to ward off the catastrophic consequences foretold by several unnamed prophets who appeared from time to time. The better known of these, the Classical Prophets, are not generally identified in these books, though Jeremiah's Lamentations may be associated with the death of Josiah in battle. The Chronicler's emphasis rests upon national concern more than prophetic heroism.]
The reign of Josiah [640-609 B.C.E.] is the last hope, and the Chronicler devotes two entire chapters to his reforming reign and tragic death, including a lengthy and grandiose description of a massive Passover decreed by the king. It is a fascinating sidebar to this Passover that Josiah donated hundreds of his own animals for community feasting; an insight into the kind of king that the Chronicler believed could bring order and faith to a nation now beholden to Persia and later to Darius and Alexander the Great. The Chronicler is his age's Santayana: ignorance of the past is a condemnation to repeat it.