These are some notes on the distinctive message of Chronicles about the reigns of Asa through the exile and decree of restoration. These chapters are preparing the reader living after the exile for the coming of the Christ.
Asa’s Reign (2 Chron 14-16)
As Dillard observed, Kings covered Asa’s reign in sixteen verses whereas Chronicles almost triples that number to forty-seven verses. We saw much the same thing happened for Abijah before him. Much of the new information about Asa’s reign involves the prophets Azariah and Hanani. The key retribution theology vocabulary is found in the account of Asa’s reign — seeking God (2 Chron 14:7, 15:2, 4, 12, 13, 15, 16:12), forsaking God (2 Chron 15:2), trusting God (2 Chron 14:11, 16:7-8), rest and peace as blessing from God (2 Chron 15:5, 6, 7, 15, 19) or the reverse (2 Chron 15:6, 16:9), prayer (2 Chron 14:11).
As we have seen before much of the teaching that the Chronicler wants to convey comes through speeches. This time they come through the speeches of Azariah and Hanani. For example, Hanani said, “Because you relied on the king of Syria, and did not rely on YHWH your God, the army of the king of Syria has escaped you. Were not the Ethiopians and the Libyans a huge army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet because you relied on YHWH, He gave them into your hand” (2 Chron 16:7-8). Another example is Azariah said, “YHWH is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you, but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you. For a long time Israel was without the true God, and without a teaching priest and without Torah, but when in their distress they turned to YHWH, the God of Israel, and sought Him, He was found by them” (2 Chron 15:2-4). The prophet Azariah is not spoken of anywhere else in the Scriptures.
In any case, Dillard’s point is well made when he says, “rather than operate at the level of the broad evaluation [in Kings] alone, the Chronicler commonly takes details from the Kings account and elaborates upon them; individual reigns are divided into two or more distinct periods and evaluated in light of his theology of immediate retribution. The doctrine of retribution is made applicable not to the reign of the king as a whole alone, but to details within the reign.” For Asa the method was to take the details from Kings about his reforms, war with Baasha, and death from a foot disease and then expand upon those details to show the cause and effect. Chapters 14-15 show that the reforms led to “victory, peace, prosperity, and the loyalty of the populace” as Dillard lists them and “war and disease follow infidelity” for the next chapter. The speeches then are information that the Chronicler wants to preach to his post-exilic audience — thus they need to seek God if they are to be able to rebuild and thrive and not depend on foreign alliances.
One point of interest is that Chronicles tells us about the earliest incident of the king persecuting a prophet. Hanani is the first of many who will suffer death or imprisonment for his prophetic message.
Jehoshaphat’s Reign (2 Chr 17-20)
Kings didn’t give much attention at all to the reign of Jehoshaphat, but Chronicles gives us four chapters. Jehoshaphat is described in Chronicles as one “who sought YHWH with all his heart” (2 Chron 22:9). Dillard says that the account of Asa in Chronicles may serve as the “paradigm” for the reign of Jehoshaphat. Both follow the same basic outline — reform with the blessings of building programs and large armies, battle, reform, battle, and then end with the king’s sin and death. There are lots of other similarities that he lists in detail in his commentary. For Asa and Jehoshaphat the battle reports are reversed — Asa’s victory to start is more like Jehoshaphat’s second battle and Jehoshaphat’s first battle had the problem of an alliance like Asa’s second battle.
Interestingly, the teaching that Jehoshaphat ordered in 2 Chron 17:7-9 makes him sound like the ideal king of Deuteronomy 17:17-20. Dillard traces this theme to Jesus sending out the seventy and to the Great Commission, which is a great insight I hadn’t considered before.
2 Chron 18:1-19:3 allows the Chronicler to again focus on condemning alliances with foreign nations, which is a theme throughout this part of Chronicles. Foreign alliances are a lack of trust in YHWH, and thus part of the retribution theology that the Chronicler is teaching. This retribution theology is what shapes the accounts of Asa and now Jehoshaphat just as it had Rehoboam and Abijah.
2 Chron 19:4-11 concerns Jehoshaphat’s judicial reformation but does not appear to have the Chronicler’s style and immediate retribution terminology, which suggests he is closely quoting another source that didn’t have those terms and style. I have already noted the close parallel to Deuteronomy (cf. Deut. 16:18-17:13). There are only some administrative features that differ — fortified cities or every town, governor or judge, etc. This was likely included in Chronicles to give support for certain judicial practices in the post-exilic era.
2 Chron 20:1-21:1 covers another battle and the king’s death. Dillard tells us that most of this material is not in Kings, which speaks of a different battle. The king’s speech here is like the lament psalms. The account includes the Chronicler’s retribution theology vocabulary. It also includes an important place for the Levitical musicians. Dillard, quoting Stinespring, says, “The modern historian may be tempted ‘to poke fun at Jehoshaphat in Chronicles for sending out the temple choir to meet an invading army; it is still funnier when the choir puts the foe to flight and causes great slaughter with a few well-directed psalms.'” Then Dillard reminds us of the importance of music in much ancient warfare. Nevertheless, we must also remember who is in control! After all, the charter for this chapter is 2 Chron 7:14 (“if my people, who are called by my name…).
