Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 4 (2002-2003) - Review

Isaac Kalimi, The Book of Chronicles. Historical Writing and Literary Devices (The Biblical Encyclopaedia Library 18; Jerusalem: Mosad Bialik, 2000). Pp. 477.  ISBN 965-342-717-2. $ NP. In Modern Hebrew, no English Summary.

This book is an expanded, corrected and updated Hebrew version of the author's Zur Geschichtsschreibung des Chronisten (BZAW 226; Berlin/New York: de Gruyter, 1995). For several years I. Kalimi has consistently added to our understanding of Chronicles. This book is one of his most important contributions. Regrettably, it is available for now only in Modern Hebrew. I hope it will be soon translated in English, so a much wider readership may learn from it.

Kalimi brings to the readers an astounding amount of data that clearly demonstrate that Chronicles diverges from the texts of Samuel and Kings not only when matters of theology/ideology are at stake, and not only because of linguistic differences. The vast array of material that Kalimi brings to bear indicates the Chronicler is a very sophisticated writer who employs numerous literary devices and eventually provides a new and fresh history, out of the existing sources. Kalimi’s comparisons with Josephus’ historiographical craft are very much to the point.

For the sake of clarity, it is worth mentioning at this stage that Kalimi’s Chronicles is the entire book, and his Chronicler is its author.  For him Chronicles, as it stands, is a “one piece work,” with, perhaps, the exception of its last two verses.

Because of the detailed discussion of these devices and the numerous examples that Kalimi provides, the book doubles as a kind of (comprehensive, illustrated) manual of the creative ways in which the Chronicler deals with the source texts (e.g., Kings, Samuel, Joshua).  A few examples are in order.

The first chapter addresses matters of literary and chronological proximity, which include (a) the Chronicler’s creation of literary and chronological proximity between events that are reported as unrelated in Chr’s sources (e.g., the defeat of Saul and the crowning of David as king by the elders of Israel—and notice how the Chronicler shifts the referent of “elders of Israel” from the “elders of the Northern tribes” in 2 Sam. 5.3 to the “elders of (all) Israel” in 1 Chr.  11.3; and (b) the Chronicler’s transformation of an existing textual proximity of reported events in the sources into a chronological as well as logical or substantive proximity (e.g., the story of Sennacherib’s murder in 2 Chr. 32.21 and cf. 2 Kgs 19.35-36).

The second chapter deals with “historiographical corrections” of the sources. Here he discusses, among others, cases in which the Chronicler eliminates tensions or outright contradictions in the (hi)storical account in Samuel and Kings (e.g., if Joram defeated the Edomites and the chariot commanders, why did Joram’s army flee [2 Kgs 8.21]? Thus the Chronicler omitted the “unlikely” reference to the army’s running away, though kept the end of the story as it was received, namely Judah did not re-assert its suzerainty over Edom (2 Chr. 21.9, 10). The chapter deals also with cases in which the report in the source is reshaped by the Chronicler so as to (a) avoid tension or contradiction with other reports in Chronicles that are not paralleled in Kings or Samuel or with claims advanced in other biblical books (e.g., 2 Chr 36.8 omits any reference to Jehoiakim’s sleeping with his ancestors [cf. 2 Kgs 24.5] but see Jer. 22.18-19). There are also cases in which the Chronicler’s reality was in tension with the sources’ report and therefore, the latter was omitted (e.g., the inhabitants of Jabesh-Gilead could not have burned the bodies of Saul and his sons before burying them; see 1 Sam. 31.11-13). Kalimi also mentions cases in which the correction is due to tensions between the existing report and the worldview of the Chronicler, but also instances in which the latter thought that a more precise language was required. For instance, cf. the obviously imprecise and even misleading from the perspective of the Chronicler phrasing in 2 Kgs 22.16, “all the words of the book that the king of Judah has read” with the precise, “all the curses that are written in the book that was read before the king of Judah” in 2 Chr. 34.24 (and cf. Deut. 29.19).

The book contains twenty of such chapters. They include detailed discussions on, for instance, chiasmus in Chronicles, on inclusio, on the uses of Wiederaufnahme, of repeated openings, leading terms, literary numerical patterns (e.g., the 3-4 or 6-7 pattern), generalization and particularization (i.e., ‘+rpw llk,’llkw +rp,’ and ‘llkw +rpw llk). The book includes also a very important chapter on inconsistencies in Chronicles and a (too?) brief summary of its contribution to the study of Chronicles.

A bibliography and indices round up the book. Bibliographies and to some extent footnotes are always aimed at particular readerships. In this case, it is an Israeli readership that is most familiar with Hebrew works. Still, it feels somewhat strange to find a work written in the year 2000 in which one finds a substantial number of references, for instance, to Jacob Liver’s work but none that I am aware of to that of Gary Knoppers nor to S. Japhet’s commentary on Chronicles (1993)—though there are to her earlier works in Hebrew. In the same vein, one may mention that one seldom finds references to, or interaction with works published in the 90’s. To be sure, these considerations do not detract from the value of the volume and in any case can be dealt with when, as I hope, a revised English version is prepared.

 It borders on stating the obvious to note that given the scope of the book and the number of particular instances Kalimi discusses, scholars who study this or that particular case may and will advance explanations that are either alternative or complementary to those put forward by Kalimi. It is also evident that not everyone will agree with Kalimi’s claim for the unity of Chronicles (though this reviewer does). Still it is hard for me to imagine a scholar of Chronicles who will have no use for the book, or who can “safely ignore it.” In fact, this is a major contribution to the study of Chronicles and Kalimi is to be congratulated for his achievement.

Ehud Ben Zvi, University of Alberta