Study Guide

2 Chronicles Traditions and Customs

Traditions and Customs

Solomon, and the whole assembly with him, went to the high place that was at Gibeon; for God's tent of meeting, which Moses the servant of the Lord had made in the wilderness, was there. (But David had brought the ark of God up from Kiriath-jearim to the place that David had prepared for it; for he had pitched a tent for it in Jerusalem.) Moreover the bronze altar that Bezalel son of Uri, son of Hur, had made, was there in front of the tabernacle of the Lord. And Solomon and the assembly inquired at it. Solomon went up there to the bronze altar before the Lord, which was at the tent of meeting, and offered a thousand burnt offerings on it. (2 Chronicles 1:3-6, NRSV)

Solomon, and all the congregation with him, went to the high place that was at Gibeon; for there was the tabernacle of the congregation of God, which Moses the servant of the Lord had made in the wilderness. But the ark of God had David brought up from Kirjathjearim to the place which David had prepared for it: for he had pitched a tent for it at Jerusalem. Moreover the brasen altar, that Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, had made, he put before the tabernacle of the Lord: and Solomon and the congregation sought unto it. And Solomon went up thither to the brasen altar before the Lord, which was at the tabernacle of the congregation, and offered a thousand burnt offerings upon it. (2 Chronicles 1:3-6, KJV)

One of Solomon's first orders of business is to make offerings to God. The Chronicler is careful to specify all the steps he takes to get to the proper place and do the proper thing according to the laws of Moses. Every little detail matters when you want to convince God that you're serious about worshipping him.

Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the ancestral houses of the people of Israel, in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of the city of David, which is Zion. And all the Israelites assembled before the king at the festival that is in the seventh month. And all the elders of Israel came, and the Levites carried the ark. So they brought up the ark, the tent of meeting, and all the holy vessels that were in the tent; the priests and the Levites brought them up. King Solomon and all the congregation of Israel, who had assembled before him, were before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and oxen that they could not be numbered or counted. Then the priests brought the ark of the covenant of the Lord to its place, in the inner sanctuary of the house, in the most holy place, underneath the wings of the cherubim. For the cherubim spread out their wings over the place of the ark, so that the cherubim made a covering above the ark and its poles. The poles were so long that the ends of the poles were seen from the holy place in front of the inner sanctuary; but they could not be seen from outside; they are there to this day. There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets that Moses put there at Horeb, where the Lord made a covenant with the people of Israel after they came out of Egypt. (2 Chronicles 5:2-10, NRSV)

Solomon assembled the elders of Israel, and all the heads of the tribes, the chief of the fathers of the children of Israel, unto Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of the city of David, which is Zion. Wherefore all the men of Israel assembled themselves unto the king in the feast which was in the seventh month. And all the elders of Israel came; and the Levites took up the ark. And they brought up the ark, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and all the holy vessels that were in the tabernacle, these did the priests and the Levites bring up. Also king Solomon, and all the congregation of Israel that were assembled unto him before the ark, sacrificed sheep and oxen, which could not be told nor numbered for multitude. And the priests brought in the ark of the covenant of the Lord unto his place, to the oracle of the house, into the most holy place, even under the wings of the cherubims: For the cherubims spread forth their wings over the place of the ark, and the cherubims covered the ark and the staves thereof above. And they drew out the staves of the ark, that the ends of the staves were seen from the ark before the oracle; but they were not seen without. And there it is unto this day. There was nothing in the ark save the two tables which Moses put therein at Horeb, when the Lord made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of Egypt. (2 Chronicles 5:2-10, KJV)

After the Temple is all done, Solomon needs to bring in the final and most important thing—the Ark of the Covenant. This is the ultimate celebration of continuity; all the people saw the Ark and knew this was their shared history. This is why the Declaration of Independence and Constitution are on continuous display at the National Archives. It gives Shmoop goosebumps just thinking about it.

