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The Relationship between Kings and Chronicles

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Question:  This is my first time to study Bible. I found I love to read it. There are some questions confused me. According to Josiah's reforms, why are they different between 2 kings 22-23 and 2 Chronicles 34-35? What is the relationship between them? Thank you for you help.  

Response:  2nd Chronicles "overlaps" the books of Kings in many places in addition to the chapters you cite. 1st Chronicles, on the other hand, goes back, in terms of genealogies, to the book of Genesis. One thing that almost everyone agrees on is that the two books (or sets of two books each) were written at different times by different people. According to Jewish tradition, Ezra wrote Chronicles and Jeremiah wrote Kings. This tradition certainly reflects the truth of what I would wish to point out as the main area of difference between these two sets of books: Kings was written before the Babylonian captivity (i.e., before 586 B.C.), while Chronicles was written afterwards (i.e., before ca. 516 B.C.). Additionally, Kings gives a detailed account of Jewish history from the death of David to the fall of Jerusalem, whereas Chronicles spreads a wider net covering, essentially, all Jewish history (dealt with through genealogy before David), ending at approximately the same time, though with the last part of chapter 36 recounting Cyrus the Great's decree for Jerusalem to be rebuilt.

Both Kings and Chronicles are inspired books written by prophets of God, but their purposes are slightly different. Just as in the case of the gospels where we frequently find several different versions of the same story or incident, each giving unique details which are important for us to have and which serve the particular purpose of each inspired writer, so with Kings and Chronicles, the differences are to be attributed to the different emphases and particular purpose the Spirit has in mind in guiding the individual writers. In general terms, I think it is clear that Kings is more clearly a comprehensive divine history of the two kingdoms, summing up that history at its conclusion. Chronicles, on the other hand, is more of a selective and synoptic picture of the history of Israel at one glance, summing things up as a prelude to the future at the time of the reestablishment of the Jewish state.

As such, it is not surprising that certain things would be left out of Chronicles (having a tighter scope), or that the Holy Spirit would lead the writer to include certain things of an explanatory and interpretive nature in those incidents which come in for detailed treatment. This is analogous to the gospel of John, for example, which contains much more detailed information on Jesus' discourses prior to His crucifixion than is to be found in the other gospels, but less of the comprehensive detail of His earlier ministry, and for a similar reason. Readers of John had read and had available the other gospels, which were produced some years before. Likewise, readers of Chronicles had read and had available the books of Kings (cf. 2Chron.23:28 et al.: "are [these things] not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Judah? [i.e., Kings]). And so just as John must include some of the same information for the purpose of having the narrative really "work" or flow and to link things together properly, but not all of the same detail (which would be otherwise available), so the writer of Chronicles leaves some things out, includes enough to make the narrative understandable, and is free (led by the Spirit) to put in additional details which expand on the story or incident in question from the standpoint of his own divine purpose and perspective.

Chronicles is concerned with restoration (being written, as mentioned, at the point when the Jewish state was being reestablished) and so these two chapters which you ask about make an excellent point for this comparison. In the first part of the account of Josiah's reign, 2nd Kings gives a more detailed coverage of Josiah's purging of the land from idolatry (cf.23:4-20: a key issue in the destruction of the kingdom, a focus of the writer of Kings - Jeremiah, traditionally held to be the writer of Kings, was, of course, a witness to all those tragic events and explaining this destruction is a key theme). On the other hand, in the second half of the Josiah account, 2nd Chronicles gives a more detailed treatment of Josiah's reinstitution of the Passover (cf. 35:1-9: a key issue and element in the reestablishment of the Jewish state during that writer's time - Ezra, traditionally held to be the writer of Chronicles, was instrumental in reestablishing the worship of the Lord in the process of rebuilding the temple). There are, of course, other differences between the narratives as well (for example Chronicles gives a more detailed treatment of the death of Josiah), which further buttress the explanation given above.

The essential point that I would wish to leave you with from all this is that everything in the Bible is important and that it is all the Word of God, included for a definite purpose, even in those cases where we might not at first see or understand that purpose (Rom.15:4). Like all things in the Bible, the more we study, the more clear and the more blessed they become. Which is why we should all do exactly what you are now doing, read and reread the scriptures, pray and seek instruction, ever trusting God that He will make clear for us everything we need to know in His own good time and manner for our spiritual edification and growth (2Pet.3:18).

Please also see the following links:

The so-called Documentary Hypothesis.

More on the Documentary Hypothesis.

Read Your Bible: a Basic Christian Right and Responsibility

The Canonicity of the Book of Hebrews

Literacy and the Canon in Apostolic Times

Did Matthew Write his Gospel in Hebrew?

Yours in our Lord Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill


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