Saturday, March 14, 2015

II Chronicles 24

I have three thoughts about II Chronicles 24.  Two of the items are more questions than answers.

1.  King Joash of Judah attempts to repair the Temple of Judah, and he needs donations to do that.  Initially, he sends out priests and Levites throughout Judah to collect, but the Levites stall.  Joash’s approach then is to set up a collection chest, presumably in Jerusalem, and leaders of Judah would come and drop donations into the chest.  The latter approach is successful.

Both policies, though, are connected by the Chronicler with a law in the Law of Moses (II Chronicles 24:6, 9).  Many scholars say that this law is the one in Exodus 30:12-16 and 38:25-26.  This law said that the Israelites in the wilderness, when they were numbered, were to donate a half shekel, so that a plague would not befall them (probably in punishment for the census, which God did not like).  Each Israelite, rich and poor, paid the same amount, and the money would be used for the construction of the Tabernacle.

I wrote a post a while back about the Temple tax and Shmuel Safrai’s statement that what in Exodus 30 and 38 may have been a one-time occurrence became a regular obligation in II Chronicles 24, Nehemiah 10:33ff, Second Temple sources, and the Mishnah.   Indeed, Joash does appear to be going a bit beyond the written letter of the law in his application and interpretation of it.  The law originally may have been for one time, and part of its design was to prevent a plague.  Joash says that the law still applies in his time, however, and there is nothing about the threat of a plague in II Chronicles 24.  Perhaps Joash was following the spirit of the law, though, or saw his own situation as analogous to the historical context of the law.  When the law was given, it was so that the Tabernacle could be built, and the Tabernacle was a place where God dwelt and was worshiped.  Joash wanted to repair the Temple, the successor to the Tabernacle.

A question that I had is how leaders coming to Jerusalem and dropping off contributions into a chest constituted a tax.  It’s a donation, right, not a tax?  Yet, this method of obtaining resources is said to accord with the collection that Moses laid on Israel in the wilderness.  Perhaps the leaders collected the tax in their locality and brought it to Jerusalem.  I think also of Numbers 7, in which princes of Israel come to the Tabernacle and give gifts after the Tabernacle’s consecration.

2.  Joash starts off righteous but turns bad.  Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest rebukes Joash for transgressing God’s commandments, and the king commands that Zechariah be stoned.  This occurs in the Temple court.

Jesus in Matthew 23:35 is criticizing the Pharisees and says: “That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar” (KJV).

Was Jesus referring to the stoning of Zechariah the son of Jehoiada in II Chronicles 24?  Believers in biblical inerrancy will not have this because Jesus calls Zechariah the son of Barachias, not the son of Jehoiada (the Zechariah in II Chronicles 24), and they do not think that Jesus would make a factual error.

Gleason Archer, an inerrantist, offers a pretty good reason that Jesus meant Zechariah the son of Berechiah, the prophet who wrote the Book of Zechariah, rather than Zechariah the son of Jehoiada.  Archer says that Jesus in Matthew 23:35 appears to be referring to a merism that goes from the first Old Testament martyr (Abel) to the last one.  As Archer notes, Zechariah the son of Jehoiada was not the last Old Testament martyr, for he died during the time of Joash, the pre-exilic period, and much more martyrs were to come.  Zechariah the son of Berachiah, by contrast, was a post-exilic martyr and was quite late.

I am not entirely convinced by Archer’s argument, however.  For one, there would come more martyrs after Zechariah the son of Berechiah, particularly around the time of the Maccabees.  Second, Jesus may have been respecting the order of books in the Jewish canon, in which Genesis is the first book and II Chronicles is the last.  Abel is in the first book, and Zechariah the son of Jehoiada is in the last.  Finally, not only is there no evidence that Zechariah the son of Berachiah was martyred, but I also find it unlikely.  Zechariah the son of Jehoiada spoke truth to power and had a message that could get him killed.  Zechariah the son of Berachiah, by contrast, supported the establishment, specifically the attempts by Governor Zerubabbel and Joshua the priest to rebuild Israel.  Why would Zechariah the son of Berechiah be martyred?  Was it because he was challenging post-exilic Jews for not completely giving paganism up?  Still, he was part of the establishment.

3.  II Chronicles 24:16 says that the priest Jehoiada was buried among the kings because he did good for Israel, God, and the Temple.  King Joash, by contrast, was not buried among the kings in their tombs, at least according to the Chronicler in v 25; II Kings 12:21, however, affirms that Joash was buried with his ancestors in the city of David.

It seems to me that some of the bad kings in II Chronicles get bad burials.  In II Chronicles 21, Jehoram, a wicked king, is buried in the city of David but not in the sepulchres of the kings, and the customary burning for dead kings at their funerals is not made for him.  In II Chronicles 22:9, wicked king Ahaziah is buried, but that is on account of the righteousness of his father, Jehoshaphat.  In II Chronicles 26, Uzziah, a righteous king who becomes proud and makes a horrible mistake, is not exactly buried with the other kings.

A question that went through my mind is who exactly was making these burial decisions.  Here are people with enough power to decide where a king would be buried.  They appear to have been devout Yahwists, though, and their brand of devout Yahwism was not always honored within Judah.  Could they have been priests?  Or the people of the land, landholders (according to some scholars) who were devout Yahwists and who helped install the righteous king Josiah years later (II Kings 20:24)?  Keil-Delitzsch say regarding Joash’s dishonorable burial that people were discontent with his reign.  Perhaps, according to the Chronicler, the multitudes did not care for the divine punishments that their nation received when they had a bad king (bad according to the judgments of a certain brand of devout Yahwism), so they did not support giving the king an honorable burial.

1 comment:

  1. Every Jew is required to give a half shekel per year to the temple. It is not the same as the voluntary obligations that people gave in the temple itself. And in general people can give what they want to the Temple. It is called kedesh. Then the guy brings it to the temple or the temple authorities collect the item and sell it and use the proceeds for temple business. There are whole tracates on this and I forgot most of this stuff.

    ReplyDelete

Search This Blog