Reading the Chronicles with Saul

After a lengthy genealogy (a commentary in and of itself, for a future time), the Chronicler starts with a description of the fall of Saul. Why devote a short section to Saul rather than beginning with God’s true king, David?

The Chronicler begins his lengthy history of the kings of Judah with a genealogy. Starting from Adam, the Chronicler retraces human history from the beginning to the monarchy. In the center of the genealogy lay the Levites, the priestly mediators of God and man. In Chronicles, they will be re-formatted to provide both sacrifices of animals and praise to Yahweh in the temple liturgy. At the end of the genealogies, the Chronicler repeats Saul’s lineage before telling us about how he died.

The narrative of chapter 10 is divided into three parts: 1-7; 8-12; 13-14. Both 1-7 and 8-12 begin with “fallen” and “Mount Gilboa”, and end with catastrophic defeats. Both are arranged chiastically:
A. 10:1
-B. 10:2
–C. 10:3-5 (the death of Saul)
-B’. 10:6
A’. 10:7

C is its own chiasm:
A. The battle pressed hard against Saul, and he is wounded
-B. He asks the armor bearer to kill him
–C. The armor bearer refuses out of fear
-B’. Saul kills himself
A’. The armor bearer dies

A. 10:8
-B. 10:9
–C. 10:10 (Saul as a trophy for Dagon)
-B’. 10:11
A’. 10:12

The final section is delineated by the four uses of Yahweh, and the emphasis on Saul’s ma’al. Other books, such as Ruth, say that Saul was illegitimate for different reasons. He was not of Judah, so he was not part of God’s chosen lineage. Because Perez was born out of unfaithful sexual behavior, Judah would not produce a king for ten generations (cf. Deut 23:2). So, the testimony of Deuteronomy and Ruth show Saul as an unfit king indirectly. The Chronicler goes for the jugular by starting as his death and providing commentary on why he was unseated. His ultimate condemnation? He died for a breach of faith with Yahweh.  He did not keep the commandments of Yahweh; rather than seeking Yahweh’s guidance, he sought out a medium. Because of this breach of faith, the kingdom is handed over to David.

David, then, becomes an anti-type to Saul. Where Saul failed to listen to the voice of Yahweh, David will be attendant to it. Saul’s early failure to lead Israel would be the example to which future kings were kept. They would either lead Israel like Saul (cf. Ahaz, who commits abominations and commits ma’ol ma’al. Saul is not the worst king, but he is prototypical to the bad kings.

As he does not seek the guidance of Yahweh, we don’t hear about any kings praying between 2 Chronicles 7 and 30. These kings who don’t pray are new Sauls, leading Judah into despair. Again, these kings take after Saul, who do not seek the guidance of Yahweh in prayer.

These make the good actions of Hezekiah even more worthy. He listens to Yahweh, accepting his guidance through the patriarchs, kings, and prophets, and restores the temple liturgy according to the dual commandments of David and Moses (2 Chron 30:25-26). He offers Tribute (cf. 1 Chron 29:21; 2 Chron 7:1, 4, 12; 29:31) and burnt Nearbringings (cf. Lev 5:14-6:7) after opening the doors to the temple and purifying it. He is an anti-Ahaz, which makes him an anti-Saul.

So, one key to reading the Chronicles is asking whether or not this king emulates Saul, or succeeds where Saul failed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s