Between Genealogy and Historiography

Er, Achar and Saul in the Book of Chronicles

In: Vetus Testamentum
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  • 1 1 Alon Shevut Israel Neria.klein@gmail.com

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The literary study of the genealogies in 1 Chr 1-9 has recently received a number of significant contributions, and this paper attempts to be a part of that growing trend. The paper analyzes the literary design of two lists—Judah’s sons and Zerah’s sons (1 Chr 2:3-8)—and shows that the uniform design of the two lists intends to present the rejection of certain branches of the tribe of Judah on account of their representatives’ sins (Er, Achar) as a background for the electing of King David. Afterwards, a literary parallel is examined between the characters of Er and Achar and the character of Saul in 1 Chr 10:13-14. This parallel has implications for the structure of the book and the relationship between its two parts: the genealogies (1 Chr 1-9) and the historiography (1 Chr 10-2 Chr 36).

  • 14

    See Japhet, The Ideology of the Book of Chronicles, p. 273; idem, i & ii Chronicles, p. 74. See also: Knoppers, “Married into Moab”, pp. 179-186. This position needs clarification. Even if one holds that the book of Chronicles reflects an accepting position towards mixed marriages, it does not mean that the mere mention of such a marriage is done in order to prove a point in said argument. Snyman, for example, suggests that the intermarriages that feature in Judah’s lists do not serve to support the argument against mixed marriage, but rather, because those foreigners ruled over extensive areas in the Judean region, mentioning them in the Judean dynasty is a method for claiming a larger geographical inheritance for the tribe of Judah. See G. Snyman, “A Possible World of Text Production for the Genealogy in 1 Chronicles 2.3-4.23”, in: M. P. Graham et al. (eds.), The Chronicler as Theologian (London, 2003), p. 48.

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  • 15

    Oeming, Das wahre Israel, pp. 121-123; Johnstone, 1 and 2 Chronicles, v. 1, p. 41. Oeming’s explanation for the case mentioned (“Canaanite”) is similar to the explanation given later in this article. See also: Johnstone, Chronicles and Exodus: An Analogy and its Application (Sheffield, 1998), p. 110; Finlay, The Birth Report Genre, p. 57.

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  • 20

    Willi, “Late Persian Judaism”, p. 158.

  • 21

    Levin, The Historical Geography of the Chronicler, p. 72. It is interesting to note that the end of the list of Judah, the list of the sons of Shelah, mentions a connection to Moab (1 Chr 4:22), which, according to Deut 23:4-7, is also prohibited from marrying into Israel. This is what distinguishes the gentiles mentioned at the beginning of the list (Canaanite) and the end (Moab) from all the others mentioned in the list (Ishmaelite: 2:17; Egyptian slave: 2:34-35; daughter of Pharaoh: 4:18), and these two are specifically associated with Bath-Shua and her sons.

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  • 22

    Kalimi, The Reshaping of Ancient Israelite History in Chronicles, p. 220.

  • 27

    See amongst others: Kelly, Retribution and Eschatology in Chronicles, p. 64; M. Garsiel, Biblical Names: A Literary Study of Midrashic Derivations and Puns (Ramat Gan, 1991), p. 92; Klein, 1 Chronicles, p. 91, n. 29. If the similarity between the name Judah (יהודה) and the name Yahweh (יהו-ה) is not coincidental, it could be that the symmetry in our verse is even more sophisticated: This statement begins and ends with the verbs (wayhi . . . waymitehu), and the name of “Er the firstborn of Judah” stands in contrast to the words “Evil in the eyes of the Lord” (‘er || ra‘; yehuda || yhwh). The verb “wayhi” (ויהי) also has the same letters of the name Yahweh (יהו-ה). Therefore it is conceivable that this unique verb was chosen for its similar orthography. If we are discussing the intentional use of a verse from Genesis, because the Chronicler is citing a verse from Genesis and not constructing a verse, it is doubtful that one could definitively conclude that the Chronicler had an exegetical intention in mind. Thanks are due to Dr. Jonathan Grossman, who opened my eyes to this possibility.

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  • 31

    Kelly, Retribution and Eschatology in Chronicles, p. 65; Klein, 1 Chronicles, pp. 91-92.

  • 33

    See also: Oeming, Das wahre Israel, p. 121. Finlay (The Birth Report Genre in the Hebrew Bible, p. 57) also thinks that the comment relating to the sin and death of Er is meant to defame all the descendants of Bath-Shua.

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  • 37

    Curtis and Madsen, The Books of Chronicles, p. 86; Kalimi, The Reshaping of Ancient Israelite History in Chronicles, p. 318, n. 50; Klein, 1 Chronicles, p. 92.

