Live Blogging the Bible: 2 Chronicles
by Noah Lugeons
It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these “Live Blogging the Bible” segments, so for that I apologize. I have to admit that I’m only doing this one because I’m desperately searching for an excuse to do something other than read the damn thing. The blinds are wiped down, the cat pan is changed, the floors are mopped, the dishes are done and I’m running out of excuses.
I can’t possibly express how horribly boring this book is. I’ve been told by sources that I trust (perhaps out of desperation) that this is the low-point in the book; that Chronicles is the most boring it gets and that I can read the rest of the bible with the consolation that at least I’m not reading Chronicles again.
Now, consider what I’m saying here. We’re talking about a book that has managed to have a cumulative 1.8 pages worth of interesting stuff in the last 634. It’s a book known for long, pointless, repetitive genealogies. We spent 16 chapters of Exodus learning the dimensions of a tabernacle. We spent half of Numbers counting Jews. We spent nearly all of Deuteronomy revisiting the dullest parts of the previous four books. And Chronicles is boring compared to that.
How does it achieve this almost preternatural level tedium? To understand that, we have to briefly revisit the books of Samuel and Kings.
Both of these are split into two books in Christian bibles. This was actually born out of necessity, as the histories recounted in them were so long that if they were contained on a single scroll it would be cumbersome. Those two books sketch out a supernatural pseudo-history of the kingdom of Israel that is obsessively concerned with cumbersome details like how many nails were in each plank that held the molten sea outside the temple. And if you wrote either one of those out on a scroll it would be too heavy for the average person to carry.
For four long, excruciating books, we learned about the lineage of Israel’s kings with spasmodic details sprinkled in ranging from the mundane to the miraculous; each schizophrenic biography ending with assurances that there were even more pointless details recorded in the annals of the kings of Judah.
We read one book every three weeks, so for twelve weeks we were reading through this extended and pointless fantasy. 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings and 2 Kings. And when we finally reached the end, we get to 1 and 2 Chronicles, which just retell the same damn story again, with ever more monotonous details. So it’s like reading a phone book and then reading the Reader’s Digest version of that same phone book.
Which brings about the obvious question of why the fuck it’s there to begin with. It adds almost no new information, subtly contradicts the earlier account and makes me want to wash my blinds. Why the hell did nobody ever make the executive decision to cut this one?
Think about the amount of time and effort that went into copying and recopying the bible back in the pre-Xerox days. Monks were hand-copying this damn thing day after day and it never occurred to anyone that Chronicles wasn’t worth saving? For fuck’s sake if you were married to the book count you could have dispatched them with a sentence like “See the four previous books”.
I might be selling the biblical editors short, of course. It’s entirely possible that they knew exactly what they were doing when they kept this book in. Perhaps it’s purpose is to dissuade anyone from reading on. Perhaps it was meant as a firewall to keep readers from completing the book. After all, if you give up halfway through you could be left with the impression that all the answers they were talking about came at the end.