In the previous post I already zeroed in on a few of the distinctives found throughout Chronicles regarding a certain unabashed bias in favor of Judah and a highly optimistic portrait of its kings. Of all the examples I provided in yesterday’s post, none compare to the contrasting stories of King Manasseh when compared to 2 Kings 17 (cf. 2 Chronicles 33).
Both accounts depict Manasseh as the worse king in Judah’s history. Manasseh went beyond worshipping other local gods and began to worship the gods of the East – “all the starry hosts”. He went into the Temple of the Lord and set up alters and statues of these “gods” in there to be worshipped. He practiced sorcery and consulted spiritists and as if none of this were bad enough, “He sacrificed his sons in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom” (2 Chronicles 33:5). Manasseh was a bad dude.
In fact when 2 Kings tells the story of King Josiah’s reform which boasted that “neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did…” (2 Kings 23:25) and depicting him as perhaps the godliest of all of Judah’s kings, it was still not enough to undo the wickedness of Manasseh or to remove the Lord’s anger:
Nevertheless, the Lord did not turn away from the heat of his fierce anger, which burned against Judah because of all that Manasseh had done to provoke him to anger. – 2 Kings 23:26
In contrast to this terribly bleak end and heritage of Manasseh, the Chronicler is able to turn the story around and tells of a completely different end for Manasseh.
According to the Chronicler, Manasseh is taken into captivity by Assyria and brought to Babylon (???). While there he repents and seeks God’s help.
When he prayed to him, the Lord was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so he brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord is God. – 2 Chronicles 33:13
This entire story would almost seem made up. I’m not saying it is, but it seems like the Chronicler is trying to redeem Manasseh. I think the Chronicler is aware of how this addition to the story might appear to those who knew of the earlier account in Samuel-Kings and feels a need to give it credibility. Notice the emphasis here (which I’ll italicize):
The other events of Manasseh’s reign, including his prayer to his God and the words the seers spoke to him in the name of the Lord, the God of israel, are written in the annals of the kings of Israel. His prayer and how God was moved by his entreaty… are they not written in the records of the seers. – 2 Chronicles 33:18-19
“Written in the records of the seers”… records we don’t have anymore. But notice this phrase, “including his prayer to his God” and “how God was moved by his entreaty”. The author wants us to know that these extra events that cannot be found in the records of Samuel-Kings are legit. He had other sources at his disposal.
First, Israel is so de-emphasized in Chronicles that we are not even told of their exile by Assryia. It’s as if the northern tribes don’t matter at all.
Second, there is great attention to the rare occasions when the passover is celebrated. This extra attention is important to the context of the Chronicler since the Temple was torn down in the Babylonian destruction and was soon to be rebuilt a la Ezra and Nehemiah. In fact, the emphasis on the Temple is so important to the Chronicler that it stands as the reason why the Persian King Cyrus ordered the return from exile, God “has appoainted me to build a temple for him in Jerusalem” (2 Chronicles 36:23)
Third, in keep closely to the second, the book of Leviticus is summarized in the story of Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 30). This repeat information is important for laying the ground work for re-institutionalizing the Temple cult after the exile (which is the Chronicler’s own context).
Fourth, I found it curious how little a role prophets played in the retelling of the Samuel-Kings events by the Chronicler. The story of Isaiah and Hezekiah is completely left out and most other prophets are hardly given a footnote if they are mentioned at all.
So there you have it, a few of the distinctives of Chronicles to look out for while you read through it.