Saturday, November 1, 2014

II Chronicles 5

II Chronicles 5:9 states (in the KJV): “And they drew out the staves of the ark, that the ends of the staves were seen from the ark before the oracle; but they were not seen without. And there it is unto this day.”

II Chronicles 5:9 states that the Ark of the Covenant was in the Temple unto this day.  The problem is that it was not there at the time of the Chronicler.  The Chronicler wrote in Israel’s post-exilic period, which was after the destruction of the first Temple that II Chronicles 5 talks about, and after the Ark had been lost (and II Maccabees 2:4-5 says that the prophet Jeremiah hid it).

Most commentators simply say that the Chronicler is using an earlier source—-a source that was written when the first Temple was still standing and the Ark was inside of it.  I Kings 8 is probably that source.

But some people go other routes, or at least they explore alternative territory.  E.W. Bullinger at first seems to agree that the Chronicler is quoting II Kings 8:6-8, but then he asks, “But may this possibly have a mysterious reference to Rev. 11.19?”  Revelation 11:19 states: “And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.”  In Revelation 11:19, it appears that the Ark of the Covenant is still around—-it is in heaven, on which the earthly sanctuary is modeled.  Bullinger is wondering if II Chronicles 5:9 is making a “mysterious reference” to the Ark being in heaven, which (for Bullinger, it seems) would presumably be the case even in the Chronicler’s time.

Matthew Henry offered a couple of suggestions.  First of all, he proposes that “this day” in “unto this day” may mean the day of the destruction of Jerusalem.  He cites Psalm 137:7 as evidence that the Jews considered that particular day to be very significant—-practically seared into their minds.  Consequently, according to Henry, II Chronicles 5:9 could be saying that the Ark was in the Temple until the day that Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed.  I am not convinced by this because the expression “unto this day” appears throughout the Hebrew Bible and often has no relevance to the destruction of Jerusalem (i.e., Genesis 19:38; Joshua 8:28; etc.).

Second, Henry refers to Christ’s statement at the end of the Gospel of Matthew that he will be with his disciples always, even unto the end of the age, and Henry affirms that, in a sense, the Ark is still a reality: Christ’s promise “does in effect bring the ark into our religious assemblies if we by faith and prayer bring that promise in suit…”  Henry here appears to spiritualize the presence of the Ark in the Temple “unto this day” by saying that the Ark is still present with God’s people, through Christ’s presence.

Raymond Dillard in the Word Biblical Commentary asks if the expression “unto this day” could simply be an idiom for “from then on” or “in perpetuity.”  The problem is that the Ark was not in the Temple “from then on” or “in perpetuity,” for the Temple was destroyed, and the Ark was lost.  Still, the Ark was in the Temple for a long time.

Probably the best explanation is that the Chronicler was copying I Kings 8.  In that case, the question would be why the Chronicler would copy something that was not true in his own day.  Maybe he did so without thinking.  Or perhaps he wanted to highlight that Solomon established a long-standing institution.  Or could the Chronicler be saying that God is still with Israel?  The thing about the last suggestion is that “unto this day” appears elsewhere in Chronicles and appears to describe other things than God’s presence with Israel (i.e., I Chronicles 4:41; II Chronicles 10:19; etc.).

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