2 Kings

The violence continues in 2 Kings. Elijah concludes his ministry and hands over the reins to another up and coming prophet named Elisha. Elijah is taken up to heaven in a whirlwind by a chariot of fire. Major themes of Kings are God’s promise, the recurrent apostasy of the kings, and the judgment this brings on Israel, (the familiar vicious cycle of happiness, sin, and repentance). A few highlights of this charming book: God sends two bears to rip up little children for making fun of Elisha’s bald head; mothers boil and eat their own children; God has Jezebel thrown off a wall and feeds her body to the dogs; and Isaiah makes the sun move ten degrees backwards.

1 Chronicles

The books of Chronicles are largely recap/rehash of “the bible so far”, with emphasis on Samuel and Kings. For that reason, I’m not going to spend a lot of time on them. The first nine chapters of 1 Chronicles are endless genealogies; this is probably the most boring book in the Bible. Chronicles’ most interesting highlights will be its contradictions, because in reviewing previous books, its author gets some of the details mixed up, or gives the story a different slant in the retelling.

It’s hard to know exactly why Chronicles were written. I tried to find out, but it seems that if the omniscient, infallible god inspired it, he didn’t make his intentions clear. According to Wikipedia, it was probably composed between 400–250 BC, with the period 350–300 BC the most likely… Chronicles appears to be largely the work of a single individual, with some later additions and editing… Much of the content of Chronicles is a repetition of material from other books of the Bible, from Genesis to Kings, and so the usual scholarly view is that these books, or an early version of them, provided the author with the bulk of his material. It is, however, possible that the situation was rather more complex, and that books such as Genesis and Samuel should be regarded as contemporary with Chronicles, drawing on much of the same material, rather than a source for it. There is also the question of whether the author of Chronicles used sources other than those found in the Bible: if such sources existed, it would bolster the Bible’s case to be regarded as a reliable history. Despite much discussion of this issue, no agreement has been reached.

The translators who created the Greek version of the Hebrew Bible (the Septuagint) called this book “Things Left Out”, indicating that they thought of it as a supplement to another work, probably Genesis-Kings, but the idea seems inappropriate, since much of Genesis-Kings has been copied almost without change. Some modern scholars have put forward the idea that Chronicles is a midrash, or traditional Jewish commentary, on Genesis-Kings, but again this is not entirely accurate, since the author or authors do not comment on the older books so much as use them to create a new work. Recent suggestions have been that it was intended as a clarification of the history in Genesis-Kings, or a replacement or alternative for it.

At least skim the Books of Chronicles if you have never read them before. It’s the only way to fully experience and understand the extent of the trivialities, the irrelevance, the contradictions, and the mind-numbing boredom that makes up large portions of the bible. I cannot possibly describe all that adequately here in a few words. See for yourself!

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