As we have seen in Boadt’s introduction to the Books of Chronicles, the author(s) of these books are re-telling the story of Israel in such a way that is most relevant to their purposes in rebuilding a nation being re-settled in Judah, and Jerusalem in particular, after the exile. Much of the story is copied verbatim from the books of Samuel and Kings. However, there are new emphases:
- Saul’s unfaithfulness to the Lord is clearly pointed out and contrasted with the faithfulness of David, who comes off without a blemish in the record of Chronicles.
- Everything in this story happens “according to the word of the Lord” (11:3; 12:23). The word of God is an important emphasis for Ezra, whom we will later see as a teacher of the word.
We read here of the men of Issachar “who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do”. That description would serve well for the person or persons who wrote the Books of Chronicles, as well as Ezra and Nehemiah. They were people who understood their times and believed that they knew exactly what Israel should do.
It seems to me that if we are to understand our own times, and know what the people of God ought to do, then there are two books we have to read. One is Scripture, but the other is the book of our own culture. I think Karl Barth expressed this once by saying that every preacher ought to have the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. Preachers especially, but also all of God’s people, are called to bridge the gap between those two worlds of the Bible and our contemporary culture. It is not an easy task.
One story that is retold in this section of Chronicles, that I would have been happy to see left out, is the story of the carrying of the ark up to Jerusalem under David’s leadership. Once again, we read of the anger of the Lord being kindled against Uzzah and the Lord striking Uzzah down because he put out his hand to steady the ark. (1 Chronicles 13:9-10) This, to me, does not seem like an accurate expression of the God of love and mercy whom I know and seek to follow.
However, perhaps the question we need to ask is: Why did Israel tell this story in her Scriptures? More particularly: who is telling this story in this particular place? If Boadt is correct, and I think he is for the majority of scholars would probably side with him, then this story is being told by the priestly establishment in post-exilic Judah. They tell this story to make a point: that the Levites are the only ones who have a right to deal with the contents of the tabernacle and the temple. This will be made crystal clear in 1 Chronicles 15:13.
Why did the human author tell this particular story in this particular way in what is now a part of sacred scripture? That is an important question to ask whenever reading any part of the Bible. If we ask that question, and seek answers with the help of knowledgeable scholars and commentators, we will often be given fresh insight into the text that we did not have before.