Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 17 (2017) - Review
In War in Chronicles Troy Cudworth investigates how war narratives in Chronicles are related to the Judean kings' faithfulness to temple and its cult. For this investigation, he establishes David as the model king to exhibit his faithfulness to temple and its cult by employing some categories according to the principle of faithfulness or unfaithfulness to temple and its cult. According to Cudworth, the Judean kings in Chronicles are divided into four categories: 1) faithful kings; 2) unfaithful kings; 3) faithful kings who falter; and 4) unfaithful kings who repent. Using these categories Cudworth argues that the themes of war and temple provide the key insights into how the Chronicler assesses the Judean kings.
First of all, Cudworth describes David as the pioneer king who is faithful to the temple and its cult (ch. 2). David established the two most operative elements of the temple and its cult: the gathering of all Israel and the preparation of the building materials. David's reign is classified into two sections with three stages: early success, sudden adversity, and future hope. The first section includes David's gathering of all Israel to serve Yahweh (1 Chr 1116), in which the conquest of Jerusalem, the battles against the Philistines, and the transfer of the ark are primarily depicted. The second section contains David's preparing of the materials for the temple building (1 Chr 1729), in which the subjugation of neighboring enemies, David's census, and the preparation of the building materials are mainly described. Thus, David was assessed in terms of his faithfulness to seek Yahweh through the temple and its cult. For this reason, David was victorious in battles against his enemies.
Second, the faithful kings who followed the ideal king, David, showed their faithfulness to the temple and its cult (ch. 3). Solomon, Abijah, Hezekiah, and Jotham belong to this category. They seek Yahweh through the temple and its cult. For example, Solomon was faithful to the temple by focusing on the construction of the temple so that he could extend his territory. After the united monarchy had been divided, Abijah, maintaining the temple cult founded by David and Solomon, warned Jeroboam, who had established golden calves in the northern Israel, not to fight against the southern Judah. In the end, Abijah defeated Jeroboam. In addition, Hezekiah, giving his foremost priority to the temple cult, reopened the temple and performed its cult again so that he could keep Jerusalem from Sennacherib's attack. Jotham was also able to defeat the Ammonites after he built the temple's upper-gate during his reign, which was briefly depicted. Thus, the faithful kings gained their military victories due to their faithfulness to the temple and its cult.
Third, the unfaithful kings who did not seek Yahweh through the temple and its cult revealed their idolatrous ways (ch. 4). Jehoram, Ahaziah, Ahaz, and Amon belong to this category. For example, Jehoram and Ahaziah followed the sinful ways of the northern kings. Ahaz as the worst king of Judah performed human sacrifice, which was the wicked behavior of the surrounding nations that Yahweh had cast out of the land. Amon also committed idolatry in the same fashion as Manasseh. Thus, Jehoram, Ahaziah, and Ahaz underwent foreign attacks and Amon was assassinated by his servants because they did not seek Yahweh and were unfaithful to the temple and its cult. Furthermore, there are other unfaithful kings who did not seek Yahweh through the temple and its cult. For instance, Saul wickedly consulted a medium in a critical time, and Judah's last four kings did not turn to Yahweh and away from their evil ways. For these reasons, Saul died on the battlefield, the last four kings suffered foreign attacks, and, eventually, the Judahites went into exile.
Fourth, the faithful kings who falter pursued cultic reforms or did good things in their early reign, yet were later unfaithful to the temple and its cult (ch. 5). Asa, Jehoshaphat, Joash, and Josiah belong to this category. Even Amaziah and Uzziah are included in this category because they acted faithfully in an implicit way. Although they began to seek Yahweh through temple and its cult, they did not keep their early faithfulness. For example, Asa and Jehoshaphat made alliances with foreign nations even though they experienced God's deliverance from military attacks during their reigns. Uzziah became very proud after God strengthened him and then he did not seek Yahweh. He acted unfaithfully against God and was punished with leprosy. In the case of Josiah, he was killed in the battle against Egypt because he neglected God's word through Pharaoh Neco even though he reformed the temple cult according to the law book discovered in the temple. Both Joash and Amaziah suffered the most significant downfalls because they turned away from seeking Yahweh to serving other gods. Both of them underwent military attacks due to their unfaithfulness to the temple and its cult. Thus, these kings ironically showed both the benefits of their faithfulness and the futility of their unfaithfulness to the temple and its cult.
Fifth, the unfaithful kings who repent are Rehoboam and Manasseh (ch. 6). Interestingly, the two unfaithful kings underwent a sudden halt to their judgment by means of their repentance. In the books of Kings, Rehoboam and Manasseh were primarily described as the worst kings of southern Judah, who abandoned Yahweh by acting unfaithfully. Yet, in the books of Chronicles, although they were very unfaithful to the temple and its cult, they attested to the fact that no one ever completely loses the chance to turn back to Yahweh for deliverance (p. 7).
Finally, Cudworth evaluates how the themes of war and temple contribute to the Chronicler's description of the Judean kings (ch. 7). He concludes that: the two themes of temple and war give the Chronicler's doctrine of retribution much more consistency and precision than scholars have recognized (p. 186). In general, Cudworth's study of the relationship between war and temple is thorough, including all of the kings of Judah in Chronicles. It leads us to understand the whole picture of the Judean kings according to these two key themes in Chronicles.
On the basis of the retribution theology that Yahweh rewards kings' faithfulness to him and punishes their unfaithfulness, Cudworth's arguments primarily deal with the relationship between war and temple in Chronicles. According to the Judean kings' attitudes to the temple and its cult, the faithful kings prospered in the land and gained military victories whereas the unfaithful kings experienced the attack of the enemy. None of the Judean kings consistently preserve their faithfulness. Some of them later departed from Yahweh to worship other gods even though they began to seek Yahweh through their faithfulness to the temple and its cult. So their prospering stopped immediately and they suffered foreign attacks. On the other hand, other kings, who were the worst kings, repented immediately after their judgment. In this way, Cudworth demonstrates, temple faithfulness brings military victories and secure dwelling in the land.
The significance of the relationship between temple and war in Chronicles has already been recognized by previous scholars, and in this respect Cudworth's approach may not be entirely new. Nevertheless, this study has the merit to explore these two related themes with considerable depth and presents the reader with some important insights, especially as regards the division of the Judean kings into four main categories. As such, Cudworth's book makes a valuable contribution to Chronicles scholarship.