Cookin’ the Books

Michael S. Heiser

Corporations cook their books. Politicians get caught taking bribes. Scientists fudge data. Should the writer of Chronicles be judged the same way?

It’s widely known that the books of 1–2 Chronicles are a reiteration of the history of Israel found in the books of 1–2 Samuel and 1–2 Kings. What isn’t as well known is that the writer of Chronicles carefully and deliberately omits any negative material about David and Solomon from his historical record. The account of David’s adultery and murder of Uriah the Hittite is a transparent example:

Second Samuel 11:1

In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.

2 Samuel 11:2–12:25

David’s sin with Bathsheba, the murder of Uriah, and Nathan’s confrontation of David

Second Samuel 12:26–29

Now Joab fought against Rabbah of the Ammonites and took the royal city. And Joab sent messengers to David and said, “I have fought against Rabbah; moreover, I have taken the city of waters. Now then gather the rest of the people together and encamp against the city and take it, lest I take the city and it be called by my name.” So David gathered all the people together and went to Rabbah and fought against it and took it.

First Chronicles 20:1

In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, Joab led out the army and ravaged the country of the Ammonites and came and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.

First Chronicles 20:1b–3

And Joab struck down Rabbah and overthrew it. 2And David took the crown of their king from his head. He found that it weighed a talent of gold, and in it was a precious stone. And it was placed on David’s head. And he brought out the spoil of the city, a very great amount. 3And he brought out the people who were in it and set them to labor with saws and iron picks and axes. And thus David did to all the cities of the Ammonites. Then David and all the people returned to Jerusalem.

Why would the Chronicler do this?

History written this way isn’t necessarily unreliable or deceptive. If I picked up a book entitled The Native American History of the Pioneer West, I know what I’m getting. I have no reason to believe the contents will be misleading; I have every reason to believe the work is selective and incomplete. I know the book was written with a specific slant, so I won’t take it as the last word on the American West.

First and Second Chronicles deserves the same consideration. Those books went into the Hebrew Bible (and later bibles) along with the books of Samuel and Kings. Anyone who read their Bible would learn about the unsavory acts of David and Solomon. No one would be fooled. Deception could not possibly be the point. There was another agenda.

First and Second Chronicles were written during (or shortly) after the exile of the Jews in Babylon. Israel would once again have its own nation and leadership. The writer of Chronicles wanted the new generation returning to the land to remember and keep the covenant God made with David, and remember that his dynasty had been chosen to rule. Disloyalty to David’s dynasty had fractured the kingdom, producing a deviant religion and, ultimately, the destruction of Israel (Amos 7:9–11). The Chronicler wanted to revive loyalty to David’s line, and so David and Solomon are cast as ideal monarchs. The Chronicler didn’t want to deceive, but inspire.

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Faithlife Corporation. Originally published in print, Vol. 2 No. 5