Saturday, March 15, 2014

I Chronicles 1

I started I Chronicles for my weekly quiet time!  To read I Chronicles 1, see here.  I have two items for my write-up on I Chronicles 1.

1.  Something that the reader will note about I Chronicles is that it has chapters of genealogies.  Why?  The United Church of God’s commentary on I Chronicles 1 quotes the Bible Reader’s Companion (Lawrence Richards, 1991), which lists eight possible reasons for genealogies in the Hebrew Bible:
“At least eight different purposes of O[ld] T[estament] genealogies have been suggested. (1) To show relationships between Israel and neighboring peoples. (2) To show relationships between elements in the story of Israel’s origins. (3) To link periods of time not covered by other material. (4) As a means of organizing Israel’s men for warfare, by tribe and family. (5) To demonstrate the legitimacy of a person or family’s claim to a particular role or rank. (6) To preserve the purity of the chosen people and/or its priesthood. (7) To affirm the continuity of the people of God despite expulsion from the Promised Land. (8) To demonstrate progress toward achieving God’s revealed purposes; to show that the Lord is sovereignly shaping history in accord with His own plan. The genealogies of the O[ld] T[estament] play a vital role in maintaining the integrity, and showing the continuity, of Scripture’s story of salvation…”

A lot of these make sense for I Chronicles, in light of I Chronicles’ status as a post-exilic book.  I Chronicles may have genealogies as a way to affirm a societal structure in post-exilic Israel and to connect it with pre-exilic Israel, to tell Israel who she is, and to convey that God is preserving God’s people, notwithstanding the exile.  There were a lot of people-groups that became lost once they went into exile, but I Chronicles may be trying to demonstrate that Israel did not.

I would probably qualify some of the criteria above, in terms of I Chronicles, that is.  First of all, do the genealogies in I Chronicles attempt to “preserve the purity of the chosen people”?  I am somewhat doubtful of this, for I Chronicles’ genealogy does note a lot of intermarriages between Israelites and Gentiles.  That is why there are biblical scholars who have questioned the traditional or the scholarly view that Ezra wrote I Chronicles: whereas Ezra seems to be obsessed with keeping Israel pure from intermarriage with Gentiles, I Chronicles asserts that intermarriages have been a part of Israel’s history.  I Chronicles still, however, may be attempting to tell Israel who she is, while distinguishing her from other nations.  Second, on (4), were the genealogies in I Chronicles designed to organize Israelite men for the purpose of warfare?  I doubt that the Persians would want to hear that Israelites are organizing for warfare, and yet there were times when post-exilic Israelites fought: consider events in the Book of Nehemiah, for example.  There is also the question of whether I Chronicles was envisioning the restoration of the Davidic monarchy: some say “yes,” and some say “no.”  If it is “yes,” then maybe the author of I Chronicles was envisioning Israelites having to engage in warfare.  And yet, I am somewhat doubtful that the genealogies in I Chronicles relate to war.  In Numbers, what I see are lists of tribes and the number of fighting men within them, but that is not what I see in I Chronicles’ genealogy.  (UPDATE: I notice that I Chronicles 7 talks about fighting men.  When were they, though?)

2.  There are contradictions between genealogies in I Chronicles and genealogies elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible.  The orthodox Jewish Artscroll commentary, however, seeks not only to reconcile the contradictions, but also to demonstrate that the contradictions convey a significant nuance.  There appears to be a contradiction between I Chronicles 1:7 and Genesis 10:4 on whether an offspring or a group from Javan were called the Dodanim or the Rodanim.  This may not be a significant contradiction, since the “d” and the “r” in Hebrew look similar and could have been confused, but let’s see what the Artscroll does.  Relying on Mefaresh’s interpretation, which is based on Genesis Rabbah 37:1, the Artscroll says that, when Israel sins, the people-group subjugates Israel and is called the Rodanim, from the Hebrew root r-d-h, which means ruling or oppressing.  If Israel controls the people-group, however, the people-group is called the Dodanim, for it is telling Israel that she is its friend, or dod.  According to the Artscroll, I Chronicles has Rodanim, whereas Genesis has Dodanim.

I am not entirely sure about where to go with this.  Javan is often interpreted as Greece: in modern Hebrew, “Greek” is “Yavanite.”  Is the Artscroll (or the interpreters it cites in this case) saying that Israel was ruling Greece when Genesis 10:4 was written, whereas Greece was ruling Israel when I Chronicles 1:7 was written?  According to traditional Judaism, Moses wrote Genesis, and I do not recall Israel subjugating Greece at that time.  And traditional Judaism held that Ezra wrote I Chronicles, and that was before the time that Greece controlled Israel.  Maybe the idea is that Moses was foreseeing that Israel would soon subjugate Greece or people who became Greeks, or he wanted to emphasize that point: I think of Genesis 9:27, which says that Japheth (Javan was Japheth’s son) would dwell in the tents of Shem (from which Israel was descended).  And maybe the idea is that Ezra was predicting that Israel would be subjugated by Greece and wanted to highlight that point.  Moses was anticipating the Davidic and Solomonic monarchy, in which Israel was powerful, whereas Ezra was writing in Israel’s post-exilic period, in which Israel was and would be subjugated.

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