There are three modern commentaries on the work of the Chronicler that are must reading. First, Ralph Klein’s inestimably brilliant on 1 Chronicles. Second, John Jarick’s 1 Chronicles and 2 Chronicles. And third, Mark Boda’s absolutely thrilling 1-2 Chronicles in Tyndale’s Cornerstone Biblical Commentary.
I’m glad Tyndale sent along a copy for review, since 1-2 Chronicles has always held a peculiar fascination for me. With Boda, I agree that the books have not received the attention they really deserve by readers of the Bible, so it’s particularly pleasant to have this contribution.
Boda’s style is perfectly suited to exegesis. He is straightforward and precise and he spares his readers the unnecessary ‘rabbit chasing’ so bedeviling commentaries these days. And he recognizes as few other commentators do that the Bible must be taken on its own terms.
The first chapter then naturally discusses the standard questions of authorship, date, audience, textual tradition, etc. Boda dates 1-2 Chronicles between 425 and 250 BC, a fair enough guess-timate. And he wisely asserts
‘Modern readers may want the story of Israel to be told with more brilliant colors, but the Chronicler had an agenda that sought to capture the imagination of his own generation rather than a modern one’ (p. 4).
Further, and quite rightly
Chronicles is more than just a record of the past. It is filled with theological potential for the church today, a church living in what is often described as a post-Christendom era in which the church has been pushed from its place of cultural privilege to the private margins of society. … For the committed and patient reader, there are immeasurable riches in this intricate book, which is far more than a collection of mere ‘omissions’ as the Greek textual traditions treated it… (p. 19).
The test of any good commentary is how it treats the most difficult or most challenging passages. Hence, one of the best places to analyze this volume is to investigate Boda’s treatment of that very trying ‘Satan incited David to number Israel’ bit in 1 Chr 21.
A comparison with the Chronicler’s source in 2 Samuel 24 reveals significant changes… (p. 173)
That’s putting it mildly. In 2 Sam 24 it is Yahweh who incites David and, again here in 1 Chr 21 it is Satan. As Boda recognizes
2 Samuel 24:1 is theologically awkward for many because of its depiction of God inciting someone to sin in order to bring punishment on others. It may be this very awkwardness that led to the Chronicler’s version (p. 173).
So how can the difficulty be addressed, if not solved? Boda asserts that there are two options -‘… ‘satan’ may refer to a military adversary ‘whose opposition prompted David to count his troops as a preparation for an imminent military battle…’ (p. 174). Second, it may refer to ‘… a heavenly being who entices David to count the people’ (p. 174). Boda decides that ‘… the Chronicler, uncomfortable with the theological implications of his source, reworked the text guided by Numbers 22:22-23’ (p. 174).
How does he come to this opinion?
… the angel of the Lord in Nu 22:22-23 is sent as a satan against Balaam as an expression of the ‘anger’ of God, which ‘burned’, and in 21:1 the Chronicler has replaced the term ‘anger’ of the Lord (which burned) from 2 Sam 24 with satan.
It is an ingenious solution. Boda then goes on to remark ‘This conclusion, however, does not give clarity to the identity of this [satan] figure’ (p. 174). And then he discusses the figure at great length.
My only concern with this commentary, and this is the case with each volume in the series, is that it insists on using ‘Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance’ numbers to indicate Hebrew and Greek words and their meanings. Strong’s is simply too outdated and in many places too inaccurate to be relied upon.
Aside from that, however, I can, and do, heartily recommend Boda’s volume. It is tremendous and a fine model of the genre of the biblical commentary.