People and Politics: The Reality and the Hope
• The reigns of the divided period demonstrate the contrast between the ideal and the reality
• Hope of a reunited kingdom under God’s blessing remains.
-The reality of a divided kingdom (2 Chronicles 10-28)
-The hope of a reunited kingdom (2 Chronicles 29-36)
I. People and Politics: The Reality of Division (2Chronicles 10-28)
A. General Analysis
-Judah judged and blessed (2Chr.10:1-21:3)
Kings Rehobom, Abijah, Asa, Jehoshaphat
-Judah corrupted by the North (2Chr.21:4-24:27)
Kings Jehoram, Ahaziah, Athaliah, Joash
-Judah neglects the Temple (2Chr.25:1-28:27)
Kings Amaziah, Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz
B. Detailed Analysis
1. Rival kingdoms of Judah and Israel (2 Chron.10-11).
2. Judah judged and blessed (2Chr.10:1-21:3)
The Chronicler now leaves behind both the United Kingdom and the ideal kings. In the Divided Kingdom the kings are either obedient and blessed or disobedient and judged. The criteria for judging a king were all concerned with the law of Moses, the temple, and a willingness to listen to the prophets and the priests.
Some kings were good, some were bad and a number were mixed characters. His focus on the South confirms his belief that the important historical events of this time were in Judah, where the king and temple were. There may also have been a message to the Northern tribes, that true blessing could only come to them when they returned to submit to God’s ordained king and to worship at God’s ordained place.
a. Rehoboam (2Chr.10:1-12:16)
The Chronicler’s presentation of Rehoboam’s reign introduced his readers to themes that will appear time and again in this period of the divided monarchy. Rehoboam failed twice, but received blessings from God because when he heard the prophet’s word, he repented and found forgiveness and blessing.
It is in the account of Rehoboam that we see how the Chronicler developed the retribution theology of the Deuteronomistic history to emphasize the immediacy of punishment or blessing in order to warn the restoration community against complacency or false hope that punishment may be deferred.
Each separate generation of believers is blessed for obedience or cursed for unfaithfulness. This immediacy assumes the truth of the original Deuteronomistic emphasis, but goes a step beyond it.[footnote]B Arnold and B Beyer, Encountering the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999), 258.[/footnote]
When the Chronicler retells the history of Judah, he is concerned to show that punishment for sin is not always deferred, but rather each generation will experience blessing or judgment in terms of its own actions. This characteristic of the Chronicler is commonly known as his “theology of immediate retribution.” Although it is by no means confined to his account of the post-schism kings, it is more frequently used there.[footnote]R Dillard and T Longman III, Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), 176.[/footnote]
We can see examples of immediate divine response to events in 2 Chron.12:5 (see also 2Chr.15:2; 20:20). Basically acts of piety and obedience are rewarded with success and prosperity, building programs, large armies and victory in war, progeny, and popular support. Wicked kings experience the opposite of these blessings.
b. Abijah (2Chr.13:1-14:1)
The Chronicler contrasts King Abijah of the South with Jeroboam of the North, especially in their battle with one another. His message was that to be like Jeroboam meant great judgment, but to be like Abijah meant great blessing.
c. Asa (2Chr.14:1b-16:14)
Here the Chronicler contrasts two very different actions and their equally contrasting results. Asa served God faithfully and was blessed with peace and prosperity (2Chr.14:1-15:19). However, later in his life, after a time of sustained peace and prosperity, he turned away from God and experienced war, trouble, and death (2Chr.16:1-14).
The experience of Asa is summed up in the words of Azariah the prophet to him:
Hear ye me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin; The LORD is with you, while ye be with him; and if ye seek him, he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you (2 Chron.15:2).
Asa was the first of five kings who led a spiritual reformation. The others were Jehoshaphat, Joash (under the influence of Jehoida), Hezekiah and Josiah. These revivals emphasized the connection between seeking God and the well-being of the kingdom.
d. Jehoshaphat (17:1-21:3)
Jehoshaphat, like his father Asa, was a godly king. He encouraged Judah to obey and fear God. However, on two occasions Jehoshaphat involved himself with the sinful northern Israelite kingdom and suffered as a result. So, although the post-exilic community was being encouraged by the Chronicler to include the northern tribes in Israel, this episode reminds them that it must not be done in a compromising way, in a way that accepts the North’s wickedness. God spoke to him through Jehu the prophet:
Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the LORD? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the LORD. Nevertheless there are good things found in thee, in that thou hast taken away the groves out of the land, and hast prepared thine heart to seek God (2 Chron.19:2-3).
