Saturday, May 3, 2014

I Chronicles 8

I have three items for my blog post today about I Chronicles 8.  This chapter concerns the genealogy of Benjamin.  It includes a genealogy of King Saul, who was a Benjaminite.

1.  V 8 states: “And Shaharaim begat children in the country of Moab, after he had sent them away; Hushim and Baara were his wives” (KJV).  Why was the Israelite Shaharaim in Moab?  One explanation is that it was for the same reason that Elimelech in the Book of Ruth left Israel to go to Moab: to escape famine.
The words that the KJV here translates as “he had sent them away” are “Shilcho Otham,” and its literal translation is “his sending them.”  According to the Orthodox Jewish Artscroll commentary, this phrase has been interpreted in a variety of ways:

—-Shilcho Otham was a name of another of Shaharaim’s wives, meaning that v 8 is saying that he begat children in Moab from his wife, Shilcho Otham.

—-Shaharaim is being sent away from his place of exile, since v 6 states that he was one of the people removed to Mahanath.

—-Shaharaim divorced Hushim and Baara: he sent them away.

—-Shaharaim is actually Boaz, the person who married the Moabitess Ruth in the Book of Ruth.  The Jewish interpreters who arrived at this view did so by making associations between the words in v 8 and words elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible.  For example, Shilcho in v 8 means “his sending,” and Genesis 46:28 states that Jacob sent Judah.  Boaz was a descendant of Judah.  A Jewish interpretation that identifies Shaharaim as Boaz states that Boaz was trying to allow female Moabite proselytes to get married to Jewish men.  This was a tricky issue because Deuteronomy 23:3 bans Moabites from the congregation of the LORD.

Why would Boaz, a descendant of Judah, be included in a genealogy about Benjamin, another son of Jacob altogether?  The Artscroll refers to the view that it was because Boaz had the same sort of zeal for his mission that Benjamin was said to possess in Genesis 49:27.

2.  I Chronicles 8:32 states: “And Mikloth begat Shimeah. And these also dwelt with their brethren in Jerusalem, over against them” (KJV).

Saul’s ancestors dwelt in Jerusalem.  This puzzled me, for was not Jerusalem occupied by the Jebusites until David claimed it for Israel in II Samuel 5?  According to Judges 1:21, however, the Benjaminites did not expel the Jebusites from Jerusalem and ended up dwelling with them there.

3.  I Chronicles 8:35-38 contains an extensive genealogy of King Saul.  I read in commentaries different views about how far this genealogy extends: to late pre-exilic, exilic, or even post-exilic times.  Whichever of these is correct, there are people who believe that this genealogy contradicts I Chronicles 10:6, which states that Saul, his three sons, and all of his house died together, which would presumably preclude him from having descendants in late pre-exilic, exilic, or post-exilic times.  Interestingly, there are times when the Orthodox Jewish Artscroll attempts to harmonize or to get profound spiritual or homiletical insights from the contradictions within Chronicles, or those between Chroniclers and other parts of the Bible.  Sometimes, however, it just acknowledges that Ezra the Chronicler used contradictory sources.  A professor teaching Jewish theology once told me that Books in the Writings (which include I Chronicles) are lower in authority than the Torah.  I wonder if that is why the Orthodox Jewish Artscroll acknowledges contradictions when it comes to I Chronicles.

The question of whether all of Saul’s sons died with Saul in battle is an interesting one.  Obviously, II Samuel 21 assumes that some of Saul’s sons survived, for, long after the death of Saul, when David was king, David hung seven of Saul’s sons on account of Saul’s sin against the Gibeonites.  Some have argued that Mordecai in the Book of Esther was descended from Saul, and that the story of Esther is about a descendant of Saul defeating a descendant of the Amalekite king Agag, since Saul in I Samuel 15 kept Agag alive, displeasing God in the process.  In this interpretation, Mordecai does right what his ancestor Saul did wrong!
My opinion is that Saul had descendants, and that I Chronicles 10:6 states that Saul’s whole house died with Saul for rhetorical effect: to convey that Saul’s reign had come to an end as punishment for Saul’s sins, and that the way was prepared for David to become king.

I forget where exactly I read this, but there is at least one rabbinic tradition that is pro-Saul.  Louis Feldman argues that Josephus is rather pro-Saul.  Saul’s influence survived, even beyond Saul’s death.  Perhaps one reason is that Saul still had descendants long after he died.  Another reason could be that he is a morally ambiguous character in the Bible: he disobeys God, yet he does some heroic and godly things.

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