Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 6 (2006) - Review

Ralph W. Klein, 1 Chronicles: A Commentary (Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2006). Pp. xxi + 561. Cloth, US$55.00. CAN$55.00. ISBN 0-8006-6085-4.

As the founder of the Chronicles-Ezra-Nehemiah Section at the annual meeting of the SBL, Ralph Klein is the dean of Chronicles studies in North America. This commentary, the fruit of his work on Chronicles spanning over a quarter century, has long been anticipated. It is a pleasure to have the opportunity now to review the final product and to note that it fully meets anticipations.

Klein's commentary is the second major one on 1 Chronicles to appear in recent months, the other being the 2-volume Anchor Bible set by Gary Knoppers. While the latter is not the focus of this review, some comparison between the two is unavoidable. Both works are quite similar in many respects. Both contain detailed introductory sections. Both give superb text-critical treatments. Both are characteristically well balanced in their consideration of individual texts and issues. Both view Chronicles as a separate work from Ezra-Nehemiah and date it in the first half of the fourth century. Both tend to favor unity of authorship but are willing to recognize some secondary additions, particularly in 1 Chronicles 22-29. Together, they represent a significant advancement in biblical studies.

Klein's commentary on its own makes a great many contributions to the on-going study of Chronicles. What follows is an attempt to highlight the ones that struck this reviewer as the most important or most intriguing. First, Klein is well versed in Continental scholarship on Chronicles, and one of the work's major contributions is its in-depth consideration and incorporation of positions voiced by German scholars, especially the prodigious Thomas Willi. On specific texts and issues, Klein's chart and discussion comparing the high priestly genealogies (177-81) is most helpful. He concludes that the list in 1 Chron 5:27-6:66 is the source of all the others but that it is itself haplographic, and he ventures a reconstruction of the prototype. In the same context, Klein offers a convincing critique of Auld's theory, which sees the list of Levitical cities in 1 Chronicles 6 as the source of the one in Joshua 21, rather than the other way around, as is more commonly held.

Klein does not, however, always endorse widely accepted views. He finds it unlikely that a genealogy for Dan once lay beneath 1 Chron 7:12. He also does not buy the notion that there was a southern branch of Asherites, accepting instead the view that this branch was created by misidentification within Asher's genealogy. Against Knoppers and others, Klein views 1 Chronicles 9 as dependent on Nehemiah 11, rather than vice-versa. In treating the Levitical singers (1 Chron 15:1-16:3), Klein takes Gese's reconstruction as foundational, but he believes the situation to be much more complicated than Gese's four stages. Klein finds at least one additional stage (1 Chronicles 25), but he also does not think the stages represent stages of authorship or editing. Rather, he proposes that the Chronicler simply tolerated the tensions in sources from various levels and did not try to harmonize them. In reference to David's shedding of blood, which prevented him from building the temple, Klein separates this from the description of David as a “man of war,” adopting the proposal that it refers rather to the 70,000 victims of the plague stemming from David's census (1 Chronicles 21).

One may well quibble with certain of Klein's judgments. For instance, he tries to absolve the Chronicler of responsibility for the genealogy in 6:1-15 that gave Samuel a Levitical pedigree by suggesting that it may have been borrowed from an earlier source, since Samuel plays a minor role in Chronicles. But one might argue on the basis of 9:22 that Samuel merited the Chronicler's attention as the co-founder (with David) of the gatekeepers' orders. As another example, in the crux in 21:1, Klein retains the term Satan as a proper name primarily on the flimsy grounds that it lacks the definite article without adequately considering the possibilities that the word refers here to a human enemy or a hypostasis of Yahweh. Similarly, Klein assumes that 22:1 is the Chronicler's addition rather than from a later hand, thus ignoring the sharp theological contrast perceived by Japhet between the contrasting notions of the designation of the altar site as divine grace or concession to human weakness. There is also the occasional unfortunate error with modern names. Thus, Howard N. Wallace, correct on p. 359, appears three pages later as Henry W. Wallace. These shortcomings, however, do little to detract from this monumental achievement, which every scholar interested in Chronicles will welcome warmly. We look forward with equal enthusiasm to the sequel on 2 Chronicles.

Steven L. McKenzie, Rhodes College, Memphis, TN