In each of the first four reigns, Judahites called out to God in the face of powerful foes and God responded positively to their prayers. Jehoshaphat had two battles in which he called for and received help from God against great foes (2Chr.18:31; 20:5-12). His prayers seem to have been patterned upon Solomon’s “Temple dedication” prayer. With God’s blessing the number of soldiers in Judah’s army increased from 180,000 (2Chr.11:1) in Rehoboam’s reign to 1,160,000 men in Jehoshaphat’s reign (2Chr.17:14-19).
Chronicler’s Message: The restoration community should learn from how Judah’s kings experienced chastisement for infidelity and blessing for faithfulness.
3. Judah corrupted by the North (2Chr.21:4-24:27)
Jehoram (2Chr.21:4-20) married Athaliah, one of Ahab’s daughters (2Chr.21:6) and also walked in the ways of the kings of Israel. Ahaziah (2Chr.22:1-9) reigned but one year but also walked in the ways of the house of Ahab and so came under the divine judgment. Queen Athaliah (2Chr.22:10-23:21) almost exterminated the house of David and, therefore, the Messianic line (2 Sam.7:12-13). This was an example of the enmity between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman (Gen.3:15). Behind Atahliah was the Evil One who was seeking to thwart the covenant promises of God culminating in Christ. Unknown to her, however, by God’s grace one grandson, baby Joash, was rescued from slaughter.
Joash began his reign with a spiritual reformation but ended by restoring the Baal worship of the North and killing one of God’s prophets sent to warn him (2Chr.22:10-24:27).
Chronicler’s Message: Compromise with the unfaithful and wicked of the northern kingdom would lead to serious consequences.
4. Judah neglects the Temple (2Chr.25:1-28:27)
The final days of the Divided Kingdom include the reigns of Amaziah (2Chr.25:1-28), Uzziah (2Chr.26:1-23), Jotham (2Chr.27:1-9), and Ahaz (2Chr.28:1-27). Judah gradually falls into the state of becoming like the Northern kingdom. How does this come about. Pratt suggests that the major theme is half-hearted obedience. For example, Amaziah did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not wholeheartedly (2Chr.25:2).
Others have noted that most of the stories in this unit (apart from Jotham) are negative, recounting what the kings did wrong regarding the temple and its service. The relatively unsuccessful reigns are related to their failure with regard to the temple. Each king in this unit either neglected the temple (as suggested by silence) or committed sacrilege against it.
Judah’s condition was now worse than northern Israel. In fact, northern Israelites had shown themselves to be humble before the Lord at a time when apostasy was widespread in the South (2Chr.28:5-15).
Chronicler’s Message: Human neglect of the temple will lead to divine neglect of the throne
As God’s covenant emissaries, the prophets highlighted God’s standards and the blessings and curses which accompanied obedience or disobedience. The Chronicler refers to prophets and prophetic records on numerous occasions in order to demonstrate how relevant the past prophets still were to their present situation. Chronicles also shoes Israel and Judah’s fate was often determined by their reactions to the prophetic word. God sent prophets to warn of judgment (2Chr.12:5; 16:7-9; 18:8; 19:2) and the people’s reactions determined whether that word would come to pass.
Chronicler’s Message: Obedience to the prophetic word will bring blessing.
C. New Testament Analysis
1. No compromise
While seeking to win the world we must not become like the world.
Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him (1Jn.2:15).
II. People and Politics: The Hope of Reunion (2Chronicles 29-36)
A. General Analysis
B. Detailed Analysis
1. Hezekiah (2Chr.29:1-32:33)
Both Hezekiah and his successor, Josiah, centre their reforms on a missionary thrust to the north, aiming at an Israel of twelve tribes united under a Davidic king. Pratt has designated this last period of Chronicles as “The Reunited Kingdom” because the Chronicler emphasized the symbolic rejoining of the faithful northern Israelites with Judah under a Davidic king during this period. For the Chronicler, this was a glorious prefiguring of the hoped for restoration of post-exilic Israel.
Following North’s exile and the South’s increasing apostasy, Hezekiah’s reign marked a revival in Israel. The Chronicler presented Hezekiah as a new David or a new Solomon who would herald the restored glory of Solomon’s kingdom. In contrast to 2 Kings where Hezekiah’s religious reforms are mentioned in one brief verse (2Chr.18:4) and his political achievements in three whole chapters, the Chronicler’s focus is on Hezekiah’s religious reforms. In so doing he demonstrates that God blessed the king who put His kingdom first.
Hezekiah cleansed the Temple, appointed priests and Levites, provided for the burnt offerings, celebrated the Passover, eradicated idolatry, instituted regular sacrifice and supported the Levites.
