For my blog post about II Chronicles 7, I will write down what is in my notebook, with some elaborations. They are loose ramblings, but they reflect mainly on whether, according to the Chronicler, God’s promise to establish an everlasting Davidic dynasty was conditional on the Davidic king’s obedience to God, and the relevance of that question to whether the Chronicler believed that God would one day reestablish the Davidic dynasty through a Messiah. Did the Chronicler believe that the Davidic dynasty had forfeited its right to rule through disobedience, and that was why post-exilic Israel lacked a Davidic king, or did he think that God would one day restore the Davidic dynasty and set up a Davidic king over Israel? I have reflected on these issues on my blog before. I just felt like writing about them in my notebook when I was studying II Chronicles 7.
Here we go:
I want to talk about conditionality here. II Chronicles 7:18 says that, if Solomon obeys God, God will establish Solomon’s throne, in accordance with God’s promise to David that David will never lack a successor to rule over Israel (I draw here from the NRSV’s language). Ralph Klein in the HarperCollins Study Bible says that this is “another indication of the low-key messianic hope of the Chronicler.” But the promise of an everlasting Davidic dynasty seems to be conditioned on the Davidic king’s obedience. E.W. Bullinger, however, says that God’s punishment would be for Solomon if he disobeyed and not for the entire Davidic line, meaning that God can punish an individual Davidic king while still allowing the Davidic dynasty to continue. I cannot disprove what Bullinger is saying, but it does seem to me that the promise of an everlasting Davidic dynasty is contingent on the kings’ obedience. Notice that II Chronicles 7:18 refers specifically to God’s promise of an everlasting Davidic dynasty—-that David would never lack a successor to rule over Israel—-even as it mentions the condition of Solomon’s obedience.
I have thought that maybe the Chronicler believes that the Davidic dynasty is at an end, having forfeited its right to rule through its disobedience, and so now God supports a new system for post-exilic Israel, one that rests on rulership by priests, Levites, and teachers. Post-exilic Israel, after all, a likely setting for I-II Chronicles’ composition, lacked a Davidic king. Yet, I am not satisfied with that. For one, II Chronicles 7:20-21 speaks of God forsaking the Temple in response to Israel’s disobedience, and yet the Chronicler lived in a time when the Temple had been rebuilt. Obviously, the Chronicler did not believe that Israel forfeited her Temple permanently through her disobedience, even though he thought that the Temple’s existence was conditional on Israel’s obedience to God. Why, then, couldn’t the Chronicler believe that God would restore the Davidic dynasty, even though it had been overthrown on account of its disobedience? Now that Israel was restored to her land and was trying to obey God’s law, could not God return to God’s old promises and revive them, in the mind of the Chronicler?
Second, and this point is inspired by what a note in the Jewish Study Bible says about II Chronicles 9, the Chronicler exalts the monarchy under David and Solomon. The Queen of Sheba affirms that King Solomon is a sign of God’s love for Israel and rules on God’s throne (II Chronicles 9:7-8). Solomon’s reign was a time of peace, prosperity, and power. Why would the Chronicler stress this, if he did not envision God restoring the Davidic dynasty through a future Davidic king, a Messiah? Maybe the Chronicler was simply trying to show that Israel had a glorious past, without necessarily endorsing a Messianic vision. But he seems to love David and Solomon and their reign so much.