Wright-the place of Chronicles

I continue to read and write about Jacob L. Wright’s David, King of Israel, and Caleb in Biblical Memory.

Some of Wright’s assumptions about the composition of the Bible become more explicit in later chapters.  He sees the great tradition that has come down in Genesis-Joshua as a “People’s History”.  It tells the story of all Israel who are the people of God because they all derive from Jacob and all have the same promise from God.  The Samuel and Kings books are different.  They are a “Monarchic History” and deal with the political and religious superiority of Judah over Samaria.

Late editors joined these two stories in a “Primary History” of Israel so that the emphasis on national unity from the People’s History came first and the kingdom was just a late addendum.

Then there came 1 and 2 Chronicles, which retold the story of the kingdom so that it involved all Israel, bringing history of the monarchy into alignment with the People’s History and the idea of the unity of the people.

He goes into some detail about 1 Chronicles 11 and 12, which stress that warriors from all 12 tribes fought for David even as early has his time at Ziklag.  Warriors from Benjamin fought for David instead of the Benjaminite hero, Saul. Chronicles treats Benjaminites as Judahites, a reflection of a later historical reality. The Transjordanian region provided fierce and skilled warriors for David, even though Wright’s hypothetical History of Saul’s Reign (HSR) had those tribes deeply loyal to Saul.  All the tribes, according to the war commemoration of 1 Chronicles 11-12, supported David.

Chronicles makes David’s army immense.  This is because Chronicles is projecting the idea of a national army back into the days when David was a warlord with a small, band of outcasts.

I agree that the account in Chronicles is unreliable historically.

However, I noticed that the name Jebus appears for Jerusalem in 1 Chronicles 11:4.  It is odd, because if the authors were using this old name to pretend that their history is old, it seems to me they would have just used it or inserted the explanation that Jebus means Jerusalem.  But they use the name Jerusalem and then parenthetically explain that the city used to be called Jebus.  That sounds to me like their source had used Jebus.

That is just one of many indications that tell me that the Chroniclers had old sources.

They distorted them by leaving stuff out.  Samuel and Kings was one of their sources and we see how they left vast fields of that narrative out.  They also put things together in a way that distorted reality without necessarily disregarding or misquoting their sources. For instance, it is not necessarily untrue that David, especially later in his career, drew support from all over Israel.  Chronicles just makes it look like this support was early and overwhelming.

The Chroniclers did embellish numbers, especially when reporting the size of armies. The priestly material in the Pentateuch shows that this was a characteristic of priestly scribes.

Anyway, Wright argues that Chronicles differs from Samuel-Kings in that in Chronicles David is a catalyst for the unity of Israel.  In Samuel-Kings he sows the seeds of the eventual disunity and division of the kingdom.

Another point is that while Ezra and Nehemiah come from about the same time as Chronicles and have some of the same concerns, Ezra and Nehemiah exclude from Israel some of the groups that Chronicles includes.  This shows that disputes about belonging and position in society were important motives for these writings.

These are good insights.  More questionable is the conclusion Wright draws from evidence that people in the period after the exile saw themselves as Judahites and not as the people of Israel.  The only place that the people of Israel ever existed, he thinks, is in the constructed histories produced after the exile: the Bible.  So passages in the prophets like Micah 5:3 have to be post-exilic interpolations

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About theoutwardquest

I have many interests, but will blog mostly about what I read in the fields of Bible and religion.
This entry was posted in Ancient Israel, Bible and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Wright-the place of Chronicles

  1. jamesbradfordpate says:

    Reblogged this on James' Ramblings.

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