This post explores the overall theological agenda of the Chronicler in presenting the stories of the kings during the divided kingdom as well as explores these themes in particular when looking at the splitting of that kingdom into two in 2 Chronicles 10:1-19. The argument made here is that the Chronicler wants to teach the theology of immediate retribution, found in other places in Scripture like Ezekiel. As we will see, applying that theology to our present circumstances in Christ is a little more complicated.
2 Chronicles 10-36
The rest of Chronicles after the Solomon story concerns the divided kingdom beginning with the split and ending with the decree of Cyrus. We have said that the idea of immediate retribution serves as a major reason Chronicles will include stories not mentioned in Kings. It is the author’s conviction that sin will bring judgment and obedience will bring blessing. He will come out and say this but it also will be shown in the way he tells the stories.
Dillard suggests that we consider the following examples of specific instances the Chronicler makes this clear: 1 Chron 28:8b-9, 2 Chron 7:14, 2 Chron 12:5, 2 Chron 15:2, and 2 Chron 20:20. None of these passages are found in Kings. The first concerns the transition to Solomon and promises that if you seek God, He will be found by you but if you forsake Him then He will reject you forever. The second is the famous verse about the nation humbling themselves and praying and how God will respond by forgiving their sin and healing their land.
To these we can add the following: “This is what YHWH says: ‘You have abandoned me; therefore, I now abandon you’” (2 Chron 12:5). This is a simple statement of immediate retribution. “YHWH is with you when you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you, but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you” (2 Chron 15:2). This one should sound familiar since it is very similar to the passage cited above in 1 Chronicles 28. And “Listen to me…have faith in YHWH your God and you will be upheld; have faith in His prophets and you will be successful” (2 Chron 20:20).
The language of success is at home in wisdom literature. This also supports our thought that one major way that Kings and Chronicles differ is that the former is a prophetic history and the latter is one of the writings.
Dillard takes 2 Chronicles 7:14, which he says ”spells out the key concepts and vocabulary of retribution theology. In times of distress or calamity, if the people will humble themselves, pray, seek God, and turn from wickedness, then God will respond.” Then Dillard cites all the places where these terms are found in 2 Chronicles 10-36 – ”seeking God,” ”humbling oneself,” prayer, ”turning,” and ”healing.” Likewise, then he cites the opposites found in these chapters – ”abandon, forsake,” ”be unfaithful, rebellious.”
Dillard also notes that the motifs the Chronicler uses to show blessing or cursing is pretty universal in this section. Thus obedience is rewarded with success/prosperity, building programs, war victories, children, the support of the people, and large armies. Likewise, disobedience is rewarded with defeat, lack of popular support, and illness. Aside from failing to seek God and humble yourself, you might be punished for making a foreign alliance since that is an example of failing to trust God.
When Kings told the story of the reign of a particular king there was a formula or outline. For the northern kingdom it went something like this: “In the __ year of ___ king of Judah, ___ began to reign over [all] Israel…and he reigned ___ [years].” “He did what was evil in the sight of YHWH and walked in the way of [Jeroboam], and in his sin which he made Israel to sin.” In the third part YHWH raises up a prophet and proclaims the death of the king’s house. “Now the rest of the acts of ___ and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel?” (See my commentary on Kings)
The major difference between that formula and the one found in Chronicles is in the third section. Dillard summarizes that third section in Kings this way: ”incident(s) that occurred during the reign, ordinarily reported without any theological rationale expressed.” But for Chronicles, Dillard says, ”the Chronicler is rarely willing simply to report an incident without providing the inciting rationale. For the Chronicler, reporting Rehoboam’s obedience to the message of Shemaiah results in demonstrable blessing in the form of building programs (11:5-12), popular support (11:13-17), and progeny (11:18-23).” Moreover, Dillard adds, ”he [the Chronicler] would not simply recount the invasion of Shishak and the military humiliation of Judah without first noting that Rehoboam had forsaken the law of God and been unfaithful (12:1-2).”
