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King and Cultus in Chronicles: Worship and the Reinterpretation of History.

This work is a revision of the author's dissertation, written in 1990 under Joseph Agius at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas in Rome. Like many recent scholars, Riley views Chronicles as a fundamentally different work from that of Ezra-Nehemiah. He dates Chronicles, which he views as a combination of history and theology, to the late Persian period. The Chronicler purportedly belonged to the cultic personnel of the Jerusalem Temple. Methodologically, Riley favors synchronic analysis (the final form of the text), but he does give some attention to diachronic issues, such as the influence of ancient Near Eastern royal ideology on the Chronicler and the Chronicler's reuse of material from Samuel-Kings, the Psalms, and Ezra-Nehemiah.

The discussion proceeds under two major rubrics. In the first section, "the Chronicler's cultic portrayal of Kings," the author argues for the priority of the cultus in the Chronicler's presentation, while in the second section, "the Chronicler's cultic reinterpretation of Israel's royal history and heritage," he discusses the Chronicler's view of kingship, the Davidic dynastic promises, and the role of the nation in the post-exilic period. According to Riley, the relationship between king and cultus provides an interpretive key to understanding the purpose of the Chronicler's work. The great concern monarchs evince for matters of cult, not only reflects ancient Near Eastern royal ideology, but also the Chronicler's appropriation and reinterpretation of the past to address current issues. The Davidic legacy, affirmed in post-exilic times through the recital of history and the practice of cult (e.g., the use of royal psalms), is thought to have posed a problem for the Chronicler. Confronted with the vitality of royal ideology, the Chronicler reinterprets the Da-vidic promises in a non-political sense. The Chronicler emphasizes the close bond between the Davidic dynasty and the Jerusalem cult to relativize the political import of the Davidic promises to the pre-exilic age. By rewriting David's legacy to focus on questions of cultic endowment, the Chronicler, no less than the authors of the royal psalms, could fully affirm the per-tinence of the Davidic covenant to his own time.

Riley is an able exponent of a purely cultic reading of Chronicles. His work is well organized and engages the views of a variety of scholars. There are, however, flaws both in the author's general presentation of the Davidic role in Chronicles and in his exegesis of relevant texts. Describing Chronicles as "a cultic history written by cultic functionaries especially for the use of cultic personnel" (p. 24) is somewhat misleading. The genealogies (1 Chronicles 1-9) focus upon the people of Israel - their identity and location. The narrative proper begins (1 Chronicles 10) and ends (2 Chronicles 36) with the monarchy. It is also relevant that the Chronicler devotes more attention than his Deuteronomistic predecessor(s) to building construction, royal reforms, and military campaigns. As Roland de Vaux remarked over thirty years ago, "Quite the most detailed information on the military organization under the monarchy is to be found in Chronicles."(1) Calling Chronicles a cultic history is, therefore, inaccurate. It is, of course, perfectly appropriate for Riley to focus his discussion on royal endowments and obligations to the cult, but this is only part of the Chronicler's presentation, and the part should not be made to represent the whole.

The consequences of viewing the Davidic monarchy as simply one, albeit the most illustrious, of the historical agencies of divine rule deserve closer scrutiny. Like Roddy Braun,(2) Riley believes that David's legacy is embodied in the temple and its cultus. The rule of the Davidic dynasty ended definitively with the Babylonian Exile, but the Davidic legacy remains in the task to worship at the Temple David prepared for and Solomon built. But if Cyrus (2 Chron. 36:22-23) and subsequent Achaemenid monarchs are viewed by the Chronicler as the divinely authorized successors to the dynasties of Saul and David, in what sense does the Second Temple, the Temple of the Chronicler's own time, embody the Davidic promises? The second Jerusalem Temple, unlike the first, was authorized and endowed by the Persian crown. Given Riley's view that the kingdoms of Saul and Cyrus are as legitimate an expression of divine rule as that of David, it is unclear how the Second Temple represents and perpetuates the Davidic inheritance.

The particular exegetical arguments Riley advances to support his thesis that the Davidic kingdom has only a temporary significance are also problematic, as a few examples will suffice to show. Riley construes those remarkable texts in Chronicles that speak of Solomon sitting upon "the throne of Yhwh" (1 Chron. 29:3; cf. 1 Chron. 28:5; 2 Chron. 9:8) or of "the kingdom of Yhwh" being "in the hand of the sons of David" (2 Chron. 13:8; cf. 1 Chron. 17:14) as downplaying the political importance of David's realm. But the opposite seems to be true. These texts suggest an intimate association, if not identity, between David's kingdom and that of Yhwh. If the Chronicler thought that Saul or Cyrus sat on the throne of Yhwh, why does he not say so? The author cites the omission of the reference to the sins of David's descendants (2 Sam. 7:14b) from the Chronicler's version of Nathan's dynastic oracle as evidence that the Chronicler makes the Davidic promises conditional. But the reference in 2 Sam. 7:14b to Yhwh's chastisement of errant Davidides itself represents a condition. David's seed will be punished should they sin. The contingency does not annul the basic dynastic promise (2 Sam. 7:13, 15-16) and, hence, the absence of this condition from Chronicles does not mitigate the force of the divine pledge to David.

It is true that Chronicles, like Kings, includes passages in the reigns of David and Solomon which predicate the perdurability of the throne upon the fidelity of Solomon (or of Solomon and his sons). Since the Chronicler's Solomon, unlike the Deuteronomistic historian's Solomon (1 Kings 11), remains loyal throughout his reign, H. G. M. Williamson(3) and others think that Solomon successfully fulfilled these divinely mandated stipulations. Riley counters that because the conditions are restated following Solomon's dedication of the Temple, they are not fulfilled and cannot be finally fulfilled. But, if this is so, the Davidic promises in Chronicles raise false hopes only. Yhwh repeatedly tantalizes David and Solomon with the pledge of an everlasting house, predicated on obedience that is impossible to achieve. According to Riley, cultic obligations and support for the Jerusalem Temple comprise the major effect of the Davidic covenant in the Chronicler's work. But the Chronicler's construction of the Davidic covenant has important political consequences. The Chronicler, unlike the Deuteronomistic historian, explicitly employs the Davidic promises to denounce northern secession as inherently seditious. Playing on the different senses of Israel, the Chronicler has King Abijah reaffirm the eternal validity of the Davidic promises for "all Israel" in his speech to "Jeroboam and all Israel" (2 Chron. 13:4-8). The Chronicler's insistence that the Davidic promises remain valid for all elements of Israel explains why he does not narrate the independent history of the northern kingdom.

However provocative, the author's arguments for a completely non-political reading of the import of David and the Davidic promises cannot finally be sustained. The value of this book lies in its use of ancient Near Eastern royal ideology to illumine the Chronicler's portrayal of a close relationship between Davidic kings and the Jerusalem cultus.


1 Ancient Israel: Its Life and Institutions (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1965), 2:213.

2 Roddy Braun, I Chronicles, Word Biblical Commentary 14 (Waco, Texas: Word, 1986).

3 "Eschatology in Chronicles," Tyndale Bulletin 28 (1977): 115-54.
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Author:Knoppers, Gary N.
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 1, 1996
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