The Global Message of 2 Chronicles

Second Chronicles, Redemptive History, and the Nations

The book of 2 Chronicles picks up the story of kingship where 1 Chronicles leaves off (see the “Global Message of 1 Chronicles”). While 1 Chronicles focuses on David, 2 Chronicles covers the much longer period from David’s son Solomon until the last kings in the Davidic line. But a description of these kings for history’s sake is not the aim of 2 Chronicles. Instead the narrator draws our attention to episodes which show God’s desire for his kings to rule differently from those of the nations.

Since the nations recognized that the God of Israel was incomparable among the gods (e.g., Ex. 8:10; Josh. 2:10), Israel’s leaders also needed to embody this unique justice and righteousness among the nations. Thus 2 Chronicles offers a thematic history of Israel which addresses two questions: How would the nations be drawn to God when they saw the splendor that he bestowed on Israel’s kings? And could God show himself sovereign even when his people lost what Christopher J. H. Wright has called their “missional magnetism,” becoming no different from the world around them?

God’s Reputation and Israel’s Faithfulness

Second Chronicles describes how God gives splendor to his kings in order for the nations to recognize his greatness. This is evident in the conversations between King Solomon and two foreign rulers: Hiram king of Tyre (2 Chronicles 3–4), and the Queen of Sheba (ch. 9).

Hiram of Tyre. As Solomon prepares to build his palace and the temple in Jerusalem, he tells Hiram of his desire to exalt the God of Israel above all other gods: “The house that I am to build will be great, for our God is greater than all gods” (2 Chron. 2:5). Hiram affirms the connection between God’s greatness and Solomon’s splendor: “Because the LORD loves his people, he has made you king over them. . . . Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, who made heaven and earth, who has given King David a wise son, who has discretion and understanding” (2:11–12). Hiram’s acknowledgment of the true God is not unusual in the broader context of 2 Chronicles. Solomon later dedicates the temple as a welcoming place for any foreigner who hears of the Lord’s greatness and “comes from a far country for the sake of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm” (6:32). God is asked to answer the foreigner’s prayer “in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel” (6:33).

The Queen of Sheba. In a similar way, the Queen of Sheba recognizes that the kingdom of Solomon is an earthly expression of the kingdom of God: “Blessed be the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and set you on his throne as king for the LORD your God! Because your God loved Israel and would establish them forever, he has made you king over them, that you may execute justice and righteousness” (2 Chron. 9:8). Elsewhere Solomon prays that his kingdom would glorify God by reflecting God’s own justice and righteousness (Ps. 72:1–4).

These and many other Old Testament passages demonstrate that God delights in placing godly leaders in authority over his people when their conduct brings honor to him. These leaders attract nonbelievers to seek after the God who inspires such honorable leadership.

God’s Reputation and Israel’s Unfaithfulness

When God’s leaders dishonor him through their lives, however, God directs the nations of the world to assume a quite different role in restoring honor to his reputation. Second Chronicles repeatedly describes how the kings of Israel stopped reflecting the ways of their God by following the pagan ways of the nations (e.g., 2 Chron. 25:14–16; 33:2–9; 36:11–14). These sins lead to a major shift in how the nations relate to Israel. Rather than being co-worshipers of God with Israel, they are now commissioned as his agents to punish Israel’s disobedience. God sends Shishak king of Egypt to defeat Rehoboam king of Judah (12:1–5). The Philistines and Arabians come to oppose King Jehoram for the same reason (21:16–17). The Edomites, Philistines, Assyrians, and Syrians each humiliate King Ahaz in various ways (28:19–25). Even Hezekiah and Josiah, two of the most godly rulers of God’s people (chs. 29–32; 34–35), are punished by the hand of foreign nations for succumbing to pride later in life (32:25–31; 35:20–24).

Since the best of Israel’s kings are unable to stay faithful, what hope remains for God’s promise of an eternal throne for David (1 Chron. 17:10–14)? How will God accomplish his desire for “missional magnetism” to flow from Israel to the nations and back again (e.g., Isa. 2:1–4)?

Hope of Restoration

Second Chronicles offers only a preliminary answer to these questions. The story of global redemption does not end here but continues in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah and on into the New Testament.

The last chapter of 2 Chronicles, however, hints that the nations will again assume a pivotal role in fulfilling God’s promises to Israel. Jeremiah the prophet predicts that after a foreign nation (Babylon) takes Israel into exile (2 Chron. 36:21), another foreign nation (Persia) will be moved by God’s mighty hand to reverse this exile (36:22). The book then concludes with an imperial Persian decree for the Jews to go home and worship the only true God: “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the LORD his God be with him. Let him go up” (36:23). Much like Hiram and the Queen of Sheba before him, King Cyrus declares that the God of Israel is unique among the gods and worthy of honor. It is a great irony that 2 Chronicles ends with a Persian king’s acknowledgment of the true God of Israel, since Israel herself usually forgot these truths!

God’s Sovereign Global Work Unhindered

The God described in 2 Chronicles shows himself sovereign in the relationship between his people and the nations. The rulers of this world may be ignorant of or even opposed to him. Cyrus was only dimly aware of his place in God’s plans (Isa. 45:4–5), and the leaders who executed Jesus did not grasp the significance of their actions (Luke 23:34; 1 Cor. 2:8). But the God who uses the nations in mysterious ways to deal with the disobedience of his people is still at work today—God has creatively bound together the fate of his people and the nations for the sake of his redemptive purposes in Christ (Rom. 15:8–12).