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1 Chronicles.

1 Chronicles. Hermeneia. By Ralph W. Klein. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2006. xxi and 561 pages. Cloth. $55.00.

This amazingly comprehensive commentary, published in the prestigious Hermeneia series, is a genuine magnum opus by the esteemed editor of Currents. Contents include a substantial Introduction (including discussion of such items as date, author, and place of composition; nature and extent of the work; place in the canon; textual criticism, sources, and language; outline and central themes) followed by two major sections that contain chapter-by-chapter commentary on the genealogies of chapters 1-9 and on the reign of David in chapters 10-29.

Central themes identified and discussed by Klein include kingship, temple and cult. Israel, reward and retribution, attitude toward the Persians (the Chronicler "seems relatively content with life under Persian suzerainty, provided that the worship at the temple in Jerusalem is able to continue without restraint"), personal piety, and possible hopes for the future. Each of the chapter subsections in the commentary proper contains Klein's translation from Hebrew into English, extensive text critical notes (with much attention to the Greek Septuagint), a discussion of the structure of the section, detailed commentary, and a conclusion summing up the major content and significance of the section.

Publication of this commentary is a cause for celebration for Klein and for his spouse, Marilyn, to whom the volume is dedicated. The volume already has been greeted with what can only be deemed rave reviews by several prominent scholars (S. L. McKenzie: "monumental achievement, which every scholar interested in Chronicles will welcome warmly"; P. D. Miller Jr.: "will be the standard against which other commentaries on Chronicles are measured for years to come"; E. S. Gerstenberger: "priceless insights for everyone interested in Hebrew Scriptures and Biblical theology"). The commentary appears some 26 years after Klein was invited to write it, a span of time during which he organized the Chronicles-Ezra-Nehemiah Section of the Society of Biblical Literature, wrote the articles on Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah for the Anchor Bible Dictionary, published commentaries on 1 Samuel in the Word Bible Commentary and on Ezekiel: The Prophet and His Message for the University of South Carolina Press, all the while serving as editor of Currents. During this time he also served eleven years as Dean at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and taught graduate seminars there and at the Divinity School of the University of Chicago. His prolific scholarly achievements were acknowledged by a Festschrift presented to him at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in 2003: The Chronicler as Theologian: Essays in Honor of Ralph W. Klein, ed. M. P. Graham, S. L. McKenzie, and G. N. Knoppers (T & T Clark, 2003).

The appearance of this volume is a cause for celebration also for those whose scholarly pursuits are concentrated on the history and religion of ancient Israel during the exilic and post-exilic periods and specifically for those who engage in Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah studies. Preceding the Introduction are nine double-columned pages listing more than 150 scholarly journals, more than 200 commentaries, and other titles that are referred to in the volume. Many other books and articles are first referenced in the body of the commentary itself. Significantly, these hundreds of sources are not simply listed as window dressing. Klein is very much at home in his sources, including many that represent European (especially German) scholarship, and engages in extensive critical conversation with them in the commentary. For example, already in his Introduction, Klein offers critical comment on the views of McKenzie, E. C. Ulrich Jr., and W. E. Lemke on the textual characteristics of the Chronicler's Vorlage in Samuel as well as on the dramatically differing views of C. F. Keil and A. G. Auld on sources for Chronicles from Samuel, Kings, and Psalms.

In the commentary proper, Klein gives an abundance of fascinating thumbnail sketches of various scholarly positions. For example, in the commentary on chapters 2-4 one finds interesting discussions of H. G. M. Williamson's detection of a chiastic arrangement in the genealogy of Judah, T. Willi's thoughts on the geographical notices in several of the genealogies, a juxtaposition of the opinions of legendary scholars J. Wellhausen, M. Noth, and W. Rudolph on the structure of these chapters, and comment on the opposing ideas of M. Kartveit and Willi on how much of these chapters the Chronicler may have derived from older sources. Another example: In his commentary on chapter 12, Klein includes an extended discussion of three scholarly strategies that have been proposed for making sense of the inflated numbers in the military units said to have rallied to David. His own view is to read a primarily theological motive at work here, reflecting the Chronicler's all-Israel agenda. A third example: While commenting on the Chronicler's presentation of Davidic dynastic succession and Temple building in chapter 17, Klein offers a convincing alternative to W. M. Schniedewind's argument that Chronicles must have been written in the early Persian period (539-460 B.C.E.), since the Chronicler's royalist and pro-Temple message would have been applicable only in that time. (Elsewhere, Klein argues for a date of composition in the first half of the fourth century B.C.E., toward the end of the Persian period and the arrival of Alexander the Great.) These sorts of discussions, which appear throughout the commentary, provide a marvelous entrance into the scholarly literature on Chronicles, Ezra-Nehemiah, and the exilic and post-exilic periods.

