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Australian Biblical Review


ISSN 0045-0308

BOOK REVIEW  Published in Volume 57, 2009

ISAAC KALIMI, An Ancient Israelite Historian. Studies in the Chronicler, His Time, Place and Writing (Studia Semitica Neerlandica 46; Assen: Van Gorcum, 2005). Pp. x + 212. Hardback. $US124.00.

As the title suggests, the focus of the monograph is on the genre of Chronicles, the time when it was written and the place of its composition. The Chronicler is not explicit about these matters and Isaac Kalimi admits that, as with biblical works in general, it is necessary to deduce them from the text itself.

The first part of the monograph, which is split into three chapters, attempts to define the nature of the scholarly work undertaken by the Chronicler (Chapter One). Kalimi poses the question, “Was it meant to be fiction or history, literary narrative or historical novel, commentary or theology?” (19). He reviews the four main literary labels which scholars have assigned to the author—midrashist, exegete, theologian, historian—and concludes that the last of these is the most appropriate, with the caveat that the history involved is sacred, not secular (29). Kalimi points out that, for the Chronicler, the Davidic dynasty, Jerusalem and its Temple were of prime importance, and that he viewed them through the eyes of his own age. This means he sets up a dialectic with the earlier deuteronomistic historian whom he sometimes contradicts.

Chapter Two concerns the date of Chronicles. Kalimi notes that its language is biblical Hebrew, influenced by Aramaic. Further, that Greek words and Greek thought are absent but some Persian words are present as well as aspects of Persian culture that are ascribed anachronistically to earlier time periods. He reviews the theory that the Chronicler was also the author of Ezra and Nehemiah but rejects it, as there are linguistic and other differences between the works. He notes that 1 Chron 3:19–24, which lists six generations after Zerubbabel provides a terminus a quo but, as the length of a generation is unknown, the terminus a quo is approximate only. Chapter Three concerns a literary phenomenon in Chronicles. This is “the pun” that appears in earlier biblical passages that the Chronicler used, but which he employs in his other material too.

The second part of the monograph concentrates on the ‘place’ of writing—Jerusalem—and all chapters concern the Chronicler’s view of the city in various aspects. Chapter Four considers the genealogies, or as Kalimi says, the “Ethnographical Introduction of Chronicles” (1 Chron 1–9). He points out that all kings were born in Jerusalem and that the city was the centre for the nation throughout the whole monarchic period. Chapter Five considers the capture of Jerusalem in both the Deuteronomistic history and Chronicles. The omission of any mention of the earlier attempts to capture Jerusalem as they appear in Joshua and Judges plus the involvement of “all Israel” in 1 Chron 11:4 in contradistinction to 2 Sam 5:6 (as well as other features) persuade Kalimi that Chronicles does not contain authentic data about the capture of Jerusalem. Rather, its intention is to underline the beginning of a new epoch in history which coincided with the inauguration of David’s rule. Nevertheless, as Kalimi points out in his Chapter Six, the Chronicler frequently avoided using the description “City of David,” even when it appeared in his source, preferring the name “Jerusalem.” Kalimi suggests he deemed it “inappropriate for King David even to allow the people to name the city of Jerusalem after him” (111).

Chapter Seven contains a discussion of the differing accounts of the fate of the temple vessels in the Deuteronomistic History and Chronicles. Kalimi demonstrates the latter preferred to stress that there was continuity between the First and Second Temples and so adopted the view recorded in Jer 27:16–22; 28:1–9 and Ezra 1:7–11; 5:13–15; 6:5 that the temple vessels had been preserved by the Babylonians rather than destroyed as in 2 Kgs 24:13. Chapter Eight compares the representation of Jerusalem in Chronicles with that in earlier and later works. The centrality of Jerusalem for all Israel, its holiness and theocratic nature are underlined in Chronicles. However, Kalimi asserts that Jerusalem is always real and not connected with Messianic or eschatological expectations as in late Prophetic and apocalyptic literature. The corollary, he suggests, is that the Chronicler lived in a period when there was an absence of events giving rise to the need to hope for an “ideal” Jerusalem. Chapter Nine considers Cyrus’s decree of return as it appears in Chronicles. It argues that the omission of the last part of it as it appears in Ezra was deliberate and represented a call for more exiles to return, for the final word in the Chronicles version is .

This monograph will prove to be a valuable resource to the serious scholar and advanced student of the book of Chronicles. Although many of the chapters are based, sometimes loosely and sometimes more closely, upon papers previously published, they provide a connection between topics not previously viewed together. Kalimi’s close attention to the primary text and thoughtful consideration of the purpose of the Chronicler makes his work a joy to read.

Review by
Anne E. Gardner
History Program
La Trobe University
Bundoora VIC 3086