A Commentary on 1 & 2 Chronicles, Eugene H. Merrill. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2015.
Summary: A commentary on these post-exilic books that emphasizes the hope of a restored kingship for Israel, the renewal of God’s covenant, and the rebuilding of the temple as the center of Israel’s religious life.
For readers of the Bible the beginning of 1 Chronicles may be either one of those places where they give up or decide to skip over nine chapters of genealogies. True, these are tedious going, but Merrill’s commentary helped me realize how these are indicative of at least two important threads that run through Chronicles (originally one book)–the restoration of the Davidic kingship, and the Levitical line whose greatest concern was the temple as a center of worshiping Yahweh.
Eugene Merrill traces these themes throughout the two books of 1 and 2 Chronicles. We see the focus on the kings of Judah at their best, the down-playing of them at their worst and near silence about the evil kings of the northern kingdom of Israel during the era of the divided kingdom. The Chronicler focuses not on the apostasy of Solomon in his later years but on his construction and dedication of the temple. The Chronicler ends, not with the downfall of Jerusalem and the exile, but the edict of Cyrus ordering the return of the exiles from Babylon to rebuild the temple to Yahweh.
The commentary is described as an “exegetical commentary”. Like most commentaries, he introduces the text with discussion of the name, historical context, authorship, placement, genres, structure and sources, textual criticism and theology of the book, along with the major scholarship of Chronicles and an analytical outline. He then proceeds section by section to exegete the text. First he provides the NIV text of each section. This is followed by text-critical notations, and then exegesis and exposition of the text in which he provides relevant commentary on context, on differences between Chronicles and the books of Samuel and Kings, and elaboration (exposition) of the biblical text. At the end of each major section of text he offers summary observations on the theology of that section, and several “bullet points” of application, helpful in suggesting possible applications for preaching and Bible study contexts. Throughout, text is interspersed with charts where these are helpful in comparisons of parallel texts or summarizing the structure of sections.
In addition, the commentary includes twelve “excurses” on broader theological and historical issues not confined to a specific portion. These include:
- The Chronicler’s Literary Sources and Their Individual Ideological and Theological Significance
- The Chronology of the Reigns of David and Solomon
- The Travels of the Ark of the Covenant
- The Angel of YHWH
- David and Royal Sonship
- The Theological Ethics of Holy War
- Holy War: Its Concept and Technical Terms
- Old Testament Historiography
- The Assyrian Conquests (732-701 BC)
- The Identity of the Scroll in Josiah’s Reformation
- The Rise of Babylonia and the Exile of Judah (612-586 BC)
- The Rise of the Persian Empire (550-400 BC)
I appreciate several things about this commentary. One is that it is a scholarly work written for serious lay students of the Bible that also serves well pastors with theological training. The Hebrew is primarily in the text critical notations. The inclusion of theological reflection and application promoted this kind of reflection I read, making this useful for devotional study. The excurses deal with important issues of background and questions raised by the text of Chronicles. Merrill is thorough in his study of parallels between Chronicles and Samuel and Kings. He provides an extensive bibliography for those who wish to go deeper in their study.
Some may criticize Merrill’s work for taking a more conservative position on a number of scholarly issues. He acknowledges these and gives a fair summary as well as his reasons for his own reading. He is willing to leave undetermined open scholarly discussions.
I have to admit to a certain reluctance when I saw the 600-plus page length of this commentary on 1 and 2 Chronicles. Having worked my way through, I gained a deeper grasp of both text and context. I also found myself reflecting at a number of points on the message of these books, and particularly the messianic hope and the faithfulness of God, as well as the salutary lessons (for example of Hezekiah’s later years after he was reprieved from death) of the stories of these kings at their best and worst. For me, that is biblical commentary at its best!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”