The case of Uzziah was more complicated. The Chronicler would not be able to simply report that Uzziah did right but died from leprosy. Instead, Chronicles’ account is much longer than Kings so that the Chronicler can show how Uzziah was blessed for all the good things that he did – as Dillard says, ”blessings of military victory (26:4-8), building programs (26:9-10), and a large army (26:11-15).” So when Chronicles moves to explain why Uzziah got leprosy he tells us about the incident that led to it, which was a situation of very-immediate retribution.
Chronicles takes this approach because the author is seeking to answer different questions than Kings. Kings explains why Israel went into exile. Chronicles is written to those who are living in later generations and are wondering if they are just being punished for what earlier generations had done. The Prophet Ezekiel also confronts this same issue. When considering application Dillard helpfully reminds us that there are examples of both immediate and deferred judgment in the New Testament, but there is also the situation mentioned in John 9. Dillard tells it this way: ”The disciples asked Jesus about the blindness of a man nearby. ‘Who sinned?’ they said, ‘this man [the approach of Chronicles] or his parents [the approach of Kings]?’ Jesus surprised the disciples with a third alternative they had not considered; he answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”’ This is an important reminder when exploring these themes in Scripture and one encouraged by the various approaches of the Writings (i.e., Job).
Still, I would want to remind us that retribution for our sins has fallen upon Jesus Christ. This is not a license for us to sin. But it is the good news that God isn’t angry with you in Christ Jesus. This is not because you personally are sinless but because the anger of God has been completely poured out on Christ on the cross in your place. Having said this keep in mind that there is a place for the discipline of legitimate children of God. And then one can wrestle with the examples in the Apostolic Age of 1 Cor 11:30 and Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. At our Sunday evening Bible class we discussed all of this at some length in the context of the Writings as a whole since sometimes those who do the right thing get sick — the example one member at Niagara Presbyterian gave was missionaries who catch Ebola. This does point out the complicated nature of trying to apply Chronicles through Christ to our lives today. Whatever else one might say, clearly we have to remember that Christ was faithful and God gave Him every blessing in the heavenly places, which are ours in Christ.
2 Chronicles 10:1-19
We will begin with the divided kingdom next time. For now, I want to look at the schism of the kingdom into two in Chronicles. The text is largely the same as 1 Kings 12:1-19. There is a textual issue that complicates understanding the role of Jeroboam in the schism in Kings, some versions being more expansive. It may be that the double mention of Jeroboam’s arrival in 1 Kings 12 is for the purpose of the structure of that unit. Dillard suggests that 1 Kings 12 may be chiastically structured. We did not note that chiasm in our commentary on Kings so here it is as he describes the passage:
Regardless of the textual issue in Kings, Chronicles does clearly include Jeroboam early in the chapter. Yet the major difference between Kings and Chronicles is that Kings tells us that the schism is the result of Solomon’s sins. No doubt there is more to it than that, but the book gives a theological interpretation of the event attributing the split to the number of Solomon’s wives and the way they led him off track. There are other factors in Kings, but that is the biggest. However, we already have seen that Chronicles presents Solomon in terms of his messianic expectations and thus leaves out Solomon’s major sins.
Also, by not mentioning Solomon’s sins the theme of immediate retribution is underscored – Rehoboam didn’t lose half of the kingdom because of his father’s sins. Therefore, the Chronicler will have to highlight a different factor for the reason that the nation split between the northern and southern tribes into two kingdoms. Thus the Chronicler stresses Jeroboam’s desire for power and Rehoboam’s foolish actions. The latter was one of the factors in Kings, but the former was described more in terms of Jeroboam benefiting from a prophecy. Chronicles doesn’t quote that prophecy and thus highlights Jeroboam’s grabbing for power.
Thus Rehoboam will point to Christ in a negative fashion rather than a positive one like David and Solomon. Rehoboam made Israel’s yoke heavy whereas Christ’s yoke is easy and His burden is light.