R. W. Klein, 2 Chronicles: A Commentary

Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 13 (2013) - Review

Klein, Ralph W., 2 Chronicles: A Commentary (Hermeneia; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2012). Pp. xixvii + 559. Hardcover. US$68.00. ISBN 978-0-8006-6101-4.

A lifetime of work on Chronicles stands behind Ralph Klein's volume on 2 Chronicles. His many contributions to scholarly study of the book have helped to shape discussions of key passages and topics. His commentary will shape future explorations with that same type of authority, depth of analysis, and careful attention to the details of a rich and complex text.

Klein's present examination of 2 Chronicles builds on the previous Hermeneia volume he wrote on 1 Chronicles, published in 2006. As such, many of the introductory issues typically found in a commentary are located in the first volume and are not repeated here. A few items are covered in a short introduction: Raymond Person's theory of a shared text,[1] reading Chronicles as utopian literature as suggested by my book on the topic,[2] reading it as rewritten Scripture, and the text's contribution to discussion about Samaria and the Samaritans. In surveying these particular points, Klein helpfully addresses developments in scholarship since the publication of the commentary on 1 Chronicles.

In each of these topics, Klein engages recent ideas critically and productively as they help to ask new questions and to clarify long-standing scholarly views on the nature of the Chronicler's work. Klein takes a cautious approach to what the textual and other data can support as appropriate readings. He provides examples from the text to address difficulties in accepting Person's thesis (pp. 1–2). He helpfully summarizes my own views on a utopian reading of Chronicles, affirming its possibility but not its certainty (pp. 2–4). He critiques the use of the term “rewritten Scripture” to describe what the Chronicler is doing while also claiming that the Chronicler provided an “alternative account to the Primary History (Genesis–2 Kings) with no attempt to replace that history” (p. 5). Of course, scholars are divided on whether the Chronicler has sought to supplement or supplant other authoritative texts, and Klein's commentary will add more insights to that ongoing debate. Finally, Klein concludes his assessment of the Chronicler's view of Samaria by claiming that the text seems more “pro Jerusalem” than a polemic against Samaria in contrast to other texts such as Sirach and 4 Q372 (pp. 5–6). In each instance, Klein's brief remarks bring a useful clarity to complicated questions.

As is typical with the Hermeneia series, Klein devotes attention to careful cataloging and adjudication of textual variants among the major textual traditions (MT, LXX, and others). In addition, his remarks focus on major interpretative issues as the commentary moves verse-by-verse through the biblical text. The decades of research and breadth of his knowledge are manifest in the perspectives and host of scholarship and comparative textual evidence (biblical and extrabiblical) brought into conversation with the content of 2 Chronicles.

Klein's approach is typical of many recent commentators on Chronicles, which avoid discussion of the historicity of events, focusing instead on literary concerns, intertextuality, and theological developments. In this regard, Klein's contributions both reflect common readings and add some new insights or connections that have not been explicitly identified, or at least not collected in one readily accessible location. Of particular importance in this regard are the role of the Levites, the importance of the temple and its cult, and the connections of the Chronicler's text to the audience of the late Persian or early Hellenistic period.

While one may disagree with a particular reading, there is little to dispute in Klein's treatment of the biblical text through these methodological lenses. He is thorough, well-reasoned, consistent, and somewhat conservative in what can be extrapolated from the text. The commentary will remain a valuable source of information and systematic interpretation of the book for the coming generation of scholars who work with Chronicles.

Steven J. Schweitzer, Bethany Theological Seminary

[1] Raymond F. Person, Jr., The Deuteronomistic History and the Book of Chronicles: Scribal Works in an Oral World (SBL Ancient Israel and Its Literature, 6; Atlanta: SBL, 2010). reference

[2] Steven J. Schweitzer, Reading Utopia in Chronicles (LHBOTS, 442; London: T & T Clark International, 2007). reference