Whew. I’m finally starting to feel like I’m making a semi-decent dent in this Bible in terms of my reading progress. My Kindle claims that I’m 41% of the way through it, and I’m PRAYING (heh), that this is 41% of the entire Bible, not just the Old Testament. I think it is, but we’ll see. A lot of the upcoming Old Testament chapters are relatively short, but there are also a few ridiculously loooong ones as well. I’m looking at you, Job and Psalms (150 chapters aggh!!).
Anyway so I just finished 2nd Chronicles, which was 36 chapters long. If you read my 1st Chronicles review, you’ll recall that that book was just a re-hash of previous books, focusing mainly on the story of David (which was first told in the books of Samuel). There wasn’t much new in that book that hadn’t already been covered in the earlier books. So it’s not surprising then that 2nd Chronicles is a re-hash of the books of 1st and 2nd Kings. 1st Chronicles ends with David dying and his son Solomon taking over as king, and 2nd Chronicles picks up right where that left off and continues the story all the way through the point where God destroys Jerusalem and the tribe of Judah (via the Babylonians) as punishment for their sinful ways. The main difference between this book and the books of Kings is that this book only follows the tribe of Judah, where as Kings followed both Judah and the kings of Israel as well.
So here’s the synopsis: Solomon reigns as king, and then the succession of kings after his reign (tribe of Judah only) goes like this: Rehoboam, Abijah, Asa, Jehoshaphat. Then, click here and look at the purple side of this table to see the rest of the succession all the way through Judah/Jerusalem being attacked and destroyed and taken over by the Babylonians. And there you have the plot of 2nd Chronicles. While it is mostly pretty boring due to the fact that it’s a re-hash of stories already told in Kings, this book does have one improvement over 1st Chronicles: It actually adds some fairly interesting details to a few of the stories, that were not there in the original versions of those same stories from 1st and 2nd Kings. I’ll touch on those in the next two sections.
It’s been a while since we’ve had a book that has anything very noteworthy in this section. This book, sadly, does not break from that trend. The only sliver of hope I could find was this: Chapter 30 tells the story of king Hezekiah and the people of Judah celebrating the Passover. The chapter is not very exciting, but it does have the following blurb in it:
17. Since many in the crowd had not consecrated themselves, the Levites had to kill the Passover lambs for all those who were not ceremonially clean and could not consecrate [their lambs] to the Lord. 18. Although most of the many people who came from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun had not purified themselves, yet they ate the Passover, contrary to what was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, “May the Lord, who is good, pardon everyone 19. who sets his heart on seeking God—the Lord, the God of his fathers—even if he is not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary.” 20. And the Lord heard Hezekiah and healed the people.
It is so incredibly rare to get a passage like this where God reacts to a possible sin from his people with any kind of mercy whatsoever (even when he does show mercy it’s usually only after some terrible punishment), that it’s a nice change of pace to read this little semi-pleasant passage. After this, God goes right back to his usual ways of punishing via killing and maiming though.
Like I said in my synopsis, this book actually does add some new and interesting details to a few of the stories that it re-hashes from 1st/2nd Kings. There are even several instances where we get entirely new stories about a few of the kings that were either not present or glossed over in 1st/2nd Kings (i.e., we knew about these kings but we didn’t get these particular stories about them). Sadly, most of them fall into the “Bad Stuff” section though. Here’s a few highlights of those, plus a couple other things that I simply didn’t have time to touch upon in my Kings reviews:
- When Solomon builds and then dedicates the temple to the Lord in chapter 7, he sacrifices 22,000 cows and 120,000 sheep and goats. WTF!? Why is this necessary??
- This book gets into way more detail about Abijah’s reign over Judah than 1st Kings
did. Chapter 13 tells the story of a war between Abijah/Judah and king Jeroboam/Israel. Abijah goes into battle with 400,000 troops, and Jeroboam’s army for Israel has 800,000 troops. Abhijah gives a speech about how Jeroboam and the Israelites are not following the Lord, and they will be defeated because of this. In the meantime, the Israelites stage a sneak attack, so Abijah and Team Judah cry out to God to help them. God listens, and helps Team Judah defeat Team Israel and inflict 500,000 casualties. Thanks, God!
- After king Abijah dies, his son Asa takes over as king of Judah in chapter 14. He does good in the eyes of the Lord. God helps him smite his enemies whenever he
needs it. A primary measuring stick that God uses for each of the kings (to decide whether he likes them or dislikes them) in these books is whether or not they allow their people to worship other gods. One of the reasons God loves Asa so much is that he destroys the alters, images and “high places” that the people of Judah have built for their other gods. There are several “good” kings of Judah that have done this in these books, and I have read through the stories without blinking an eye thus far. But upon reading this one, I took a second to think: What if something like this happened in modern day America? What if the president destroyed every place of worship for other religions including Hindus, Buddhists, even whichever Christian religions that he deemed as incorrect, and then he forced everyone in the U.S. to convert to one specific religion? That would not be cool, would it?? We’d call it religious persecution and fascism. That would be some Taliban-level shit, right?