Klein's exhaustive tables showing the relationship between Chronicles and its sources in Samuel-Kings and Psalms, his diagrams of the linear and segmented genealogies in chapters 1-9, his discussion and schematic of the genealogy of the high priests, and his identifications of nations and peoples that formed Israel's cultural milieu again are of wonderful worth to serious readers. Budding (and veteran) scholars can benefit by opening this commentary to just about any section to receive a lesson in how to identify significant scholarly opinions, present them fairly and concisely, and, after engaging them respectfully, present one's own judicious suggestions and conclusions.

This volume offers cause to celebrate also for teachers, students, Old Testament scholars, pastors, and theologians. Let's face it: Chronicles seldom comes in high on anyone's list of favorite biblical books. Klein, however, has a knack for clear presentation of even the most complicated scholarly arguments and for making even the most tedious material (like nine straight chapters of genealogy) interesting.

Among my favorite sections of this commentary were:

* Klein's discussion of the contents (including a listing of the signs of the zodiac) of a Hebrew and Aramaic mosaic inscription in the synagogue floor excavated at En-gedi in relation to the genealogy in chapter 1;

* in relation to Shallum in 2:41, the comment on three seal impressions published by N. Avigad, dating to just before the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem and inscribed with the name Meshullam, a name interchangeable with Shallum;

* Klein's highlighting of the Chronicler's openness to outsiders, evidenced by his inclusion of six instances of Judahites marrying foreigners in chapter 2, without adding a word of judgment or condemnation;

* the masterful discussion of the Chronicler's presentation of the death of Saul in 10:1-14, in comparison to his sources in the books of Samuel, including his theological judgment that Saul died because of unfaithfulness to the LORD (a judgment not present in 1 Samuel 31);

* the careful presentation of several proposals for translating and making sense of the manner in which David and his supporters captured Jerusalem in chapter 11;

* Klein's analysis of how the tradition of Elhanan's slaying of Goliath (see 2 Sam 21:19) was transformed into the Chronicler's notice that Elhanan slew Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite in 20:5;

* the fascinating treatment of the Ark narrative in chapters 15-16, including the Chronicler's inclusion of a song of thanksgiving fashioned from portions of Psalms 96, 105, and 106;

* Klein's comments on the Chronicler's omission of the Uriah and Bathsheba incident in the story of the defeat of the Ammonites in chapter 20, along with comments on the god Milcom, whose crown David took as booty from his cult statue; and

* the engrossing discussion of the Chronicler's presentation of the Levites in chapters 23-27 (which probably contains some materials added later to the Chronicler's work), especially the families of singers presented in chapter 25.

I cannot resist remarking that, without mentioning the recent popular interest in the Prayer of Jabez in 4:9-10 as a sort of mantra guaranteeing success in family and business, Klein notes that in context the prayer asks God to counteract what would appear to be negative connotations of pain and harm in the popular etymology of the name Jabez. Thus, to protect himself, "Jabez asked for liberation from the dire consequences of his birth and name, so that he would not suffer pain, as his mother had at his birth and as his name threatened him every moment of his life" (p. 132).

In conclusion, I want to note that Klein's views on the Chronicler's work are available to a very large audience also through his introduction and notes to 1 and 2 Chronicles in the highly regarded and widely used HarperCollins Study Bible (NRSV translation with notes by members of the Society of Biblical Literature), in both the first (1993) and second (2006) editions. A wealth of information is found at Klein's Web site,, which features sections on the OT, biblical studies in general, and the Ancient Near East, along with personal information, listings of search engines, and other miscellaneous professional and scholarly items.

While preparing this review, I was reminded of the state of Ralph and Marilyn's dining room in the flat they rented while Ralph was working on his Harvard Th.D. dissertation, Studies in the Greek Texts of the Chronicler (1966). Imagine the room piled with books, the dining table covered with papers and note cards, and Ralph making wonderful sense of the jumble. So, for Ralph it has been at least a 40-year-long love affair with the work of the Chronicler and his translators and interpreters. How biblically appropriate! To Ralph and Marilyn: Ad multos annos!

William J. Urbrock

University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
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Author:Urbrock, William J.
Publication:Currents in Theology and Mission
Date:Jun 1, 2007
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