Sunday, July 19, 2009

Psalm 127 and the Chronicles

While reading through the Chronicles, it has occurred to me that Psalm 127 is a neat summary of the books, both in content and organization. Psalm 127 divides into two sections: vv 1-2 which deal with Yahweh's blessing on building and guarding the "house", and vv 3-4 which deal with the blessing of children. I want to suggest a very basic outline of Chronicles that shows how it is structured in the same way.

The two actions that Yahweh does for His people and their "house" in Psalm 127 are to build it and to guard it. I Chronicles can be divided into three main sections, each of which describe how God has done these things for Israel. Each section focuses first on the organization of people into the "house", then as the organization of people into a "wall". Chapters 1-10 concentrate on the genealogies of Israel. 11 and 12 then deal with numbering David's army.

In the second section, 13-17 talk about David's temple building, first bringing the Ark into its tent, then his plan to build God's "house". I keep putting "house" in quotation marks, because in this passage we learn that the "house" God is building is a house of kingly sons. 18-20 then deal with God's guarding of David's house by putting down his enemies in battle.

After David's sin in 21, the third section begins with David's purchase of the threshing floor of Ornan, which will become the site of the actual Temple. 22-25 deal with David's organization of the people for Temple worship (especially the Levites), then 26-27 once again deal with his gatekeepers and armies to protect the house. So perhaps you can see the connection there- God lines up the people, seats a King, and sets up worship. Corresponding to that, He gives armies, gatekeepers, and victories in battle to guard the House.

I Chronicles 28 through II Chronicles 7 are the center of the book, featuring David's final preparations to build the house, and culminating in his anointing of Solomon who actually builds and dedicates it. Solomon is the hero who brings to pass what David had prepared for. I will only point out two connections between Solomon and Psalm 127. First, Psalm 127 is ascribed "For Solomon", the only one of the Songs of Ascents to do so. (Not coincidentally, Psalm 127 is the central Psalm in the Songs). Second, "His beloved" in verse 2 is actually Solomon's second name, as II Sam 12:25 tells us.

Moving to the second half of Psalm 127, II Chronicles is concerned with "sons", describing the reign of fifteen sons of David, starting with Solomon and ending with Josiah. (It actually describes several more in chapter 36, but just fleetingly). In the detailed stories of the fifteen, it is remarkable to notice how the Chronicler points out their faithfulness in defending Judah by trusting in the Lord, and fighting against religious corruption through reform. Some highlights include: Jehoshaphat standing against the Moabites and Ammonites through prayer in 20, Joash and Jehoiada defeating wicked Athaliah in 24, Hezekiah turning back Sennacherib through faith in 32, and the great purge of the land by Josiah in 34. Even kings who are described as very wicked in I and II Kings (like Manasseh) are commended for how they build (33:16) and guard God's house (33:14).

So to summarize, Psalm 127 has two sections that line up very neatly with I and II Chronicles. It concentrates first on how Yahweh organizes the building and guarding, then shows how the Sons of David carry that plan out. I have many more thoughts about this, but for future consideration:

  1. Chronicles is clearly linked to the Restoration, and the Songs of Ascents possibly so. What other connections between Chronicles and the Songs exist? Psalm 132 is an easy one.

  2. If Chronicles and the Songs are tied to restoration, that means Psalm 127 is messianic, which could mean that Ezra and Nehemiah saw themselves as doing the work of David in I Chronicles (organizing the people and goods), while they waited for the Son who would fulfill the building. Are there explicit connections that the Gospels make to this effect, possibly referring to Psalm 127, the Songs in general, or the Chronicles?

  3. The central verse of Psalm 127 is that Yahweh "gives to His beloved sleep". This is a very mysterious verse, and could refer both to resting while God builds and guards (first half), or the sleep that results in sons (sleeping with - second half). Does this actually refer to anything in Chronicles? David "sleeps" right at the end of I Chronicles in death. Likewise, Solomon is asleep when God appears to him and gives him wisdom. This might be the more important point.

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