- In chapter 15, the story of Asa’s religious intolerance takes a HUGE leap further, when a prophet named Azariah tells Asa that Israel needs to have “one true God” to be peaceful. So Asa assembles all the people of his land in Jerusalem, and holds a
ceremony where they all enter “into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul.” What happens if anyone refuses to participate in this? Well, the covenant includes this directive: 15:13 “… whosoever would not seek the LORD God of Israel should be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman.” As a reward for making this beautiful covenant, God gives Israel peace on all sides (for everyone except for the non-believers, who are executed, of course).
- Towards the end of Asa’s life and reign, he slips up in God’s eyes by relying on the king of Aram to help him defeat the Israelites who are attacking Judah at the time, instead of relying on God. In the 39th year of his reign, he becomes afflicted with a disease in his feet. There’s a line here that’s kinda funny: 16:12 “Though his disease was severe, even in his illness he did not seek help from the Lord, but only from the physicians.” Hmm. Can you imagine if we relied solely on God to heal us from all illnesses or injuries in this day and age? Is that what Christian Science is about? (That’s actually an honest question, I need to look that up haha).
- In chapter 20, the Moabites, Ammonites, and some of the Meunites show up to attack Judah. So king Jehoshaphat asks God for help. God tells them, through the prophet Jahaziel, “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem.” And God follows through on his word. “22. As [Jehoshaphat’s singers] began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. 23. The men of Ammon and Moab rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another. 24. When the men of Judah came to the place that overlooks the desert and looked toward the vast army, they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped.”
- The above story doesn’t end with God simply slaughtering the entire Ammonite and Moabite and Seir armies though. It continues: “25. So Jehoshaphat and his men went to carry off their plunder (from the dead bodies), and they found among them a great amount of equipment and clothing and also articles of value—more than they could take away. There was so much plunder that it took three days to collect it. 26. On the fourth day they assembled in the Valley of Beracah, where they praised the Lord.” Inspiring!
- Chapter 21 follows the reign of Jehoshaphat’s son Jehoram, who is very evil. As punishment, God curses him with “great sickness by disease of thy bowels, until thy bowels fall out by reason of the sickness day by day.” Uhh yikes … this sounds extremely unpleasant.
- One interesting thing about 2nd Chronicles is that we occasionally find out that certain kings who were described as “good” in previous books actually eventually turned bad later in life, and vice versa. One example of this is Joash, who we knew as a “good” king from 2nd Kings. In chapter 24, Jehoiada the priest, who is very important to Joash and who had been instrumental in making Joash king to begin with, dies. After this, Joash goes off the rails and turns away from God. When Jehoiada’s son Zechariah gives Joash a message from God that he is NOT happy about all this, Joash gets super pissed and has Zechariah killed. Quite a betrayal, considering all that Z’s dad had done for him. God eventually punishes Joash by having the Arameans attack Judah and wound Joash, and then having Joash’s own officials betray him and finish him off, killing him in his bed. An eye for an eye, that type of thing.
- 2nd Kings told us that Joash’s son Amaziah was a good king. 2nd Chronicles reveals that he has his bad points, and eventually he fully goes off the rails too, just like his dad. In chapter 25, he leads his army to the Valley of Salt, where he kills 10,000 men of Seir. He and his army also capture 10,000 more men alive, just so that they can take them to the top of a cliff and throw them off of it. Then, Amaziah and his army return home and bring back the gods of the people of Seir with them. They set them up and worship them. That’s when God gets pissed. God apparently has zero problem with Amaziah throwing 10,000 people off a cliff after killing 10,000 others; it’s only when Amaziah starts worshiping those people’s gods that the Lord gets angry. Seems logical.
- This section is getting way too long so I’m not gonna get into the details of this one, but if you’re ever bored, check out chapter 26 of 2nd Chronicles, which tells the story of God cursing king Uzziah (a.k.a. Azariah) with leprosy for burning incense in the temple (only the priests/Levites are allowed to do that). It’s pretty entertaining.
There’s a couple other things I could call out in chapters 28 and 34, but it’s just more of the same, and this section is already too long. So I’ll end this here. Here’s my rating of 2nd Chronicles:
Somwhere in between my ratings of 1st Kings (1.2/10) and 2nd Kings (0.5/10) seemed appropriate for this one. Next book up is Ezra. Just makes me think of that lame band from the 90’s. What did they sing again? Anyway the good news is that Ezra is only 10 chapters!! WOOT!! After this 36 chapter book I just finished, 10 chapters sounds like a wonderful warm breeze right about now. Can’t wait.