Sunday, May 29, 2005

Of Kings and Names

In the past two years or so I've had this strange ambition to plot the timeline of the Bible using mainly itself as the context and historical source. The desire came from at least two sources. the first was a desire to understand the Bible in historical terms, not merely spiritual ones. After all, if one doesn't understand the "plot" and progression of the Bible as a text, one would be hard pressed to understand the interpretation and application of the Bible in a proper context. The second thing that got me thinking about this was the timeline of the last days that I produced some time ago. I spent over a week to get into Revelation and accompanying texts and ended up producing a timeline that had much more detail than I ever would have thought was in the Bible. That got me to thinking how neat it would be to produce a timeline not only of eschatological events but of all Biblical events. In doing that, I reasoned, I could get at the historical progression of events in the Bible that I'd also been interested in. If the Bible is indeed a reliable source that is internally consistent, as I believe it is, producing such a timeline using primarily the Bible should be possible. The result should be an accurate and comprehensive chronology, or at least chronological list, of Biblical events that begins with the pre-existence of the Divine Trinity in eternity past and concludes with the New Jersualem in eternity future.

Granted, this has been done before and by many. But there's something to be said for doing something for oneself even if the fruit of others labor is there for the picking. The process of research in primarcy sources the and subsequent discovery is richly rewarding, and the benefit cannot be compared to that of simply reading the result of others' research.

So this morning I had the random thought of putting together a timline of the kings of Judah as presented in the Old Testament. Having read through the Bible a few times, I'd noted that
the narratives that are recorded in the books of history such as Kings and Chronicles and the books of prophecy that punctuate that history are ripe for historical endeavor. I had previously jotted down the line of the kings of both Judah and Israel to give myself a bit of a grasp on the history. My desire this morning, however, was to do something on a more detailed level.

My inspection of the texts took me especially to the very eventful time of the last kings of Judah--Jehoiakim, Jeconiah, and Zedekiah--and that of the first governor of Judah under Babylonian hegemony, Gedaliah. These kings came before, during and just after the Babylonian invasion and captivity of the people of God. The books of 2 Chronicles and 2 Kings--as their names suggest--give the general chronology of the kings. No surprise there. The surprise was the richness of detail that the book of Jeremiah provides. I'd noticed this before, as well as the scattered nature of the information of the book. But this time I took the opportunity to unscramble the record. The result was enlightening.

One particular mystery was solved. I had always had the impression that Jeconiah, Jehoiachin, and Coniah were all the same man--the son of Jehoiakim. Today's research confirmed that and yielded several proof texts. Jeremiah 22:24 speaks of Coniah:
As I live, declares Jehovah, Even though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, the king of Judah, were a signet ring on My right hand, yet I would tear you off...
1 Chronicles 3:16 uses the name Jeconiah:
And the son of Jehoiakim: Jeconiah his son; Zedekiah his son.
This, incidentally is the name the New Testament uses for him (Matthew 1:11-12).

The third name used for this king is very nearly the same as that of his father--Jehoiachin. This is demonstrated by comparing the foregoing verses with 2 Kings 24:6:
And Jehoiakim slept with his fathers. And Jehoiachin his son reigned in his place.
Having backed up my hunch with the text, I was able to put together a fairly accurate timeline of these three kings and their Babylonian appointed successors. And in so doing, I was able to harmonize the otherwise bewildering chronology found in Jeremiah.

Just a few more decades of mornings like this and discoveries such as the one outlined above and I'll have the Bible chronologized.