He also reunited the people in a great Passover celebration which was characterized by a contrite spirit (2Chr.30:5,25). Later, when threatened with military defeat, he called the people to trust in God (2Chr.32:7-8). Solomon’s “temple dedication” prayer was re-echoed in Hezekiah’s prayer at this time (2Chr.32:20, 24).
He was not without his faults but still he was a useful model for the Chronicler to point his post-exilic readers to.
And thus did Hezekiah throughout all Judah, and wrought that which was good and right and truth before the LORD his God. And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered (2 Chron.31:20-21)
Even when he failed, he sought forgiveness through God’s grace and so again formed a good example for the post-exilic community. Moreover, the Chronicler underlines the importance of heart repentance by using the term “heart” 11 times in 2 Chronicles 29-32.
Chronicler’s message: Post-exilic Israel must adopt Hezekiah’s prayer and example to reach their goals of a joyful and united community.
2. Manasseh (2Chr.33:1-20)
-Manasseh’s reign begins (2Chr.33:1)
-Manasseh sins (2Chr.33:2-9)
-Manasseh repents (2Chr.33:10-13)
-Manasseh restores (2Chr.33:14-17)
-Manasseh’s reign ends (2Chr.33:18-20)
Whereas the Chronicler presents Manasseh as an example of repentance, Kings presents him as the catalyst of divine judgment. Each author has a different purpose.
Why did the chronicler present such a different characterization? The writer of Kings used Manasseh’s reign to give a historical justification for the Exile. The chronicler, however, wanted his readers to see how Manasseh’s life adumbrated their experiences. His readers had sinned against God, gone to Babylon, sought the favor of God, and returned to the land. Now they too were in the process of rebuilding the kingdom. If the king who sealed the fate of Judah demonstrated his repentance by reforming and rebuilding, how much more must they do the same?[footnote]L Ryken and T Longman III (Editors), The Complete Literary Guide to the Bible (Grand Rapids; Zondervan, 1993), 196-197.[/footnote]
His contrite prayer in exile is patterned on Solomon’s “temple dedication” prayer.
Solomon’s prayer also anticipates the reign of Manasseh (2 Chron.6:25; 33:12-13). In a scenario that recollects Solomon’s prayer (2Chr.6:25), Manasseh prayed in exile, and God returned him to the land. The connection with Solomon demonstrated the chronicler’s ideological outlook. The full return of the scattered exiles could take place only as the postexilic readers applied Solomon’s dedicatory prayer to their circumstances as Manasseh did.[footnote]Ibid., 203-204.[/footnote]
Chronicler’s Message: God will restore His people and their blessings if they repent and reform cultic abuses.
3. Amon (2Chr.33:21-25)
Amon’s short and wicked reign came immediately after Manasseh’s restoration and blessing. It taught the readers that even after such a glorious repentance and restoration (such as Manasseh’s), further disobedience by the next generation will still be judged.
Chronicler’s Message: Each generation must repent of its sins and maintain covenant fidelity.
4. Josiah (2Chr.34:1-35:27)
Josiah was the promoter of a Davidic revival. He travelled the country, north and south, to ensure the destruction of pagan places of worship. In the course of repairing the temple the lost book of the law was found and he led the people in a covenant renewal ceremony. A spectacular Passover was held for the whole “re-united kingdom.”
Although Josiah was a good example in his early life, later on he was disobedient and was judged accordingly. This warned the Chronicler’s post-exilic readers of the necessity of persevering in obedience.
Chronicler’s Message: Continue renewing the covenant to experience God’s continued blessings.
5. The Final Events (2Chr.36:2-23)
The last unit presents in quick succession the captivity of Judah’s final four kings (Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin and Zedekiah) the plundering and destruction of the temple and Jerusalem, the captivity of the people, and Cyrus’s decree to the Jews in captivity.
Each king has a shortened reign, and none is buried with his fathers. Jehoahaz is carried off to Egypt, Jehoiakim and Jehoiachin to Babylon. There is no reference to the burial of Zedekiah whom Nebuchadnezzar made a vassal.
The condition of the throne and the temple were prominent and their fates linked. As kings were exiled so the Temple and its resources were diminished. By the time of Zedekiah the throne and the Temple had fallen into complete corruption and ruin.
