The Finding of the Book of the Law   3 comments

Above:  King Josiah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 2 KINGS 22-25, 1 ESDRAS, 2 CHRONICLES 34-36, EZRA, AND NEHEMIAH

PART I

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2 Kings 22:1-20

2 Chronicles 34:1-18

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How dear to me is your dwelling, O LORD of hosts!

My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the LORD;

my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.

–Psalm 84:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The parallel readings from 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles are similar yet different.  Many of the details are identical.  Yet contradictions exist.  A Biblical literalist must, for example, perform mental gymnastics to attempt to reconcile the different chronologies.  2 Kings 22:3, for example, places the discovery of an early version of Deuteronomy (probably) about a decade into King Josiah’s reign–the eighteenth year of his life–630 B.C.E. or so.  However, 2 Chronicles 34:8 places that discovery when Josiah was 26 years old–in the eighteenth year of his reign.  Furthermore, each account is the product of different theological concerns.  And the version from 2 Chronicles 34, consistent with the pro-Davidic Dynastic tone of 1-2 Chronicles, contains a portrayal of Josiah more flattering than the positive portrayal in 2 Kings 22.  Other differences may prove simply that one author chose not to use certain details the other one did.

If one consults three study Bibles, one may find three different ranges for the reign of King Josiah.  The reason for this is that working with ancient sources and working out dates on the B.C.E. scale (which did not exist until our 500s C.E.) is complicated.  Reasons for this intellectual-historical exercise being complicated are not germane to this post.  In this series of posts I use dates from The Jewish Study Bible.

If one backs up several Kings of Judah, one finds essential background.  King Hezekiah (r. 727/715-698/687 B.C.E.), the previous monarch to receive a positive evaluation in scripture, had died.  Two terrible king followed and Judah became an Assyrian vassal state.  Even Manasseh (r. 698/687-642)–see 2 Kings 21:1-18 and 2 Chronicles 33:1-20–received better press in 2 Chronicles than in 2 Kings.  Much of the apocryphal Prayer of Manasseh (based on 2 Chronicles 33:12f) has become a canticle in Morning Prayer in The Book of Common Prayer (1979).  The next monarch, Amon (r. 641-640 B.C.E.)–see 2 Kings 21:19-26 and 2 Chronicles 33:21-25–unlike his father Manasseh, died in his palace, not as a prisoner in a foreign land.  However, Amon died during a palace rebellion almost certainly related to anti-Assyrian politics.

Josiah (r. 640-609 B.C.E.), king from eight years of age, came to the throne of Judah as a vassal of Assyria.  Manasseh and Amon had allowed the Temple in Jerusalem to fall into a severe state of disrepair.  Josiah, finally of age to exercise authority, cared enough to begin repairs on the Temple.  Meanwhile, Assyrian influence waned.  The circumstances for reformation were in place.

Two major theological differences between the accounts jump out at me.  2 Kings 22:14-20 speaks of delayed and inevitable divine judgment.  The time to avert the fall had passed.  2 Chronicles 34 emphasizes the collective responsibility to maintain the Temple.  Both theological emphases focus on collective responsibility.

Rugged individualism is not a Biblical virtue.  No, mutuality in the context of recognition of complete dependence on God is a Biblical virtue.  Actions have consequences.  Good rulers make a positive difference.  Bad rulers make a negative difference.  People suffer because of the foolish decisions others make and benefit from the wise decisions others make.  And sometimes the train has left the station, so to speak, with regard to the collective neglect of duty before God and to the negative consequences thereof.  Yet even then a good ruler can make a positive difference, at least for a while.

Here ends the lesson.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 29, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MARY, MARTHA, AND LAZARUS OF BETHANY, FRIENDS OF JESUS

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3 responses to “The Finding of the Book of the Law

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  1. Pingback: King Josiah’s Great Passover | BLOGA THEOLOGICA

  2. Pingback: The Reign of King Amon of Judah | BLOGA THEOLOGICA

  3. Pingback: The Superscription of the Book of Jeremiah | BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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