Solomon offered up burnt offerings to the Lord on the altar of the Lord that he had built in front of the vestibule, as the duty of each day required, offering according to the commandment of Moses for the sabbaths, the new moons, and the three annual festivals—the festival of unleavened bread, the festival of weeks, and the festival of booths. According to the ordinance of his father David, he appointed the divisions of the priests for their service, and the Levites for their offices of praise and ministry alongside the priests as the duty of each day required, and the gatekeepers in their divisions for the several gates; for so David the man of God had commanded. (2 Chronicles 8:12-14, NRSV)

Solomon offered burnt offerings unto the Lord on the altar of the Lord, which he had built before the porch, Even after a certain rate every day, offering according to the commandment of Moses, on the sabbaths, and on the new moons, and on the solemn feasts, three times in the year, even in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles. And he appointed, according to the order of David his father, the courses of the priests to their service, and the Levites to their charges, to praise and minister before the priests, as the duty of every day required: the porters also by their courses at every gate: for so had David the man of God commanded. (2 Chronicles 8:12-14, KJV)

These verses illustrate just how carefully Solomon was following all the ancient laws for festivals, Temple job assignments, sacrifices, etc. He probably grew up with these traditions, since David was faithful to them, so they were pretty familiar to him.

The priests and the Levites who were in all Israel presented themselves to him from all their territories. The Levites had left their common lands and their holdings and had come to Judah and Jerusalem, because Jeroboam and his sons had prevented them from serving as priests of the Lord, and had appointed his own priests for the high places, and for the goat-demons, and for the calves that he had made. Those who had set their hearts to seek the Lord God of Israel came after them from all the tribes of Israel to Jerusalem to sacrifice to the Lord, the God of their ancestors. They strengthened the kingdom of Judah, and for three years they made Rehoboam son of Solomon secure, for they walked for three years in the way of David and Solomon. (2 Chronicles 11:13-17, NRSV)

The priests and the Levites that were in all Israel resorted to him out of all their coasts. For the Levites left their suburbs and their possession, and came to Judah and Jerusalem: for Jeroboam and his sons had cast them off from executing the priest's office unto the Lord: And he ordained him priests for the high places, and for the devils, and for the calves which he had made. And after them out of all the tribes of Israel such as set their hearts to seek the Lord God of Israel came to Jerusalem, to sacrifice unto the Lord God of their fathers. So they strengthened the kingdom of Judah, and made Rehoboam the son of Solomon strong, three years: for three years they walked in the way of David and Solomon. (2 Chronicles 11:13-17, KJV)

Tradition says that only the descendants of Aaron could serve as priests, but the guys in the Northern Kingdom appointed their own priests and gave the Levites' jobs to other people. So the priests and Levites break ranks and swear allegiance to Judah. This only worked until Rehoboam started straying from God. Maybe he wanted to find out what those goat-demons were all about.

In the third year of his reign he sent his officials […] to teach in the cities of Judah […] They taught in Judah, having the book of the law of the Lord with them; they went around through all the cities of Judah and taught among the people. (2 Chronicles 17:7, 9, NRSV)

In the third year of his reign he sent to his princes […] to teach in the cities of Judah […] They taught in Judah, and had the book of the law of the Lord with them, and went about throughout all the cities of Judah, and taught the people. (2 Chronicles 17:7, 9, KJV)

The only thing more important than keeping traditions is passing them on. That's what makes them traditions, duh. King Jehoshaphat makes sure that his people are well-educated on Jewish laws and customs. Kind of a No Judean Left Behind policy.

Jehoiada made a covenant between himself and all the people and the king that they should be the Lord's people. Then all the people went to the house of Baal, and tore it down; his altars and his images they broke in pieces, and they killed Mattan, the priest of Baal, in front of the altars. Jehoiada assigned the care of the house of the Lord to the levitical priests whom David had organized to be in charge of the house of the Lord, to offer burnt offerings to the Lord, as it is written in the law of Moses, with rejoicing and with singing, according to the order of David. (2 Chronicles 23:16-18, NRSV)

Jehoiada made a covenant between him, and between all the people, and between the king, that they should be the Lord's people. Then all the people went to the house of Baal, and brake it down, and brake his altars and his images in pieces, and slew Mattan the priest of Baal before the altars. Also Jehoiada appointed the offices of the house of the Lord by the hand of the priests the Levites, whom David had distributed in the house of the Lord, to offer the burnt offerings of the Lord, as it is written in the law of Moses, with rejoicing and with singing, as it was ordained by David. (2 Chronicles 23:16-18, KJV)

The high priest Jehoiada restores order after he gets done deposing and disposing of the Baal-loving Queen Athaliah. He literally cleans house and sets things up the way David intended, including lots of music. You're probably getting a good idea by now about how all these traditions were established, trashed, re-established, and trashed again—all depending on who happened to be in power.