This structural highlighting of stories about the temple and its servants helps the Chronicler establish and emphasize the pattern that throughout history, when Israel did right with regard to the temple, priests and Levites, it always prospered; conversely when it did wrong in these areas, it always suffered. The Book of Chronicles is written and structured to demonstrate that Israel’s well-being, past and future, has depended and will continue to depend on its obedience in these areas. The encouragement to the post-exilic audience – particularly to the priests and Levites themselves – is to give heed to these lessons from history and carefully follow all God’s laws with regard to his temple and its servants. Only then will the postexilic community experience God’s full blessings upon their land and their lives.[footnote]D Dorsey, The Literary Structure of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999), 157.[/footnote]
Chronicler’s Message: Unfaithfulness concerning the temple and throne will bring judgment to the postexilic community.
6. Benefits of Exile
Through the prophets, Yahweh had warned both the north and the south. However, these warnings went unheeded (2Chr.36:15-16). As a result, the temple and its sacred vessels are carried into captivity (2Chr.36:17-18) in fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy of seventy years of exile (2Chr.36:21)
Jeremiah’s prediction of a seventy-year captivity in Babylon (2Chr.36:21; Jer.29:10) is fulfilled in two ways: firstly, a political captivity in which Jerusalem is controlled by Babylon from 605 B.C. to 536 B.C. with its inhabitants taken into exile in three phases; and, secondly, a religious captivity from the destruction of the temple in 586 B.C. to the completion of the new temple in 516 BC.[footnote]G Crossley, The Old Testament Explained and Applied (England: Evangelical Press, 2002), 372.[/footnote]
However, one of the benefits of the exile was that the land enjoyed its neglected Sabbath rests (2Chr.36:21; see Lev. 26:34-35), and so was refreshed and prepared for the post-exilic community to return to.
7. Cyrus’s decree
Cyrus’s decree was also the fulfillment of prophecy. His edict restored the people to the land and the temple to Jerusalem, thereby reversing two of the effects of the exile. God’s justice has been satisfied and the restored community was given a new opportunity.
The final scene of the Chronicler’s history reminded the post-exilic community of its origins and goal (2Chr.36:22-23). This concluding positive note reminded the readers of their God given privileges as well as responsibilities. The Cyrus edict was God’s great grace. However, it also required the post-exilic community to restore the Temple and so ensure the return of God’s blessings.
From Hezekiah to Jeconiah, each account of failure is followed by God’s gracious renewal of the people: Manasseh’s restoration (2Chr.33:11-1 7), Josiah’s reforms (2Chr.34:3-35:19) and the return from exile (2Chr.36:22-23).
This portion of the Chronicler’s history also offered hope and guidance to his readers. Despite the failures of the reunited kingdom, God continued to grant blessings to his repentant people. These events reminded the readers that God extended his mercy to them, offering them his blessing. At the same time, however, the events of this period demonstrated the requirements placed on those who longed for the full restoration of the kingdom during the postexilic period. The nation must turn to the Lord in humility and live faithfully before him.[footnote]Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 597.[/footnote]
Chronicler’s Message: God will grant blessings to his repentant and faithful people
8. The last word
The placement of Chronicles as the last book of the Hebrew canon means that instead of the Old Testament finishing with the curse in Malachi it finishes with “let us go up” (to Jerusalem).
Chronicles is a call to repentance and hope in Yahweh’s restoration. Thus, as the Hebrew Bible in its canonical form concludes by reaffirming the endurance of this promise (2Chron.36:23), it issues an invitation to go up and, in so doing, opens trajectories that may take us into the centre of New Testament faith.[footnote]W J Dumbrell, The Faith of Israel (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002), [/footnote]
By ending on this note, the author shed a ray of hope across the Books of Chronicles. The temple lay in ruins, but God had begun to “hear from heaven” and to “heal their land” (2Chr 7:14). If the returnees would follow the good examples of David, Solomon, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josiah, God would bless them again. The paragraph is paralleled by Ezra 1:2-3. It serves as a tag at the conclusion, marking the beginning of the restoration period and directing the reader to continue reading in the Book of Ezra.[footnote]B Arnold and B Beyer, Encountering the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999), 257.[/footnote]
Chronicler’s Message: Hope in God’s promised future restoration of Israel
C. New Testament Analysis
1. Unity of God’s people
The New Testament epistles were often addressed to divided and unfaithful churches. The letters were a call to unite in faithfulness to God in order to build the church with God’s blessings.
Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them (Rom.16:17).
Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment (2Cor.1:10)
2. Let us go up
The last book of the New Testament closes by looking up towards the new Jerusalem and the new temple and the re-united people of God (Rev.21-22)
And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God (Rev.21:2-3).
III. The Message
Original Message: Israel must never forget the consequences of neglecting the word and worship of God, and must reunite to build the temple to secure God’s blessings.
Present Message: The Church must never forget the consequences of neglecting the word and worship of God, and must reunite to build the church to secure God’s blessings.