Thursday, July 13, 2017

Reading Through the Book of First Chronicles #1 (1-9)

ChroniclesLast week I began reading through the book of Chronicles accompanied by, 1 & 2 Chronicles, The College Press NIV Commentary, Old Testament Series, by John Mark Hicks. Chronicles is the final book in the canon of the Jewish scriptures and presents the history of the Davidic dynasty from a post-exilic perspective. I have been posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the commentary are in blue below…

Chronicles was probably one of the last books of the Old Testament to be completed, late in the Persian period about 400BCE. It was written to the post-exilic Jewish community to encourage them that God's plan for them and His presence with them was still as active as it had been with the kings and kingdom of Israel. If the people would worship God exclusively He would bless them. His promise to David was still as sure as it ever had been. The nation needed to learn from the past so that they could follow the good example of David and avoid the bad examples that had caused the exile.

The postexilic community asked: “Will God still dwell among his people in this new temple?” “Will God take us back as his people?” or “Will God keep his promise to David?” While the Chronicler explains the exile as a divine judgment, he stresses God’s yearning to restore his people. God will keep his promises and God will dwell among his people as in the days of Solomon. If the postexilic community will seek God, then he will dwell among them. 1 & 2 Chronicles, 17

The fundamental theological hermeneutic of Chronicles is “God seeks seekers.” The faithful and gracious God seeks hearts that seek him. The God of Chronicles is a relational God who seeks authentic reciprocal relationship. Those who seek him will find him, but he will forsake those who forsake him. 1 & 2 Chronicles, 26

The genealogies connect the post-exilic community back to the golden age of Israel, creation and to God's covenant promises. Overall, it places Israel at the center with David at the center of Israel. Chapter one connects creation to Israel. It reminds the nation that God's plan for the world involves rescuing all the nations through the covenant with Abraham and the nation of Israel.

This is the story of God among his people. It is the story of Israel. It is the Christian story. Adam, Abraham, and David are our forefathers. God has preserved his family. 1 Chronicles 1-9, 69–70

First Chronicles 1:1–27 teaches, in genealogical form, that Israel is part of a world community. It participates in the “brotherhood” of humanity. The nations are bound together by God’s creation and providence. Israel, however, is the elect nation for the sake of the nations. Through Abraham God will bless all nations. 1 Chronicles 1,  73

Chapter 2 begins the genealogy of the nation of Israel. 2-4 contains the list of the ancestors from Judah and connects them to the Judahites of the post-exilic community. David and his descendants, the kings of Judah, are at the center of the list reminding the people that God will raise up a descendant of David who will save the nation from its oppressors, end the exile and bring in the blessing of God's presence.

God seeks reconciliation with “all Israel,” and “all Israel” is invited to the temple to commune with their God. 1 Chronicles 2, 78

The fact that David’s line remains intact through the exile testifies to the faithfulness of God. He has not forgotten David...the centrality of this list in the genealogical scheme, the importance of David in the coming narrative, and the messianic expectations of the royal line give more weight to future hopeful expectations from the Davidic line than a mere list. While the list may not be sufficient for that hope, without the list there is no hope. 1 Chronicles 3, 87

This story, set in the genealogical list of Judah, reflects God’s gracious promise to hear the prayers of his people, avert disaster, enlarge their territory, and bless his people when they cry out to him (2 Chr 20:9). Jabez epitomizes the situation of the postexilic community. They were born out of pain, and they cry out to God for peace and rest. The assurance of this story is that God will hear the prayer of faith and graciously respond. 1 Chronicles 4, 89

The Chronicler now turns to the genealogies of the tribes of Simeon (4.24-43) in the South and Reuben (5.1-10), Gad (5.11-22), and Manasseh (5.23-26) in the East. He includes several short stories to underscore his theological points that victory comes from trusting the LORD and disaster (exile) comes from unfaithfulness and idolatry. God can work in the post-exilic community the same way he worked in the past.

The Chronicler’s interpretation of Genesis legitimizes Israel’s historical development where Ephraim and Manasseh receive the double portion of the firstborn (territory and population) but the ruler (cf. 1 Chr 11:2; 17:7; 28:4) comes out of Judah...God grants status by privilege rather than right; by grace rather than merit. The older serves the younger. 1 Chronicles 5.1-10, 93

God equips and prepares his people as his agents in the world and intends that they use the best available means to accomplish divine goals. But their victories are by his strength and power. This has a wide application to preaching, apologetics, and evangelism as well as to the perennial problem of human responsibility and divine sovereignty. 1 Chronicles 5.11-22, 95

The genealogy of the Levites sits right at the center of chapters 1-9, just as the tabernacle and temple occupied the center of Israelite life. The first list connects the post-exilic high priests all the way back to Aaron. The second one list the genealogies of the priests, the singers and the Levitical temple servants.

The Levites not only receive the most lengthy attention (except for Judah), but they are the centerpiece of Chronicles’s genealogical structure. This is not simply a structural center, but a theological one. The genealogical structure of the sons of Israel puts “God at the center” and the presence of the Levites bears “witness to the temple.” 1 Chronicles 6, 97

God’s priests do not simply officiate at the temple, but they are scattered among the people throughout the land. They “constitute,” “an indwelling presence of local teaching and example.” Their dwellings among the people represent the God who not only dwells in his temple but also has a holy presence throughout the land. 1 Chronicles 6.50-81, 103

Chapter 7 begins the continuation of the list of the tribes north of Judah. Included are Issachar, Benjamin, Naphtali, the sons of Joseph, and Asher. For some reason Dan and Zebulun appear to not be included. Chapter 8 again records a genealogy of the Benjamites and 9 provides a list of the Levites and their duties in post-exilic Jerusalem. The chapter closes with a very detailed genealogy of Saul to introduce the narrative of his death and rise of David that will begin chapter 10. 1-9 presents the post-exilic community as a re-creation (Adam, Abraham, David) of God's covenant people with every tribe gathered in Jerusalem awaiting the coming of another David and for the presence of God to return to the temple.

Chronicles maintains the number twelve. If Dan is included at 1 Chronicles 7:12, then the exclusion of Zebulun makes the number twelve since Levi effectively takes his place. However, if Dan is absent, Chronicles counts Manasseh twice (two settlements), so the number is still twelve. Either way Chronicles keeps the important and symbolic number twelve. 1 Chronicles 7, 104

It is sufficient to call attention to the geographical contrast in order to emphasize the difference between Saul of Gibeon and David of Jerusalem. SAILHAMER also contrasts the divine choice of Jerusalem for his resting place (2 Chr 6:6) with the Israelite decision to place the tabernacle in Gibeon (1 Chr 16:39; 21:29). The contrast between David and Saul is also the contrast between divine election and human manipulation. 1 Chronicles 8, 111

All Israel was recorded in the genealogies. The land was settled. The Chronicler yearns for Israel to once again fully occupy the land under the reign of another Davidic king. The genealogies point to the inheritance of Israel and the inclusiveness of the coming reign. 1 Chronicles 9, 112

Just as Judah was unfaithful and went into exile (1 Chr 9:1b), Saul was unfaithful and lost his dynasty (1 Chr 10:13). But Judah returns to possess Jerusalem, and Saul’s descendants live in the city (1 Chr 9:38). This testifies to the grace of God. Saul’s descendants live in Jerusalem alongside Davidic and Levitical families. Postexilic Jerusalem is filled with “all Israel,” and it bears witness to God’s mercy and faithfulness. 1 Chronicles 9, 118

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