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Why are David & Solomon Whitewashed in Chronicles? (part 2)


Eariler this week I wrote in detail through part one why David and Solomon’s  accounts of idolatry, adultery, murder, intrigue, and oppression were whitewashed from its source in Samuel and Kings — and presented as virtually sinless. 

What does all this mean? The following points are, I think, clear: 1) Chronicles uses Samuel and Kings as the source for roughly 50% of the writing; 2) almost anything negative about David, and everything negative about Solomon, has been expunged from the Chronicler’s account; 3) David and Solomon are together the twin ideal monarchs in Israel’s early history; 4) David is the initiator and planner, and Solomon is the executor, of the temple building and organization of the Levites; and 5) the Chronicler is not concerned with temple matters alone, but with the totality of the covenant with David, including God’s eternal choice of the line of David.

As I began by asking, why was it important for the Jews in exile to hear of the faults and foibles of their forebears, but for the post-exilic Jews to hear accounts of their faithfulness and successes? I think the answer to this question is partially the difference in historical setting.

For the Deuteronomist, it was important to establish why the Jews were in exile, and their land and institutions had been taken away. The reason for their exile, given in Deuteronomy and throughout Joshua-2 Kings, was because the Israelites, following their kings, were guilty of covenant disobedience, particularly the sin of idolatry.

The Chronicler is writing in a very different situation, after the exile. It is not the Chronicler’s concern to levy blame or assign guilt. In the Chronicler’s age, the post-Exilic Jews are in the process of re-building their cities and restoring their worship. It is not the time for condemning sin and urging repentance from idolatry.

It is a time for putting one stone on top of another and going through the slow process of the restoration of all Israel. It is a time of loss of political independence and shortened horizons for political power and growth. It is a time of antagonistic neighbors, who actively seek their demise. The Chronicler, much as Haggai and Zechariah had done, re-writes the history of the monarchy as it should have been, with the twin ideals of David and Solomon as the patterns, to serve as models for the road ahead.

In a real sense, eschatology and messianism are linked in Chronicles. The ideal patterns of David and Solomon are given for the post-exilic Jews to emulate. In their lowly status, dispersed and downtrodden among the nations, they could look to the pattern of their ideal first kings. If they sought the Lord in first place, as David and Solomon did, the Lord would hear and restore all Israel: its land, people, institutions, and worship.

Of these, perhaps the most important is the lingering idea that the Lord was not done yet with Davidic kingship. Why the concern with all of the kings of Judah? Why the statement that the “Lord had given the kingship… forever to David and his sons by a covenant of salt” (2 Chron. 13:5)? Perhaps the most clear of these passages is the one in 2 Chron. 21:7:

Yet the Lord was not willing to destroy the house of David, because of the covenant that he had made with David, and since he had promised to give a lamp to him and to his sons forever.

The Chronicler is the banner bearer of the Davidic covenant in the post-exilic era. He is looking for its eventual restoration in the future. Toward that end, Israel must seek the Lord as David and Solomon had done.

Judah was aware that its kings, even its best ones, were at times scoundrels. The ideal portraits were presented not as un-varnished history, but as a model for the ideal Davidic king to come, who would fulfill the prayer for righteous kingship in Psalm 72.

Therefore the book of Chronicles is both historical and eschatological: the Chronicler looks back on the past, re-presenting the history of Judah; he re-frames that history, for the sake of the community of the present in the fifth century B.C.; and he idealizes the past for the sake of the eschatological, messianic community of the future.

Read my part 1 article here.

A version of this article was originally delivered at the 2016 Sermon Seminar at Austin Grad. Consider attending Sermon Seminar in 2018. 

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Austin Graduate School of Theology is an Austin seminary offering B.A. and M.A. ministry degrees, and Austin Grad is accredited by the same agency that accredits Abilene Christian University, Baylor University, Southern Methodist University, Texas A&M University, Texas State University, The University of Texas, and others.  Austin Grad — one of the top Christian colleges in Texas and among the top seminaries in Texas — is affiliated with the Church of Christ and is in conversation with all who confess Jesus as Lord. Austin Grad promotes faith seeking understanding and is committed to providing a high quality education for those who desire to be equipped to expand the Kingdom of God.

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