The word of God sometimes gives us different perspectives on particular kings. Thus while Kings tells us that Abijah was evil, Chronicles shows him as a good king. And while Kings told us that Rehoboam was evil, Chronicles tells us that he did some good that was blessed and did some evil that was cursed. Both perspectives are the word of God and they reflect an important truth — after all, Christians today continue to sin and there are non-Christians that do things we think are good. Nevertheless, the Chronicler intends that his audience apply these and the other reigns of kings to their present lives by seeking God and then being blessed or by abandoning God and being cursed. In other words, the Chronicler presents the kings as examples for Israel of his understanding of immediate retribution theology.
2 Chronicles 11-12 covers Rehoboam’s reign, which Dillard tells us was from 931-913 B.C. The earlier parallel text is 1 Kings 12:1-14:31. However, the Chronicler has made several important changes. First, since it is less important to his post-exilic audience the Chronicler leaves out much of the details about the north. Second, for the same reason the Chronicler leaves out much of the details about the prophets. Dillard describes the view of Chronicles this way: ”the writer presents the prophets primarily as guardians of the theocracy.” Thus Dillard continues, ”almost every king in the Davidic succession has his prophetic counterpart.” Kings liked to tell stories where the prophet was at the center, but Chronicles leaves out these narratives. This reflects the different interests of a prophetic history like Kings and a wisdom history like Chronicles. It also reflects how spoken prophecy had discontinued by the time of the Chronicler. Kings told these stories to show that the prophetic word would come to pass. Chronicles tells stories instead to show that there will be immediate retribution for your actions. One major addition to the Rehoboam narrative is the second and third appearances of the prophet Shemaiah. Despite the stories of prophets in this reign that Chronicles omits, these two stories are added. The main reason is that this prophet is the counterpart for King Rehoboam. It appears that Chronicles relies on another source than Kings for this information.
Perhaps the most surprising difference between Kings and Chronicles on the reign of Rehoboam is how the former characterizes him exclusively as a bad king whereas the latter hedges this. 1 Kings 14:22-24 said, ”And Judah did what was evil in the sight of YHWH, and they provoked Him to jealousy with their sins that they committed, more than all that their fathers had done. For they also built for themselves high places and pillars and Asherim on every high hill and under every green tree, and there were also male cult prostitutes in the land. They did according to all the abominations of the nations that YHWH drove out before the people of Israel.” This has been left out of Chronicles and in its place we read the following: ”And he did evil, for he did not set his heart to seek YHWH” (2 Chron 12:14). Notice the vocabulary of the latter statement reflects the concerns of Chronicles – failing to seek YHWH leads to judgment. And the description in Kings reflected the particular concerns of that book, which are not major issues for Chronicles. Also 2 Chron 12:14 is qualified by 2 Chron 11:4 and 12:6 and the note about there being some good in Judah in 2 Chron 12:12. 2 Chron 12:12 says in the ESV, ”Moreover, conditions were good in Judah” whereas the ESV footnote tells us the Hebrew reads this way: ”good things were found” in Judah. 2 Chron 12:6 shows the princes of Israel and the king ”humbled themselves.” 2 Chron 11:4 shows obedience to the word of YHWH.
The reason that Chronicles gives a more mixed review of Rehoboam’s reign is that Chronicles is showing the idea of immediate retribution. Therefore, when Rehoboam and ”all Israel with him” abandoned the Torah of YHWH then King Shishak of Egypt came and dealt them a military defeat. And when Rehoboam and the princes of Israel humbled themselves then YHWH relented from destroying all Israel.
Another interesting scene was when all the priests and the Levites who were in the north came to Judah and Jerusalem. Their example was then followed by people described as ”those who had set their hearts to seek YHWH God of Israel” (2 Chron 11:16). Thus both priests and Levites and lay people from the northern kingdom moved south at great personal sacrifice since they left their possessions and lands in the north. An addition that the Chronicler makes to this account is mentioning goat idols in the northern kingdom. This obedience was followed by a three year period of blessing for the southern kingdom. The notice of how long this was is another addition to the material found in Kings. We have earlier noted the change that Chronicles has made to include Solomon in the phrase, ”for they walked for three years in the way of David and Solomon.” The genealogical information about Rehoboam’s family then follows this text as another example of how he was blessed for his obedience before telling us about the way that he and all Israel abandoned the Torah of YHWH.
In any case, it is clear that the language from 2 Chron 7:14 is programmatic for explaining the reign of Rehoboam in Chronicles. Remember that verse said, ”if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chron 7:14). Dillard notes that by contrast Kings did not give any theological rationale for the attack of Shishak nor ”the narrow escape of Judah.” He also observes that all of the key terms for immediate retribution are here.
Abijah’s Reign (2 Chron 13)
The next king of Judah we meet is Abijah. We have been prepared for him coming to the throne instead of one of his elder brothers by the genealogical portion under Rehoboam. In Hebrew the reign of Abijah is recounted in 2 Chronicles 13. The English Bible chapter divisions include the last verse at 2 Chron 14:1.
If we found the different portrayal of Rehoboam in Kings compared to Chronicles surprising then we discover that we haven’t seen anything yet when we get to Abijah. Dillard says that the Chronicler tells the story three times longer than Kings. There is also a spelling difference where Kings calls him Abijam and Chronicles Abijah. Kings deals with the reign of Abijam in eight verses. According to Kings, Abijam ”walked in all the sins that his father did before him, and his heart was not wholly true to YHWH his God, as the heart of David his father” (1 Kings 15:3).
The next two verses of Kings tell us that Abijam was kept for the sake of David. 1 Kings 15:6 mentions the warfare between Rehoboam and Jeroboam. Otherwise, the text gives us standard opening and closing formula information for Abijam. Scholars wonder if the difference in the name is that in Kings it means ”my father is Yam” a Canaanite god and in Chronicles it is ”my father is Yah” as in the God of Israel. However, the text does not hint that we are to look for such explanations.
In Chronicles we are told, ”now there was war between Abijah and Jeroboam” and then we read about one such battle between them. Dillard characterizes the story as telling us that Abijah was a ”victorious leader and preacher of righteousness.” No doubt the Chronicler was selective in what he shared from Abijah’s speech, but it is interesting that the things selected support the Chronicler’s approach to this history.
Abijah uses the retribution theology vocabulary of ”forsake” and ”succeed” and also lists cultic duties in 2 Chron 13:10-12 – ”But as for us, YHWH is our God, and we have not forsaken Him. We have priests ministering to YHWH who are sons of Aaron, and Levites for their service. They offer to YHWH every morning and every evening burnt offerings and incense of sweet spices, set out the showbread on the table of pure gold,a nd care for the golden lampstand that its lamps may burn every evening. For we keep the charge of YHWH our God, but you have forsaken Him. Behold, God is with us at our head, and his priests with their battle trumpets to sound the call to battle against you. O sons of Israel, do not fight against YHWH, the God of your fathers, for you cannot succeed.”
Thus Kings can tell us that this king Abijam was a wicked one and Chronicles can tell us that Abijah was a good one and yet we know that both are the word of God. Indeed, evaluating kings is more complicated than we might have thought. But for Chronicles the question is what did they do right and how was that blessed and what did they do wrong and how was that cursed. Kings simply had a different reason for evaluating the kings and measured them against David and concerning a short list of important things to the author of Kings.