Last week I explored restoration as a concept in the book of Chronicles and now I'm going to jump into the return, restoration, and renewal in both Chronicles and today.
One of the Chronicler’s main concerns is “all Israel,” north and south, as a unified community. To the Chronicler, Israel was an ideal entity, a twelve tribe whole, in contrast with the fractured remnants which are his reality in the post-exilic age. This concern for the restoration of all Israel and to demonstrate the continuity of the post-exilic community with pre-exilic Israel is demonstrated already in the genealogies of 1 Chron 1-9.
All tribes are given genealogical entries, even though in some cases they are vestigial (e.g., the genealogy of Naphtali). The returnees to Judah from Babylon in chapter 9 also include some from the northern tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh:
So all Israel was enrolled by genealogies; and these are written in the Book of the Kings of Israel. And Judah was taken into exile in Babylon because of their unfaithfulness. Now the first to dwell again in their possessions in their cities were Israel, the priests, the Levites, and the temple servants. And some of the people of Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh dwelt in Jerusalem.
Note the repetition of “all Israel,” and interestingly, “Israel” mentioned again in 1 Chron. 9:1–3. The returnees living in Jerusalem include half northern tribes (Ephraim and Manasseh) and half southern tribes (Judah and Benjamin). To the Chronicler, Israel is a twelve tribe sacred community under Torah, and the restoration of this community must include everything which pertained to pre-exilic Israel.
The phrase kol yisra’el (“all Israel”) occurs 43 times in the book of Chronicles. Following the genealogies, the balance of the book is replete with this phrase. After the death of Saul (1 Chron 10:6,13), David’s first act is to go with “all Israel,” to conquer the Jebusite city of Jerusalem. After Jerusalem was secured, David’s mighty men
gave him strong support in his kingdom, together with all Israel, to make him king, according to the word of the LORD concerning Israel (1 Chron 11:4).
After two chapters of detailing David’s supporters who came to him at Hebron, and earlier at Ziklag, we hear that “all Israel” came with one mind to make David king:
All these, men of war, arrayed in battle order, came to Hebron with full intent to make David king over all Israel; likewise all the rest of Israel were of a single mind to make David king (I Chron 12:38).
Once again, it is important to the Chronicler to establish that all Israel is supportive of David and is of one mind regarding his kingship.
At important junctures in the lives of David and Solomon, related to the ark of the covenant and the building of the temple, all Israel is unified in support of the temple and its priesthood, the cult, and the ark (see 1 Chron 13:5–8, 15:3 and 28, 28:4 and 8, 29:21, 23, and 25, and many other passages). “All Israel” is critical to the Chronicler, for he is compiling his history in the post-exilic era in order to inspire the remnants of the the Judeans and North Israelites to seek the Lord together, with unity of purpose and identity.
Return, Restoration, and Renewal in Chronicles and Today
The Chronicler is concerned first of all with return (shûv) or repentance. Seeking the Lord in Chronicles most often entails putting away the false gods of the age and returning to the Lord with the whole heart. Part of this return to the Lord involves renewal of worship and the institutions which surround it, which through carelessness or idolatry fall into disrepair and disrepute.
In the book of Chronicles, those who seek the Lord with their whole heart will renew and recommit to worship and prayer, will work to rediscover and rededicate themselves to the way of Torah (God’s righteous instruction), and will do so in unity of heart and purpose. Then God will honor his commitment for his people to be a light to the nations and for the seed of Abraham to fulfill its purpose envisioned so long ago (1 Chron 16:13).
It is easy for the church in our day to assign the texts and themes of the Chronicler to the marginalia of life, where it is consigned under glass in the museum of ancient historical oddities.
But we, like the Chronicler’s community of old, have a tendency to forget the covenants and the promises of God. We, too, tend toward entropy in personal and corporate worship, to lose the Word even in the midst of being overwhelmed and inundated by words. We, too, are often the sadly fractured and disjointed community of faith in the world.
Perhaps a fresh look at our own restoration roots and ideals might provoke us again to recover the surprising words of grace and judgment by the prophets and apostles. Perhaps recovery of our own Torah will lead us to examine again, in the crisis of identity the church now faces, the Chronicler’s paradigm of return, renewal, and restoration.
Read the first part of this article about the Restoration Passages in Chronicles.
. For the “all Israel” emphasis, see de Vries, pp. 146–148. Relative to the Chronicler’s concerns that all Israel, North and South, ought to be a single entity in both pre- and post-exilic Judah, see Roddy Braun, 1 Chronicles (Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 14; Waco: Word Books, 1986), xxxv–xxxvii.
. Braun, p. 171.
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