While both texts are part of the Biblical canon, the book of Kings and the book of Chronicles were written in different periods of Jewish history during drastically differing political realities. The former was likely written shortly after the destruction of the First Temple; the latter was most likely written in the era following the Babylonian exile and after the authorship of Ezra and Nehemiah.[1] While the author of Chronicles most certainly had Kings at his disposal, the differences between the two works are not merely attributable to stylistic changes or the simple addition or deletion of material. The two works reflect very different agendas in their review of Israelite history. Each work reflects its sense of historiography. As Isaac Kalimi notes, the differences between the two works point to the fact that the author of Chronicles, in particular, was a,

“creative artist, a historian who selected the material he desired out of his sources and edited it in the order, the content, and the form he found fitting, thus creating a literary composition comprising part of late biblical historiography.”[2]

The consequences of this are particularly noteworthy and are reflected in the Chronicler’s theologically influenced view.

This is not to say that the author of Kings was not theologically focused in his recording or interpretation of history. The author of Kings focused his historical review with the intent of demonstrating the consequences of covenantal infidelity on the kings of Judah and Israel and their subjects. However, unlike Chronicles, Kings is not reticent to mention the weaknesses and indiscretions of Israel’s greatest kings but instead uses them as a warning to his readers to learn from their history.

The critiques of the author of Kings were centered on syncretism and the continuing practice of sacrificing at the Bamot, the high places.[4]While the Chronicler agrees with the Kings on the latter’s condemnation of syncretism, the Chronicler’s primary agenda is directed toward establishing an idealized history of the pre-exilic period for a post-exilic community. Solomon’s sins are never mentioned in Chronicles. The purpose of Chronicles was likely to solidify the link of the post-exilic communities to their Davidic heritage. The second goal of the Chronicler’s work was to reinforce the sole legitimacy of the Jerusalem centered cult. For the Chronicler, the kingship of David and Solomon culminated in the construction of the Temple fulfilling God’s covenant with Abraham. With that in mind, Solomon’s shortcomings, as well as David’s for that matter, can be overlooked.

The ascendancy of Solomon to Israel’s throne and two other events related to this are the focus of our concern and the differences between the two accounts (in Kings and Chronicles) demonstrates Yerushalmi’s contention that meaning in history, the memory of the past, and the writing of history are not to be equated.[5]

The description of Solomon’s rise to power reflects the Chronicler’s first concern. He does so by omitting the contentious details surrounding Solomon’s ascendancy to the throne as recorded in I Kings 1 which reveals Solomon’s rise as the careful political orchestration of the prophet Nathan and his mother, Bathsheba.[6] The account in I Kings includes a complex array of court intrigue which reveals the machinations of Solomon’s older brother Adonijah, Joab the son of Zeruiah leader of David’s army, and Abiathar, the priest. Adonijah’s continued attempts to assert the legitimacy of his claims to the throne and his subsequent execution at Solomon’s command is omitted in Chronicles. The avoidance of these details reinforces the portrayal of Solomon’s selection as David’s original intent and the product of Divine orchestration. The Chronicler’s selective memory is quite evident here. Consequently, for the book of Chronicles, Solomon’s rise to Israel’s throne is the only possible result.[7] The Political or historical realities mentioned in Kings are of little concern.

I Kings 3 describes the early stages of Solomon reign by noting his alliance with Egypt via his marriage to Pharaoh’s daughter. This is a source of concern for the author of Kings.[8] In short, the book of Kings is qualified in its assessment of Solomon’s relationships and rule. The Chronicler in contrast initially avoids referring to this marriage at all and notes the economic relationship between Israel and Egypt.[9]Regarding this marriage, I Kings 3:1-3 states:

“And Solomon became allied to Pharaoh King of Egypt by marriage, and took Pharaoh's daughter, and brought her into the city of David until he had made an end of building his own house, and the house of the LORD, and the wall of Jerusalem round about. Only the people sacrificed in the high places because there was no house built for the name of the LORD until those days. And Solomon though he loved the LORD and followed the practices of his father David, also sacrificed and offered at the shrines.”

