Thursday, July 7, 2016

A Commentary on 1 & 2 Chronicles by Eugene Merrill – Book Review

Merrill, Eugene H. A Commentary on 1 & 2 Chronicles. Grand Rapids, Mich. Kregel, 2015. 637 pp. Hb; $39.99. Link to Kregel.

There are portions of Biblical books that are avoided by Christians because the content seems insurmountable or downright boring.  The solution for this malaise may be found with instructors and instructional materials produced at an academic level, yet accessible to the average Christian.  Such a resource is available through this work from Eugene Merrill.

The introduction sets a solid foundation for later chapters, presenting a balanced presentation of theories concerning the Chronicler’s identity, intent, and provenance, along with textual concerns.  Especially helpful are explanations of overall structure and theology.  While an average reader may approach this part of Scripture as simply nine painful chapters of genealogies followed by dry historic narrative, Merrill posits an intentional chiastic literary structure centered on Solomon’s temple in light of the promises delivered in the Davidic Covenant.

The Scripture text is divided into logical sections, depending on a prominent theme.  Each section is then subdivided into events wherein Merrill uses a three-fold outline—(1) biblical text, (2) text-critical notes, and (3) exegesis and exposition—to develop the passage.  Finally, an overall theology of the section is given.  While the average reader will likely not have an interest in the text-critical notes, the exegesis and theology are a strength of this work.  Merrill does not wander into theoretical speculations but maintains a solid aim of explaining how the Chronicles are moving forward and how tie to redemptive history with a culmination in Jesus Christ.  This conservative approach to the presentation of the material speaks to the author’s high regard for the Scriptures and his intent to properly instruct his readers.

Throughout the book the author will place a helpful chart or excursus to enable understanding through tangential comparisons and topics.  Notably, commonalities with 1 and 2 Samuel plus 1 and 2 Kings are made to help fill understand thematic differences and place rulers and subject matter in proper perspective.  I found this extra material to be beneficial in understanding the background of an event or person.

I found this work to be a solid, robust look at what many might consider dull material and has much to commend it.  That said, there are a possible weak points:
  • First, the text of Chronicles within this book appears to be New International Version (NIV) throughout, but the title page specifically states that the English translation was the author’s own.  At no place in the book did I find a reference to the NIV translation’s use save for the acronym where the text was given.
  • Second, Merrill may have overstated his understanding of the Mosaic instruction of a central sanctuary as applied to David’s desire to build a permanent temple (375).  The Lord’s instructions to David and Solomon are sufficient believe to conclude that while God did not want or need a permanent structure at the time, He would honor their desire by taking residence therein
  • Third, Merrill states that prior to King Ahaz “the worship of Yahweh at high places was sanctioned by Samuel, Elijah, and others who built or made use of those places” (486).  This statement is problematic since worship of the Lord was to be specifically at the tabernacle, not the high places.  It is more probable that worship away from the tabernacle was endured, rather than blessed, by a merciful and long-suffering God.
The Chronicles are an interesting read, recounting the history of the United and Divided Kingdoms with a clear emphasis on the Davidic line.  Minor weaknesses aside, this work would make a useful addition to any Bible student intent on furthering their knowledge of Chronicles and its place in the canon.

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