Jehoram’s Reign (2 Chr 21)
Next is the reign of Jehoram from 853-841 B.C. This account is also lengthened considerably compared to Kings. The Chronicler adds details about how Jehoram killed his brothers, set up high places, lost territory and how he died. Chronicles has also added a letter from Elijah the prophet. Dillard says that this chapter may be designed as a chiasm.
This is the first king of Judah that the Chronicler evaluates as wholly evil. Nevertheless, the Chronicler says here, ”Yet YHWH 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” (2 Chron 21:7). Writing from the period of after the exile, the Chronicler has faith that the line of David will be restored.
The Chronicler also takes advantage of the device we call irony – showing us that the very action that Jehoram did to increase his hold on power led him to lose power and worse.
Ahaziah’s Reign (2 Chr 22:1-9)
Here we have the first time the Chronicler has shortened the account in Kings (cf. 2 Kings 8:24b-10:14), which is because it was written more from the perspective of the northern kingdom. The only major challenge to understanding the differences between the accounts concerns his death, which we cannot solve today. In any case, Dillard notes how the time then resembled the Chronicler’s own day: ”the house of Ahaziah had no one able to rule the kingdom” (2 Chron 22:9). The post-exilic readers would see an example then for their own day because the house of David will again have a king to rule over Israel.
Athaliah’s Reign (2 Chr 22:10-23:21)
The next narrative Dillard calls ”the reign of Athaliah, 841-835 B.C.; Jehoiada’s Coup.” He says that Chronicles is ”sacralizing” the coup. Chronicles does this by emphasizing the role of priests and Levites, a religious assembly, the temple is protected and music is involved. Athaliah was not a legitimate king of Judah and not a son of David and thus this account is meant to encourage Israel during a similar time after the exile.
Joash’s Reign (2 Chr 24)
Joash’s reign was from 835-796 B.C., according to Dillard. The account here is very different than 2 Kings 12 reflecting the immediate retribution theology that is true for the way he tells all of these kings’ reigns. As Dillard puts it, ”No weal or woe is left unexplained in the reign of Joash.” That is how thoroughly this theme of immediate retribution shapes the story of his reign.
Amaziah’s Reign (2 Chr 25)
Amaziah reigned from 796-767 B.C. This closely follows Kings, except 2 Kings 14:7 is expanded into 2 Chronicles 25:5-16 in order to include the theological rationale for victory against Edom and as Dillard says, ”the defeat before Israel.” The addition includes an unnamed prophet. The theme of immediate retribution is important in this reign as well, explaining why they won against Edom. The way the curses in the chapters are described showed those rebuilding Jerusalem and its walls in the Chronicler’s day that they needed to be loyal to YHWH.
Uzziah’s Reign (2 Chr 26)
The bulk of what Chronicles says about Uzziah is new. This is the story we noted on an earlier Sunday because Uzziah was a good king who died from leprosy. Thus Chronicles shows how much Uzziah was blessed but then has to explain why he would get such an illness and die.
Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah
Jotham’s story is one where the Chronicler is all positive, but this reign is more added onto Uzziah’s than a separate account. Instead of showing negative and positive portions of reigns, the Chronicler will evaluate Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah each for their whole reign. Jotham and Hezekiah were good kings and Ahaz was evil. Dillard notes that this is the sequence – righteous man with an unrighteous son with a righteous son – Ezekiel uses to teach immediate retribution in Ezekiel 18:5-20. Hezekiah is described as a second Solomon, which means he foreshadows Christ. We could do a whole class on Hezekiah.
Manasseh and Amon (2 Chron 33)
Manasseh is presented quite differently in Kings than in Chronicles. Kings sees him as the climax of the reasons the nation will go into exile. Chronicles tells us that he repents and becomes a reformer. Both perspectives are the word of God.
Josiah (2 Chron 34-35)
After Manasseh and Amon is Josiah. Chronicles tells us, ”And he did what was right in the eyes of YHWH, and walked in the ways of David his father; and he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left” (2 Chron 34:2). This continued to be the case until his death as the Chronicler concludes this chapter about Josiah and the nation, ”All his days they did not turn away from following YHWH, the God of their fathers” (2 Chron 34:33).
Dillard contrasts Josiah with Joash and shows the difference was that Josiah remained faithful to the end but Joash did not. Therefore, no foreign armies invaded during Josiah’s day but they did during Joash’s reign. The lesson for post-exilic Israel was that they could avoid invasion through being faithful to YHWH. The theme of retribution theology holds fast in this account like all the rest. Here we even see the good king Josiah die in battle as a result of disobedience to God’s commands.
Conclusion (2 Chron 36)
The conclusion of Chronicles passes over the reign of the last four kings quickly instead of repeating the details found in Kings and Jeremiah. There are two major themes with these four kings – they all suffered the same end (exile) and they each paid tribute primarily by taking from the temple. As Dillard explains, ”This has the effect of drawing a parallel between the fate of the Davidic dynasty and the temple: both destined for exile, but with hope of restoration.”
The exile of each of the four kings and the plundering of the temple during their reigns foreshadowed the exile but the end of the chapter tells us of the Persian King Cyrus’ decree to let them return and rebuild the temple. So ends the Hebrew Scriptures on this note of the hope for returning from exile and rebuilding the temple. Putting this book rather than Ezra-Nehemiah last has the effect of pointing to the future restoration of the reign of a Davidic king and the temple. In other words, ending the Hebrew Scriptures this way was to point forward to Jesus Christ.