And now for something completely different.
If 1 Chronicles is the uplifting story of Israel's Golden Age, when King David ruled with justice and mercy, then 2 Chronicles is the hard right turn toward a comedown. Everything starts out just fine. David's son, Solomon, builds the Temple in Jerusalem and impresses everyone with his wealth and wisdom. But when Solomon dies, Israel's fortunes take a nosedive.
For starters, the country breaks into two warring kingdoms. The new king of the unified kingdom, Rehoboam, isn't as politically savvy as his ancestor, David. Tired of Rehoboam's heavy-handed rule, the ten northern tribes break away and form their own kingdom. Both the northern and southern kingdoms of Israel go through a series of kings that could best be described as a mixed bag—if by "mixed bag" we mean incompetent, murderous idolaters who'll kill their own grandchildren if that's what it takes to stay in power.
It wasn't all bad news, though. "Jumpin'" King Jehoshaphat tries to get a peace treaty going with his friends in the north. King Hezekiah starts the tradition of celebrating Passover in Jerusalem. And King Josiah rediscovers the first five books of the Bible during his reign and realizes it would be a good idea to pay them some serious attention.
But these few bright spots aren't enough to counteract the absolute corruption of the rest of the kings of Israel. Breaking divine law, killing off family members, worshipping goat-demons—there's all kinds of shocking stuff going down. Things get so bad that even though God has promised that David's descendants will always reign in Israel, he lets the Babylonian Empire invade and destroy Jerusalem, level the Temple, deport much of the population, and leave the rest to die in various horrible ways.
Eventually, God lets the people return to Jerusalem to rebuild amid the rubble. But if you were feeling optimistic after 1 Chronicles, with the righteous King David having things well in hand, prepare to be discouraged. Don't worry, though; you can tell us how you feel. Here at Shmoop we're good listeners.
Why do bad things happen? The author of 2 Chronicles knows why, and there's no question about it. Bad things happen because people disobey God—it's as simple as that. Did your army just get demolished in battle? Better think twice about worshipping those goat gods. Got a case of leprosy? Just because you're the king doesn't mean you're allowed in the Temple doing jobs reserved for the priests. It couldn't be more clear: if you want health, wealth, victory, and military success, you need to do what Yahweh asks. He might be forgiving if you're truly sorry, but otherwise it's just basic math: disobedience = disaster.
Don't you wish it were all that simple?
We all know that plenty of bad things definitely happen to very good people. Maybe you have a friend who's kind and generous and dying from a horrible disease. Or a fun, supportive cousin who was killed by a drunk driver. Maybe one of your parents can't find a job despite being hardworking and smart. Maybe your sweet little sister gets chosen as the tribute from Region 12. Natural disasters sure don't make distinctions between good and bad people when they happen. It all seems so unfair, and it's understandable to want explanations.
And there are plenty of explanations. You've heard them all—God's will, things happen for a reason, things happen for no reason, we don't have all the information, they must have deserved it, bad genes, bad luck, bad parents. We all want to figure it out so we can prevent this stuff from happening to us. But apart from not doing dumb, avoidable things that put us at risk for accidents or illness or failure, bad things can happen anyway. And as long as they do, people will wonder why.
Chronicles is one answer to this huge question, but you'll have to find your own. And while you're looking, don't text and drive, m'kay?
The Brick Testament
Highlights from Solomon's life story (and various other kings of Judah) as told in Lego form. Warning: this section includes some of the juicer bits (sex and murder) that the Chronicler leaves out.
The Kingdom of Solomon
This Iranian film is mostly told from a Muslim point of view and follows the reign of King Solomon and his quest for wisdom and all things awesome.
"The Bible: Survival"
The fifth episode of this 2013 TV mini-series touches on the fall of Jerusalem, the years in exile, and the triumphant return home.
Solomon and Sheba
Yul Brenner as Solomon and Gina Lollobrigida as the Queen of Sheba in this 1959 flick. Shall we dance?
This 1997 made-for-TV movie features Vivica A. Fox as the Queen of Sheba. Yeah, we can picture that.
Solomon and Sheba
And this 1995 film stars Halle Berry and Jimmy Smits. Wow. People can't get enough of this story.
The Taylor Prism
This ancient Assyrian clay document records descriptions of Sennacherib's battles against Judah. Needless to say, his account differs from the Bible's.
