woensdag 6 februari 2013

Review of: Ralph W. Klein, 1 Chronicles: A Commentary (Hermeneia), Fortress, 2006; in: Interpretation

Ralph W. Klein, 1 Chronicles: A Commentary (Hermeneia), Fortress, 2006

Review in: Interpretation 2008 62: 328
Review door: Samuel L. Adams
Gevonden op: http://int.sagepub.com/content/62/3/328.full.pdf+html

1 Chronicles: A Commentary
by Ralph W. Klein
Hermeneia. Fortress, Minneapolis, 2006.
561 pp. $55.00 (cloth). ISBN 978-0-8006-6085-7.

THIS VOLUME, THE FIRST of a two-part contribution to the Hermeneia series, is the product of a distinguished career devoted to the complexities of 1 and 2 Chronicles. Ralph Klein provides a systematic analysis of 1 Chr 1-29, and his prodigious commentary merits attention from biblical scholars and ministers alike. A lengthy introduction identifies major issues in the study of the book and where Klein stands on them. Translations of each chapter and a thorough treatment of textual variants are included, and the author returns to significant text-critical matters in his more detailed discussion. Hundreds of charts and outlines clarify the genealogical information in 1 Chronicles, including the detailed lists of priestly officials. Readers who have been perplexed by these genealogies, particularly in 1 Chr 1-9, will be grateful for such a lucid presentation.

Klein also navigates the secondary literature on Chronicles. As he considers possible solutions to interpretive cruxes, he engages the important work of such commentators as Sara Japhet, H.G.M. Williamson, and Thomas Willi. Klein confirms the positions of these scholars at multiple points, but he also provides a number of original contributions to our understanding of Chronicles and the perspective of its postexilic author. According to Klein, the book is first and foremost "a work of historiography and of theology" (p. 19). Especially important within this framework are the Chronicler's persistent efforts to affirm the Davidic dynasty and to legitimate the Jerusalem temple, especially clergy and other cultic personnel. Klein keeps this larger agenda in mind as he takes up the intricate details in the biblical text.

In exploring the theological message of 1 Chronicles, Klein argues that a retribution theme lies at the heart of the book. When human beings act in the narrative, God adjudicates reward or punishment within each person's lifetime. For example, Saul's failure to keep the word of the Lord and his consultation of a medium (1 Chr 10:13-14) are unfaithful decisions that require swift punishment. The killing of Saul and elevation of David are retributive actions by God and major turning points in the narrative. Subsequent actions to consolidate and organize under the new king "were merely a carrying out on the human plane what Yahweh had already accomplished (11:3,12:23)" (p. 291). Klein effectively demonstrates the centrality of this retribution theme throughout 1 Chronicles. The theology of the Chronicler is a topic that Klein promises to address in even greater detail with his next installment.

With regard to source material, the Chronicler clearly works from a version of 1-2 Samuel and 1-2 Kings. Klein argues that the Vorlage available to this ancient author, while finalized, was often different from the Masoretic Text (MT). In many instances, Chronicles more closely resembles the content of 4QSama (from the corpus of the Dead Sea Scrolls) and the various Greek translations of Samuel-Kings. The careful critic cannot immediately assume that the Chronicler has omitted or altered source material to suit his theological agenda; one must always consult the other translations of Samuel-Kings, particularly the LXX. Klein asks repeatedly whether the reason for the Chronicler's variation from the MT of Samuel-Kings is textual (different Vorlage, scribal error) or ideological (contrary to the specific interests of the Chronicler).

On the debated relationship between Ezra-Nehemiah and 1-2 Chronicles, Klein takes the position that the latter is a distinctive work. Unlike Ezra-Nehemiah, the Chronicler maintains an openness to mixed marriages—such unions are described without explicit rebuke (e.g., 1 Chr 2:3; contrast Ezra 9:1-2). In addition, Chronicles displays an interest in the patriarch Jacob (Israel), and this is not a feature of Ezra-Nehemiah. The Davidic dynasty is emphasized in Chronicles and not in the other source. The Chronicler has a positive attitude toward the northern kingdom, and the book of Ezra does not. Efforts to prove common authorship on linguistic grounds have not been fully persuasive. Klein's conclusion here agrees with the recent two-volume commentary of Gary Knoppers (Anchor Bible). The onus is now on commentators who insist on the unity of authorship to refute the cogent objections of Klein, Knoppers, and a number of other scholars.

In his analysis of the genealogical material in 1 Chr 1-9, Klein breaks down the various units and explains the rationale behind their organization. His outlines elucidate the extensive lists in this section, how they relate to antecedent material, and their larger purpose in the Chronicler's work. The chart of high priests is particularly helpful (p. 178). According to Klein, the Chronicler places genealogies relating to the clergy at the center of these chapters (1 Chr 5:27-6:66,6:1-81 in English), underscoring his profound interest in the Jerusalem temple. The genealogy of Judah is situated at the beginning of this lengthy section (chs. 2-4) and the genealogy of Benjamin at the end (chs. 8-9), because these tribes (along with Levi) made up the Jewish community of the Chronicler's own time. Among Klein's other important arguments, he rebuts the theory of A. Granarne Auld that the cities of priests and Lévites in 1 Chr 6 are the source for Josh 21. The dependence is in the other direction. In addition, Klein maintains that 1 Chr 9:2-18 is dependent on Neh 11:3-19, and not vice versa.

David is clearly the pivotal human figure in 1 Chronicles. The biblical author famously omits some of the more unsavory aspects of David's reign, such as his affair with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah the Hittite (2 Sam 11:2-12:25). The absence of these stories leads to a more favorable portrait of this ruler, although Klein argues that "an effort to clean up the image of David is not the sole or perhaps even the primary reason for these omissions from

2 Samuel" (p. 389). In support of a more nuanced depiction of David by the Chronicler, Klein cites the fact that this first and most famous monarch is not allowed to rebuild the temple. According to Klein, David's punishment does not result from his conduct as a "man of war," since his military actions are specifically blessed by God. Moreover, the divine pronouncement concerning David and the temple (1 Chr 22:8) should not be linked to an unnamed episode by the Chronicler (e.g., the death of Uriah). Klein argues that the truly deplorable action is the royal census that results in 70,000 plague victims (1 Chr 21:14). This is what prevents the king from building a house for the Lord, the source for the charge that David has "shed much blood."

Another debated issue is exactly who the figure of Satan represents in 1 Chr 21:1. The basic interpretive question is whether the figure mentioned here should be seen as a human adversary or a proper name for the supernatural being. According to Klein, the title without a definite article seems to function as a personal name rather than a nameless human enemy. Klein opts for the interpretation that this is the same heavenly accuser who appears in the prologue to Job (chs. 1-2) and in the postexilic prophet Zechariah (3:1). The terminology that 1 Chr 21:1 shares with these books, particularly the legal usage of the verbs "stand" and "incite," is compelling. Klein also points to the book of Jubilees, where Mastema (equivalent to Satan) replaces Yahweh as the tester of Abraham in the episode with Isaac (Jub. 17:15-18). This reading is convincing and provides another Persian period attestation of the supernatural Satan figure.

The books of Chronicles are a window into the landscape of the Second Temple period and the historiographical methods of a postexilic writer with a definite theological agenda. Klein's commentary is now one of the standard reference points for understanding the vast content of these books. His clear and patient style is a model for rigorous exegesis, particularly his ability to negotiate the complex genealogies and textual variants. Those who do not read this volume from cover to cover can certainly consult it as a reliable reference work and a means of accessing this important and often-neglected biblical book.

Samuel L. Adams

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