In this straight-through reading of the Bible, I set out looking for the big picture.
As we might say, God is in the details — but there’s a host of them in these pages. Or, more accurately, in these scrolls, filled with a plethora of issues, events, and people.
Pardon the pun, then, if we consider the Lord of Hosts, meaning a vast array of so much. (Ahem.) (Or amen.)
Arriving at the end of Hebrew Bible (there are, as I’ve remarked, differences between that collection and those of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox, on one hand, and the Protestant, on the other), I am struck by an awareness of one crucial variance in the sequencing.
That comes with, where the Jewish approach places the utopian Chronicles as the grand finale. It’s a grand reprise, a reminder of what’s come before, rather than simply an alternative telling of Kings right before it.
Since my straight-through reading followed Christian sequence, where Chronicles comes as right after Kings, the Old Testament simply petered out. There was no overarching structure. Perhaps this is intentional, to emphasize what will follow with Jesus and his followers.
Not so in the Hebrew Bible ordering.
As Herbert Tarr contends in his essay in Congregation: Contemporary Writers Read the Jewish Bible, “It’s fitting for the Jewish Bible to conclude with the Book of Chronicles … Not only does it review the history of Genesis through Kings, but it reiterates the central contractual theme that runs throughout the Jewish Bible and foreshadows the Talmud, which focuses on the law and its application. For it was the people of Israel and their Bible — not classical Rome, a Johnny-come-lately to the ancient world — that gave mankind the concept of law as well as monotheism.”
He then sees Pauline Christianity remiss in dismissing the legal contract of the Jews and instead proclaiming a new covenant. “Christians regard the Jewish Bible as a small library of individual books,” he observes. “Not so: the entire Jewish Bible is essentially one extended lawbook that delineates the Covenant into which God and Israel entered voluntarily. If Israel is the Chosen People, she is also — this is equally important — the choosing people. Without Israel’s concurrence, there would have been no deal — and no Bible.”