Tel Dan Stele
This broken stone was discovered in 1993 in northern Israel and records the exploits of King Hazael of Aram. The king claims, among other things, that he was the one who killed Kings Ahaziah and Jehoram of Judah. That doesn't jibe with what the Chronicler says, so whose account was true?
Smart Folks Talk Chronicles
A good breakdown of what's up with 2 Chronicles (and a couple other books) from an "Introduction to the Hebrew Bible" course at Yale. You'll feel smarter after only a few minutes and you don't have to move to Connecticut.
A Giant Mess-o-potamia
Want to know a little more about Assyria, Babylon, Persia, and the other empires of the time? John Green explains a whole lot about the fertile crescent in just a few short minutes.
All the Kings of Judah
"So you wanna know the kings of Judah? Read Chronicles number two-ah!" This adorable song is the perfect way to remember the names of every single king in 2 Chronicles. We know you want to do this.
War, What is it Good For?
Chronicles is mostly about war. This video describes the different ways the major world religions were spread throughout the world by invasion and conquest.
Did Solomon Exist?
Israeli archaeologist Eilat Mazar thinks she uncovered a wall built by Solomon.
"The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba" by George Frideric Handel
This song from the 18th-century oratorio Solomon proves this royal lady sure knew how to show up in style.
Athaliah by George Frideric Handel
Handel was sure into the book of Chronicles. This oratorio in three acts was composed in honor of the idol-worshipping, throne-usurping, child-killer queen from the Bible. Her singing is good, but that's about all.
Fun with Maps
Here's what the divided kingdom of Israel would have looked like at the time of these famous kings.
A handy chart of all the kings of Judah and Israel right up until the end of Chronicles. Admit it, you were getting Jehoiakim and Jehoiachin pretty mixed up.
The Very First Temple
Here's a model of what Solomon's Temple might have looked like.
Solomon Reigns Supreme
"Put those gold lampstands right next to the coffee table." Solomon at His Throne by Andreas Brugger. 1777. Public domain.
Temple Construction Underway
"Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho! It's off to work we go!" "Building of Solomon's Temple" from Petrus Comestor's Bible Historiale. 1372. Public domain.
Solomon Dreams of Blessings
"I knew I shouldn't have eaten pizza so close to bedtime." Dream of Solomon by Luca Giordano. 1693. Public domain.
The Queen of Sheba Visits King Solomon
"My! What a big… brain you have!" The Queen of Sheba Kneeling Before Solomon by Johann Friedrich August Tischbein. 18th century. Public domain.
Kings Rehoboam and Abijah of Judah
Another boring Saturday night in Jerusalem. Rehoboam and Abijah by Michelangelo Buonarroti. 1511-1512. Public domain.
King Asa of Judah Cleans House
"We're gonna need a bigger dumpster." King Asa of Judah Destroying the Idols by Francois de Nome. 17th century. Public domain.
King Ahab of Israel Dying in His Chariot
"I think I see Elvis!" The Death of Ahab by Gustave Dore. 1866. Public domain.
Queen Athaliah Meets Her Doom
"Talk to the hand." Athaliah Expelled from the Temple by Antoine Coypel. 1710. Public domain.
King Uzziah of Judah
"Who you lookin' at?" King Uzziah Stricken with Leprosy by Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn. 1639. Public domain.
Kings Hezekiah, Manasseh, and Amon of Judah
"Why won't Sennacherib return my calls?" Hezekiah, Manasseh, and Amon by Michelangelo Buonarotti. 1511-1512. Public domain.
King Sennacherib of Assyria is Going Down
"This is not how it happens!" Defeat of Sennacherib by Peter Paul Rubens. 17th century. Public domain.
King Josiah of Judah Bites the Dust
"Oy, why didn't he listen to Necho?" The Death of King Josiah by Francesco Conti. 1681-1760. Public domain.
Forced Out of Jerusalem
"Are we there yet?" The Flight of the Prisoners by James Tissot. 1896-1902. Public domain.
King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon
"I feel like I'm in a William Blake painting or something." Nebuchadnezzar by William Blake. 1795-1805. Public domain.
King Cyrus of Persia
"Just don't blow it this time, guys." The Clemency of Cyrus II the Great to the Hebrews by Jean Fouquet. 1470-1475. Public domain.