He did what was right in the sight of the Lord, yet not with a true heart. As soon as the royal power was firmly in his hand he killed his servants who had murdered his father the king. But he did not put their children to death, according to what is written in the law, in the book of Moses, where the Lord commanded, "The parents shall not be put to death for the children, or the children be put to death for the parents; but all shall be put to death for their own sins." (2 Chronicles 25:2-4, NRSV)

And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, but not with a perfect heart. Now it came to pass, when the kingdom was established to him, that he slew his servants that had killed the king his father. But he slew not their children, but did as it is written in the law in the book of Moses, where the Lord commanded, saying, The fathers shall not die for the children, neither shall the children die for the fathers, but every man shall die for his own sin. (2 Chronicles 25:2-4, KJV)

Here's an ancient law that keeps a bunch of innocent children from being slaughtered for the sins of their parents. Shmoop's glad that someone remembered it.

But when he had become strong he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was false to the Lord his God, and entered the temple of the Lord to make offering on the altar of incense. But the priest Azariah went in after him, with eighty priests of the Lord who were men of valor; they withstood King Uzziah, and said to him, "It is not for you, Uzziah, to make offering to the Lord, but for the priests the descendants of Aaron, who are consecrated to make offering. Go out of the sanctuary; for you have done wrong, and it will bring you no honor from the Lord God." Then Uzziah was angry. Now he had a censer in his hand to make offering, and when he became angry with the priests a leprous[h] disease broke out on his forehead, in the presence of the priests in the house of the Lord, by the altar of incense. (2 Chronicles 26:16-19, NRSV)

But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the Lord his God, and went into the temple of the Lord to burn incense upon the altar of incense. And Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him fourscore priests of the Lord, that were valiant men: And they withstood Uzziah the king, and said unto him, It appertaineth not unto thee, Uzziah, to burn incense unto the Lord, but to the priests the sons of Aaron, that are consecrated to burn incense: go out of the sanctuary; for thou hast trespassed; neither shall it be for thine honour from the Lord God. Then Uzziah was wroth, and had a censer in his hand to burn incense: and while he was wroth with the priests, the leprosy even rose up in his forehead before the priests in the house of the Lord, from beside the incense altar. (2 Chronicles 26:16-19, KJV)

King Uzziah either forgot or decided to disregard the law stating that only the priests can set foot in the Temple and start serving up offerings to God. God isn't too pleased with the breach of protocol, so he gives the king a case of leprosy. Uzziah should consider himself lucky. Other violations of protocol had resulted in much worse, like being killed on the spot, for example. Even the priests had to wear the right kind of clothes and take the right kind of baths before they were allowed to approach the altar. There were pages and pages of rules about this in Leviticus, so Uzziah really blew it.

In the time of his distress he became yet more faithless to the Lord—this same King Ahaz. For he sacrificed to the gods of Damascus, which had defeated him, and said, "Because the gods of the kings of Aram helped them, I will sacrifice to them so that they may help me." But they were the ruin of him, and of all Israel. Ahaz gathered together the utensils of the house of God, and cut in pieces the utensils of the house of God. He shut up the doors of the house of the Lord and made himself altars in every corner of Jerusalem. In every city of Judah he made high places to make offerings to other gods, provoking to anger the Lord, the God of his ancestors. (2 Chronicles 28:22-25, NRSV)