Solomon’s participation in sacrifices at the high places is undoubtedly disappointing to Kings. Because of the proximity of these two statements, the writer of Kings may be hinting that Solomon’s foreign wives will eventually serve as the vehicle for his downfall.[10] The placement of this passage at the very beginning of Solomon’s reign is likely reflective of the importance of this event will have on Solomon’s unfolding future and his fall into idolatry.[11]

In I Kings 9:16, Pharaoh attacks Gezer which lies approximately 20 miles from Jerusalem. That point, Walsh argues, reveals the limitations of Solomon’s hegemony and at least in this instance, his subordination to Pharaoh in contrast to the independent and robust image painted in Chronicles.[12]

In contrast, Chronicles does not mention the marriage with Pharoah’s daughter until later when Solomon has completed his various construction projects. The Chronicler only mentions her in passing by mentioning in 2 Chronicles 8:1 how Solomon relocated his Egyptian wife from David’s palace out of deference for the Ark of the Covenant.[13]The Chronicler begins his depiction of Solomon’s reign in 1:1 with a very different picture:

“And Solomon the son of David was strengthened in his kingdom and the LORD his God was with him, and magnified him exceedingly.”

The author of Chronicles thus denotes the transition from David’s era to Solomon’s reign and his reference to Solomon as the “son of David” serves to both underscore the continuity of Solomon’s kingship and his reign as the natural extension of his father. The Chronicler’s view of this unity is noted in 35:3-4 concerning Josiah’s charge to the Levites,

“... prepare ye after your fathers' houses by your courses, according to the writing of David king of Israel, and according to the writing of Solomon, his son.

The Chronicler viewed their combined reigns as initiating the Temple age which continued, despite altered circumstances, until his day.[14] The events the Chronicler records serve to buttress his view of David’s and Solomon’s reigns.

According to Johnstone, the Chronicler’s use of the word “v’yithazek” to describe Solomon’s authority is very much in concert with the exhortation previously ascribed to David for his son Solomon.[15]With this in mind, the Chronicler portrays Solomon as about to fulfill his Divine mission to build a Temple in Jerusalem. This Temple will serve a unified nation and serve as the guarantor of Israel’s place in the world.[16] For Chronicles, David’s desire to build the Temple and his disqualification from building it mirrors Moses’ exclusion from concluding the mission he had begun of entering the land of Canaan. Like Joshua before him, Solomon takes up the mantle and authority, and establishes the Temple, thereby completing the original Divine purpose.[17]

For more information, checkout Ancient Israelite Identity.

[1] John Gray, I & II Kings: A Commentary (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1970), 6-7.

[2] Isaac Kalimi, The Reshaping of Ancient Israelite History in Chronicles (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2005), 7.

[3] Ibid., 408. Isaac Kalimi goes on to argue that the changes made by the Chronicler reflect the principle of “each generation with its own historiography.”

[4] John Gray, I & II Kings: A Commentary (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1970), 5.

[5] Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1982), xvii.

[6] Sara Japhet, I & II Chronicles: A Commentary (Louisville: Westminster, 1993), 525.

[7] See I Chronicles 22: 7-10.

[8] Jerome T. Walsh, I Kings (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1996), 70.See also Terence E. Fretheim, First and Second Kings (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1999), 31.

[9] I Chronicles 1:16-17.

[10] I Kings 11:1-8.

[11] See I Kings 14:23.

[12] Jerome T. Walsh, I Kings (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1996), 70.

[13] Jerome T. Walsh, I Kings, (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1996), 70. William Johnstone, 1 and 2 Chronicles (Mansion House: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997), 299.

[14] William Johnstone, 1 and 2 Chronicles, (Mansion House: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997), 298. David J.A. Clines and Philip R. Davies, Chronicles: Journal for Study of the Old Testament (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1992), 76-77.

[15] See I Chronicles 22:13; 28:10, 20.

[16] See 1 Chronicles 28:2-7; 1 Chronicles 11:2.

[17] David J.A. Clines and Philip R. Davies, Chronicles: Journal for Study of the Old Testament (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1992), 81.

Posted by Rabbi Dr. Juan Marcos Bejarano Gutierrez the director of Yeshivat Meor Enaim. He is the author of The Converso Dilemma: Halakhic Responsa and the Status of Forced Converts and 19 additional books on various Jewish topics.