Sunday 9 August 2009

Allen R. Guenther on Kings and Chronicles

Allen R. Guenther, ‘Kings and Chronicles: Interpreting Historical Interpretation’, Direction 11, 2 (1982), 4-15.

Against approaches which would reduce Kings and Chronicles to a single account through artificial harmonisation, Guenther argues that they are ‘written from different perspectives and only when the church affirms both accounts as historical interpretation will these books begin to serve as revelation for the nurture and proclamation of the church’ (5).

He seeks to illustrate through a comparative study of Asa’s reign (1 Kings 15:9-24; 2 Chronicles 14:1-16:14), highlighting in turn the perspective of Kings (the Deutronomist) and Chronicles (the Chronicler).

The perspective of Kings
On this view, Kings is part of the larger history told in Joshua, Judges, and Samuel, which is introduced by Deuteronomy and in which the themes and perspectives of Deuteronomy dominate – the Sinai covenant and Israel’s obligation to observe the commands, with the promise of blessing if they do and punishment if they do not. The history of Israel is traced from the Sinai covenant to the Babylonian exile.

With the exception of Josiah, even the greatest leaders (including David) were a mixture of godliness and and disobedience, with judgment eventually falling on both Israel and Judah, even while the promises to the patriarchs (Deuteronomy 30:1-10) still provide some hope (8-10).

The perspective of the Chronicler
The Chronicler traces biblical history from Adam to the end of the Babylonian exile. After the initial genealogies, the history ‘is restricted to the Davidic line and the house of Judah’, the scope of the history suggesting that the Chronicler ‘is concerned to demonstrate the continuity of God’s redemptive activity from creation to the time of restoration following the Babylonian exile’ (10). The accounts of David and the temple are central (10-11).


Each account needs to be read for its particular perspective.

Each reminds us that God’s word is addressed to people at a given time and place, coming ‘in concrete circumstances to real people to build faith according to specific needs’ (14). ‘When we perceive (wherever possible) the circumstances and needs of that faith-community, the texts can then be directed more profitably to specific contemporary faith-communities in our world’ (14).

‘Chronicles would speak more powerfully to a struggling, leaderless community than would Kings. On the other hand, Kings forces one to look for patterns of life and faith which may be cumulatively destructive or constructive; it provides a more powerful message of a complacent church, relying on the historical elective and redemptive experiences of God’ (14).

‘When we move beyond the concern to harmonize these histories to a concern for their meaning, we discover more inclusive and richer understandings of the truths of God. And we can then appropriately apply those truths to ourselves today’ (15).

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