Dr. Tremper Longman on Samuel-Kings and Chronicles

Deuteronomy has blessings and curses in chapters 27-28 with the pivotal warning that disobedience will incur covenant curses, which curses of course were applied to Jerusalem in her disobedience. Samuel-Kings makes the case that people experience the covenant curse of exile because of covenant-breaking.

Chronicles, on the other hand, is situated in the post-exilic period and underscores first continuity between the post-exilic generation with the earlier generation--to wit, the genealogies. The are several unique features to Chronicles, as distinct from Samuel-Kings, including:
  • The enormous amount of space devoted to the construction of the temple. This is because in post-exilic times so much attention is devoted to the construction of the second temple.
  • The interesting tendency not to include negative info about David (with Bathsheba) or even Solomon. One sinful moment in David's life is found in 1 Chronicles 21 where David orders a census though this is reported by the Chronicler as something the devil initiates (v.1).
  • The decided emphasis on Judah. The north is mentioned but only insofar as it intersects with southern history.
  • The emphasis on immediate retribution in the sense that the consequences of sin come quickly. This serves the didactic purpose in post-exilic Israel of motivating obedience.
Regarding the issue of harmonization, was a particular king good, as one book alleges, or bad, as another book argues? That's easy to harmonize in that a king can have a good period followed by a bad period. The narrators aren't interested in providing biographies. Regarding different names, one narrator names a king after one ancestor; another after another ancestor.

Regarding the emergence of kingship in Israel, the early chapters in Samuel seem simultaneously pro-monarchical and anti-monarchical. It was God's intention all along to establish kingship. In God's assurance to Abraham in Genesis 17 he promises that kings will be among his descendants. In Genesis 49, among the curses and blessings to the children of Jacob, we read in verses 8-12 that Judah's relatives will bow before him and that the scepter will not depart from him. In Numbers 24:15-19, in Balaam's oracles, we read that about the emergence of a star and scepter from Judah, a ruler in Jacob, etc.

Israel has a king in none other than God himself. Moses is a great leader, as is Joshua. Judges records the story of imperfect deliverers, which is followed by 1 Samuel where we encounter the emergence of kingship. Welhausen and his ilk divide this into two or three sources, some pro-monarchical and others anti-monarchical. Phil Long points out that kingship stories often have three phases, a designation phase, a demonstration phase and a confirmation phase (see next post).

First, 1 Samuel 8: people want a king like the nations round about. One motivation is that Samuel's kids are bad (were children successors to judges?) and another is the looming threat of the Philistines. The solution is a strong central authority. The question of the Israelites seems to be legitimate, according to Deuteronomy 17, but the tone is illegitimate. Thus the request is granted, but Samuel doesn't hesitate to voice the danger in terms of their relationship with God. God gives Israel Saul partially to tweak them.

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