In the time of his distress did he trespass yet more against the Lord: this is that king Ahaz. For he sacrificed unto the gods of Damascus, which smote him: and he said, Because the gods of the kings of Syria help them, therefore will I sacrifice to them, that they may help me. But they were the ruin of him, and of all Israel. And Ahaz gathered together the vessels of the house of God, and cut in pieces the vessels of the house of God, and shut up the doors of the house of the Lord, and he made him altars in every corner of Jerusalem. And in every several city of Judah he made high places to burn incense unto other gods, and provoked to anger the Lord God of his fathers. (2 Chronicles 28:22-25, KJV)

If there's one tradition you do not want to ignore, it's the very first commandment. God was pretty clear on this one—"you shall have no other gods before me" (Exodus 20:3). Disobeying this rule was a bad habit of many of the Kings of Judah and almost all the Kings of Israel. But Ahaz was fickle. He wasn't having any luck in battle so he figured he'd do what seemed to be working for his opponents.

The king stood in his place and made a covenant before the Lord, to follow the Lord, keeping his commandments, his decrees, and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant that were written in this book. Then he made all who were present in Jerusalem and in Benjamin pledge themselves to it. And the inhabitants of Jerusalem acted according to the covenant of God, the God of their ancestors. Josiah took away all the abominations from all the territory that belonged to the people of Israel, and made all who were in Israel worship the Lord their God. All his days they did not turn away from following the Lord the God of their ancestors. (2 Chronicles 34:31-33, NRSV)

The king stood in his place, and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord, and to keep his commandments, and his testimonies, and his statutes, with all his heart, and with all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant which are written in this book. And he caused all that were present in Jerusalem and Benjamin to stand to it. And the inhabitants of Jerusalem did according to the covenant of God, the God of their fathers. And Josiah took away all the abominations out of all the countries that pertained to the children of Israel, and made all that were present in Israel to serve, even to serve the Lord their God. And all his days they departed not from following the Lord, the God of their fathers. (2 Chronicles 34:31-33, KJV)

Josiah's high priest had just found a book of the laws of Moses while doing some renovations in the Temple. Josiah freaks out about what he just read. Scholars believe that the book the priest discovered was probably Deuteronomy, which contains, among a zillion laws, a list of terrible curses that will befall the nation that doesn't obey God's commandments. So Josiah wastes no time in getting with the program. The language here—"with all his heart, and with all his soul," is a direct quote from Deuteronomy 6:5. If you ever really need to scare someone to death, try those Deuteronomy curses: locusts, plagues, madness, blindness, and starvation, just for starters. No wonder Josiah was afraid.

Josiah kept a passover to the Lord in Jerusalem; they slaughtered the passover lamb on the fourteenth day of the first month. He appointed the priests to their offices and encouraged them in the service of the house of the Lord. He said to the Levites who taught all Israel and who were holy to the Lord, "Put the holy ark in the house that Solomon son of David, king of Israel, built; you need no longer carry it on your shoulders. Now serve the Lord your God and his people Israel. Make preparations by your ancestral houses by your divisions, following the written directions of King David of Israel and the written directions of his son Solomon. Take position in the holy place according to the groupings of the ancestral houses of your kindred the people, and let there be Levites for each division of an ancestral house. Slaughter the passover lamb, sanctify yourselves, and on behalf of your kindred make preparations, acting according to the word of the Lord by Moses." (2 Chronicles 35:1-6, NRSV)

Josiah kept a passover unto the Lord in Jerusalem: and they killed the passover on the fourteenth day of the first month. And he set the priests in their charges, and encouraged them to the service of the house of the Lord, And said unto the Levites that taught all Israel, which were holy unto the Lord, Put the holy ark in the house which Solomon the son of David king of Israel did build; it shall not be a burden upon your shoulders: serve now the Lord your God, and his people Israel, And prepare yourselves by the houses of your fathers, after your courses, according to the writing of David king of Israel, and according to the writing of Solomon his son. And stand in the holy place according to the divisions of the families of the fathers of your brethren the people, and after the division of the families of the Levites. So kill the passover, and sanctify yourselves, and prepare your brethren, that they may do according to the word of the Lord by the hand of Moses. (2 Chronicles 35:1-6, KJV)

Josiah continues the tradition of observing the passover sacrifice at the Temple in Jerusalem. Probably thinking of all those curses, he makes sure it's all done according to ancient custom.

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