Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 5 (2004-2005) - Review

Isaac Kalimi, An Ancient Israelite Historian: Studies in the Chronicler, His Time, Place and Writing (Studia Semitica Neerlandica, 46; Assen: Van Gorcum, 2005).  Pp. x + 214.  Cloth, €79.50.  ISBN 90 232 4071 5.

            This volume consists of seven previously published essays (though reworked and updated) combined with two new essays to form a monograph presenting Isaac Kalimi’s “most recent treatment of fundamental issues of Chronicles” (p. 9).  The book is divided into two parts: Part One deals with issues of date, genre and a literary characteristic found in Chronicles; Part Two (nearly 2/3 of the book) focuses on the Chronicler’s concern with Jerusalem.   

            In Part One, Kalimi argues against contrary proposals by scholars (e.g., the Chronicler as theologian, exegete, midrashist, etc.) that the Chronicler was a historian in the true sense, implying that the historical trustworthiness of Chronicles is strengthened by this identification (a conclusion not self-evident to this reviewer).  This section has much to commend it as it points out the historical nature of the Chronicler’s work; however, Kalimi’s demand of an absolute ‘either / or’ on this issue seems unhelpful.  Kalimi himself acknowledges midrashic elements in Chronicles and on various occasions notes how the Chronicler “invented” elements of his history (e.g., the list of Bathsheba’s sons [p. 87]) or rewrote stories in such a way as to “create suspense”, but making their “historical trustworthiness…very uncertain” (p. 14). 

            Regarding the date of the Chronicler and the scope of his work, Kalimi adopts conventional positions.  He argues that Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah are distinct literary works by different authors.  On the basis of similar literary techniques and devices throughout the work, he also argues that Chronicles is a literary unity devoid of secondary additions (p. 56).  Kalimi dates the Chronicler near the turn of the fourth century BCE.  He considers the list of David's descendants in 1 Chronicles 3 as the most important evidence for a terminus a quo (p. 65), but makes little mention of how the date of the composition of Ezra-Nehemiah assists in this regard.  This is surprising since Kalimi argues that Chronicles relies on Ezra-Nehemiah (e.g., 1 Chronicles 9 / Nehemiah 11 and 2 Chronicles 36 / Ezra 1) and that this is the work of the Chronicler and not a later editor (pp. 13, 146-47).  Regarding a terminus ante quem Kalimi suggests “the first quarter of the fourth century BCE” (p. 59) but then later suggests 332 BCE (p. 65).  In fact, the chapter’s conclusion only states a terminus a quo with any conviction, while his earlier confidence regarding a terminus ante quem seems to disappear unexplainably. 

            The third chapter deals with “paronomasia” in Chronicles.  Here Kalimi offers insightful suggestions explaining some divergences between Chronicles and Samuel-Kings on the basis of this literary device.  However, this chapter seems out of place and perhaps was better suited for his other recent book, The Books of Chronicles: Historical Writing and Literary Devices (The Biblical Encyclopaedia Library 18; Jerusalem: Mosad Bialik, 2000). 

            In Part Two of the book Kalimi identifies Jerusalem as the location of the Chronicler and as a central motif in Chronicles.  Kalimi points out the Chronicler’s interest in all aspects of the city, noting allusions to Jerusalem in the genealogies and how the Chronicler makes David’s conquest of the city his first act as king, even preceding his own coronation.

            One previously unpublished essay, the sixth chapter (only three and a half pages long) examines the Chronicler’s use of the name ‘City of David’ and argues that “according to the Chronicler, already from the very beginning it was inappropriate for King David even to allow the people to name the city of Jerusalem after him” (p. 111), and “accordingly tried to minimize” the use of “City of David” in reference to Jerusalem.  Kalimi notes omissions of the term on two occasions, but both seem given to better explanations (1 Chr 29:26-28 [1 Kgs 2:10-12] omits not only the name, but the entire burial notice of David wherein the name was used, and the omission in 1 Chr 15:25 [2 Sam 6:12b] may be due to a textual difficulty).  To further buttress his case, Kalimi notes that Chronicles uses ‘Jerusalem’ 151 times without changing it to the ‘City of David’; however, by this logic, we could argue similarly that the Deuteronomist was not in favour of the name ‘City of David’ since he uses ‘Jerusalem’ 123 times in Samuel-Kings.  In fact, Samuel-Kings only uses ‘City of David’ slightly more than Chronicles (22 times vs. 19 times). Moreover, 1 Chr 15:1 contains an unparalleled occurrence, throwing further doubt on Kalimi’s conclusion here.

            The final chapter of the book focuses on the end of Chronicles.  In light of the Chronicler’s emphasis on Jerusalem, Kalimi interprets the final verse in the book (drawn from Ezra, but ending mid-sentence, “let him go up”) as a “Zionist” call to immigration back to Jerusalem (p. 153).  Interestingly, Kalimi suggests that the canonical placement of Chronicles at the end of the Tanak is due to its editors’ desire to conclude on a “hopeful theological and ‘Zionistic’-motivated” note (p. 155).  He posits the rabbis likely positioned Chronicles so as to give hope and direction to Jews who experienced the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus in 70 CE (p. 155).  This is a fascinating and quite plausible suggestion.

            The book is well organized with helpful summaries concluding each chapter and is well documented with numerous bibliographic references (including surprising references to anti-critical scholar E. J. Young [e.g., pp. 42, 52, 57, 144] with seemingly no awareness of the nature of Young’s work).  The book contains numerous helpful charts and tables and some wonderful photographs of works of art, ancient manuscripts and epigraphic evidence.  The book is very readable, allowing easy access to the well reasoned conclusions of a specialist in Chronicles studies.  This book will benefit the student and scholar alike. It constitutes an important contribution to the study of this fascinating book. 

Paul Evans
Wycliffe College