Saturday, October 11, 2014

II Chronicles 2

In my study of II Chronicles 2, I read scholarly arguments that the Chronicler in II Chronicles 2 conforms history to his own ideology.  Here are three examples, along with my comments:

1.  King Hiram of Tyre recommended that Solomon use another man named Hiram for the task of constructing the Temple.  In I Kings 7:14, this latter Hiram is from the tribe of Naphtali and is the son of a widow, and his father was from Tyre.  In II Chronicles 2:14, however, Hiram’s mother is from the Israelite tribe of Dan.  According to a note in the HarperCollins Study Bible (and others have made this point as well), the Chronicler is making Hiram into a second Oholiab: Oholiab was the artisan who played a key role in the construction of the Tabernacle in the wilderness, during the time of Moses, and Oholiab was from the tribe of Dan (Exodus 31:6; 35:34).  Oholiab had similar skills to the ones that Hiram had, according to II Chronicles 2:7: “Send me now therefore a man cunning to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, and in iron, and in purple, and crimson, and blue, and that can skill to grave with the cunning men that are with me in Judah and in Jerusalem, whom David my father did provide” (KJV, compare Exodus 38:23).

Was Hiram from Naphtali or from Dan?  Those who try to harmonize the Scriptures say both.  According to the Orthodox Jewish Artscroll commentary, a rabbinic solution is to say that Hiram’s father was originally from Naphtali, whereas his mother was from Dan.  According to this line of reasoning, Hiram’s father was not an actual Phoenician but rather was an Israelite from Naphtali who lived in Tyre, and that is consistent with the claim in I Kings 7:14 and II Chronicles 2:14 that Hiram’s father was a man of Tyre.  E.W. Bullinger in the Companion Bible has a similar idea: Hiram was a Danite by birth but a Naphtalite by marriage.

I wondered if there was another way to explain the apparent discrepancy: That Dan and Naphtali are very close to each other, and maybe Hiram was from a place where it was ambiguous which tribe had claim.  All of these harmonizations are possible, I guess, but are they likely?  If Hiram’s father was from Naphtali, why couldn’t I Kings 7:14 or II Chronicles 2:14 just say so?  And can one really say that Hiram’s Israelite tribe was ambiguous because Hiram lived in an ambiguous area?  The tribe one had pertained to more than where one lived, but it included who one’s ancestors were: a Danite was (purportedly) descended from Dan, and a Naphtalite was (purportedly) descended from Naphtali.

In any case, both critical and religious interpreters compare Hiram with Oholiab.  Critical scholars tend to maintain that the Chronicler wrote the story and made Hiram into a Danite in order to make him a second Oholiab.  The Orthodox Jewish Artscroll commentary, by contrast, notes that Hiram was a Danite, like Oholiab, and actually thinks that Hiram was a second Oholiab.  The larger point is that both men contributed their talents to a divinely-sanctioned enterprise: constructing a sanctuary for God.

2.  In I Kings 9 (vv 15, 20-22), King Solomon used resident aliens rather than Israelites for the construction of the Temple.  Resident aliens were foreigners who lived in Israel.  II Chronicles may have a similar idea to that of I Kings 9, for II Chronicles 2:17 notes that Solomon used resident aliens, plus the Chronicler omits I Kings 5:13-18, which states that Solomon used Israelite workers.  Raymond Dillard in the Word Biblical Commentary finds this picture unlikely and thinks that Solomon also used Israelite workers.  His reasons are the following: I Kings 5:13-18 states that King Solomon sent Israelite workers to Lebanon, the Northern Israelite Jeroboam supervised the forced labor of the house of Joseph (I Kings 11:28), Northern Israelites asked Solomon’s successor Rehoboam to lighten their load and stoned a corvee officer when Rehoboam refused to do so (I Kings 12:3-4, 18-19), and Samuel warned the Israelites who wanted a king that a king would use Israelites as forced laborers (I Samuel 8:10-17).

There is a message in I Kings and II Chroniclers that Solomon used foreigners rather than Israelites as forced laborers, even though there are indications in I Kings that Israelites were used, too.  Why the attempt to deny that Solomon used Israelite workers?  For one, perhaps the writers sought to portray Israel as dominant over her foreign enemies, due to the blessing of God.  The foreign enemies, who had once scorned Israel and her God and had proven a thorn in Israel’s side, now were building a house to honor Israel’s God.  Second, there is a notion in the Hebrew Bible that God delivered the Israelites from slavery, and thus Israelites should never again be slaves.  Any Israelite slavery was supposed to be temporary, whereas Gentile slavery in Israel could be permanent (Exodus 21; Leviticus 25; Deuteronomy 15).

At the same time, there have been scholars who have maintained that part of I Kings takes Solomon to task for enslaving fellow Israelites, that I Kings depicts the roots of Solomon’s eventual downfall—-his disobedience of God—-taking place early on, when Solomon’s reign is at its height in glory.  Perhaps there are different voices in I Kings: one voice depicts Solomon as righteous and obedient, whereas another says that Solomon was disobedient to God’s standards early on, even when Solomon was building God a Temple.

3.  David Rothstein in the Jewish Study Bible notes differences between how I Kings and II Chronicles depict the relationship between King Solomon and King Hiram of Tyre.  Whereas I Kings portrays their relationship as a mutual agreement, highlighting Solomon’s wisdom in dealing with another nation, II Chronicles presents Solomon as the superior party, almost as if Solomon is telling Hiram to help out in constructing the Temple.  II Chronicles also portrays Hiram as a monotheistic Gentile, one who acknowledges that the God of Israel was the creator of heaven and earth.

According to Rothstein, the Chronicler was leery about agreements with foreigners, thinking that a king would prosper simply by trusting God to meet all of his needs.  In II Chroniclers, God does meet Solomon’s needs: Hiram is subordinate to Solomon and even acknowledges the supremacy of Solomon’s god, so Solomon can tell Hiram to provide Solomon with the resources that he needs to build the Temple.

Comments: What should I, as a believer in God who looks to the Bible for religious guidance, do with this information?  I was watching the movie Rudy recently, and, in one scene, a priest was defining God’s inspiration of the biblical writings as God placing a theological concept in the writers’ minds, and the writers then fleshed that concept out within their own historical contexts.  The priest said that the Bible’s historical inaccuracies should not trouble believers, for we can still hold on to the Bible’s theological ideas about God.

In considering II Chronicles 2, there is a sense in which what the priest says can work for me.  I sympathize with the Chronicler for likening Hiram to Oholiab, for Hiram was like Oholiab: in both cases, God provided the right person for the job, one whom God endowed with talent and ability.  I can also sympathize, on some level, with the Chronicler’s view that one should trust God rather than trying to get things done by making alliances, but I would balance that perspective out with other perspectives in the Bible: that, sometimes, God helps us out by enabling us to take practical steps to achieve our goals.

At the same time, I am not entirely comfortable with every aspect of the Chronicler’s ideology: that it is all right for a nation to enslave foreigners but not citizens, or that it is acceptable for one nation to tell another nation what to do.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Search This Blog