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  • 38

    Braun, 1 Chronicles, pp. 29, 31. Knoppers (1 Chronicles 1-9, p. 297) suggest two possibilities (a mistake or an intentional play on the name) but does not decide between the two. R. R. Hutton, “Zimri (person)”, in D. N. Freedman (ed.), Anchor Bible Dictionary (v. 6; New York, 1992), p. 1094, suggests another understanding: that Zimri has negative connotations because it hints to Zimri king of Israel, whose evil deeds were publicly known (2 Kings 9:31); but this is not entirely convincing.

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  • 39

    See for example: Braun, 1 Chronicles, pp. 29, 31; Hutton, “Zimri (person)”, p. 1094; Klein, 1 Chronicles, p. 92; McKenzie, 1-2 Chronicles, p. 70.

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  • 41

    Braun, 1 Chronicles, p. 30. According to Braun, the Chronicler wanted to present the understanding that the families of singers in the Temple were ancient and Canaanite in origin, which was more important than consistency. I wish to disagree: the fact that the singers were Levites is integral to the Chronicler; he would not represent them as otherwise in order to characterize them as more established and ancient, let alone—and certainly not—in order to portray them as Canaanites (see above concerning the negative connotation of Bath-Shua the Canaanite). Even if his claim were correct on a historical level, it cannot be assumed that the Chronicler saw matters thus.

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  • 43

    Knoppers, 1 Chronicles 1-9, p. 297 (following S. M. Olyan, “2 Kings 9:31—Jehu as Zimri”, htr 78 (1985), p. 206). See also R. S. Hess, “Achan and Achor: Names and Wordplay in Joshua 7”, Hebrew Annual Review 14 (1994), p. 96. Already in Rabbinic writings one can see the name Zimri stemming from the word Zemirah, “to prune”: “and the sons of Zerah: Zimri, and Ethan and Heman and Chalkol and Darda, in all five. Zimri—Rabbi Yehoshua son of Levi said: this is Achan. If so, why was he called Zimri? That his actions were similar to those of Zimri. And the Rabbis said: that Israel were cut off because of him” (Vayikra Rabba Tzav, Parasha 9).

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  • 51

    See for example: Johnstone, 1 and 2 Chronicles, v. 1, p. 43. Also: Kelly, Retribution and Eschatology in Chronicles, p. 65; Klein, 1 Chronicles, p. 93, n. 43.

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  • 55

    Klein, 1 Chronicles, p. 93.

  • 56

    Dirksen, 1 Chronicles, p. 51. Relating to the root עזר as a recurring root in Chronicles see: Williamson, Israel in the Books of Chronicles, pp. 54-55; S. Japhet, “Interchanges of Roots, in Verbs, in Parallel Texts in Chronicles”, Lĕšonénu 31 (1966-7), p. 170; Dirksen, 1 Chronicles, p. 28.

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  • 60

    Kalimi, The Reshaping of Ancient Israelite History in Chronicles, p. 318.

  • 68

    See, for example: Johnstone, 1 and 2 Chronicles, v. 1, pp. 131-132; G. N. Knoppers, 1 Chronicles 10-29 (ab; New York, 2004), p. 584; Klein, 1 Chronicles, p. 331.

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  • 69

    Kalimi, The Reshaping of Ancient Israelite History in Chronicles, pp. 310-311.

  • 70

    Kalimi, The Reshaping of Ancient Israelite History in Chronicles, p. 309.

  • 74

    Oeming, Das wahre Israel, pp. 217-218. A similar approach can be seen in R. K. Duke, The Persuasive Appeal of the Chronicler: A Rhetorical Analysis (Sheffield, 1990), p. 52; Japhet, i & ii Chronicles, p. 8.

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  • 75

    Schweitzer, Reading Utopia in Chronicles, pp. 31-75. More recently also idem, “The Genealogies of 1 Chronicles 1-9”.

  • 78

    Sparks, The Chronicler’s Genealogies, pp. 23-31. A chiastic structure similar to his was presented by Knoppers (1 Chronicles 1-9, p. 261). Sparks’ proposed structure is the subject of much criticism; see L. C. Jonker, “A Review of James T. Sparks, The Chronicler’s Genealogies: Towards an Understanding of 1 Chronicles 1-9”, cbq 73 (2011), pp. 367-369; S. Long, “A Review of The Chronicler’s Genealogies: Towards an Understanding of 1 Chronicles 1-9”, rsr 36 (2010), p. 145; G. Galil, “Sparks, James T., The Chronicler’s Genealogies: Towards an Understanding of 1 Chronicles 1-9”, rbl 7 (2009), http://www.bookreviews.org/pdf/6682_7246.pdf; B. E. Kelly, “A Review of James T. Sparks, The Chronicler’s Genealogies: Towards an Understanding of 1 Chronicles 1-9”, jss 55 (2010), pp. 313-314.

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  • 80

    Wright, “The Fabula of the Book of Chronicles”, p. 154.

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